Widmark as Max Brock, 1973
|Born||Richard Weedt Widmark
December 26, 1914
Sunrise Township, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||March 24, 2008
Roxbury, Connecticut, U.S.
(m. 1942; d. 1997)
Richard Weedt Widmark (December 26, 1914 - March 24, 2008) was an American film, stage, and television actor and producer.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the villainous Tommy Udo in his debut film, Kiss of Death, for which he also won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Early in his career, Widmark was typecast in similar villainous or anti-hero roles in films noir, but he later branched out into more heroic leading and support roles in Westerns, mainstream dramas, and horror films, among others.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Widmark has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6800 Hollywood Boulevard. In 2002, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Widmark was born in Sunrise Township, Minnesota, the son of Ethel Mae (née Barr) and Carl Henry Widmark. His father was of Swedish descent, and his mother was of English and Scottish ancestry. Widmark grew up in Princeton, Illinois, and also lived in Henry, Illinois, for a short time, moving frequently because of his father's work as a traveling salesman. He attended Lake Forest College, where he studied acting and also taught acting after he graduated.
Widmark made his debut as a radio actor in 1938 on Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories. In 1941 and 1942, he was heard daily on the Mutual Broadcasting System in the title role of the daytime serial Front Page Farrell, introduced each afternoon as "the exciting, unforgettable radio drama... the story of a crack newspaperman and his wife, the story of David and Sally Farrell." Farrell was a top reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle. When the series moved to NBC, Widmark turned the role over to Carleton G. Young and Staats Cotsworth.
During the 1940s, Widmark was also heard on such network radio programs as Gang Busters, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Joyce Jordan, M.D., Molle Mystery Theater, Suspense, and Ethel and Albert. In 1952, he portrayed Cincinnatus Shryock in an episode of Cavalcade of America titled "Adventure on the Kentucky". He returned to radio drama decades later, performing on CBS Radio Mystery Theater (1974-82), and was also one of the five hosts on Sears Radio Theater (as the Friday "adventure night" host) from 1979-81.
Widmark appeared on Broadway in 1943 in F. Hugh Herbert's Kiss and Tell. He was unable to join the military during World War II because of a perforated eardrum. He was in Chicago appearing in a stage production of Dream Girl with June Havoc when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract.
Widmark's first movie appearance was in Kiss of Death (1947), as the giggling, sociopathic villain Tommy Udo. In his most notorious scene, Udo pushed a wheelchair-bound woman (played by Mildred Dunnock) down a flight of stairs to her death. Widmark was almost not cast. He said, "The director, Henry Hathaway, didn't want me. I have a high forehead; he thought I looked too intellectual." Hathaway was overruled by studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck. "Hathaway gave me kind of a bad time," recalled Widmark.Kiss of Death was a commercial and critical success: Widmark won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actor, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Widmark followed it with villainous performances in The Street with No Name (1948), Road House (1948) and the Western film Yellow Sky (1948), with Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter. His name was billed third, above the title.
Widmark shifted to heroic roles with Down to the Sea in Ships (1949) and Slattery's Hurricane (1949). He was an anti-hero co-starring with Gene Tierney and Googie Withers in Jules Dassin's Night and the City (1949). He was a hero in Panic in the Streets (1950), directed by Elia Kazan.
Widmark went back to being heroic in some war films, Halls of Montezuma (1951) and The Frogmen (1951). He was a fire fighter in Red Skies of Montana (1952) and dealt with a stalker (played by Marilyn Monroe in her first lead role) in Don't Bother to Knock (1952).
Widmark was one of many Fox stars in O. Henry's Full House (1952) and had the lead in his first comedy with My Pal Gus (1952). Destination Gobi (1953) was another war film and he was a pickpocket who turns heroic in Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953).
Widmark was borrowed by MGM for a popular war film, Take the High Ground! (1954). Back at Fox he was a submarine commander in Hell and High Water (1954), his second film for Fuller, then made two Westerns: supporting Gary Cooper in Garden of Evil (1954) and Spencer Tracy in Broken Lance (1954).
Widmark turned producer with Time Limit (1957), which he also starred in.
Widmark's second film as producer was The Secret Ways (1961), based on a novel by Alistair MacLean. It was directed by Phil Karlson who clashed over Karlson's tongue in cheek approach, leading to Widmark firing him and taking over as director.
Widmark did more westerns - Alvarez Kelly (1966), The Way West (1967), and Death of a Gunfighter (1969). In Madigan (1968) he played a police detective - which he later reprised in a television series of the same name.
Widmark began to drift into supporting roles in the 1970s, though he still played the occasional lead. He was in The Moonshine War (1970), When the Legends Die (1972), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), The Sell Out (1976), Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), The Domino Principle (1977) for Stanley Kramer, Rollercoaster (1978), Michael Crichton's Coma (1978), The Swarm (1978), Mr. Horn (1979), and Bear Island (1979).
Widmark's later appearances include A Whale for the Killing (1981), National Lampoon's Movie Madness (1982), Hanky Panky (1982), Who Dares Wins (1982), Against All Odds (1984), Blackout (1985),A Gathering of Old Men (1987), and Once Upon a Texas Train (1988).
In an interview with Michael Shelden in 2002, Widmark complained, "movie-making has lost a lot of its magic." He thought that it had become "mostly a mechanical process . . . All they want to do is move the camera around like it was on a rollercoaster. A great director like John Ford knew how to handle it. Ford didn't move the camera, he moved the people."
Widmark was a guest on What's My Line? in 1954. The following year, he made a rare foray into comedy on I Love Lucy, portraying himself when a starstruck Lucy trespasses onto his property to steal a souvenir. Widmark finds Lucy sprawled out on his living room floor underneath a bearskin rug.
Returning to television in the early 1970s, Widmark received an Emmy nomination for his performance as Paul Roudebush, the President of the United States, in the TV movie Vanished! (1971), a Fletcher Knebel political thriller. In 1972-73, he reprised his detective role from Don Siegel's Madigan (1968) with six 90-minute episodes on the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. The next year, he participated in a miniseries about Benjamin Franklin, transmitted in 1974, which was a unique experiment of four 90-minute dramas, each with a different actor impersonating Franklin: Widmark, Beau Bridges, Eddie Albert, Melvyn Douglas, and portraying Franklin at age 12, Willie Aames. The series won a Peabody Award and five Emmys. During the 1980s, Widmark returned to TV with a half-dozen TV movies.
Widmark was married to screenwriter Jean Hazlewood from 1942 until her death in 1997. They had a daughter, Anne Heath Widmark, an artist and author who was married to baseball player Sandy Koufax from 1969 to 1982. In 1999, Widmark married Susan Blanchard, the daughter of Dorothy Hammerstein and stepdaughter of Oscar Hammerstein II; she had been Henry Fonda's third wife.
Green City, Missouri, is the site of Widmark Airport (FAA LID: MO83) in northeastern Missouri. Towns the size of Green City, whose population numbered only 688 inhabitants in 2000, usually do not have airports, but Widmark owned a cattle ranch in the area during the 1950s and 1960s. Widmark contributed funds to the construction of an airport, which led to its being named in his honor.
Despite having spent a substantial part of his career appearing in gun-toting roles such as cowboys, policemen, gangsters, and military men, Widmark disliked firearms and was involved in several gun-control initiatives. In 1976, he stated:
"I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence. I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that the United States are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."
Retiring in 2001, Widmark died after a long illness on March 24, 2008, at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, at the age of 93. Widmark's ailing health in his final years being aggravated by a fall he had suffered in 2007. At the 2009 Academy Awards, he was honored in the Memorial Tribute. His body was buried at Roxbury Center Cemetery.
|1952||Theatre Guild on the Air||Lilim|
|1953||Theatre Guild on the Air||1984|
|1953||Suspense||Othello (Parts 1 and 2)|