Owner of a vast acting range, Philip Baker Hall died at the age of 90 on Sunday night at his home in Glendale, California. Starring in films by Robert Altman, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Michael Mann, among others, the actor made a name for himself in Hollywood as a solid supporting cast member thanks to his deep voice and poise in front of the camera. He was already a comedic role as a detective in Seinfeld than a dramatic high-voltage role like the one he had in MagnoliaBaker Hall exuded authority on screen despite his bloodhound face. Her daughter, Anna Ruth Hall, has confirmed that she passed away from complications with emphysema.
The news was first confirmed by Sam Farmer, a sportswriter from Los Angeles Times. The reporter, who covers the NFL for the Los Angeles newspaper, had known the actor for decades. “My neighbor, my friend, and one of the wisest, kindest, and most talented men I have ever met, passed away peacefully last night. [por domingo]”, he wrote on Twitter. Farmer says his neighbor was passionate about sports, especially Larry Bird and the Dodgers. In a different category he had Rafael Nadal. The journalist assures that Baker Hall, in the last days of his life, got up early to follow the Mallorcan’s feat at Roland Garros.
Baker Hall leaves behind a legacy of hundreds of plays, 80 movies and 200 television episodes, plus another hundred plays. One of the most memorable roles he left on stage was his portrayal of Richard Nixon for the 1983 monologue. Secret Honor. His success as the disgraced president of the United States after the Watergate scandal led him to star in Altman’s film adaptation of the play shortly after.
The actor continued to work well into many years. Despite suffering from emphysema in the lungs, he dragged an oxygen tank between the locations of his most recent projects, among these argusthe Oscar-winning film directed by Ben Affleck, and the television hit modern-family. His final film was The last word, a 2017 film where he shared credits with Shirley McLaine. Three years later she would still appear in a series for Netflix, Messiah.
Hall began acting when he was in his 30s. His debut on the screen, although she was not credited in the final work, was for a cinema legend, Michalangelo Antonioni, in Zabriskie Point. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Baker Hall served in the Army as a translator in Germany and was a high school teacher before he began doing theater. After passing through New York, he changed coasts due to the promise that the West holds for many who seek luck in the world of entertainment. Among his first television comedies was MASHsatire on the Vietnam War.
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His reputation as a solid delivery man would be a long time coming. It was in the ’90s, thanks to his work for two men who helped define the decade, Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Thomas Anderson. For the first, Baker Hall created a private detective who took on the character of Philip Marlowe from Raymond Chandler, a tough investigator who works for the New York Public Library and is on the trail of a copy of Tropic of Cancer that was never returned. The creators of the series wrote Hall a small role for the final episode.
Paul Thomas Anderson cast the actor in a 1993 short film called cigarettes and coffee. That was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship. The director included it in his documentary feature film, Hard Eight. Later it appeared in boogie nights Y Magnolia, two films that established Anderson as one of the most important filmmakers in the United States. “I just love him as an actor, there’s no one else with a face like his, or a voice like that,” Anderson told Los Angeles Times in 1998.
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