Wednesday, March 26, 2008

R.I.P. Richard Widmark

One of my all-time favorite actors, the great Richard Widmark, passed today at the ripe old age of 93. Here's probably the best-remembered, most iconic sequence of his career, the infamous wheelchair scene from 1947's classic Kiss of Death:

Oh, Tommy Udo, you charmer...

The obits I read today frequently referred to his "tough guy" image, probably because of this scene, but if you go back and watch the movies, he tended to play heroes. Or, at the very least, remorseful killers. But playa kill-crazy maniac in just one a landmark movie...

I think my favorite Widmark performance is Skip McCoy in Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street (though Ari's not wrong to go with the amazing Night and the City). McCoy's an incredibly modern hero - he's cool, but not impossible Bogart cool. The kind of cool to which regular schmoes could aspire. He outwits his pursuers...but just barely. And there's a very real vulnerability to McCoy, who lives alone on a dock and keeps his valuables in a sealed bag underwater. Fuller and Widmark aren't afraid to make him afraid, and that makes him relatable.

Other classic Widmark films to watch: Westerns Broken Lance and the deeply weird Warlock (co-starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn!); Judgment at Nuremberg; Fuller's WWII film Hell and High Water

Side note: Though it's awesome that Widmark made a Hammer film with Christopher Lee, 1976's To The Devil a Daughter, I can't in good conscience recommend the movie. It's pretty boring, even by late-Hammer standards.

1 comment:

Peter L. Winkler said...

Nice to see a remembrance from a fellow Widmark fan. I recommend The Bedford Incident in addition to the films you've already mentioned.