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Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark - 1973.jpg
Widmark as Max Brock, 1973
Richard Weedt Widmark

(1914-12-26)December 26, 1914
Sunrise Township, Minnesota, U.S.
Died March 24, 2008(2008-03-24) (aged 93)
Alma mater Lake Forest College (B.A., 1936)
  • Actor
  • producer
Years active 1938–2001
  • Jean Hazlewood
    (m. 1942; died 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 (1947), 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 supporting roles in Westerns, mainstream dramas, and horror films among others.

For his contributions 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, 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 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 taught acting after he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech in 1936. The Army turned him down during World War II because of a perforated ear drum.


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 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 to 1981.


Widmark appeared on Broadway in 1943 in F. Hugh Herbert's Kiss and Tell and in William Saroyan's Get Away Old Man, directed by George Abbott, which ran for 13 performances. 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.


Kiss of Death and villainous roles

The Street with No Name (1948) 1
Mark Stevens, Barbara Lawrence and Widmark in The Street with No Name (1948)
Kazan's Panic in the Street trailer screenshot (21)
Panic in the Streets (1950)

Widmark's first movie appearance was in the 1947 film noir Kiss of Death, as the giggling, sociopathic villain Tommy Udo. In his most notorious scene, Udo pushed a woman in a wheelchair (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 Kiss of Death with other villainous performances in the films noir The Street with No Name and Road House, and the western Yellow Sky (all 1948), the latter film with Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter. Another standout villainous role was in the racial melodrama No Way Out (1950), with Sidney Poitier in his film debut. Widmark and Poitier became good friends and worked in a number of films together in later years.

Heroic roles and continued success

The Last Wagon 02 Richard Widmark
In The Last Wagon (1956)
GYRWDD - The Tunnel of Love
Gig Young, Widmark and Doris Day in The Tunnel of Love (1958)

Widmark played heroic roles in films, including Down to the Sea in Ships, Slattery's Hurricane (both 1949), and Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950). His role as first mate Lunceford in the whaling movie Down to the Sea in Ships was his first starring role as the principal hero. His next starring role was in the 1951 WWII drama, Frogmen. This movie is cited by many Navy Seals as the reason they joined the Navy. The film is very accurate in its depiction of the Underwater Demolition Teams that removed obst&cles put on the beaches by the Japanese. It has a great cast, and Widmark is very credible as the new commander of the Team trying to replace a beloved leader who was killed in action. War movie buffs identify this little known film as one of the best war movies ever made.

He also featured in Halls of Montezuma (1951) and Don't Bother to Knock (1952) (with Marilyn Monroe), and appeared in two films for director Samuel Fuller: Pickup on South Street (1953) and Hell and High Water (1954).

Widmark continued to appear in a number of successful films, including The Tunnel of Love (1959) with Doris Day, the Westerns Warlock (also 1959) with Henry Fonda, as Jim Bowie in John Wayne's The Alamo (1960), the courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and reuniting with Sidney Poitier in the adventure The Long Ships (1964).

Widmark produced and starred in the films Time Limit (1957), The Secret Ways (1961) — based on a novel by Alistair MacLean, which Widmark also directed (uncredited) due to clashes with original director Phil Karlson's proposed tongue-in-cheek direction of the screenplay — and The Bedford Incident (1965), his third film with Sidney Poitier and loosely based on the Herman Melville novel Moby Dick.


Widmark began to drift into supporting roles during the 1970s, though he still played the occasional lead, for instance in the 1976 British-West German film To the Devil a Daughter. He was part of an all-star cast in the 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express (playing the murder victim), the 1977 film Rollercoaster (as an FBI agent), and The Swarm (1978). He had a prominent supporting role in Michael Crichton's Coma (also 1978), with Geneviève Bujold and Michael Douglas.

Later career

Widmark continued to appear in a number of films during the 1980s, again with Sidney Poitier who directed him in the comedy Hanky Panky (1982), with Gene Wilder. He also featured in the political thriller Who Dares Wins (also 1982), and Against All Odds (1984), with Jeff Bridges and James Woods.

In all, Widmark appeared in more than 60 films during his career, and he made his final film appearance in the 1991 drama True Colors.

In an interview with Michael Shelden in 2002, Widmark complained that "movie-making has lost a lot of its magic". He thought 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".


Richard widmark broken lance2
Widmark in Broken Lance (1954)

Widmark was a mystery guest on the CBS quiz show 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 Award 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, he reprised his detective role from Don Siegel's Madigan (1968) with six 90-minute episodes on the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. He participated in a mini-series 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 Willie Aames who portrayed Franklin at age 12. 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 1950s
Jean Hazlewood and Richard Widmark in the 1950s

Widmark was married to screenwriter Jean Hazlewood for 55 years 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.

Widmark owned a cattle ranch near Green City, Missouri during the 1950s and 1960s. He contributed funds to the construction of an airport there, bearing his name in his honor.

Despite having spent a substantial part of his career appearing in gun-toting roles such as cowboys, police officers, gangsters and soldiers, Widmark disliked firearms and was involved in several gun-control initiatives.

Widmark was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party.

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. He was buried at Roxbury Center Cemetery.



Year Title Role Notes
1947 Kiss of Death Tommy Udo Film debut
Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1948 The Street with No Name Alec Stiles
1948 Road House Jefferson T. "Jefty" Robbins
1948 Yellow Sky Dude
1949 Down to the Sea in Ships First Mate Dan Lunceford
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Lt. Willard Francis Slattery
1950 Night and the City Harry Fabian
1950 Panic in the Streets Lt. Cmdr. Clinton "Clint" Reed M.D.
1950 No Way Out Ray Biddle Co-starring Sidney Poitier
1951 Halls of Montezuma Lt. Anderson
1951 The Frogmen Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence
1952 Red Skies of Montana Cliff Mason
1952 Don't Bother to Knock Jed Towers
1952 O. Henry's Full House Johnny Kernan Segment: "The Clarion Call"
1952 My Pal Gus Dave Jennings
1953 Destination Gobi CPO Samuel T. McHale
1953 Pickup on South Street Skip McCoy
1953 Take the High Ground! Sgt. Thorne Ryan
1954 Hell and High Water Capt. Adam Jones
1954 Garden of Evil Fiske
1954 Broken Lance Ben Devereaux
1955 A Prize of Gold Sergeant Joe Lawrence
1955 The Cobweb Dr. Stewart "Mac" McIver
1956 Backlash Jim Slater
1956 Run for the Sun Michael "Mike" Latimer
1956 The Last Wagon Comanche Todd
1957 Saint Joan The Dauphin, Charles VII
1957 Time Limit Col. William Edwards Producer
1958 The Law and Jake Wade Clint Hollister
1958 The Tunnel of Love August "Augie" Poole
1959 The Trap Ralph Anderson
1959 Warlock Johnny Gannon
1960 The Alamo Colonel Jim Bowie
1961 The Secret Ways Michael Reynolds Producer; uncredited director
1961 Two Rode Together First Lt. Jim Gary
1961 Judgment at Nuremberg Col. Tad Lawson
1962 How the West Was Won Mike King
1964 The Long Ships Rolfe Second film with Sidney Poitier
1964 Flight from Ashiya Lt. Col. Glenn Stevenson USAF
1964 Cheyenne Autumn Capt. Thomas Archer
1965 The Bedford Incident Captain Eric Finlander USN Producer; third film with Sidney Poitier
1966 Alvarez Kelly Col. Tom Rossiter
1967 The Way West Lije Evans
1968 Madigan Det. Daniel Madigan
1969 Death of a Gunfighter Marshal Frank Patch
1969 A Talent for Loving Major Patten
1970 The Moonshine War Dr. Emmett Taulbee
1972 When the Legends Die Red Dillon
1974 Murder on the Orient Express Samuel Ratchett aka Lanfranco Cassetti
1976 To the Devil a Daughter John Verney
1976 The Sell Out Sam Lucas
1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming Gen. Martin MacKenzie – Commander in Chief, SAC
1977 The Domino Principle Tagge
1977 Rollercoaster Agent Hoyt
1978 Coma Dr. Harris
1978 The Swarm Gen. Slater
1979 Bear Island Otto Gerran
1982 National Lampoon Goes to the Movies Stan Nagurski "Municipalians"
1982 Hanky Panky Ransom Directed by Sidney Poitier
1982 Who Dares Wins Secretary of State Arthur Currie
1984 Against All Odds Ben Caxton
1991 True Colors Sen. James Stiles Final theatrical film role


Year Title Role Notes
1955 I Love Lucy Himself TV series; "The Tour"
1971 Vanished President Paul Roudebush TV movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
1972–1973 Madigan Sgt. Dan Madigan TV series; 6 episodes
Based on the 1968 film of the same name
1973 Brock's Last Case Lieutenant Max Brock TV movie
1974–1975 The Lives of Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin TV mini-series
1975 The Last Day Will Spence TV movie
1979 Mr. Horn Al Sieber TV movie
1980 All God's Children Judge Parke Denison TV movie
1981 A Whale for the Killing Tom Goodenough TV movie
1985 Blackout Joe Steiner TV movie
1987 A Gathering of Old Men Sheriff Mapes TV movie
1988 Once Upon a Texas Train Captain Owen Hayes TV movie
1989 Cold Sassy Tree Enoch Rucker Blakeslee TV movie
1992 Lincoln Ward Hill Lamon (voice) TV movie
Final acting role
1995 Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick Himself TV documentary
2002 Dobe and a Company of Heroes Himself TV documentary

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air Lilim
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air 1984
1953 Suspense Othello (Parts 1 and 2)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Richard Widmark para niños

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