Richard Widmark 1914 – 2008

I was sad to learn of Richard Widmark’s death this morning after returning from my vacation. He lived a long and productive life, but Widmark has long been one of my favorite actors and since I share my birthday with the man I’ve always felt a sort of camaraderie with him. Widmark was a truly talented actor who could play incredibly nasty bad guy such as the iconic Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947) or a heroic doctor in Panic in the Streets (1950) with an equal measure of skill. He might not be “typically” attractive by Hollywood standards, but in his younger years he was a great looking man with a wicked grin and he was just lot of fun to watch. In recent years actors and directors such as Jane Fonda, Robert De Niro and Peter Bogdonavich had been trying to get him awarded with an Honorary Oscar since he had never received one, but sadly that won’t happen now and it’s a shame.

Besides Kiss of Death and Panic in the Streets, some of my favorite Widmark performances can be found in a lot of the early noir films he made and stylish crime thrillers such as The Street with No Name (1948), Night and the City (1950), No Way Out (1950), Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and Pickup on South Street (1953), which all come with my highest recommendation, but he was also terrific in the influential sixties era police drama Madigan (1968) and he appeared in some entertaining horror films and thrillers in the seventies such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), Rollercoaster (1977), The Swarm (1978) and Coma (1978). He often made sub par films more watchable just with his presence. These days’ actors with Widmark’s kind of charisma and versatility are few and far between in my opinion and he’ll be missed.

13 thoughts on “Goodbye Mr. Widmark!

  1. A splendid actor with a distinct voice that excelled even in the low-budget offerings. Richard Widmark’s performances in the 20th Century Fox westerns are unforgettable.

  2. I am glad to have you back but it’s a shame you were greeted, as we all were, with this sad news. Widmark was that rare actor who could make even an underwritten hero role as interesting as his villains. I am absolutely flabbergasted that he never got an honorary oscar, that’s baaaad. But his filmography is its own reward.

  3. I’m happy to see you back. It is sad that you came back to hear this news. I felt bad when I saw this when I signed online this morning. I’ve always enjoyed the performances of Richard Widmark. I think I’ve seen pretty much most of those films that you listed. He was good in each of them. He made any film he was in more watchable even the crappy ones. R.I.P. Mr. Widmark. He’ll be sorely missed.

  4. I’ve only recently gotten into his work via classic noir, but I was sad to hear of his passing. He really was a versatile and underappreciated actor. He was good looking, but his penchant for quirky character roles made him so much more interesting than your typical leading man (I think he resembled my ex, or my ex resembled him?).

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone! Widmark was really a remarkable actor and I totally agree with you AR in regard to his acting chops and charisma, which made him much more compelling to watch than a lot of typical Hollywood leading men from the same period.

    I found him really attractive myself, but I’m often drawn to crazy hot-blooded men (even if they just play them in the movies!), but there was something really compelling about Widmark. His eyes could pierce through you and he had the best damn smile.

  6. I’m starting to wonder if “cold-blooded and crazy” would have been a more appropriate description of the type of guys I’m drawn to? 😉

  7. Very nice picture of this great actor. You seem to like his “noir” characters better than his western ones. When i was a kid, he was one my favorites, with Sturges, Ford, Daves and Dmytryk. Anyway, it is a goodbye, little sad, but he had a great career and a long life.

  8. Thanks for the comment Vincent! Yep, I tend to like the noir films he was in more than the westerns. Overall, I tend to prefer post-1960 westerns in general. Widmark was terrific and he had a remarkable career playing many different types of roles.

  9. Nice little tribute to a wonderful actor – every villain oughta have a little Tommy Udo in ’em, (and a bit of harry Powell, too!) and Widmark was in a couple of my favorite westerns: “Yellow Sky” and “Warlock” – he’s prolly the most underrated of all the movie cowboys. He was one of the greats on many levels and genres, far as I’m concerned.

  10. Widmark was one of a kind, as was evidenced by that horrible “Kiss Of Death” movie with Cage and Caruso. They should have known better than to use that title!

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