Monday, December 24, 2007

Bringing Justice to Richard Widmark


OK, it's not a world-class injustice, but it's unjust nevertheless, and it all has to do with the gentleman on the left.

Yup, Richard Widmark, victim of injustice. This icon of 1950s Hollywood is still alive and living in Connecticut. He celebrates his 93rd birthday on Dec. 26.

Richard Widmark has never received an Academy Award, honorary or otherwise, no Kennedy Center Honor, nor any other recognition that he so richly deserves for his decades in motion pictures. It is high time for that injustice to be corrected.

Widmark was nominated for an Oscar way back in 1947, for his amazing portrayal of Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, but that's it as far as the Academy Awards is concerned. I think he received a Golden Globe back there somewhere.

It really amazes me that so many far younger and, frankly, less accomplished performers receive "lifetime" recognition, while this brilliant actor is ignored. He brought an integrity to his performances that was unique, even when he portrayed lowlifes like Udo, or Harry Fabian (right) in Night and the City.

The authenticity of his performances was amazing. I've read that Joey Gallo patterned his real-life gangster persona on Widmark's fictional, throw-old-lady-down stairs portrayal. Yet he could be just as convincing as a public health officer in Panic in the Streets or as Jim Bowie in The Alamo. (Here's a fun fact: Mildred Dunnock was younger than Madonna is now when she played the old lady in the wheelchair.)

Mind you, I have nothing against, for instance, Dolly Parton or Van Cliburn getting Kennedy Center honors (the honorees of the honorary Oscars are a bit more elite bunch). But to me, the glaring omission of Widmark makes the whole "lifetime honors" exercise a bit empty.

So, that is my cause today. Richard Widmark! Justice for Widmark. A happy birthday, too.

UPDATE: Here's a profile. Note that Widmark lost the 1947 Oscar to (gulp) Santa Claus.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site, gary-weiss.com.

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