Scott, George C.

views updated May 18 2018

SCOTT, George C.

Nationality: American. Born: George Campbell Scott in Wise, Virginia, 18 October 1927; grew up in Detroit. Education: Attended Redford High School, Detroit; University of Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia to 1953. Military Service: 1945–49—served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Family: Married 1) Carolyn Hughes (divorced); 2) the actress Patricia Reed (divorced); 3) the actress Colleen Dewhurst, 1960 (divorced 1965; remarried 1967, divorced 1972), sons: Alexander and the actor Campbell; also four other children; 4) the actress Trish Van Devere, 1972. Career: 1953–57—actor in stock in Toledo, Washington, D.C., and Ontario, while working as laborer and clerk; 1957—New York stage role in Richard III in Joseph Papp's Shakespeare Festival season brought critical recognition; later stage work includes roles in Comes a Day on Broadway, 1958, The Andersonville Trial, 1959, The Merchant of Venice, 1962, and The Three Sisters in London, 1965; 1959—film debut in The Hanging Tree; 1961—in TV mini-series The Power and the Glory; 1963–64—in TV series East Side, West Side; 1969—directed the play Hello and Goodbye; also appeared in Plaza Suite on Broadway with Maureen Stapleton; 1972—directed the film Rage; 1985—in TV mini-series Mussolini—The Untold Story; 1987–88—in TV series Mr. President; 1994—in TV series Traps. Awards: Best Actor Academy Award (award refused), and Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for Patton, 1970. Died: 22 September 1999, in Westlake Village, California, of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism.

Films as Actor:


The Hanging Tree (Daves) (as Dr. George Grubb); Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger) (as Claude Dancer)


The Hustler (Rossen) (as Bert Gordon)


The List of Adrian Messenger (Huston) (as Anthony Gethryn)


Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick) (as Gen. "Buck" Turgidson)


The Yellow Rolls Royce (Asquith) (as Paolo Maltese)


La Bibbia (The Bible . . . in the Beginning; The Bible) (Huston) (as Abraham); Not with My Wife You Don't! (Panama) (as Tank Martin); This Savage Land (The Road West) (McEveety—for TV, released theatrically in 1969) (as Jud Barker)


The Flim-Flam Man (One Born Every Minute) (Kershner) (as Mordecai)


Petulia (Lester) (as Archie Bollen)


Patton (Patton: Lust for Glory) (Schaffner) (title role)


They Might Be Giants (Harvey) (as Justin Playfair/Sherlock Holmes); Jane Eyre (Delbert Mann—for TV) (as Edward Rochester); The Last Run (Fleischer) (as Harry Garmes); The Hospital (Hiller) (as Dr. Herbert Bock)


The New Centurions (Fleischer) (as Sgt. Kilvinski)


Oklahoma Crude (Kramer) (as Noble Mason); The Day of the Dolphin (Mike Nichols) (as Dr. Jake Terrell)


Bank Shot (Champion) (as Walter Upjohn Ballantine)


The Hindenberg (Wise) (as Col. Ritter); Fear on Trial (Johnson—for TV) (as Louis Nizer)


Beauty and the Beast (Cook—for TV)


Islands in the Stream (Schaffner) (as Thomas Hudson)


Crossed Swords (The Prince and the Pauper) (Fleischer) (as the Ruffler); Movie Movie (Donen) (as Gloves Malloy/Spats Baxter)


Hardcore (The Hardcore Life) (Schrader) (as Jake Van Dorn); Arthur Miller on Home Ground (Rasky)


The Formula (Avildsen) (as Barney Caine); The Changeling (Medak) (as John Russell)


Taps (Harold Becker) (as Gen. Harlan Bache)


Oliver Twist (Clive Donner—for TV) (as Fagin)


China Rose (Day—for TV)


A Christmas Carol (Clive Donner—for TV) (as Ebenezer Scrooge); Firestarter (Lester) (as John Rainbird)


The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt (Engle—doc) (as narrator)


Choices (Rich—for TV); The Last Days of Patton (Delbert Mann—for TV) (title role); The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Szwarc—for TV) (as Auguste Dupin)


Pals (Antonio—for TV) (as Jack Stobbs)


The Ryan White Story (Herzfeld—for TV)


Descending Angel (Kagan—for TV) (as Florian Stroia); The Exorcist III (The Exorcist III: Legion) (Blatty) (as Lt. Kinderman); The Curse of the Starving Class (Masterson); The Rescuers Down Under (Butoy—animation) (as voice of Percival McLeach)


Finding the Way Home (Holcomb—for TV) (as Max Mittelmann)


Curacao (Carl Schultz—for TV); Malice (Harold Becker) (as Dr. Kessler)


In the Heat of the Night: A Matter of Justice (Badiyi—for TV) (as Judge Walker); The Whipping Boy (Macartney—for TV) (as Blind George)


Angus (Patrick Read Johnson) (as Ivan); Tyson (Edel—for TV) (as Cus D'Amato); New York News: Cost of Living (Apted, Bender—series for TV) (as Ollie Herman); New York News: Yankee Glory (Apted, Bender—series for TV) (as Ollie Herman)


Titanic (Lieberman—for TV) (as Captain Smith)


Country Justice (Family Rescue) (Campbell—for TV) (as Clayton); 12 Angry Men (Friedkin—for TV) (as Juror #3)


Gloria (Lumet) (as Ruby); Rocky Marciano (Charles Winkler—for TV) (as Pierino Marchegiano); Inherit the Wind (Petrie—for TV) (as Matthew Harrison Brady)

Films as Director:


The Andersonville Trial (for TV)


Rage (+ ro as Dan Logan)


The Savage Is Loose (+ pr, ro as John)


By SCOTT: articles—

"Rage," interview in Action (Los Angeles), January-February 1973.

"What Directors Are Saying," in Action (Los Angeles), January-February 1974.

"George C. Scott/Trish Van Devere Seminar," in Dialogue on Film (Beverly Hills), January 1975 (also released in booklet form).

Interview in Playboy (Chicago), December 1980.

On SCOTT: book—

Harbinson, Allen, George C. Scott: The Man, The Actor, The Legend, New York, 1977.

On SCOTT: articles—

Current Biography 1971, New York, 1971.

Reed, Rex, "George C. Scott," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 1999.

Short, Stephen, "Milestones," obituary in Time International, 4 October 1999.

* * *

George C. Scott was one of the most powerful of American actors, and he often played characters who were unique, individualistic, intense, and sometimes angry in films with such forceful titles as Rage, Crossed Swords, Bank Shot, Not with My Wife You Don't!, They Might Be Giants, The Savage Is Loose, Firestarter, and Malice. It is almost too easy to classify him as an "angry man," for some of his most memorable moments in films were when he exhibited extreme rage: slapping a soldier as Patton (Patton), glaring at a slum landlord as a Los Angeles policeman (The New Centurions), smashing up a pornographic headquarters as an angry father (Hardcore). But he could also show great tenderness on the screen, which can be clearly seen in many of the above-mentioned films and especially in The Day of the Dolphin and Petulia. He also had a great flair for comedy. Two of his most famous comic roles are General "Buck" Turgidson (Dr. Strangelove) and the flim-flam man (The Flim-Flam Man). Whether it is in a title role (Patton) or in a brief appearance (Malice), with his rasping voice, piercing eyes, and chiseled features, he created characters who were believable, multidimensional, and exciting.

Scott began in the theater, but from the beginning and throughout his career, he divided his acting choices between stage, film, and television. One of his early roles in film that brought acclaim was as gambler/manager Bert Gordon opposite Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and Piper Laurie in The Hustler (1961), where he brought just the right blend of menace, cruelty, and charm to the morality tale of an eager pool player. His roles necessarily changed as he aged. He moved from playing a divorced father (Archie Bollen) with young children in Petulia (1968) to a father (Jake Van Dorn) with a runaway daughter in Hardcore (1979) to a grandfather (Ivan) with an adult daughter and grandson in Angus (1995). Even in the short-lived 1994 television series Traps he played Joseph Trapcheck, the grandfather of three generations of police detectives.

Although his roles included several soldiers, doctors, and police detectives, including a character who thought he was Sherlock Holmes (They Might Be Giants), his work cannot be stereotyped. He was just as comfortable playing the rogue Fagin (Oliver Twist for television) or a music composer (The Changeling).

What may account for Scott's staying power as an actor for so many years was his three-dimensional qualities. He was often cast in very masculine, assertive roles, and to these and his other roles he brought a depth of feeling which could touch an audience deeply. For example, he played General George S. Patton (probably his most well-known characterization) in two films, Patton (1970), directed by Franklin Schaffner, and The Last Days of Patton (1986), directed for television by Delbert Mann. Scott had to play much of the latter film lying in bed, as Patton had broken his neck in an automobile accident. The camera is in close on him in many shots, and Scott runs through a range of emotions which convey to the viewer Patton's sadness, anger, sentimentality, and courage. It is a remarkable performance, considering that earlier in the film Scott showed his usual toughness in sparring with his superiors and his ability to do comedy by singing a silly song.

Though Scott worked with some of the best Hollywood directors and actors, he never fit the typical Hollywood stereotype and always had an independent spirit. For example, he turned down the Academy Award for best actor in Patton. He fought with the program practices department of CBS in order to obtain more realism for his television series East Side, West Side. He opposed the rating given the excellent film he produced, directed, and starred in, The Savage Is Loose. Being so outspoken, he was sometimes called difficult, but he was always the professional. He aged well, and provided a series of original and memorable performances throughout his career.

—H. Wayne Schuth

George C. Scott

views updated May 11 2018

George C. Scott

George C. Scott (1927-1999) was one of the finest and most versatile stage, television, and film actors of the last half of the twentieth century, best known for his Oscar-winning performance as American General George Patton.

In an acting career that spanned five decades, Scott displayed a natural ability to capture the contradictory characteristics of intense inner anger and external composure. His performances in such films as Anatomy of a Murder, The Hustler, Dr. Strangelove, Patton, and The Hospital earned him a reputation for understated yet powerful performances. Scott's range and professionalism attracted many of American cinema's most acclaimed directors, including Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kramer, Robert Rossen, John Huston, Otto Preminger, William Friedkin, Peter Medak, Stanley Donen, and Paul Schrader. Featuring rugged facial characteristics, including a nose frequently broken in bar fights, and a gruff voice, Scott was a prodigious drinker until the early 1980s. Scott was remembered for his rejection of the Academy Award he won for Patton in 1971 and of television's Emmy Award for his performance in Arthur Miller's The Price. He considered actors competing for awards "demeaning."

Struggled to Find Career

Scott was born in Wise, Virginia, a small, coal mining community in the Appalachian Mountains, on October 18, 1927. His paternal grandfather was a miner and his father worked as a mining surveyor. His mother wrote poetry and appeared on local radio stations; she died when Scott was young. His father took a job at a General Motors plant in the Detroit area when Scott was eight, moving the family to Michigan, where they lived first in Pontiac and then in Redford.

When he was old enough to enlist, Scott quit high school and joined the Marines for four years. Shortly after he enlisted, World War II ended and Scott spent much of his time assigned to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Scott later said this job prompted him to start drinking regularly to help him cope with his daily contact with grieving family members and the corpses of soldiers.

Intent on becoming a writer, Scott used the G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of Missouri at Columbia and began studying journalism. His writing bent leaned more to creative writing than journalism, and he spent much of his time crafting short stories and submitting them to magazines. None were accepted, and Scott turned to the theater for creative expression. He tried out for the university's production of Terrence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy and earned the part of Sir Robert Morton. Scott was immediately bitten by the acting bug. "It was like tumblers falling in a lock," he later recalled. "I knew what a good safe-cracker felt like." He appeared in several more productions at the University of Missouri and a play at the all-female Stephens University, where he also taught a course in Western literature.

At Stephens, he met his first wife, Carolyn Hughes, and they had a daughter. Scott also fathered an illegitimate child with another Stephens student. He and his wife sought acting work in Ohio, Detroit, and Canada, but with little success. He divorced his wife and returned to Stephens hoping to resume teaching, but his divorce and illegitimate child caused the school to refuse to hire him. He worked one year in construction before auditioning for a semi-professional repertory theater in 1954.

Success on Stage and Screen

By 1956, Scott had married actress Pamela Reed and moved to New York City. He appeared in roles on such 1950s television programs as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Theatre, Omnibus, and Playhouse 90. In 1957, he won the title role in William Shakespeare's Richard III in Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. His performance earned him a critical appraisal as "the meanest Richard III ever seen by human eyes," as well as an Obie Award. In 1958, he made his first Broadway appearance in Comes a Day.

In 1959, Scott was offered a supporting role as the drunk preacher Dr. George Grubb in the Gary Cooper western film The Hanging Tree. His next film role earned him a reputation as an actor's actor. Playing a hotshot big-city prosecuting attorney in Anatomy of a Murder, Scott was the nemesis of James Stewart's small-town defense attorney. Directed by Otto Preminger and featuring a musical score composed and performed by Duke Ellington, the film earned Scott his first Academy Award nomination.

Following Anatomy of a Murder, Scott returned to New York, divorced Reed, and married actress Colleen Dewhurst. In 1961, he returned to film with a critically heralded performance as promoter Bert Gordon in Robert Rossen's adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel about pool players, The Hustler. Writing about Scott's performance in the film, Michael Sragow said: "Scott brought something novel to the screen: an electric wariness. No actor was better at portraying the point where thought and instinct fuse—and he did it best in The Hustler (racking up another supporting-actor nomination). If you saw it as a teenager, his image embodied everything murky and menacing in city life. He was the nightmare image of the man in the back room. … Studying the play of the game, Scott's craggy face oozes alertness from its pores, and his trim, energetic body (Scott grew massive later on) keeps him from seeming sedentary." Once again, Scott was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Although Scott refused the nomination, his name remained on the ballot.

Before returning to Hollywood, Scott won another Obie Award for Eugene O'Neill's Desire under the Elms. Scott made his debut as a Hollywood leading man in John Huston's 1963 film The List of Adrian Messenger. During the 1963-64 television season, Scott starred in the weekly series East Side, West Side with Cicely Tyson.

Kubrick, Abraham, and Patton

In 1964, Scott appeared as General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's satire of the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove, a role that allowed him to portray comically the anger that he usually repressed on screen. A parody of an insensitive military commander, Turgidson is an Air Force general who orders a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, speaking such outrageous lines as "I don't say we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than ten to twenty million people killed."

His next big role was quite different. Starring as Abraham opposite Ava Gardner in the 1966 film The Bible, Scott's personal and professional life collided. Becoming romantically obsessed with Gardner, Scott allowed his marriage to Dewhurst to disintegrate while he pursued Gardner and accelerated his alcohol intake. He and Dewhurst divorced. Then he was fired from How to Steal a Million when he arrived on the film's set five hours late. His next film projects were The Flim-Flam Man in 1967 and Petulia with Julie Christie in 1968. He remarried Dewhurst but divorced her again five years later, marrying actress Trish Van Devere.

The film role for which he became best known was as the cantankerous but brilliant World War II military figure General George Patton in the 1970 film Patton. The film was given the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1970 and Scott was nominated and won the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor. Dismissing the awards as a "self-serving meat parade," Scott stayed home to watch a hockey game rather than attend the Oscar ceremonies. Scott reprised his characterization of Patton in 1986 for a television drama The Last Days of Patton. He also refused his 1971 Emmy Award for his performance in Arthur Miller's The Price.

Stating that he loved acting more than stardom, Scott continued to act in both films and television. He portrayed a doctor disgusted with the political and financial aspects of the medical profession in The Hospital. The performance earned him another Academy Award nomination. His other notable films of the 1970s include They Might Be Giants, Islands in the Stream, Movie Movie, Hardcore, and The Changeling. While he continued to make films until his death, his best work in his later career came in television films such as A Christmas Carol, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Last Days of Patton, 12 Angry Men, and Inherit the Wind. For the last, he won an Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award. Scott died on September 22, 1999, in Westlake Village, California.


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"George C. Scott," Internet Movie Database,,+George+C

"George C. Scott," The Sunday-Times of London, September 24, 1999,

"Piper Laurie Remembers George C. Scott,", September 30, 1999,

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