RICHARD WIDMARK IN CONVERSATION

Richard Widmark. NIGHT AND THE CITY.

 

Re-watching NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) reminded me that this excellent film and the riveting performance of RICHARD WIDMARK (1914-2008) received no Oscar nominations.

On the Blu-ray of the film is a very good 90 minute interview with Richard Widmark. It took place at London’s National Film Theatre in 2002.

After only one film, Widmark became a star. And he managed to quickly get away from typecasting after playing the giggling psychopath of “Kiss Of Death”.

Describing how he got the part in “Kiss Of Death”:

I was sent over to audition for that part and the director was Henry Hathaway, a very tough cookie and he didn’t want me for the part. He had somebody else in mind, but Zanuck said, test him……..eventually Henry became a very close friend. I did five more pictures with him.

The scene where I push the old lady down the stairs was the first day I’d ever worked in the movies.” 

 

KISS OF DEATH

 

    ”I loved the studio system. To me it was like a college, a great place to learn, and an actor has continuity of work.You did three or four pictures a year.

    (Darryl) Zanuck was a very good producer – he revered writers. He started putting  me in different things, like a western with Greg Peck, “Yellow Sky”, then “Down to the Sea in Ships” where I was the good guy. 

 

Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Hugh Marlowe. NIGHT AND THE CITY.

“We didn’t know we were making film noir, we were making a picture for a price.”

(What a waste of Gene Tierney and Hugh Marlowe in “Night and the City”. Both had minor roles and I can only assume they were brought over to the London shoot to make the film more palatable in America.)

 

Jean Peters, Richard Widmark.PICK UP ON SOUTH STREET.

“Sam Fuller (Director of Pick Up on South  Street) had a habit, instead of saying ‘Action’, he had a pistol he always carried – he’d fire the gun and that meant Action! “

 

As Jim Bowie in THE ALAMO.

“I always admired Duke as the definitive westerner – he just is the western. We never socialised but, professionally, we got along great.”

 

With John Ford and James Stewart.TWO ROAD TOGETHER.

“I loved Jack Ford. I got him in his later years – “Two Road Together” and “Cheyenne Autumn.”

There are three guys I would work with at the drop of a hat – Spencer Tracy, James Stewart and Henry Fonda.”

I always loved westerns. I was a movie nut from a very early age.. I had a wee Scottish grandmother who started taking me to movies at age 3!”

 

With Spencer Tracy. BROKEN LANCE.

 

On the McCarthy era:

“That period is a low point in American history. It never should have happened in a free society. So many of my friends were blacklisted. Zero Mostel, a close friend, couldn’t work for ten years. It was a terrible, terrible time.”

(Richard added that he was never a joiner.)

 

in addition to questions from interviewer Adrian Wootton, Richard answered many questions from the audience. He said his favourite films included LOST HORIZON, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, SOME LIKE IT HOT and “anything that Hitch did.”

He ended by saying “I’ve had a very lucky, happy life.”

If you had been in that audience in 2002, what would you have asked  Richard?

 

In 1954, Widmark wouldn’t accept another 7 year contract with Fox and ended up with fourth billing in “Broken Lance”, behind Robert Wagner and Jean Peters. He remained independent after that, including starting his own company Heath Productions.

His only Oscar nomination was for his first film, “Kiss Of Death”.  I think he deserved one for “Night and the City” and “No Way Out”.

He was married for 55 years till his first wife Jean’s death in 1997. He subsequently married Henry Fonda’s third wife.

With his first wife, Jean

When I watched this interview from 2002, I assumed Richard Widmark was in his 70s. In fact, if IMDB dates are accurate, he was 88! Amazing.

My favourite Widmark western, THE LAST WAGON.

 

 

 

9 responses »

  1. I quite agree with you about the waste of Gene and Hugh in Night And The City. And their characters! It’s not very plausible having them living in a Notting Hill bedsit and borrowing a shilling for the meter. Sorry you didn’t mention Googie Withers who gives a strong performance.

  2. Vienna, another really good post. Richard Widmark is one of my all-time favorite movie actors from back in the day. If memory serves me right, I think the first movie that I remember him from is TWO RODE TOGETHER(1961) and I would have seen it on the CBS THURSDAY NIGHT MOVIE in 1965.

    I liked is answer concerning makinfg so-called Film Noir. “We didn’t know we were making film noir, we were making a picture for a price.”

    Richard Widmark holds a first time nominated record of sorts. KISS OF DEATH(1947) his first movie, he was nominated for an Academy Award. VANISHED(1971) his first made for TV movie, nominated for an Emmy. On February 26, 1990 the National Board of Review, USA awarded Richard Widmark the 1989 Career Achievement Award. Widmark attended the ceremony and thanked the Board. Also, he said that he was happy to finally receive an award.

    Your question is a good one: “If you had been in that audience in 2002, what would you have asked Richard?” Mine would be, “Mr. Widmark, what do you think was your best moment as an actor?”

  3. Sign me up to THE LAST WAGON fan club
    my favourite Widmark Western I might add.
    Sadly,I was not there at the BFI/NFT Q & A session,
    but I have a friend who was. According to my friend
    Widmark was talking about a film that he was none to
    happy with,and Christopher Lee who was in the audience
    stood up and said “I know,I was in it as well”
    The Widmark I want most to be released is A PRIZE OF GOLD.

  4. Further to my previous comment I think the offending title
    was BEAR ISLAND not TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER which
    I know Widmark was none too happy with. BTW it was Widmark
    who told Lee that he was wasting his time in the UK and should head
    for Hollywood-good advice as it turned out to be very profitable for Lee
    as well as expanding the type of roles that he eventually got to play.

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