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Actor Ned Beatty, who died this week, had ties to Barter Theatre
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Actor Ned Beatty, who died this week, had ties to Barter Theatre

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ABINGDON, Va. — Ned Beatty — the Oscar-nominated character actor who died Sunday at age 83 — appeared onstage at Abingdon’s Barter Theatre for several summers.

“It’s unfortunate,” Rick Rose, the Barter’s retired producing artistic director from 1992-2019, said of Beatty’s death.

Best known for his roles in the movies “Deliverance” and “Superman,” Beatty spent his early acting career, 1959-1964, performing in various roles such as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1959) under the guidance of Barter Theatre founder Robert Porterfield.

Beatty lived in a home on Valley Street in Abingdon for a while, Rose said.

“I almost became a minister, and that stage turned out to be my seminary,” Beatty once said about the Barter Theatre, which is the state theater of Virginia.

“Literally, there is nothing better for a young actor to do than be in a company like this,” Beatty said.

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Beyond the Barter, Beatty became an acclaimed star of screen, stage and television.

He played a city slicker exploring the backwoods of the South in 1972’s controversial “Deliverance,” filmed along the South Carolina-Georgia border.

That movie also starred Burt Reynolds and often yielded cries of “squeal like a pig” when Beatty was seen on the street, Rose said.

But Beatty simply accepted that as part of his career, Rose said.

The “squeal” referred to a strange scene in which Beatty’s character is attacked by a mountain man.

Beatty also once played a visiting chaplain with a fire-and-brimstone attitude in an episode of “M*A*S*H,” alongside another Barter Theatre alumnus, Larry Linville (Frank Burns).

Rose met Beatty a couple of times — once in New York City and another time when Beatty helped one of his sons audition for a role at the Barter. Rose also watched Beatty perform as Big Daddy in a Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

“He was immensely gracious to me,” Rose said. “He’s an interesting man and really bright. He’s known for kind of his quirkiness. He’s a helluva actor.”

jtennis@bristolnews.com | 276-791-0709 | @BHC_Tennis

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