[27 March 2008]
Oscar-nominated actor Richard Widmark, who made a career playing bad guys and cowboys, has died. He was 93.
The star, who made his film debut as a giggling villain in “Kiss of Death,” died at home in Roxbury, Conn., on Monday.
Widmark was born Dec. 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., and spent his formative years in Princeton, Ill., where his family settled. He studied and later taught acting in college before getting into radio for “Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories” in 1938 and becoming a regular on soap operas.
After being rejected by the Army for a punctured eardrum, he began his theater career with 1943’s Broadway comedy “Kiss and Tell.” While he was doing “Dream Girl” he signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox.
In his first film, 1947’s “Kiss of Death,” he earned his only Academy Award nomination playing the sociopathic killer Tommy Udo, whose signature giggle became so famous that Widmark sought out serious roles afterward.
What followed was a film career spanning more than 40 years doing film noir, Westerns and other dramatic films with a few comedies sprinkled here and there. His resume includes “The Street With No Name” alongside Barbara Bel Geddes and Jack Palance, “Night and the City,” “Panic in the Street,” “Yellow Sky,” “No Way Out,” “The Halls of Montezuma,” “The Frogmen,” “Red Skies of Montana,” “Don’t Bother to Knock” opposite Marilyn Monroe, “My Pal Gus,” “Pickup on South Street,” “Broken Lance,” “The Last Wagon,” “The Law and Jake Wade,” “The Alamo” with John Wayne, “Two Rode Together” opposite Jimmy Stewart, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” “How the West Was Won,” “Cheyenne Autumn,” “Murder on the Orient Express” and “True Colors.”
Widmark also did a few TV films including “Brock’s Last Case,” “A Gathering of Old Men,” “Cold Sassy Tree” and “Once Upon a Texas Train.”
Widmark met his first wife, Ora Jean Hazlewood, when she was a drama student at Lake Forest College. They were married for almost 55 years until her death in 1997. They had one daughter together, artist-author Anne Heath Widmark, who was married to baseball legend Sandy Koufax for nearly 13 years. The elder Widmark remarried, tying the knot with Susan Blanchard, the former third wife of fellow actor Henry Fonda.