John Heard in Cat People.

Actor John Heard passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of seventy-one (exactly one day younger than me). It saddened me to learn of this, given that I’ve always enjoyed his work, in particular three films that are among my (Guilty Pleasure) favorites: horror movies Cat People and C.H.U.D., and the wonderful indie comedy-drama, The Milagro Beanfield War, in which he played fallen attorney/crusading journalist Charlie Bloom.


The ubiquitous Heard appeared in over 170 big- and small-screen roles during his career, according to IMDB. He performed on the stage during the 1970s, the same decade in which his film career began. My initial introduction to Heard came in the atmospheric 1982 horror movie, Cat People, where he played Oliver Yates, curator of the New Orleans Zoo. For some strange reason his character becomes obsessed with a young woman named Irina (Nastassja Kinski), who has a nasty habit of turning into a panther whenever she makes love to a man. I wrote about this film at length in my post, “Guilty Pleasures: Cat People.” Check it out.

As George Cooper in C.H.U.D.

After some TV work Heard got top billing in the 1984 low-budget horror movie, C.H.U.D. He plays George Cooper, a high-fashion photographer who takes a hiatus from his lucrative career to film homeless people who live in the tunnels below New York City. I love this goofy film, and since I have not yet written about it, I will rectify that in next week’s post.

After numerous parts on both television and the big screen, Heard had a significant role in one of my all-time favorite films, The Milagro Beanfield War, which premiered in 1988. He played Charlie Bloom in this adaptation of the John Nichols novel, which was directed by Robert Redford. I also wrote about this delightful film in my post, “A Quixotic Struggle.” Jacqueline and I have just about worn out our DVD copy.


As Peter McAllister in Home Alone.

And speaking of Jacqueline, my bride, John Heard had a role in another film that has a great deal of meaning to us. We met each other for the first time in 1990 over one of those “cup of coffee” things. (Actually, we took a chance and had dinner.) I liked her so much that I asked her out the following week to a movie. For that first real “date” we went to see Home Alone. Yep, John Heard played Peter McAllister, dad to Kevin (Macaulay Culkin).

We’ve had way too many entertainers passing away in recent years at all-too-young ages. Rest in peace, John Heard—you will be missed.

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