Screen Tough Widmark Dead

Gentle actor gained fame as a gangster
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2008 4:18 PM CDT

(Newser) – Richard Widmark, the American actor renowned for his sinister portrayals of gangsters, has died at age 93. His first film role—as a giggling, sadistic killer in the 1947 Kiss of Death—made him an instant movie star and gained him a Fox contract for 20 parts in seven years—most of them heavies. One film historian has called him “the most frightening person on the screen,” the New York Times reports.

The real-life actor shrugged off the typecasting—“audiences fasten on to one aspect of the actor, and then they decide what they want you to be”—though the mild-mannered, liberal intellectual dealt his whole life with aggressive fans who expected a tough guy. Other career highlights included roles in Judgment in Nuremberg, The Alamo, No Way Out, and as the title character in NBC's Madigan.