Tuesday, December 7, 2010
RIP Gus Mercurio
Mercurio was the father of dancer and actor Paul Mercurio, who starred in the hit 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, and who posted a message on his website yesterday before his father's ''fairly major'' operation: ''My dad is at this very moment [lying] on a table in a hospital getting cut open to fix an aneurysm in his chest. Spare a thought for him if you can. He is a tough old bugger, so he should be fine. However, he is getting on - 82 and has become a little frailer over the last few years.''
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a boxing family, he served three years in the US Marines where he put his ring skills to good use, as the marines looked after their fighters. He became a professional boxer, was injured in his last two fights, was treated by a chiropractor and decided to become one. He was a have-a-go man.
He came to Melbourne with the US Olympic boxing team in 1956 and never left.
He worked as a chiropractor and was involved in boxing as a world-class referee, commentator and administrator.
But it was his knockabout looks and laid-back attitude that earned him a string of character acting roles and made him a favourite with local audiences.
Sigrid Thornton, who worked with him in The Man from Snowy River and All the Rivers Run, said he always had a positive attitude.
''He had his life as an actor and as a boxer and you have to be a fighter to stay in the acting process,'' she said. ''I imagine there was something about Australia that attracted him. He had a relaxed charm about him.''
Although he played tough characters, there was a lot more to him, Thornton said. ''He had a rugged kind of look, but that belied the sensitivity of his personality. He was a kind, generous, spirited human being.''
She saw him at a Man from Snowy River reunion at Mansfield last year and she knew that he was not well. ''He made a supreme effort to get there and I am glad I had that time with him,'' she told The Age.
Mercurio is survived by his second wife Rita and six children.
Born: 8/10/1928, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Died: 12/7/2010, Melbourne, Australia, U.S.A.
Gus Mercurio's westerns - actor:
Raw Deal - 1977 (Ben)
The Man from Snowy River - 1982 (Frew)
Five Mile Creek (TV) - 1983-1985 (Ben Jones)
Lightning Jack - 1994 (tough guy)