The actor who played Alton Benes on “Seinfeld” is none other than late screen legend Lawrence Tierney. And though his time working on the show was apparently a little complicated, his performance as Elaine Benes’ curmudgeonly papa stands as one of the finest from the series’ vaunted supporting player vaults.
Regarding Tierney’s alleged behind-the-scenes antics on “Seinfeld,” that was sort of par for the course for the actor whose personal troubles were well-documented throughout his career. That career was nonetheless quite impressive, with the actor becoming one of Hollywood’s go-to tough-guy criminal sorts. Tierney booked his most famous early-career role in 1945, portraying legendary gangster John Dillinger in the hit film “Dillinger.” The beloved crime drama became a clear calling card for the actor, who went on to front other film noir staples like 1947’s “Born to Kill” and 1948’s “Bodyguard.”
Countless career ups and downs ensued, though Tierney booked an impressive run of work in the 1980s via roles in John Cassavetes’ “Gloria,” and the Stephen King adaptation “Silver Bullet.” He’d go on to land a seven-episode run on “Hill Street Blues,” work opposite Jack Nicholson in the Oscar-winning “Prizzi’s Honor,” and portray holodeck gangster Cyrus Redblock on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” While the ’90s brought that rare comedic turn on “Seinfeld,” Tierney broke bad again for his best-known late-career role as criminal mastermind Joe Cabot in Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut “Reservoir Dogs.” Though the film remains a career highlight for both, it’s probably best not to ask Tarantino what it was like to work with the irascible screen tough.