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Richard Widmark 1914 - 2008
Appearing in the better part of 100 movies over a career that spanned 50 years, Richard Widmark is a man that everyone has seen at multiple points in their movie-watching lives. Although not a "superstar" on his own, he played supporting roles alongside the biggest names there ever were: with John Wayne in How The West Was Won and The Alamo, Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter in Yellow House, Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster in Judgement at Nuremberg, or holding Marilyn Monroe in his arms in Don't Bother To Knock.
He was cast in lead roles after his notorious debut in 1947 as a cackling maniac who pushes an old woman in a wheelchair down a huge flight of stairs to her death in Kiss Me Deadly. Notable roles were in primarily film noir vehicles such as Night and the City, Panic In The Streets, and the incredible Sam Fuller-directed Pickup On South Street.
Always humble and self-deprecating, the AP quotes Widmark, often cast as a gangster or gunslinger, as an advocate of gun control "I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns". Widmark, who died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, was also an environmentalist, who convinced his neighbor, Walter Matthau, to help him support the purchase and preservation of vast tracks of land in their town to provide contiguous open space for wildlife, no mean task in this very expensive and development-pressured area. As someone who has visited the preserve, I can say that he helped save a beautiful place that will continue to entertain generations to come, much like his films.
Here's to hoping that Turner Classic Movies provides us with a Widmark retrospective in the near future.