Alex Karras: Football player turned actor in’ Blazing Saddles’ & ‘Victor Victoria’
Alex Karras, a former football player for the Detroit Lions but known internationally for his roles in the successful comedies Blazing Saddles, Victor Victoria, and Porky’s, died earlier today. Karras, who was 77, suffered kidney failure, and had been reportedly suffering from cancer and dementia.
The son of Greek immigrants, Karras was born on July 15, 1935, in Gary, Ind. He had a long and successful run with the Detroit Lions despite becoming enmeshed in a serious gambling controversy in the early ’60s, as described in Karras’ Los Angeles Times obit.
Alex Karras movies
After his football career came to a halt in 1971, Alex Karras turned to acting. As per the IMDb, he was featured in 13 features – mostly smaller, now all but forgotten efforts such as The Great Lester Boggs (1974) and two The Street Corner Kids movies in the mid-’90s.
But Karras was featured in a few major productions as well. In Mel Brooks’ blockbuster Blazing Saddles (1974), one of the most financially successful comedies ever made, Karras played the horse-punching cowboy Mongo. In Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982), he is James Garner’s tough-looking bodyguard ‘Squash’ Bernstein, who, we later find out, enjoys the company of other guys in 1930s Gay Paree. In Porky’s (1982), Karras’ redneck Sheriff Wallace finds himself at odds with a group of young men out to lose their virginity.
Other better-known Alex Karras movies include the all-star disaster flick (and box office disaster) When Time Ran Out… (1980), with Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, and an erupting south Pacific volcano; Taylor Hackford’s crime thriller Against All Odds (1984), a remake of Out of the Past starring Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward; and Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 (1998), which turned out to be Karras’ last film role.
On television, Alex Karras guested in about 20 TV shows. He also had a recurring role in Centennial, and starred opposite his fellow Porky’s player and real-life wife Susan Clark in Webster.