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Richard Widmark was born in Minnesota in 1914, but he grew up in Illinois. He went to college there, and began acting at that time in college productions, and switched from pre-law to being an acting teacher, and he did that at his college after he graduated. He got some roles on radio and on Broadway, and in 1947 he was cast in the tiny role of Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), a film noir starring Victor Mature. The movie was supposed to be centered on Mature and newcomer Colleen Gray, but Widmark played Udo as a giggling slight psychopathic killer (one scene in particular is extremely memorable!) who terrorizes the physically imposing Mature, and he was what audiences remembered from the movie, and he became a star in his first role. Naturally Hollywood wanted to stereotype him in psychotic killer roles, and for a few pictures he had no choice but to comply. But he begged his studio (20th Century Fox) to give him at least some other roles, and once they saw that the public liked him in whatever parts he played (from roles as no-nonsense detectives to the lead in light romantic comedies) he was cast in a wide range of movies. One of his very best roles was as "Harry Fabian", the small time wrestling promoter with big dreams in Night and the City, for director Jules Dassin. Widmark had not been young when he got his big break (he was 32) and when his studio contract expired in 1954 after 7 years he was pushing 40 and they did not re-sign him, and he became an independent. He soon settled into important supporting roles, usually opposite a major star. He stood out in John Wayne's The Alamo in 1960, playing Jim Bowie, and in 1961 he played the prosecutor in Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg, and he held his own against the greatest stars of that time. He continued in mostly supporting roles throughout the 1960s,and one of his very best movies ever was in the starring role in 1968's Madigan, where he played a homicide detective who doesn't play by the rules and who would be an exact carbon copy for Harry Callaghan in Dirty Harry three years later. Widmark made another 30 or so movie and TV appearances until 1992 when he retired, and he lived until 2008. He left behind a solid legacy of excellent movie appearances over many decades, having seamlessly made the transition from leading man to supporting actor. Widmark passed away in 2008 at the age of 93.
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