Articles & Notes, Video — October 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

R.I.P. Charles Napier (1936-2011)

I woke up this morning, and first two news that I’ve read online were about deaths. One, as you’ve already guessed was about Steve Jobs.

Apple even honored him on their main website page. And, another one…well, this probably won’t be mentioned in any news, yet it is still very sad.

Popular American actor Charles Napier, whom I remember from so many movies (Night Stalker, Rambo 2, Mean Tricks, Hard Justice, One Eyed Monster – just to name a few).

Napier passed away at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, CA. He was 75 years old. Reportedly, friends of the Napier family told the media, that Napier collapsed in his home sometime Monday night and was found Tuesday morning and taken to Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, California.

Napier was born on April 12, 1936, in Allen County, Ky., the 2nd of 3 children born to a homemaker and tobacco farmer. He joined the Army out of high school, despondent after an athletic scholarship to college failed to materialize. He was stationed in Germany for three years and credited his time in the service with developing social skills he never learned during his rural Kentucky upbringing.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Western Kentucky University in 1961 and appeared in his first stage play, “Love Among the Ruins,” a short time after graduation.

Night Stalker (1987)

After bouncing around Florida, New York and San Diego, Napier arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. He found work as a substitute teacher and made mischief with a bunch of unknown actors on the cusp of counterculture fame: Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton.

After Nicholson helped him find an agent, Napier soon landed his first bit part, on the television series “Mission: Impossible.” Napier played a military guard, who patrolled alongside a German shepherd.

The opportunity that really kick-started his career came from his association with provocative filmmaker Russ Meyer, director of soft-core skin flicks that have developed a cult following among some of the industry’s most respected talents. Napier was grateful for the work and Meyer’s confidence in him, though he wasn’t always comfortable with the racy scenes that were a signature of the director’s films.

“Russ convinced me to do what is easily the most embarrassing moment of my film career,” Napier wrote of the 1969 film “Cherry, Harry and Raquel!”

“He talked me into running naked, except for my boots and hat, straight at the camera. If you ever have the misfortune of seeing yourself doing what I did, you’d never do it again. And I didn’t.”

Other high points in Napier’s long career include his work opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs” and a role as the heavy in “Rambo: First Blood II”. Aside from that, there were a couple of italian action films, and one of my personal favorites – “Night Stalker”, where Napier played a cop, batting with seemingly undefeatable serial killer played by Robert Z’Dar.

It was while he was at the peak of his career, in the mid-1980s, that a detour through Kern County led the actor to his new home.

“I had just finished shooting a Toyota commercial in Lone Pine, and on the way back to L.A., my driver got lost,” the actor told The Californian in March. “We were riding in a motorhome and I was talking with a friend of mine when suddenly I realized we were not going to L.A. I told the driver to just keep going. We stopped in Kernville and spent the night. Next day we took another route and ended up in Twin Oaks. .. I told my friend, ‘This is it — this is the place I want to live.”

Napier, who estimated he earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million over the course of his career, bought property and raised his family in Twin Oaks in eastern Kern before eventually moving to Bakersfield, where he lived in recent years.

Napier, divorced at the time of his death, painted a little but had no hobbies. Roles were scarce, he said, as they often are for aging actors. His last part was a voice-over role earlier this year on the television series “Archer.”

As much as I respect Steve Jobs, and give him credit for everything he did, Charles Napier was a lot closer to me, than Jobs (and no, I don’t have any Ipads, Iphones, etc). Below are two videos of Napier that I found, so this post is a little “thank you and good bye” to Napier for his numerous roles. Thanks. Rest in Peace.


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