Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Richard Widmark (1914 - 2008)

Richard Widmark - from wikipedia.orgRichard Widmark - from
Yet another obituary. Hollywood legend (yes, that's how I see him), Richard Widmark, died on the 24th March. It's crazy to think his film debut was 'Kiss of Death' (1947), crazy because he was so, so good in it (apparently he got an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe). That an actor who became a major leading man in the movies was so good playing a psychopathic killer highlights what made him so special in Hollywood; he was the original Two-Face. He could play the insane villain or the troubled hero, the man of integrity or the weak coward. Some of his best roles capitalised on this ambiguity. In 'Warlock' he held his own among such giants as Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn, playing a former criminal who becomes sheriff of a beseiged Western town despite the fact that all the baddies are his friends. 'Coma' too showed how he could play the avuncular doctor and the cold-blooded killer. Sam Fuller used this ambiguity well in 'Pickup on South Street' where Widmark's pickpocket becomes the unlikely hero of the piece. You could believe anything of Widmark, he had that kind of face. Of course what he did on screen was one thing, what he did off camera was another. Hammer Studios brought him in for their last big budget horror, 'To the Devil a Daughter'. If the 'Making of' documentary is anything to go by, Widmark was an unpleasant prima donna who compromised the production more than once. But then he was used to a different sort of studio system and we the audience really shouldn't care about that. It's what he put on screen that counts and he created a lot of complex characters that you wanted to believe in. And that, my friends, is why he was a legend.

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