LOS ANGELES - James Gammon, an exceptional character actor whose gravelly voice and craggy face made indelible memories in Sam Shepard plays, a spate of western TV shows and films, plus a comic turn in the baseball movie "Major League," has died. He was 70.
Gammon died Friday surrounded by his family at his daughter's home in Costa Mesa, Calif., where he and his wife, Nancy, had been living. He had cancer of the adrenal glands and the liver.
Gammon may be best known for his role as Lou Brown, manager of the hapless Cleveland Indians in the 1989 comedy "Major League" and its 1994 sequel. He stood out with key roles in many films including "Urban Cowboy," "The Milagro Beanfield War," "Leaving Normal," "Ironweed," "Silverado" and "Cold Mountain."
On television he played the father on "Nash Bridges" from 1996 to 2001, though he was only nine years older than star Don Johnson. He also had recurring roles in the TV series "The Waltons," "Bagdad Cafe," "Homefront" and "Middle Ages," a central role in the 1995 miniseries "Streets of Laredo" and a host of guest appearances ranging from "Gunsmoke" and other westerns in the 1960s to "Grey's Anatomy" in 2007.
Gammon gripped audiences most tightly when he was on stage. A co-founder of the MET Theatre, he received several Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for acting and directing. Gammon helped establish the old MET in the 1970s with a trilogy of William Inge plays, "Bus Stop," "Picnic" and "Dark at the Top of the Stairs."
"He did a lot of movies and TV, but I think his great presence and power was on the stage," Paul Koslo, an actor and director who worked with Gammon at the MET, said Saturday. "He always had something unexpected, riveting and real."
In 1978 Gammon appeared in his first Shepard drama, "Curse of the Starving Class," at the Public Theater in New York.
Gammon starred in a succession of Shepard-penned roles, including "A Lie of the Mind," "Simpatico," "The Late Henry Moss" and a 1996 Broadway production of "Buried Child," for which he received a Tony nomination.