Robert Duvall: Tender Mercies

I’m in love with the film and every one of the characters in it.

Did “Boo Radley” or “Frank Burns” in his wildest dreams, ever think he’d be one of the most celebrated actors spanning 2 centuries?

Rhetorical, I know… shrugs


I love Duvall too. Also Ed Harris and Tommy Lee Jones – for some reason I want to lump those three together. The always show a lot of heart and humor. I don’t know anything about them personally, but they seem stalwart, mature, trustworthy.

My favorite actor, he’s incredibly scary & funny in The Great Santini, totally awesome in Lonesome Dove, one of the best bad-guys John Wayne ever faced in True Grit, & infinitely worthy of an Oscar for Tender Mercies.

One of his roles has always puzzled me though. What’s up with his cab driver role in Bullitt? Did they leave some footage on the floor or something?

Damn , he is that old? Doesn’t look it.

Seriously, Tender Mercies is very good and I agree he was great in that role.

But, let’s talk about Duvall in “Tender Mercies,” probably my favorite movie.

It’s not because he captured the essence of a talented, recovering alcoholic trying to make amends for a sorry life. It’s not because Duvall could actually sing a great country song. It’s because he, as the character, could lie and make the audience believe it until he revealed the scriptwriter’s truth.

The scene is when his estranged daughter visits before running off with the musician from her mother’s band. She recalls a song he sang when she was little and he tells her he doesn’t remember the song. She drives away with her drunk, new husband sitting in the passenger seat.

The scene shifts to Duvall, looking out the window. He starts singing the song:

“On the Wings of a Dove.”

Of course, I could go on and on about great scenes in that movie.

In an episode of “Combat!” he plays a German medic who is captured by the American squad. The episode has a commentary track with Conlan Carter, who played the American medic in seasons 2-5. Carter says Duvall insisted on wearing crooked false teeth so he would be a little different than he was on an earlier appearance.

Duvall, like Gene Hackman, is one of those actors who’s always looked middle-aged (although they did age Duvall up quite a bit for his cameo in The Road). While that may doom you to character parts when you’re younger, it can also work to your advantage when you’re older. You can get to play leading parts longer than someone with conventional “movie star” looks.

I love Bobby Duvall as well. Let me slightly hijack this thread however to ask, “What do TKAM and Tender Mercies have in common?” The answer is playwright Horton Foote (who died a year ago yesterday). His writing is so beautiful.

My wife and I just saw him in Crazy Heart (really good movie, BTW) and I remarked to her that he’s looked about 55 for the last 20 years.
One move I really liked him in was “Something to Talk About” with Julia Roberts.

I’m a huge fan of Duvall. A while back, someone put together a list of the best 100 movies ever, and he was in about a *third *of them.

Does anyone remeber him as Stalin in the HBO movie of the same name back in 1992?

Not much of an acting challenge, since I’ve never seen Stalin played by an actor who wasn’t visibly having the time of his life playing Stalin.

My favorite! We have a couple of giclees that we had framed–“Gus & Call” for our den–don’t ask–and the framer lady was like “ooooooh! Robert Duvall!” I take special pleasure knowing that my ancestors from Virginia were Duvalls.

IIRC Bullit was his first bigscreen appearance, and he was pretty much unknown (although he had already done a TON of TV roles); the taxi driver in Bullit was a very small part for an unknown actor.


In The Goodfather, Duvall as Tom Hagan stood out in spite of being with that cast of powerhouses. Everyone else was doing a good job of acting, but he was Tom Hagan.

I don’t know what to think about him as Don Quoixote (sp) in Terry Gilliam second try at the subject.

Not even close. As has already been mentioned, Duvall was Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird 6 years earlier.

In addition to Duvall’s Best Actor Oscar for TM, these are the other actors who’ve won that same category in a Robert Duvall movie:

Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird)
John Wayne (True Grit)
Marlon Brando (The Godfather)
Peter Finch (Network)
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

And that’s not even mentioning the Oscars for Robert DeNiro (Supporting Actor/The Godfather, Part II) and Billy Bob Thornton (Adapted Screenplay/Sling Blade).


I’m not going to argue with someone who’s right.




And he’s as much a cowboy as Sam Elliot. He absorbs his roles, and I sure appreciate that.


Rember that one, chirrun?

His character absolutely refused to call his adversary by his correct name!

Man, wadn’t he a mean SOB in that film?

Yep, Mr. Duvall rocks (if I can still use that term!)

And to think, I never thought the man would rise above Frank Burns in MASH