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Gruff, engaging character actor whose craggy-face and distinctive bass voice are known to two generations for his ubiquitous presence as a supporting character in a number of memorable film and TV roles. Usually cast as the heavy, and later in more comedic turns, Warden has enjoyed a long and productive career. Before embarking on acting, Warden was by age 17 a ranked professional middleweight prizefighter. He served in World War II as a paratrooper and it was while recovering from an injury suffered in a jump that Warden began reading plays and decided to try acting. He moved to New York after his discharge and while working as a lifeguard at a New York hotel pool happened to meet Margo Jones, manager of the celebrated Dallas Alley Theater. Jones invited Warden to join the company and he ended up serving a five-year apprenticeship. Returning to New York, Warden was soon cast in Broadway productions of "Golden Boy," "Sing Me No Lullaby," "Picnic" and "Cages," among others.
Warden made his screen debut in "U.S.S. Hathaway/You're in the Navy Now" (1951), a slight military comedy that marked the debut of two other actors who would also enjoy long screen careers, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson (here billed as Charles Buchinsky). In many of his other early films, Warden often played hard-boiled military types but he also made his mark as one of a group of urban white collars workers trapped by life in the emotionally affecting "Bachelor Party" (1957) and, as the impatient juror, in the well-remembered courtroom drama "Twelve Angry Men" (both 1957). In Sidney Lumet's directing debut, "Edge of the City" (also 1957), he delivered a gritty performance as a ruthless hiring boss on the New York waterfront.
Warden worked steadily in TV and film throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, gradually developing a talent for vulgar comedic roles. Some of the more memorable performances were in "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973) as a scruffy outlaw, as the cab-driving pimping father in the Canadian produced comedy "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (1974), as a hard-nosed editor in "All The President's Men" (1976), and as a garment district hustler in "So Fine" (1981). For his supporting work in two Warren Beatty vehicles, "Shampoo" (1975), where he played a philandering husband, and in "Heaven Can Wait" (1978) as a blustering football coach, Warden picked up Oscar nominations.
Warden enjoyed an extensive career on the small screen beginning in TV's "Golden Age." He appeared in countless TV dramas, movies, miniseries and was the star of numerous weekly series beginning with a two- year stint as a regular on "Mr. Peepers." Warden frequently played detectives in series TV, among them, the complex crime solver "Jigsaw John" (1976), a plain clothes veteran in "N.Y.P.D." (1967-69), and a con man turned private investigator in "Crazy Like a Fox" (1984-86). Though Warden often got starring billing in his later work, he remained the quintessential supporting character. Having previously acted in Woody Allen's misfire drama, "September" (1987), Warden showed up as a respected theater producer in Allen's decidedly lighter comedy, "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Broke a leg during a practice jump while preparing for the Normandy invasion in England; began reading plays while recuperating and, upon discharge, joined the Alley Theater in Dallas
Film acting debut in "You're In the Navy Now/USS Teakettle"; also debut film for Lee Marvin and Charles Buchinski (Bronson)
TV debut as a series regular, "Mr. Peepers"
Debut in a live TV drama, "The Petrified Forest"
Star of short-lived TV series, "The Asphalt Jungle"
Star of TV movie, "What's a Nice Girl Like You...?"
Debut in a TV miniseries, "A.D."