Joe Turkel, an emaciated yeoman actor who appeared in numerous films but is best known for two of his last appearances – as Lloyd the bartender in “The Shining” and Dr. Eldon Tyrell in “Blade Runner” – died June 27 in Santa Monica, California. He was 94.
His son Craig Turkel said the death, in a hospital, was caused by liver failure.
mr. Turkel (pronounced ter-KELL) was a favorite among directors looking for someone who could bring diligent professionalism to even the smallest role.
In films such as “Hellcats of the Navy” (1957) and “The Sand Pebbles” (1966), he stood his ground alongside prominent men such as Ronald Reagan and Steve McQueen. It was often up to Mr. Turkel to deliver a subtle yet unmistakable plot twist, using his steely on-screen demeanor and perfectly delivered lines to change the whole mood of a movie.
Nowhere was that more true than in the three films he made for Stanley Kubrick, with whom he formed a kind of mutual admiration society. Both men, about the same age, had grown up as secular working-class Jews in New York. Both were huge baseball fanatics. And both were perfectionists about their work.
Turkel had a small role in ‘The Killing’, Mr. Kubrick from 1956 about a racetrack robbery, then returned a year later as a convicted soldier in “Paths of Glory.” In both films, he contrasted a stony silence with sudden explosions of manic action to convey meaning far beyond his few short lines.
He became a prolific television actor, with roles on popular shows such as ‘Bonanza’, ‘Ironside’ and ‘Fantasy Island’.
In 1980, he returned to Kubrick’s service for “The Shining,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. The story revolves around an author, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), who is hired as the winter caretaker of the remote, otherwise empty Overlook Hotel and moves there with his family.
Under the influence of evil supernatural forces, Jack slowly goes mad. At one point, he enters the hotel bar, where he finds Lloyd, played by Mr. turkey. Jack asks for a bourbon and Lloyd pours him a shot of Jack Daniel’s.
mr. Nicholson dominates their conversation, but it’s Mr. Turkel who shifts the film into a darker register.
“In dress and demeanor, he’s the prototypical old-school hotel bartender,” Mr. Turkel told The Toronto Star in 2014. “He’s clearly proud of his job and the corruption he enables; most of the bartenders are classy and a bit bad. But poor Lloyd doesn’t know the difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.”
Joseph Turkel was born on July 15, 1927 in Brooklyn. His father, Benjamin Turkel, was a tailor and his mother, Gazella (Goldfisher) Turkel, was a housewife and part-time opera singer.
Along with his son Craig, Mr. Turkel is survived by another son, Robert; his brother, David; and two grandchildren. His wife, Anita (Cacciatore) Turkel, died before him.
He enlisted in the United States Merchant Navy in 1944 and in the Army in 1946. After being honorably discharged, he briefly returned to New York for acting lessons before moving to Hollywood in 1947.
His first credited role was in “City Across the River” (1949), a film about a juvenile delinquent program that also featured a young Tony Curtis.
His work on “The Shining” brought him to the attention of Ridley Scott, who cast “Blade Runner,” his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
He was cast as Dr. Tyrell, the brilliant but haughty founder of a company that produces robots so perfect that they blur the lines between man and machine – an uncanny that leads to the bloody demise of Dr. Tyrell through one of his creations.
Although “Blade Runner” has become one of the most acclaimed science fiction films in history, it was originally a blockbuster. mr. Turkel, tired of auditioning after decades in Hollywood, decided to retire; aside from a few more minor TV and movie roles, he never acted again.
Instead, he tried to create screenplays (although none of them were produced), became a fixture on the fan convention circuit, and wrote a memoir, “The Miseries of Success,” which is still unpublished.
“I’ve made some great movies,” he told an interviewer for Blade Zone, a “Blade Runner” fan site, in 1999. “I know other actors who have made brilliant films. They still have to go out to audition and meet the producer and director and please these people, whatever they did. Of course the big stars don’t. But there are quality actors who do that and they find it humiliating.”
Still, he added, “I’ve had a great career.”