Richard Widmark

Actor, Producer, Drama instructor
Tough, mean, devious and smart; all words that could be used to describe the sort of characters Richard Widmark was identified with. From his earliest roles, Widmark became an archetype, typically playing hoods, thugs ... Read more »
Born: 12/26/1914 in Sunrise, Minnesota, USA

Filmography

Actor (86)

Jack Palance: From Grit to Grace 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Linda Darnell: Hollywood's Fallen Angel 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Robert Wagner: Hollywood's Prince Charming 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Sidney Poitier: The Defiant One 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

American Cinema 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Narrator

Lincoln 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Voice

AFI Salute to Sidney Poitier 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The Best of Us 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Narrator

True Colors 1991 (Movie)

Senator James B Stiles (Actor)

The Story of Hollywood 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Narrator

Passion and Memory 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Blackout 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Against All Odds 1984 (Movie)

Ben Caxton (Actor)

Hanky Panky 1982 (Movie)

Ransom (Actor)

National Lampoon Goes to the Movies 1981 (Movie)

Stan Nagurski (Actor)

Who Dares Wins 1981 (Movie)

Secretary of State (Actor)

Bear Island 1978 (Movie)

Professor Otto Gerran (Actor)

Coma 1978 (Movie)

Dr George A Harris (Actor)

Rollercoaster 1977 (Movie)

Hoyt (Actor)

The Swarm 1977 (Movie)

General Slater (Actor)

The Domino Principle 1976 (Movie)

Tagge (Actor)

Twilight's Last Gleaming 1976 (Movie)

General Martin MacKenzie (Actor)

The Rebel 1974 - 1975 (TV Show)

Actor

The Sell Out 1975 (Movie)

Sam Lucas (Actor)

To the Devil, a Daughter 1975 (Movie)

John Verney (Actor)

Murder on the Orient Express 1974 (Movie)

Ratchett (Actor)

Madigan 1972 - 1973 (TV Show)

Actor

Vanished 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

When the Legends Die 1971 (Movie)

Red Dillon (Actor)

Death of a Gunfighter 1969 (Movie)

Marshal Frank Patch (Actor)

The Moonshine War 1969 (Movie)

Dr. Taulbee (Actor)

Madigan 1968 (Movie)

Dan Madigan (Actor)

Alvarez Kelly 1966 (Movie)

Colonel Tom Rossiter (Actor)

The Way West 1966 (Movie)

Lije Evans (Actor)

The Bedford Incident 1965 (Movie)

Capt Eric Finlander (Actor)

Cheyenne Autumn 1964 (Movie)

Capt Thomas Archer (Actor)

Flight From Ashiya 1964 (Movie)

Col Glen Stevenson (Actor)

The Long Ships 1963 (Movie)

Rolfe (Actor)

How the West Was Won 1962 (Movie)

Mike King (Actor)

Judgment at Nuremberg 1961 (Movie)

Colonel Tad Lawson (Actor)

The Secret Ways 1961 (Movie)

Michael Reynolds (Actor)

Two Rode Together 1961 (Movie)

Lt Jim Gray (Actor)

The Alamo 1960 (Movie)

Colonel Jim Bowie (Actor)

The Trap 1959 (Movie)

Ralph Anderson (Actor)

The Law and Jake Wade 1958 (Movie)

Clint Hollister (Actor)

The Tunnel of Love 1958 (Movie)

Augie Poole (Actor)

Warlock 1958 (Movie)

Johnny Gannon (Actor)

Saint Joan 1957 (Movie)

Dauphin (Actor)

Time Limit! 1957 (Movie)

Colonel William Edwards (Actor)

Run For the Sun 1956 (Movie)

Mike Latimer (Actor)

The Last Wagon 1956 (Movie)

Todd (Actor)

Prize of Gold 1955 (Movie)

Sergeant Joe Lawrence (Actor)

The Cobweb 1955 (Movie)

Dr Stewart McIver (Actor)

Broken Lance 1954 (Movie)

Ben (Actor)

Garden of Evil 1954 (Movie)

Fiske (Actor)

Hell and High Water 1954 (Movie)

Adam Jones (Actor)

Destination Gobi 1953 (Movie)

CPO Sam Mchale (Actor)

Pickup on South Street 1953 (Movie)

Skip McCoy (Actor)

Don't Bother to Knock 1952 (Movie)

(Actor)

O. Henry's Full House 1952 (Movie)

(Actor)

Halls of Montezuma 1950 (Movie)

Lt. Anderson (Actor)

A Gathering of Old Men (TV Show)

Actor

A Whale For the Killing (TV Show)

Actor

All God's Children (TV Show)

Actor

Blackout (Movie)

Joe Steiner (Actor)

Brock's Last Case (TV Show)

Actor

Cold Sassy Tree (TV Show)

Actor

Down to the Sea in Ships (Movie)

Dan Lunceford (Actor)

Mr. Horn (TV Show)

Actor

My Pal Gus (Movie)

Dave Jennings (Actor)

Once Upon a Texas Train (TV Show)

Actor

Panic in the Streets (Movie)

Dr. Clinton Reed (Actor)

Red Skies of Montana (Movie)

Cliff Mason (Actor)

Slattery's Hurricane (Movie)

Will Slattery (Actor)

Take the High Ground (Movie)

Sgt. Thorne Ryan (Actor)

The Frogmen (Movie)

Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence (Actor)

The Last Day (TV Show)

Actor

The Street with No Name (Movie)

Alec Stiles (Actor)

Yellow Sky (Movie)

Dude (Actor)
Producer (3)

The Bedford Incident 1965 (Movie)

(Co-Producer)

The Secret Ways 1961 (Movie)

(Producer)

Time Limit! 1957 (Movie)

(Producer)

Biography

Tough, mean, devious and smart; all words that could be used to describe the sort of characters Richard Widmark was identified with. From his earliest roles, Widmark became an archetype, typically playing hoods, thugs, tough-minded cops or determined, flawed authority figures. Over the span of 50 years and 75 movies, he built a career of playing men capable of casual cruelty and offhand violence. Even the more positive roles he played tended towards a high-strung, neurotic intensity that became a trademark. Off-screen, though, the real Widmark was in complete contrast to the roles he excelled at.

Born Dec. 26, 1914 in Princeton, IL, to a traveling salesman of Swedish descent, young Widmark moved around to South Dakota, Missouri and the Chicago, IL area in his early years. His grandfather was taking him to moving pictures as early as age four, where Widmark became a fan of Boris Karloff and the Universal stable of monsters. He was elected class president in high school, where he developed the ability to sweet-talk his way out of trouble. Later years found him enrolled at Lake Forest College in the Chicago area. He was headed towards pre-law when he was sidetracked by debate, football and drama. Nervy and charismatic, he auditioned for the lead role in "Counselor at Law," a popular 1930s play, seeing that playing an attorney onstage was more enticing than actually working as one. Widmark stayed on at Lake Forest until 1938 as a drama instructor, before moving on to New York and radio dramas. His first role was in "Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories," a 15-minute radio soap opera popular at the time, before starring as a tough-talking reporter in his own radio drama, "Front Page Farrell." By the early 1940s, he was appearing on several radio programs a day and pulling down an astonishing depression-era $100,000 a year.

Widmark tried to enlist in the military after the outbreak of WWII, but was rejected for a perforated eardrum. He turned instead to the stage in 1943, and his name was soon splashed across Broadway marquees, appearing in productions such as "Kiss and Tell," "Dunnigan's Daughter" and "Kiss Them For Me." He forged an early relationship with director Elia Kazan during his Broadway run, but it was the postwar years that saw him in his first movie roles. He made his movie debut in "Kiss of Death" (1947) and his giggling, dapper psychopath Tommy Udo instantly became one of film noir's more indelible villains, handily upstaging the top-billed Victor Mature. The movie's pivotal scene finds Udo lashing an elderly woman into her wheelchair and gleefully pushing her down a flight of stairs as he leers and sniggers at her demise. Of the Udo role, The New Yorker dryly noted that he had the ability to "make a perfectly good set of white teeth appear more alarming than any prop-department fangs Boris Karloff ever bared." In fact, audiences and critics were sufficiently floored by Widmark's performance to earn him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

More notable movie roles soon followed: "Road House" (1948); "The Street With No Name" (1948); and Kazan's riveting "Panic in the Streets" (1950), with Widmark playing against type as a public health officer racing against time to head off an outbreak of bubonic plague in New Orleans. It was "No Way Out" (1950), however, that provided a good angle on Widmark's off-screen nature. The actor was decidedly liberal in his personal politics, only avoiding the HUAC dragnet of the early 1950s by keeping his views close to his vest and not joining organizations. This near-forgotten drama cast him as a race-baiting thug bent on avenging his brother who died while being treated by a black surgeon (Sidney Poitier). The script had Widmark's character spewing vile racial slurs at every turn. He was so uncomfortable in the role that he reportedly apologized to Poitier - in his feature film debut - after shooting every scene. Today "No Way Out" would be considered well-meaning but heavy-handed, but it was an early attempt by Hollywood to address problems of race, and its ugly and inflammatory dialogue is still harsh and unnerving by modern standards.

Other early work that reflected indirectly on Widmark's politics included Sam Fuller's "Pickup on South Street" (1953), a Cold War-era crime/espionage movie with Widmark as the reluctant and ambiguous antihero. One of Fuller's bigger box-office successes, "South Street" was often misinterpreted as a right-wing McCarthy-era screed, but its "hero" is a petty pickpocket with motives that are more personal than patriotic. Fuller was adept at weaving subtexts into his stories; he slyly poked at the Red-baiters in a scene where two FBI men earnestly try to appeal to Skip's (Widmark's) sense of duty to country. For their trouble, Widmark sneers, "Are you guys waving the flag at me?

The elephantine flop "The Alamo" (1960) had Widmark playing a pragmatic Jim Bowie opposite hyper-patriot John Wayne's Davy Crockett. Reportedly conflicts between the stars were rife on-set (although publicly Widmark blamed them on Wayne's lack of directorial skills). Widmark also produced "The Bedford Incident" (1965), a Cold War thriller with the actor as a Queeg-like destroyer skipper bent on a confrontation with a Russian sub caught inside territorial waters. The Cuban missile crisis was still fresh in the public's minds by 1965, and this underrated, near-forgotten movie ratcheted up the tension throughout. The decidedly anti-war Widmark saw the movie as a perfect vehicle for pointing up the futility of Cold War escalation.

The Sixties and Seventies saw Widmark more choosy about his roles, often playing more generous characters. "Madigan" (1968) was a first-rate cop drama directed by Don Siegel, with Widmark as a jittery, determined police lieutenant. It was successful enough for him to break his boycott of TV work as it spun off into a short-lived but excellent series by the same name (NBC, 1972-73). The Seventies also found him as a general in Robert Aldrich's excellent political conspiracy thriller "Twilight's Last Gleaming" (1977) and a nefarious surgeon in "Coma" (1978). His political views were again reflected in TV projects like "All God's Children" (ABC, 1980) and "A Gathering Of Old Men" (CBS, 1987). He also lent his voice to narrate several wildlife documentaries.

Widmark kept a low profile in his personal life, married to playwright Jean Hazlewood from 1942 until her death in 1997 (a daughter, Anne, came along in 1945). As his wife's health failed, his interest in acting declined and Widmark became more private and reclusive. In 1999, he married Susan Blanchard, ex-wife of longtime friend Henry Fonda, and remained married to her until his death. Declining interviews, talk-show appearances and such, Widmark lived a quiet life until his death on March 24, 2008, after complications from a fall. Over the span of 50 years, he went from being a film noir icon to an actor with a broader range and scope, but still brought a readily-identifiable style to each movie he was in.

Relationships

Carl H Widmark

Father

Ethel Mae Widmark

Mother

Susan Blanchard

Wife
Married September 1999 until his death March 24, 2008

Jean Hazelwood Screenplay

Wife
Married April 5, 1942 until her death March 2, 1997 of complications from Alzheimer's disease

Anne Widmark

Daughter
formerly married to baseball legend Sandy Koufax from 1969-1982

EDUCATION

Lake Forest College

Lake Forest , Illinois 1936

Lake Forest College

Lake Forest , Illinois 1936

Milestones

1995

Appeared as himself in the documentary, "Wild Bill, Hollywood Maverick: The Life and Times of William A. Wellman"

1991

Returned to feature films after a seven-year absence to play a Senator in "True Colors"

1984

Last feature film for seven years, "Against All Odds"

1976

Last received top billing in features in "The Sell Out" and "To the Devil, a Daughter"

1974

Cast in Sidney Lumet's "Murder on the Orient Express" based on the 1934 novel by Agatha Christie

1972

Recreated the role of Sergeant Don Madigan for the short-lived NBC television series, "Madigan"

1970

Made TV acting debut in the miniseries, "Vanished"

1968

Portrayed Sergeant Don Madigan opposite Henry Fonda in "Madigan"

1965

Last featuring producing credit, "The Bedford Incident"; also starred

1957

Served as vice president of Widmark Cattle Enterprises

1957

First film as co-producer (also actor), "Time Limit"; sole directorial effort for Karl Malden

1956

Last film at Twentieth Century-Fox for several years, "The Last Wagon"

1955

Formed production company, Heath Productions

1953

Appeared in "Take the High Ground"; first film not at Twentieth Century-Fox

1949

First films in which he received top billing, "Down to the Sea in Ships" and "Slattery's Hurricane"

1947

Feature debut, "Kiss of Death"; instantly achieve star status; also received Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor

1942

Made Broadway debut in "Kiss and Tell"

1938

Moved to New York

1936

Taught drama at Lake Forest College

Achieved success on Broadway in plays including "Get Away, Old Man" (1943), "Kiss Them for Me" (1944), "Dunnigan's Daughter" (1945) and "Dream Girl" (1946-1947)

Worked in radio in New York City

Signed by Twentieth Century-Fox

Bonus Trivia

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Awarded honorary doctor of fine arts degree by alma mater Lake Forest College in 1973.

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