Obituary: Actor G.D. Spradlin, 1920-2011

Apocalypse Now (1979)

G. D Spradlin, the prolific character actor whose distinct Oklahoma accent and stern on-screen manner ganered him steady work in some 70-plus movies and television shows, died on July 23, 2011, at his cattle ranch in San Luis Obispo, California. He was 90 years old.

My wife refers to Gervase Duan Spradlin as a “Hey, it’s that guy” actor, a character player with a face you immediately recognize and a style with which you’ve grown familiar and comfortable. And that’s certainly the case with the late Mr. Spradlin.

Before he was a “Hey, it’s that guy,” Spradlin picked up his first small role in a bunch of TV westerns in the 1960s. It was only after popping up on The Rounders, The Big Valley, Cimarron Strip and others, Spradlin moved onto greener pastures and juicier roles on the big screen.

Here are a half-dozen of the “That Guy”’s most memorable performances in his finest movies:

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Zabriskie Point (1970)
Spradlin made an early feature film appearance as a real estate executive in Michelangelo Antonioni’s psychedelic and downright freaky American counter-culture flick.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

The Godfather: Part II (1974)
As U.S. Senator Pat Geary, Spradlin makes a mistake by trying to put the squeeze on Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone. Even worse, he goes out of his way to slam the whole Corleone family. Ouch.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment


North Dallas Forty (1979)
The coach of the mythical Dallas Bulls pro football team, Spradlin’s B.A. Strothers uses stats, threats, game films and good old fashioned intimidation to turn funny-guy wide receiver Nick Nolte into a gridiron android.
Available on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment

North Dallas Forty (1974)

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Martin Sheen wouldn’t have anyone to kill with extreme prejudice if Spradlin’s General Corman (the name’s inspired by movie producer Roger, or course) didn’t send him up to Cambodia on a mission to eliminate Brando’s renegade Col. Kurtz in Coppola’s Vietnam War epic.
Available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment

The War of the Roses (1989)
“Mrs. Rose, by the time this is all over, you’ll think of today as one of your lighter moments.”
Available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Ed Wood (1994)
Spradlin lightened up a but for his role as one of a group of Baptist investors who put money into an awful movie — Plan 9 From Outer Space — directed by the legendarily bad titular filmmaker, played by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s loving biography.
Available on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.