FILMS and TV… Remembering Rip Torn, in many roles from Artie to Zed


Remembering Rip Torn in some real rip-roaring movies and more…


Looking back at the fascinating and versatile award winning Rip Torn, this from everything from on-screen actor to an off-screen voice artist.


Men in Black – Test Scene, Creepoid1234


I was sad to hear of the passing of Rip Torn this week, an Oscar nominated Best Supporting actor with many films, stage and TV roles on and off screen. This actor’s film and television career spanning 191 appearances from the 1950s TV Series Omnibus (1956) and two roles in Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) to more recently in the original Men in Black (1997- 2012) film trilogy (with an uncredited role in the last of these movies).

Reading more on this on screen actor, I also learned more there was much more to this actor with an equally outstanding career behind the camera. This man also had much off screen work as a director, a voice actor of video games and cartoons, many plays on Broadway and more to his credit. Two of my favourites of his roles were in a much loved film series Men in Black and in the drama film, Misunderstood.

For myself and many Rip Torn was remembered in his later role as Agent Zed, chief Honcho of the Men in Black operation. Torn joining Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, in this mismatched buddy and sci-fi action comedy. The films telling of their work for a secret police organisation – and so secret even their fellow police don’t know of their existence – who monitor and police extra terrestrial activity on earth.

My favourite of his films was memories of this actor in a small but pivotal role in one of my favourite tearjerking films, Misunderstood (1984). Here Torn played Will, a brother in law to an expat workaholic, Ned Rawley (Gene Hackman). Will was brother to Ned’s recently deceased wife Lilly (Susan Anspach) with Torn in a kindly and avuncular role.

Ned has been treating Andrew, the oldest of his two boys like an adult, from the moment when he first tells him of his mother’s death after her funeral. The young boy is unable to cope with this tragic news. However, Uncle Will recognises his nephew’s grief and that needs his father desperately. Will talked of his concerns to Ned about his young nephew’s feelings, Torn made his scenes with the grief stricken father (Hackman) compelling viewing.

This film made around the same time as ET Extra Terrestrial (1984) had Henry Thomas showing his talents as a child actor as Andrew. Huckleberry Fox from 1983’s Terms of Endearment, played his younger brother. More of this film can be read HERE.

Other notable on screen roles included comedy films as diverse as Airplane II: The Sequel (1984) – alongside –  and Defending Your Life (1991) with Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep and Lee Grant. His television roles including everything from the TV Mini Series drama Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III (1994) – with the cast including James Read, Lesley Anne Down and Terri Garber – to a one off part in the hospital drama Chicago Hope (1995).

Torn also boasted a six times nominated role as the protagonist’s talk show’s producer Artie in The Larry Sanders Show (1992-98). Torn winning this annual award only once for this role in the Best Supporting Actor in a comedy category.

His commanding voice added presence and gravitas to those in narration, cartoons and video games. His voice was heard in animated films including the Bee Movie (2007) and video games such as Hephaestus in God of War III (2010). His “singing” voice also showcased with his rendition of that cheesy theme tune, The Love Boat in the John Candy, in the comedy film Summer Rental (1985).

In reading more on Rip, I learned there was so much more to this man than his on-screen appearance. On stage, Rip also famed for his much acclaimed Broadway appearance in Sweet Bird of Youth with Paul Newman. His part of Tom Jnr was one that he also played on screen in 1962 with similar success. Rip also had an unsung claim to fame of being the son of Elmore Rudolph Torn (Snr), an agriculturalist and advocate. Elmore was famous as the man who made the eating of black eyed peas at New Year an American custom.

Rip also encouraged his cousin to take up acting, with this guiding role for the now Oscar winning actress, Sissy Spacek. Other surprising facts included his degree in animal husbandry and his learning of dance from Emmy award winning Martha Graham. This actor born was born Elmore Torn, with Rip a family nickname. Rip using this nickname as his stage name, with this nickname a tradition passed down his family tree.

I discovered when Torn married the actress Geraldine Page, he was apparently constantly amused by his then name on his front door saying, Torn Page. I’m sure this one of the most fun of his off-screen stories will entertain future Torn generations for years, just as Torn’s movies and film career will continue to delight all of us.



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