Joe Turkel, who played the bartender Lloyd in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, passed away peacefully on Monday, June 27, at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 94, his family and a representative confirmed to multiple media outlets on Friday.
Turkel was a prolific actor who could boast more than 100 credits on his resume and was one of only two actors who ever worked with legendary director Stanley Kubrick in three films which were The Killing, Paths of Glory, and The Shining.
He was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York to Polish-Jewish immigrants and had two brothers, Harold and David. When he was 17 years old, he joined the United States Army and served during World War II.
After returning from the war, Turkel set his sights on California to pursue an acting career, and he very quickly landed his first credited film work in City Across the River. After that role, Turkel appeared in 38 projects before landing his first role with Kubrick as Tiny in The Killing. Turkel spoke briefly about his work on that film and how he began to work with Kubrick in a 2002 interview with Eric Caidin of Shock Cinema magazine,
“I did a picture called Man Crazy (1953) and one day my agent got a call, and he said ‘Joe, there’s a new outfit out of New York called Harris and Kubrick, and they want to talk to you. ‘
So I went out to meet them and [he said] ‘Hello, my name is Stanley Kubrick…and this is James Harris.’
I said, ‘How do you do, Mr. Kubrick. Mr. Harris-’
Then he stopped me and said, ‘Joe, do me a favor, whenever we talk, my name is Stanley. Please, call me Stanley.’ which was very nice, and he made me feel at ease. He saw Man Crazy, he liked my part in it, and we were off and running on a picture called The Killing (1956), which was the first I did for him.”
He then continued the story, confirming that it was the first of three Kubrick films he worked on,
“The very first, yes. The first one was The Killing, where he got everyone’s attention. That picture only cost $375.000 and it was a B-picture as we know them. It was a small film, with good actors, and he broke through with that picture. But he really burst the seams on the door and made a total entrance with Paths of Glory (1957).
Before working with Kubrick again for The Shining, Turkel appeared in three films for Bert I. Gordon, The Boy And The Pirates, Tormented, and Village Of The Giants. In Village Of The Giants,Turkel played the sheriff and worked with a lot of up-and-coming young stars at the time, like Tommy Kirk, Beau Bridges, and Mickey Rooney, Jr.
In 1957 he appeared in Hellcats in the Navy with former president Ronald Reagan and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Turkel shared a conversation he had with “Ronnie” with Shock Cinema,
“I had two or three scenes with Ronnie. He’s a nice man…I’m not talking politics here…he’s just a nice human being. We spoke one day, quietly, by ourselves, and I said, ‘Ronnie, what’s this I hear about you running for political office?’
‘Yeah. I’m thinking about leaving pictures and getting into politics.’
I said, ‘Wait a second. You’re kidding me! You’ll be sensational!’
He says, ‘Why? What makes you think that, Joe?’
I said, “Look at that Irish smile of yours. You’ll talk to those old blue-haired ladies and those old pink-haired ladies, and you’ll do superbly.’
He laughed and he thanked me. That’s the way he was.”
Turkel is probably most well known for his role as the creepy ghost bartender named Lloyd in Kubrick’s iconic film The Shining. Sadly, that was the last time the two worked together after over 20 years had lapsed between their previous projects with each other. Turkel told Shock Cinema about the last time they saw each other,
“We walked off the set and he thanked me, ‘Joe, you are of inestimable value. Your scenes in The Shining are some of the finest in the picture. I want to thank you very much.’
He never liked to hug, I’m a hugger, so we shook hands, he tapped me on the shoulder, I tapped him on the shoulder. He walked his way, I went to my dressing room, and I never saw him again…I also told him, ‘No more 20 years between pictures.’
He laughed. ‘We’ll see what we can do.’ And I never saw him again.”
Turkel’s other most notable role was Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner. Ridley Scott hand-picked him based on his performance in The Shining.
As soon as his passing was announced, many took to social media to share their respects:
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Turkel completed a memoir entitled The Misery of Success shortly before his passing and his family intends to publish the book sometime in late 2022.
Turkel is survived by his two sons and daughters-in-law Craig and Annie Turkel, and Robert and Casilde Sesti, his brother David Turkel and two grandchildren, Ben and Sarah.