Van Heflin was a longtime character actor who often played tough guys who were more sensitive and vulnerable than their snarling manner implied.
Heflin won an Academy Award as best supporting actor in 1942 for his role as the hard-drinking stooge for a city gangster in "Johnny Eager."
A seaman in his youth and early manhood, he got his start in show business by accident when he met director Richard Boleslawski, who cast him on Broadway in "Mr. Moneypenny."
The play closed after a short run and Heflin shipped out again for three years, only to return to drama school and take up acting for good.
In 1936, after appearing in eight more plays he made his first movie, "A Woman Rebels."
Over the next 35 years he performed in such films as "Battle Cry," "Patterns," "The Three Musketeers," "Shane," "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat."
He starred on Broadway and in Hollywood in the 1960s playing in the hit stage production "A Case of Libel" and in his last movie played a World War II demolitions expert gone half mad and determined to blow up a plane in the box office smash "Airport."
The role was in many ways typical Van Heflin, though he often insisted there was no such thing.
"I've never played the same part twice," he said once. "I'm a character actor, always have been."
|1942||Best Supporting Actor||Johnny Eager||Win|