Character actor Gervase Duan “G.D.” Spradlin, who appeared in “The Godfather: Part II” and “Apocalypse Now” during a film and TV career that lasted more than three decades, died of natural causes on Sunday at his ranch in San Luis Obispo. He was 90.
Spradlin didn’t begin acting until he was in his 40s — he had been an oil company lawyer and a self-employed oilman — and typically played high-ranking military and political leaders both real and fictional as well as other authority figures.
He portrayed Lyndon Johnson in CBS’ 1985 miniseries “Robert Kennedy and His Times,” essayed President Andrew Jackson the next year in the CBS telepic “Houston: The Legend of Texas” and played the president in 1996 thriller “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” starring Geena Davis.
Spradlin played generals in telepic “The November Plan,” “Apocalypse Now” (in which his character declared, “But out there, with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God”), “MacArthur” (as the real Maj. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger), “The Lords of Discipline,” telepic “Call to Glory,” miniseries “Dream West” (as the real Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny) and telepic “Intruders.” Then there was his role as the real Admiral Raymond Spruance in miniseries “War and Remembrance.” The actor played senators in “The Godfather: Part II” — his perf as a corrupt Nevada solon increased his profile considerably — and ABC miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man — Book II.”
Spradlin played a minister in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” He made his last screen appearance in 1999 comedy “Dick,” playing Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.
Spradlin was born in Pauls Valley, Okla. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education at the U. of Oklahoma and served in the Army Air Forces in China during WWII. Returning to the U. of Oklahoma after the war, he earned a law degree and began work as an attorney for Phillips Petroleum. He eventually became so rich in the oil business that he chose to find another pursuit.
He went to an audition with his daughter, who was seeking a role in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” but landed a part himself. Eventually, after graduate work in Latin American Studies and an attempt at a career in politics, he pursued acting seriously.
Spradlin’s first wife, to whom he was married for 56 years, died in 2000. He is survived by his second wife, Frances Hendrickson, whom he married in 2002; two daughters; and five grandchildren.