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