Wednesday, October 24, 2018

James Karen Dead at 94

Poltergeist actor James Karen passed away at his home on October 23. He was 94.

In his Hollywood career, Karen earned more than 200 credits, ranging movies and TV shows across various genres and was an original cast member of All My Children.

In Poltergeist, a family moves into a newly-constructed townhouse community, which was developed by Karen's Mr. Teague, only for a series of bizarre occurrences to begin unfolding. When the family's patriarch confronts Teague, he discovers that the developer had relocated a cemetery to make room for the houses, though he opted to save money by moving only the headstones and leaving the corpses underneath the homes.

Karen might have had minimal on-screen time in the film but his role and the confrontation his character has with Craig T. Nelson's Steve Freeling are some of the film's most memorable components.

Karen returned to the horror world for 1985's Return of the Living Dead as the manager of a warehouse that held the remains of a zombie that was "killed" during the events of Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the remains are burned, creating a toxic cloud that ultimately turns to rain that resurrects nearby corpses.

While most of the film embraced the inherent goofiness of the premise, Karen's performance gave the film one of its more emotional sequences.

“It was the deal where he figures out he’s becoming a zombie and decides to incinerate himself in the crematorium,” Karen detailed to DVD Talk in 2006. “He kisses his wedding ring as he goes in. It was a very emotional scene, but it also got me out of being one of the rain-drenched zombies milling around outside the place at the end of the film. I didn’t really want to do all that muddy stuff.”

Karen also appeared in films such as Capricorn One, Mulholland Drive, The Pursuit of Happyness, 13 Days, and dozens more.

On primetime television, Karen appeared in Dallas (as Elton Lawrence), Knots Landing (as Max Craig), Dynasty (as Avril Dawson), Emerald Point N.A.S. (as Admiral Lovell), Little House on the Prairie, Seinfeld, The Powers of Matthew Star, and The Golden Girls, among many others.

His daytime soap opera roles included Dr. Burke on As the World Turns and Linc Tyler in All My Children.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Alba.

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