Actor Charles Durning

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on November 21, 2004

Here Comes Santa Claus

Playing Santa has become familiar territory for actor Charles Durning, who dons the red suit for the fourth time in A Boyfriend for Christmas, which airs at 9 p.m. ET Nov. 27 on the Hallmark Channel. “He’s every child’s dream, including my own, and he’s what happiness is at that time of the year,” Durning, 81, says. He also was Santa in the movies It Nearly Wasn’t Christmas, Mrs. Santa Claus, Elmo Saves Christmas and Mr. St. Nick. “Sometimes it’s a much deeper beard,” he says. “You could hide a squirrel in there.” The father of three lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Mary Ann. He was raised in Highland Falls, N.Y. (pop. 3,678), near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “We had all the benefits of West Point,” he says. “The coaches would train you in running and track.” Before World War II, Durning taught ballroom dancing and sang with big bands. During the war, the highly decorated Army ranger took part in the 1944 invasion of Normandy and was injured in the Battle of the Bulge in Malmady, France. His next movie, Forget About It, also stars Burt Reynolds and Ann-Margret. “It’s very funny,” he says.