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Luke Who?

April 25, 2012

Luke Askew was a character actor whose career started in 1967 and ended in 2010.  He died

last month from lung cancer just after his 80th birthday.  With some character actors, we

don’t know their names but recognize their faces (as in “Oh, that guy.”).  Askew might not

have reached even that level of fame, but I was a fan from the beginning.


That was because two of his earliest roles were in favourite films of mine, and they were polar

opposites. In Cool Hand Luke he played Boss Paul, one of the sadistic prison camp guards who

helped break the spirit of Paul Newman’s character.  In Easy Rider he was a hippy hitchhiker

who thought he might like to be Porky Pig.  Here he is with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.


Still not ringing a bell?  Askew did a slew of manly movie roles– like military men, cowboys,

law enforcers and villains. Look for him in Will Penny, The Green Berets, The Great Northfield

Minnesota RaidPat Garrett & Billy the Kid, and Rolling Thunder.


Nothing yet?  In the 70’s he did mostly TV work, ranging from Mission: Impossible to B.J.

and the Bear.  Between those extremes he could be seen on The Rockford Files, Quincy M.E.,

Fantasy Island, L.A. Law, MacGyver, and Murder, She Wrote.


Near the end of his career, Askew appeared in several mainstream films: The Newton Boys,

Frailty, and The Greatest Game Ever Played.  His final job was a role on HBO’s Big Love.  The

last time he acted on screen, Grace Zabriskie cut off his arm with a machete.  That’s what you

get for breaking Paul Newman’s spirit.


Askew also sang.  Bob Dylan once heard him in Greenwich Village at the Gaslight Cafe, a famous

venue where patrons had to snap their fingers instead of clapping to show approval.  Applause

caused residents in nearby apartments to complain.  Dylan compared him to Bobby “Blue”



I’m not so sure about that.  Here is Askew singing “Bells”, a rockabilly tune he wrote.  It isn’t a

classic like “Saint James Infirmary” or “Stormy Monday Blues”, but it has its charm.

  1. Gordon permalink
    April 25, 2012 1:03 pm

    Like you said, “Oh that guy”! Nice remebrance. And I never eat a hard-boiled egg without wondering if I could do 60 in an hour.

    • April 25, 2012 9:15 pm

      My money’s on you, Cool Hand.

  2. wkmtca permalink
    April 25, 2012 7:47 pm

    i remember him.. i never would have thought he was 80,..,but then have not aged at all so i don’t get how others have…

    kirs (lower case)

    • April 25, 2012 9:18 pm

      I’m glad you stopped at your peak, kris.


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