This man is an actor’s actor. Seldom has anyone had such a rich career and performed so many roles so flawlessly. And yet, when the discussion comes up about the greatest living actor, it’s DeNiro, or Pacino, or, heaven help us, DiCaprio. But Robert Duvall doesn’t have to stand down to any of them.
We first saw him on film as Boo Radley in the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird (Great American Thing No. 43). Sharp-eyed TV viewers would have already seen him on such classic shows as Playhouse 90, Route 66, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Here’s a film character I bet you forgot Robert Duvall played – Col. Frank Burns in M*A*S*H. Really. But it was in 1972 that his career took off when he was cast as Tom Hagen, consigliere to the Corleone family in The Godfather (Great American Thing No. 74). And he uttered the line that the American Film Institute chose as the number 12 film quote of all time, in Apocalypse Now: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Some of his other great films: Tender Mercies… The Natural… Lonesome Dove… Network… The Apostle… and my pastor’s favorite, Secondhand Lions. He’s been nominated for six Oscars, and won one (Tender Mercies).
If you see that Robert Duvall is going to be in a movie, you don’t know for certain that it’s going to be great. But you can know without a doubt that his performance will be.
You didn’t want to mess with Robert Duvall in a bar…witness these two wonderful scenes: