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Richard Libertini, the busy character actor who played the insane Central American general Garcia in the 1979 madcap comedy The In-Laws, has died. He was 82.
Libertini, also known as the boss of newspaper reporter Irwin Fletcher (Chevy Chase) in the Fletch films and as the Tibetan mystic Prakha Lasa in the Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me (1984), died Jan. 7 after a two-year battle with cancer, his family announced.
Libertini, who often sported a thick beard, excelled at portraying characters of various ethnicities. A member of the famed Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, he was married from 1963-78 to Melinda Dillon, the two-time Oscar-nominated actress who starred in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Absence of Malice (1981) and The Christmas Story (1983).
In the 1970s, Libertini appeared as “The Godfather” on the sitcom Soap, played another criminal on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and was the fired WJM station employee Big Chicken on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Later, he showed up as the political activist father of Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) on Murphy Brown.
Libertini had the honor of marrying Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds in Best Friends (1982). A year earlier, he portrayed a surveillance pro opposite Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine.
His other notable movies include John Cassavetes’ Big Trouble (1986) — in a reunion with his In-Laws co-stars Peter Falk and Alan Arkin — Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978), Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980) and Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990).
A native of Cambridge, Mass., Libertini graduated from Emerson College and partnered with MacIntyre Dixon (another Second City alum) and Linda Segal in a coffee-house act they called “Stewed Prunes.”
In 1966, he made his Broadway debut in Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water, playing a magic-loving priest, then appeared on the big screen for the first time in William Friedkin’s The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968).
His film résumé also includes the 1969 film version of Don’t Drink the Water, The Out of Towners (1970), Catch-22 (1970), Friedkin’s Deal of the Century (1983), Going Berserk (1983), Unfaithfully Yours (1984), The Lemon Sisters (1989), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Nell (1994) and Dolphin Tale (2011).
On television, Libertini was on The Jeffersons, Baretta, The Bob Newhart Show, Barney Miller, Laverne & Shirley, Moonlighting, The Fanelli Boys, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jenny, The Drew Carey Show and Supernatural.
In 2011, Libertini made a final Broadway appearance in Allen’s Honeymoon Hotel, one of the three one-acts in the stage production Relatively Speaking.
Survivors also include his son Richard, sister Alice and brother Albert.
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