A nod to Ned

Ned Beatty in Robert Altman’s Nashville, from 1975 (image courtesy IMDB)

When I learned of the passing of Ned Beatty earlier this month, at age 83, I couldn’t help feeling that a large part of the 1970s had died. That might sound odd considering Beatty never rose to the level of Pacino, Hoffman, Nicholson or the other male actors who defined that decade. Beatty instead carved out his cinema niche in much the same way as John Cazale, who too exhibited an uncanny knack for picking great films and making them even better with memorable supporting turns.

For Beatty, it was, of course, the role of Bobby Trippe, in Deliverance, that established him as a star and has forever come to define male rape in the movies. For many actors, having a great role like that in just one of the 200 best films of all time (at least according to my list) would be enough to cement a legacy. But Beatty followed that with great turns in Nashville, All the President’s Men and Network: all top-200 movies. Equally memorable were his comedic roles in 1941 and Superman. And he continued to act up until 2013, with roles in more great films such as Toy Story 3 and Charlie Wilson’s War.

Still, he’ll forever be associated with the cinema of the ‘70s. And, like a lot of great male character actors of that generation, he seems forever frozen at 40. It’s difficult to imagine him at 83. It’s even more difficult to imagine him gone.

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