Tuesday, December 7, 2010

RIP Gus Mercurio

Gus Mercurio, the gravelly voiced actor who was one of the most recognised and loved faces in Australian television, has died in the Epworth Hospital following complications during surgery. He was 82.

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.

MERCURIO, Gus
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)

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