THE PASSING OF MITCH RYAN

The passing of Mitch Ryan occurred recently but in the midst of such harrowing headlines as Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the stubborn pandemic and record-setting inflation, the death of a veteran character actor may not get much media attention. However, to this writer it certainly bears attention as I got to know the man, albeit briefly, and found him to be warm, personable and most of all, one hell of an actor. My experience with the man had been blogged about previously here, as well as here,
I was extremely fortunate to get him to go on the record with me about his friendship with Lee Marvin as he proved to be a most valuable source concerning Marvin’s final days, having visited him in the hospital on the last day of his life, all detailed here in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
His passing at the ripe old age of 88 has been chronicled sufficiently on entertainment news websites, citing his work in such films Letha Weapon (1987) and 1960s TV’s “Dark Shadows.” However, I thought he was hysterically funny as the deadpan dad of Greg on TV’s “Dharma & Greg.”
However, the performance I felt was his personal best was the tragically poignant ‘Shorty’ in the criminally underrated Monte Walsh (1970).

Monte Walsh cast

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

Here’s a spoiler alert warning if you haven’t seen the film but if you have, consider this a rarely known anecdote defining the brilliance of both Marvin and Ryan. The film’s finale consists of former friends Monte (Marvin) and Shorty (Ryan) facing down each other in a gunfight for Shorty’s murdering of Chet (Jack Palance). According to Ryan, it was Marvin’s idea that just before they were to draw on each other, Ryan should drop his arms and open his hands, as an admission of guilt for killing Chet. Director William Fraker clearly liked the idea and did a close-up of Ryan’s hands a split second before Marvin draws on him. What follows is an even more poignant moment as Marvin cradles the dying Ryan in his arms and gives a touching requiem to his fallen comrade. See it again with this new perspective and it just might get even better than you may have remembered it.
And so with the passing of Mitch Ryan the world has again become a little less interesting place. Thank you, Mitch, for your time, generous nature, but most of all your extremely impressive talent.

(L-R) My girlfriend Barbara poses with Mitch Ryan, her hero from “Dark Shadows” at my book signing at Larry Edmunds. Right after I took this, photo, Ryan kissed her cheek (!)

-Dwayne Epstein

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