Sing You Sinners: Bing Crosby
Happy 100 Bette Davis

Richard Widmark: 1914-2008

widmark.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

And just after my tenth (eleventh?) viewing of one of my favorite film noir, that daylight ménage à trois (or rather, ménage à trois by way of intimidation, which only makes the picture all the more fascinating and kinky) -- Road House -- just when I was really wrapping my head around my obsession with both the movie and that hot blonde laughing lunatic of menace and twisted sex appeal, he ups and leaves me.

One of motion pictures greatest actors, an icon of film noir and an intelligent, decent man in real life has left us. Richard Widmark died Monday at the age of 93-years-old.

Widmarkstardiscovery.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

An actor who stunned audiences (and earned his one and only Oscar nomination) with his film debut as the giggling psychopath Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death, a character who, in the film's most notorious scene, pushes an old woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs, Widmark worked a long career filled with intriguing, daring roles that left a permanent impression on the movie-going public. So much, in fact, that Tommy Udo clubs formed around the country at various colleges, honoring the maniac for not taking any guff from women, men or life itself -- no matter how venal and self destructive he was. But that was part of Widmark's power and subversion -- you enjoyed his lunatics, you almost wanted to be near them, if only for a moment, just to witness that all that live wire insanity and bad seed evil.

widmarkcolor.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

But his career wasn't all about scumbags and sadists hassling little old ladies, he also helped create some of noir's most immortal characters including, in my mind, two ultimate existential noir anti-hero icons in two ultimate film noir masterpieces --  Skip McCoy in Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street, and Harry Fabian in Jules Dassin's Night and the City

widmarkpickupritter.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

There was also The Street with No Name, Panic in the Streets (where he made the smart career move by playing the good guy and allowing Jack Palance the role of creepy heavy), the stunning aforementioned Road House (with Ida Lupino and Cornel Wilde), Don't Bother To Knock (with Marilyn Monroe), No Way Out (playing such a convicing racist, that the real life and very passionate liberal apologized to young Sidney Poitier after nearly every take), Judgment at Nuremberg, How the West Was Won, Madigan, The Alamo, The Bedford Incident (co-produced by anti-nuke activist Widmark) and more and more and more.

widmarkpickupposterpeters.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

His presence was always missed once he stepped away from the screen but it was nice knowing the man, one of the last men standing of all the noir legends, was still alive and kicking. That he was enjoying his very non Tommy Udo-like life away from the spotlight in Connecticut, critical of  modern movies and soul baring celebrities and the general dumbing down of cinema while keeping his life in healthy perspective. I've got so much more to write about one of my absolute all-time favorite actors, but to put it simply -- he was a rare one.

widmarknightandthecity.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

Rest in Peace Mr. Widmark. We’ll always have Jefty’s. And, here's your famous push...for old time's sake.

Comments

Justine

Beautifully written and very heartfelt. Widmark is a favourite of mine as well, it's certainly a sad day to see him go. I only realise how little I know about him, and how few films of his I've actually seen. In whatever I've seen him in though, he's managed to leave his mark. One of the few actors who never really slept through any performances (at least not from what I can tell), and especially considering how many films he's made that's quite an accomplishment.

jeffrey b. bender

one of the last of the great character actors...gone. as yet, no one has mentioned his role as the rabid submarine captain in THE BEDFORD INCIDENT. widmark's performance was intelligent and exciting. his acting skills improved with age. i will miss him.

SW

Nicely said Kim. It's easy to be overtaken by the haze of nostalgia. But Widmark definitely represented what was best about a time that has been gone for a long time now. His passing highlights how far it is receding into the rearview mirror. And what a magical thing the movies are. How easy they make it to temporarily slip back into that time and mood. Thanks.

Campaspe

Beautifully done.

Brian

I would argue that when it comes to classical Hollywood, there was a trio of sublimely great heavies: Robert Ryan, Dan Duryea and Richard Widmark. Ryan and Duryea both left us prematurely, but Widmark lived to a ripe 93 years. It's just tough to beat his performance in Pickup On South Street. That's just one of the greatest films ever, noir or otherwise.

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