'Animal House' dean dead at 72

Saturday, February 5, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- John Vernon, a character actor who played cunning villains in film and TV and made his comedy mark as Dean Wormer in "National Lampoon's Animal House," has died. He was 72.

Vernon died in his sleep Tuesday following complications from Jan. 16 heart surgery, his family said.

Movie fans may know the Canadian-born actor best for his role as Wormer, who is bent on expelling a hard-partying fraternity house. The movie, starring John Belushi and Tim Matheson, is one of the most popular comedies ever made.

Born in 1932 in Montreal, he made his U.S. film debut in director John Boorman's "Point Blank" (1967) as a turncoat tossed to his death by Lee Marvin. Vernon went on to work with other celebrated filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock ("Topaz," 1969), Don Siegel ("Dirty Harry," 1971), and Clint Eastwood ("The Outlaw Josey Wales," 1976).

His deep, menacing voice was custom-made for the many bad guys he played.

Other comedy roles followed, including Mr. Big in the film "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" in 1988.

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