Joe Leydon, left, and Ed Lauter, right
Joe Leydon, left, and Ed Lauter, right

Among the most pleasant experiences I have enjoyed in recent years was a long, leisurely lunch with Ed Lauter, one of my all-time-favorite character actors, last November at the Starz Denver Film Festival. For the better part of two hours before we engaged in an on-stage, post-screening Q&A after the Denver Fest premiere of Ed Burns' delightful "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas," we chatted about the highlights of our respective careers -- and he was graciously polite enough to indicate he found my anecdotes almost as interesting as his.

Mind you, it wasn't like we were in any sort of "Can you top this?" competition. Because, really, what could I possibly say that could top his account of being cast by Alfred Hitchcock in "Family Plot" after The Master of Suspense spotted him in "The Longest Yard"? Lauter impressed Hitchcock so much that he was set to co-star in "The Short Night," Hitchcock's next film -- the film, alas, Hitchcock didn't live to make.

Lauter passed away October 16 at age 74, leaving behind a body of work that ranges from "The Magnificent Seven Ride!" (1972) and "French Connection II" (1975) to "The Artist" (2011) and "Trouble With the Curve" (2012). 

Read the rest of this article at Moving Picture Blog.

Check out the kooky, Hitchcock-narrated trailer for "Family Plot" below. Lauter makes an appearance at the 1:21 mark: