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Richard Widmark 1914-2008

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Richard Widmark 1914-2008

Old 03-26-08, 12:51 PM
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Richard Widmark 1914-2008

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- Richard Widmark, who made a sensational film debut as the giggling killer in "Kiss of Death" and became a Hollywood leading man in "Broken Lance," "Two Rode Together" and 40 other films, has died after a long illness. He was 93.

Widmark's wife, Susan Blanchard, says the actor died at his home in Connecticut on Monday.

After a career in radio drama and theater, Widmark moved to films as Tommy Udo, who delighted in pushing an old lady in a wheelchair to her death down a flight of stairs in the 1947 thriller "Kiss of Death." The performance won him an Academy Award nomination as supporting actor; it was his only mention for an Oscar.

"That damned laugh of mine!" he told a reporter in 1961. "For two years after that picture, you couldn't get me to smile. I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast."

A quiet, inordinately shy man, Widmark often portrayed killers, cops and Western gunslingers. But he said he hated guns.

"I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence," he remarked in a 1976 Associated Press interview. "I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."

Two years out of college, Widmark reached New York in 1938 during the heyday of radio. His mellow Midwest voice made him a favorite in soap operas, and he found himself racing from studio to studio.

Rejected by the Army because of a punctured eardrum, Widmark began appearing in theater productions in 1943. His first was a comedy hit on Broadway, "Kiss and Tell." He was appearing in the Chicago company of "Dream Girl" with June Havoc when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract. He almost missed out on the "Kiss of Death" role.

"The director, Henry Hathaway, didn't want me," the actor recalled. "I have a high forehead; he thought I looked too intellectual." The director was overruled by studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck, and Hathaway "gave me kind of a bad time."

An immediate star, Widmark appeared in 20 Fox films from 1947 to 1954. Among them: "The Street With No Name," "Road House," "Yellow Sky," "Down to the Sea in Ships," "Slattery's Hurricane," "Panic in the Streets," "No Way Out," "The Halls of Montezuma," "The Frogmen," "Red Skies of Montana," "My Pal Gus" and the Samuel Fuller film noir "Pickup on South Street."

In 1952, he starred in "Don't Bother to Knock" with Marilyn Monroe. He told an interviewer in later years:

"She wanted to be this great star but acting just scared the hell out of her. That's why she was always late -- couldn't get her on the set. She had trouble remembering lines. But none of it mattered. With a very few special people, something happens between the lens and the film that is pure magic. ... And she really had it."

After leaving Fox, Widmark's career continued to flourish. He starred (as Jim Bowie) with John Wayne in "The Alamo," with James Stewart in John Ford's "Two Rode Together," as the U.S. prosecutor in "Judgment at Nuremberg," and with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in "The Way West." He also played the Dauphin in "St. Joan," and had roles in "How the West Was Won," "Death of a Gunfighter," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Midas Run" and "Coma."

"Madigan," a 1968 film with Widmark as a loner detective, was converted to television and lasted one season in 1972-73. It was Widmark's only TV series.

He also was in some TV films, including "Cold Sassy Tree" and "Once Upon a Texas Train."

Richard Widmark was born December 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., where his father ran a general store, then became a traveling salesman. The family moved around before settling in Princeton, Illinois.

"Like most small-town boys, I had the urge to get to the big city and make a name for myself," he recalled in a 1954 interview. "I was a movie nut from the age of 3, but I don't recall having any interest in acting," he said.

But at Lake Forest College, he became a protege of the drama teacher and met his future wife, drama student Ora Jean Hazlewood.

In later years, Widmark appeared sparingly in films and TV. He explained to Parade magazine in 1987: "I've discovered in my dotage that I now find the whole moviemaking process irritating. I don't have the patience anymore. I've got a few more years to live, and I don't want to spend them sitting around a movie set for 12 hours to do two minutes of film."

When he wasn't working, he and his wife lived on a horse ranch in Hidden Valley, California, or on a farm in Connecticut. Their daughter Ann became the wife of baseball immortal Sandy Koufax.
Old 03-26-08, 01:03 PM
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Awww. I first knew him as Jim Bowie. Very intense actor.

Old 03-26-08, 01:06 PM
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Now that grapefruit will be worth something.
Old 03-26-08, 01:07 PM
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Goddamn he held on forever! 93... wow.

I love Richard Widmark. Even though my first exposure to him was in the 70s when he was in the twilight of his career. He was a truly underrated actor though.
Old 03-26-08, 01:14 PM
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*shudder*
Old 03-26-08, 02:09 PM
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I must have over three dozen of his films in my collection, most of which I have enjoyed watching many a time. I'm glad Richard Widmark was gifted with a long, and seemingly happy and healthy life. In sharp contrast to the start of his career as a movie villain, Richard Widmark always seemed to me like he would be very warm, down-to-earth, and likeable in-person...not too different from many of the characters he played during his leading man days. To offer a specific list of personal favorites from his body of work would be exhaustive, suffice to say if it was a Western, war/adventure film, or film-noir...and Richard Widmark was in it, then it is a favorite. And I'd be remiss not to mention his entertaining guest appearance on the "I Love Lucy" show.

Rest in peace, Mr. Widmark...and thank you for your life's work.
Old 03-26-08, 03:29 PM
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A staple of film noir -- he will be missed.

RIP
Old 03-26-08, 03:48 PM
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The Alamo was a favorite of mine starring Richard.
Old 03-26-08, 04:10 PM
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I just read that news a few minutes ago and started to cry like a moron
Pickup on South Street is one of my favorite movies, ever.

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I loved him so much, he's a great actor. Well, he lived a long, full life.
Old 03-26-08, 04:27 PM
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Wow. This is really creepy. Seriously, just last night I was talking to my brother on the phone - and he mentioned that he was surprised somebody was still alive. I said, "did you know that Richard Widmark is still alive?"

I feel bad...wish I hadn't said anything now.
Old 03-26-08, 04:47 PM
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I guess the last movie I caught him in was "To the Devil a Daughter", but I'll remember him for the film noirs.

R.I.P.
Old 03-26-08, 05:14 PM
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I remember him best as the prosecutor in "Judgment at Nuremberg." He was also good in an early Elia Kazan movie, "Panic in the Streets" (Jack Palance's first movie).
Old 03-26-08, 06:46 PM
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One of my favorite actors. My mother couldn't stand to watch him because he pushed a lady in a wheelchair down ther stairs in Kiss of Death (1947). Ironically, that was his movie debut & he got his only Oscar nomination for it.
Old 03-26-08, 06:46 PM
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Sad news but he live a long life.

RIP Richard.
Old 03-26-08, 08:42 PM
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RIP Richard.

You should have played more villains.
Old 03-26-08, 09:31 PM
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Damn.

I was very aware that Richard Widmark was still alive. I pointed it out to my dad just a couple weeks ago. He knew it, too, and loved that there was a Golden Age of Hollywood Leading Man still alive.

Widmark was a great actor. He was particularly good in Films Noir and Westerns.

Here are some of his movies that I highly recommend:

Kiss of Death
The Street With No Name
Road House
Yellow Sky
Night and the City
Panic in the Streets
Pickup on South Street
Garden of Evil
Broken Lance
The Last Wagon
Warlock (!!!!)
The Alamo


I haven't seen Madigan yet, but I've heard it's very good. Richard Widmark was a great talent, and I'm glad I own as many of his movies as I do.
Old 03-26-08, 09:58 PM
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He's pushing old bags down stairs in heaven now.
Old 03-26-08, 10:49 PM
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Don't forget one the best Cold War films.

The Bedford Incident.
Old 03-27-08, 01:37 AM
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One of my favorite actors.
Besides the movies already noted, I also like him in "The Law and Jake Wade" and "How the West was Won".

I enjoy listening to him on old radio shows. He had many great performances on "SUSPENSE". Plus Inner Sanctum Mysteries and Molle Mystery Theater.
He would also spoof his "Kiss of Death" Character on many of the comedy/varitey shows.
He did recreated his "Kiss of Death" role on the LUX Radio Theater.
Old 03-27-08, 03:08 AM
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Two more Widmark westerns are coming out on DVD in May, Garden of Evil with Gary Cooper (which has never been released on video in any form) and The Way West with Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum. I had already planned to get both, but this guarantees it.

I had hoped they might have given him an honorary Oscar one year since a lot of lesser talents got one, but it never came to pass. Like a lot of actors who played villains, he did it so easily that he was overlooked.

His anti-heroes in films like Pickup on South Street and Night and the City are the epitome of film noir, even better than the out-and-out villains he played.
Old 03-27-08, 07:22 AM
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Didn't realize he was in so many movies I've seen. RIP.
Old 03-27-08, 09:51 AM
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I've been a fan of his for a while, but I just assumed he was already dead. How many more of his contemporaries are still around?
Old 03-27-08, 10:47 AM
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Eli Wallach (will turn 93 this year) and Kevin McCarthy (94) have credits on IMDb that go all the way up to this year. Eli was great in "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip," though I haven't seen either gentlemen's latest work.

Yes, Richard will be missed. He was one of the better actors of his generation. His performances were much more natural than some of the actors that you see in older movies (for example, the contrast he provides with Victor Mature in "Kiss of Death").

Last edited by Breton; 03-27-08 at 10:51 AM.
Old 03-27-08, 02:26 PM
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Great actor. Was honestly surprised to hear that he was still alive. For some reason I thought he had died several years ago.
Old 03-29-08, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Breton
Eli Wallach (will turn 93 this year) and Kevin McCarthy (94) have credits on IMDb that go all the way up to this year. Eli was great in "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip," though I haven't seen either gentlemen's latest work.

Yes, Richard will be missed. He was one of the better actors of his generation. His performances were much more natural than some of the actors that you see in older movies (for example, the contrast he provides with Victor Mature in "Kiss of Death").
Karl Malden is 96, but he hasn't been active for a few years. He was a good friend of Widmark and left some comments (which may have been prepared) that appeared in a couple of the obitiuary notices.

Ernest Borgnine is a youngster of 91 but still looks remarkably good and is quite active in films.

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