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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK


George C Scott: The man who refused an Oscar

Oscar-winner: George C Scott as General George S Patton

With his granite face and characteristically intense performances, George C Scott was regarded as one of the finest American actors of his generation.

Watch George C Scott in Patton
His magisterial portrayal of General George S Patton won him the Best Actor award at the 1971 Oscars. Scott shocked Hollywood by being the first person ever to refuse an Academy Award.

He said that the politics surrounding such awards was "demeaning" and described the Oscar ceremony as "a two-hour meat parade".

[ image: George C Scott:
George C Scott: "Meat parade"- protest
George C Scott was born in Virginia on 18 October 1927, the son of a mine surveyor. As a child he was both athletic and sensitive. He remembered his mother, who died when he was eight, as a creative inspiration.

On graduating from high school in 1945, he enlisted in the US Marines, where he spent four years burying bodies in Arlington National Cemetery and, as he later recalled, "picking up a solid drinking habit that stayed with me from then on".

Upon discharge from the Marines, he entered the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and joined the university drama club.

Playing his first role in a production of The Winslow Boy his life was transformed. "The minute I got on stage, I knew...that this was what I had to do."

Screen debut

Dropping out of college to pursue a career on the stage, George C Scott spent a number of lean years in Hollywood and Broadway before playing the title role in Joseph Papp's production of Richard III. He was rarely out of work after that.

In 1959, he appeared in his first film, a psychological Western, The Hanging Tree. The same year, Otto Preminger cast him as the relentless prosecuting attorney in Anatomy of a Murder. The role brought him his first, unsuccesful, Oscar nomination.

[ image: Scott as a social worker in 1964's The Sinner]
Scott as a social worker in 1964's The Sinner
The early 1960s saw many appearances both on television and in the theatre. But Hollywood made George C Scott an international star.

Memorable in The Hustler in 1961, the following year saw him as the bomb-loving US General Buck Turgidson in Doctor Strangelove. The film, a satire on the Cold War, starring Peter Sellars delighted and provoked audiences around the world.

He brought characteristic gravitas to the role of Abraham in the 1966 production of The Bible before taking the lead role in Patton for which he will probably be best remembered.

His ability to dominate the screen was essential in such films. He played Patton as a larger than life character, sometimes out of control, at other times coolly calculating.

More recently, George C Scott returned to Broadway in Inherit the Wind with Jack Lemmon and was still to be seen in innumerable cameo roles both on TV and film.

He was uneasy with stardom, once admitting: "There is no question you get pumped up by the recognition. Then a self-loathing sets in when you realise you're enjoying it."

George C Scott was a complex man whose reputation as a hellraiser belied the range of his ability. In an age of tightly marketed, yet limited, Hollywood superstars, his status as one of the finest ever American actors is assured.

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