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Actor Tom Bower, Known for ‘The Waltons’ and ‘Die Hard 2’ Died at 86

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Actor Tom Bower

Tom Bower a hardworking actor known for Dr. Curtis Willard on The Waltons and Marvin the janitor in Die Hard 2 passed away at the age of 86. Bower brought these memorable characters to life on screen.

Tom Bower role as Dr. Curtis Willard in ‘The Waltons and Marvin in ‘Die Hard 2’ left a lasting impression on audiences. He will remembered for his contributions to the world of entertainment.

Tom Bower passed away peacefully in his sleep on May 30 at his home in Los Angeles. Which shared by his sister-in-law Mary Miller to The Hollywood Reporter. Throughout his career Bower involved in various projects. He worked on John Cassavetes’ first film as a director, ‘Shadows’ in 1957.

Additionally he played a role in the acclaimed Western movie The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez in 1982. Where he portrayed one of the translators whose actions caused confusion, alongside actor Edward James Olmos.

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In Oliver Stone’s movie Nixon Tom Bower played the role of the father of the 37th US president alongside actor Anthony Hopkins. He also portrayed the father of Nicolas Cage’s character, Terence McDonagh, in Werner Herzog’s film “Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans” released in 2009. Bower’s performances in these movies showcased his versatility as an actor, which leave a lasting impact on audiences.

Additionally, Tom Bower collaborated with director Scott Cooper on several occasions. In the 2009 film “Crazy Heart,” he portrayed the agent of Jeff Bridges’ character, Bad Blake. He also appeared in Cooper’s films “Out of the Furnace” in 2013. Bower’s talent also recognized by director Ed Harris, who cast him in the films “Pollock” in 2000 and “Appaloosa” in 2008.

In recent times, he played Bob Odenkirk’s character’s father on the short lived AMC series “Lucky Hank.” Bower’s consistent presence in various projects showcased his versatility and enduring impact in the world of entertainment.

Following his guest appearance as the pilot Rex Barker on a 1975 episode of “The Waltons” called The Wing Walker. Actor Tom Bower became a regular cast member in the following season. His character, Curt, arrived in Walton’s Mountain to take over as the new doctor after Dr. Vance. He hired Mary Ellen Walton, played by Judy Norton, to be his nurse.

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Their professional relationship soon turned into romance, leading to their marriage, and eventually, they welcomed a son together. Bower’s role as Curt added depth and intrigue to the beloved TV series.

In this 1977 photo from "The Waltons," we see Tom Bower, Judy Norton, Richard Thomas, Kami Cotler, Ellen Corby, and Will Geer.
In this 1977 photo from “The Waltons,” we see Tom Bower, Judy Norton, Richard Thomas, Kami Cotler, Ellen Corby, and Will Geer.

Bower’s character, Curt, written off the CBS series created by Earl Hamner Jr. in 1978. This happened when Curt seemingly killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, in a surprising turn of events on a 1981 episode, Curt reappeared alive in Florida. But there a twist he now portrayed by Scott Hylands.

In a 2022 interview with Judy Norton, Bower shared insights into what went on behind the scenes during this transition. This unexpected storyline shift added an intriguing layer to the show and kept viewers engaged with its twists and turns.

I requested a tiny increase in pay, so they wrote my character off by sending him to Pearl Harbor,” he chuckled. When they wanted to bring him back, stranded on some shore which I do not too thrilled about I asked for the same small raise. They simply hired a different actor instead.

Ralph Thomas Bower born in Denver on January 3, 1938. He wanted to be a professional baseball player. But he found he was not good enough for Baseball. So, he decided to try something else. In 1956 he went to New York City and join the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

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I began acting seriously while I was in high school. As, I guess when I decided to do a senior play instead of playing my last season of baseball. I knew I was choosing my path he mentioned in 2012.

After high school, Bower learned acting at the John Cassavetes Shadows Workshop. Following that, he worked for a couple of years as a private investigator in Boston, alongside lawyer F. Lee Bailey. Additionally, he helped establish the Boston Repertory Theater. It’s where he taught acting to Al Pacino, as confirmed by his sister-in-law.

Even when he was still working as a private investigator in 1972, Bower got a role in David Rabe’s play, “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel,” where he acted alongside Pacino. Later, when the play reached Broadway in 1977, Pacino won a Tony Award for his performance.

After that, Bower decided to focus solely on acting. He drove to Los Angeles in a Volkswagen to pursue acting full-time. He appeared in episodes of TV shows like “Get Christie Love!,” “The Rockford Files,” and “Kojak” before landing a role on “The Waltons.”

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In 1981, the actor received an invitation to the inaugural Sundance Institute film lab. This opportunity eventually led to his role as Boone Choate in Robert M. Young’s film “Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.” In the movie, Choate’s lack of Spanish skills results in a Mexican American farmer killing a sheriff, forcing Choate to flee. The film made on a small budget for PBS.

Bower and Olmos, who also involved in the film, traveled across the country carrying cans of the movie so that theaters could screen it.

In the movie “Die Hard 2” from 1990 Bower played the character Marvin who reside in the basement of Dulles International Airport. Marvin a janitor who love big band music share some memorable scenes. Those scenes were with Bruce Willis character McClane in this sequel directed by Renny Harlin.

As he got older actor Tom Bower remained active in acting and delivered commendable performances in various films. Some of his work in later years include Two Ways Home (2019), Senior Love Triangle (2019), El Camino A Breaking Bad Movie (2019), Fully Realized Humans (2020) and Raymond & Ray (2022).

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In his film career Bower appeared in a variety of movies which show his versatility as an actor. Some of his notable works included “Two Minute Warning” (1976), “Wild Rose” (1984), “River’s Edge” (1986) and “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987). Further, “True Believer” (1989), “Raising Cain” (1992), “The Ballad of Little Jo” (1993), “Clear and Present Danger” (1994), “Hearts in Atlantis” (2001), “High Crimes” (2002), “North Country” (2005), “The Hills Have Eyes” (2006) and “The Killer Inside Me” (2010).

Bower was a strong advocate for the Screen Actors Guild. Which believed in fair representation for all actors and people. He also supported the Syracuse International Film Festival.

Ralph Thomas Bower is survived by his children, Viv and Rob, along with his grandchildren Nicole, Jonathan, Lucille, and Henry. He also leaves behind his brother Bobby and his sister Shirley.

His wife, Ursula, who was German-born and spent 40 years as a valued employee at the Los Angeles law firm Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger, passed away in August at the age of 75. Ralph and Ursula were married for 51 years and were inseparable, never spending a day apart, as shared by Miller.

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