Character actors are another of cinemas unheralded heroes. Some acquire a small degree of fame or notoriety. But for the most part they go unrecognized and unremembered for the excellent work they’ve done and all the pleasure they’ve given us over the years.
From time to time we will be highlighting some of these staples of the cinema whom we got to know nearly as well as we know the long time neighbor next door. Yet we don’t remember them until we see them in the next movie playing their next great role.
Murray Hamilton (1924-1986
Everyone knew Murray but no one knew him at all. Say the name Murray Hamilton and you get a blank stare. Say that he played the mayor who doesn’t want to close the beaches in Jaws (1975) or Anne Bancroft’s husband Mr. Robinson in The Graduate (1967) and you get : “Oh him. Sure I know who he is.”
In his career Murray made more than 300 movies, acted in over 1000 TV shows and appeared in 16 Broadway shows. In each he played a prominent featured role. Some other significant films include: Anatomy of a Murder (1959) The Hustler (1961), and Brubaker (1980). He liked to quote one of his favorite directors Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke – 1969)who always started every film he directed by saying to the cast and crew that he viewed life as a Department store and that the people who made films were working in the toy department. Murray subscribed to that view of things. He was a genuine Hollywood outsider because in spite of the high number of films he appeared in he never lived in California and was never part of the so called film colony. His best friends were Walter Matthau, Michael Parks, David Soul, Jason Robards, Peter O’Toole and George C. Scott. His favorite director was Steven Spielberg for whom he acted in Jaws (1975) and in 1941 (1979).
Murray studied to be a graphic artist and got into acting by accident. He worked in the play Mister Roberts (1948) and later replaced David Wayne in the role of Ensign Pulver. As an actor Murray said that he always tried to first be “true to the part as it is written”, be “interesting in the role” and “serve the director to the best of my ability”.
He was born in North Carolina and died there 62 years later of cancer. Murray was one of the best of the unheralded character actors and it would be a shame if his contributions to the films in which he appeared were forgotten. He’s not forgotten here. Thank you, Murray, you were wonderful.