always count on an interesting performance from Richard Widmark.
From his very first film, Widmark laid claim to some of the best
twisted film sensibilities ever recorded. In Kiss of Death, his
1947 debut, Widmark played creepy killer Tommy Udo with such
glee that no one who has ever seen the film will forget Widmark
throwing an old woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.
Kiss of Death starred Victor Mature, but Widmark made his mark
and no one ever forgot that snarling animal performance.
Unconventional behavior was backed up by unconventional good
looks. The diminutive actor boasted a chiseled face, all angles
and shadows, with a rubbery nose. His gravelly voice always
comes as a surprise when you first see him. Then you know it:
this guy is tough and he means business.
on the success of Widmark's Tommy Udo, Twentieth Century Fox
cast Widmark as the psychotic bar owner in another noir flick,
Road House. Widmark's proves a scene-stealer again as Jefty
Robbins, overpowering the mild Cornel Wilde every time he shares
the screen in the 1948 film. Ida Lupino is tough enough to stand up to Widmark's
style. Fox wasted little time in capitalizing on Widmark's
strong supporting villain's presence casting him again in 1948
against Gregory Peck in William Wellman's taut western Yellow Sky.
As the decade came to a close, Widmark strayed from psychotic
characterizations to a man struggling with his conscience in Slattery's
Hurricane and finally to a role model for a youngster learning
about the sea in Down to the Sea in Ships, both 1949.
As a new decade opened, Fox found another
villain for the 1950 Panic in the Streets. Jack Palance
played a diseased tough on the run with Widmark making the most of
his chance at hero as Dr. Clinton Reed, the public health doctor
trying to shut down a potential plague outbreak. Directed by Elia
Kazan, Panic gave Widmark a chance to firmly establish
his onscreen intelligence. The decade proved Widmark's busiest as an
actor with more than twenty-five starring roles. In Jules Dassin's Night
and the City Widmark was memorable as two-bit hustler Harry
Fabian and in Pickup on South Street the actor played shady
for director Sam Fuller. Widmark donned a military uniform a half
dozen times in the fifties and was equally comfortable in Western
dust covered buckskin garb.
John Wayne and John Ford discovered Richard
Widmark's talent to open the decade of the sixties with The Alamo.
Widmark's Jim Bowie is one tough man with a knife and though diminutive,
bi enough to share compete for screen dominance with John Wayne.
Ford starred Widmark alongside James Stewart in Two Rode Together,
a solid 1961 Western. Widmark again starred for Ford in the 1964 Cheyenne
One of Richard Widmark's best roles is the title
role in the 1968 policer Madigan. Detective Daniel Madigan is
a shaded character, a hero and a villain rolled into one. The
performance uses the actor's screen bank account tot he fullest,
withdrawing assets from the best of his villains and the strongest
of his heroes.
Widmark's star was on decline by the seventies.
His screen time was mostly in supporting roles and he turned more to
television. Maybe as his hair thinned and sprinkled gray the
dangerous aura that surrounded his screen presence was too diluted
to command the big roles. Maybe his choices were not the best.
Still, there were solid roles like Coma and When Legends
Die, but films like Rollercoaster and or The Swarm
took the sting out Widmark's screen buzz.
Widmark's last film role was almost a decade ago
as Senator Stiles in Herb Ross's seriously flawed political flick True
Colors. Almost as a reminder of the way the actor could dominate
the screen in years past, Widmark commanded the eye in this final
interesting portrayal. Weathered but resilient, the actor's keen
line delivery helped create terrifically believable screen
on the thumbnails for larger image
the feature archive include articles on Akira
The Hollywood Pariah,
and many more....
The Hollywood Pariah
World War II, Hollywood pumped out war movies one after the
other. Vietnam was was another story. As far as Hollywood was
concerned it was a pariah.
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