David Huddleston might not have been a prolific character actor in film, but his roles were memorable, ranging from inept lawmen to wheelchair-bound millionaires to Saint Nick himself. The actor died Tuesday of kidney and lung disease in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 85.
Huddleston entered into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts after a stint in the Air Force. His acting career began in earnest in the early 1960s, with roles on television on shows such as Adam-12 and Bewitched and films such as Slaves and A Lovely Way To Die.
He starred with John Wayne twice, in 1970’s Rio Lobo and 1974’s McQ. That same year, Huddleston would play Olson Johnson (a name that is a take off on the vaudeville team of Olson and Johnson) in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.
In 1979, Huddleston landed the lead role in the short lived sitcom, Hizzoner. He would then go on to play Santa Claus in the 1985 film, Santa Claus: The Movie. Even though he was playing the title character, co-stars Dudley Moore and John Lithgow got higher billing for the film.
Modern audiences most likely recognize Huddleston as Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire who kidnappers confused Jeff Bridges similarly named slacker with in The Big Lebowski.
Huddleston’s last film work was 2014’s Locker 13.