Richard Widmark
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Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark - 1973.jpg
Widmark as Max Brock, 1973
Born Richard Weedt Widmark
(1914-12-26)December 26, 1914
Sunrise Township, Minnesota, U.S.
Died March 24, 2008(2008-03-24) (aged 93)
Roxbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Alma mater Lake Forest College, B.A. 1936
Occupation
  • Actor
  • producer
Years active 1938-2001
Jean Hazlewood
(m. 1942; d. 1997)

Susan Blanchard
(m. 1999)
Children 1

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.

Early life

Widmark was born December 26, 1914, in Sunrise Township, Minnesota,[1] the son of Ethel Mae (née Barr) and Carl Henry Widmark.[2][3] His father was of Swedish descent, and his mother was of English and Scottish ancestry.[4] 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.[5] He attended Lake Forest College, where he studied acting and also taught acting after he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech in 1936.[6]

Radio

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".[7] 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.

Broadway

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.[8]

Films

Kiss of Death

Widmark's first movie appearance was in Kiss of Death (1947), as the giggling, sociopathic villain Tommy Udo.[9] In his most notorious scene, Udo pushed a woman in a wheelchair (played by Mildred Dunnock) down a flight of stairs to her death.[5] 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.[8]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.[9]

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.

Heroic Roles

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.

Around the same time, Widmark returned to villainy, starring with Sidney Poitier in the gripping racial melodrama No Way Out (also 1950).

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).

Post-Fox

Widmark made a thriller in Europe, A Prize of Gold (1955) then went to MGM for Vincente Minnelli's film The Cobweb (1955) with Lauren Bacall.

He did some action films: Backlash (1956) with John Sturges; Run for the Sun (1956); The Last Wagon (1956) with Delmer Daves. Widmark had a change of pace with Saint Joan (1957).

Producer

Widmark turned producer with Time Limit (1957), which he also starred in.

He was reunited with Sturges for The Law and Jake Wade (1958) and tried comedy again in The Tunnel of Love (1959) with Doris Day.

The Trap (1959) was a film noir; then he did some Westerns: Warlock (1959) with Henry Fonda, and The Alamo (1960) for John Wayne, where Widmark played Jim Bowie.

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.[10]

Widmark returned to Westerns for Two Rode Together (1961) with James Stewart for John Ford. He was one of many stars in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and How the West Was Won (1962).

Widmark was a Viking in The Long Ships (1964) and a pilot in Flight from Ashiya (1964). He was reunited with Ford in Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Widmark's third film as producer was a naval drama set during the Cold War, The Bedford Incident (1965), modelled loosely on the Herman Melville novel Moby Dick.

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.

1970s

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).

Later career

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 all, Widmark appeared in over 60 films before making his final movie appearance in True Colors (1991).[1]

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."[11]

Television

Widmark in Broken Lance (1954)

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.

Personal life

Jean Hazlewood and Richard Widmark in the 1950s

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:[12]

"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."

Widmark was a lifelong liberal Democrat[13].

Death

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 failing health in his final years was aggravated by a fall he suffered in 2007. At the 2009 Academy Awards, he was honored in the Memorial Tribute. His body was buried at Roxbury Center Cemetery.

Filmography

Short films:

  • Screen Snapshots: Hopalong in Hoppy Land (1951)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Night Life (1952)
  • 1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955)
  • Shooting the Moonshine War (1970)

Television

  • I Love Lucy - episode - "The Tour" - Richard Widmark (1955)
  • Madigan - 6 episodes - Sgt. Dan Madigan (1972-1973)
  • The Lives of Benjamin Franklin - episode - The Rebel - Benjamin Franklin (1975)

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air Lilim[14]
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air 1984[15]
1953 Suspense Othello (Parts 1 and 2)[16][17]

References

  1. ^ a b "Sunrise: Birthplace of Hollywood Actor Richard Widmark". Sunrise Township. Retrieved 2008. 
  2. ^ "Richard Widmark Biography (1914-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2015. 
  3. ^ Films in Review. Then and There Media, LCC. (1986)
  4. ^ 'Juvenile' in Gangster Role Reaches Apex of Terror. Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. Retrieved on October 20, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Harmetz, Aljean (March 26, 2008). "Actor Richard Widmark Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008. 
  6. ^ "Richard Widmark: A Princeton legend". bcrnews. Retrieved 2018. 
  7. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 9, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved 2015 - via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ a b "Actor Richard Widmark Dies," Daily News, March 26, 2008.
  9. ^ a b "Tough-guy actor Richard Widmark dies at 93". Associated Press at CNN. March 26, 2008. Archived from the original on March 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008. 
  10. ^ Todd McCarthy and Richard Thompson. "Phil Karlson: Interview, November 19, 1973" Kings of the Bs; Working Within the Hollywood System, eds. Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), pp. 327-345. Rpt. Cine Resort, Oct. 7 2014
  11. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/04/05/marilyn-monroe-was-impossible-to-work-with-richard-widmark-inter/ Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Hinckley, David (March 26, 2008). "Actor Richard Widmark dies". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2011. 
  13. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/arts/26cnd-widmark.html
  14. ^ Kirby, Walter (November 30, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved 2015 - via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  15. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (2): 32-41. Spring 2015. 
  16. ^ Kirby, Walter (May 3, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. Retrieved 2015 - via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  17. ^ Kirby, Walter (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved 2015 - via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read

External links


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