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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 18:45 GMT
Obituary: Richard Widmark
Sgt Thorne Ryan
Widmark played Sgt Thorne Ryan in the 1953 film Take The High Ground!

Hollywood star Richard Widmark, who has died at the age of 93, was a prolific and versatile film actor.

After an early career in radio drama and theatre, he made his big screen debut as a demented killer in the 1948 film in Kiss of Death.

His role as Tommy Udo was a sensation, and earned him his one and only Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor.

The film features a chilling scene where Udo ties up an old lady in a wheelchair with a piece of cord then shoves her down a flight of stairs to her death, as he laughs manically.

Widmark later told an interviewer that the laugh was born of nervousness.

"When in doubt, I'd laugh," he said. "And since this was my first picture and the mechanics of picture-making were new to me, I laughed a lot."

'TV series'

Widmark portrayed a string of killers, cops and cowboy gunslingers on film, which was in sharp contrast to is rather shy nature. He often insisted that he hated guns.

After Kiss of Death he became a Hollywood leading man in films like Judgment at Nuremberg, Broken Lance, Two Rode Together, The Street With No Name, Road House, and some 70 other films.

While attached to 20th Century Fox - with whom he made over 20 films - he starred opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1952 film Don't Bother to Knock.

Widmark's film career slowed in the 1970s, but he remained active in made-for-TV movies.

In 1972 he starred in his own TV series Madigan, which was based on his 1968 hit movie of the same name, but only six episodes were made.

Don't Bother to Knock
Marilyn Monroe was Widmark's co-star in Don't Bother To Knock

Widmark's last film, the made-for-TV Lincoln - about the former US President - was broadcast in 1992.

Richard Widmark was born on 26 December 1914, in Sunrise, Minnesota, where his father ran a general store, then became a travelling salesman.

The family moved around before settling in Princeton, Illinois.

"Like most small-town boys, I had the urge to get to the big city and make a name for myself," he recalled in a 1954 interview.

"I was a movie nut from the age of three, but I don't recall having any interest in acting," he said.

At Lake Forest College, he became a protege of the drama teacher and a career in acting beckoned.

Two years out of college, Widmark reached New York in 1938 during the heyday of radio.

His mellow Midwest tones made him a soap opera favourite, and he found himself in demand.

'Bad time'

Rejected by the Army because of a punctured eardrum, Widmark began appearing in theatre productions in 1943.

His first was a comedy hit on Broadway, Kiss and Tell, and he was appearing a Chicago production of Dream Girl when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract.

But Widmark almost missed out on the memorable role in Kiss of Death that secured his Hollywood status.

"The director, Henry Hathaway, didn't want me," he recalled. "I have a high forehead; he thought I looked too intellectual."

The director was eventually overruled by studio bosses but Hathaway "gave me kind of a bad time," Widmark added.

Actor Richard Widmark dies at 93
26 Mar 08 |  Entertainment

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