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David Huddleston, Who Played The Real Mr. Lebowski, Dies

Actor David Huddleston, pictured with his wife, Sarah Koeppe, was nominated for an Emmy in 1990 for his role as the grandfather on <em>The Wonder Years.</em>
Sarah C. Koeppe
/
AP
Actor David Huddleston, pictured with his wife, Sarah Koeppe, was nominated for an Emmy in 1990 for his role as the grandfather on The Wonder Years.

The Big Lebowski is gone.

No confusion here, The Dude (Jeff Bridges) still abides. But the Emmy-nominated actor who played the film's real Mr. Lebowski, David Huddleston, has died. He was 85.

Huddleston had a long career in movies, TV and theater, in such classics as The Big Lebowski and Blazing Saddles. He was a character actor whose roles tended to stick with you. In The Big Lebowski, he played a cranky millionaire (kind of) who, because of a shared last name, got mixed up with The Dude. (We'll warn you there's some foul language around the 2:30 mark):

Huddleston was also the blustery mayor of Stars Hollow on Gilmore Girls:

In Mel Brooks' Western spoof, Blazing Saddles, he gave this memorable speech:

Huddleston was born in Virginia in 1930. He served as a mechanic in the Air Force and later moved to New York City to study acting on the GI Bill. His career spanned more than 50 years — from his first TV role in 1960 to Bewitched in 1970 to Santa Claus: The Movie in 1985 and The West Wing in 2000, where he played a Republican senator willing to work with President Bartlett to reform campaign finance laws. Toward the end of his career, Huddleston appeared on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, playing an old business partner of Danny DeVito's.

He was nominated for an Emmy in 1990 for his role as the grandfather on The Wonder Years ­-- specifically for an episode in which he presents his delighted grandson with a surprise puppy.

Huddleston will be remembered as an actor who for decades delighted audiences, as well.

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Rose Friedman is an Associate Editor for NPR's Arts, Books & Culture desk. She edits radio pieces on a range of subjects, including books, pop culture, fine arts, theater, obituaries and the occasional Harry Potter-check-in. She is also co-creator of NPR's annual Book Concierge and the podcast recommendation site Earbud.fm. In addition, Rose has edited commentaries for the network, as well as regular features like This Week's Must Read on All Things Considered.