TMZ reports that the great American character actor John Mahoney died today while in hospice care in Chicago. Though probably best known for his role as Martin Crane, the retired cop father of two neurotic aesthete psychiatrists on Frasier, Mahoney gave unforgettable performances in a great many memorable films—including Say Anything, Barton Fink, and Moonstruck (which is playing this Friday at 7pm at Central Cinema).
He was even more accomplished as a stage actor. He was an early company member of Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theater before moving to off- and eventually on-Broadway. His performance in John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves won him the 1986 Tony for Best Actor. In 2003, he returned to Steppenwolf, where he worked ever since, dividing time between stage work and roles in TV shows and films.
He was truly excellent, the kind of actor who made everything he appeared in better. And though I will always be partial to his against-type performance as the Faulknerian W.P. Mayhew in Barton Fink, it really is worth noting that he was utterly brilliant for 11 seasons on Frasier, which was funnier and smarter than most TV sitcoms ever dream of being.