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A laugh and a push that brought stardom

Posted at 11:08 AM on December 26, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Hearing that Richard Widmark celebrates his 93rd birthday today immediately brought a horrible image to mind.

It's of a cackling baby-faced killer pushing an elderly woman bound to her wheelchair with an electric cord being pushed down a flight of stairs. The scene in Widmark's film debut "Kiss of Death" (1947) earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

The New York Times review of the film said Widmark was a real find, and then continued with a line which turned out to be prophetic: "Mr. Widmark runs away with all the acting honors. But let's hope that this performance doesn't type him in Hollywood's mind as did that of Alan Ladd in 'This Gun for Hire.'" It was going to be some time before Hollywood let Widmark play anything except a heavy.

The scene at the head of the stairs lasts just seconds, but it's one of those images which sears itself into memory. Perhaps it's not surprising that Widmark is considered the face of film noir by some.

A little bit of research pulled up the fact that Widmark is a Minnesotan, having been born in Sunrise Township in Chisago County. He moved to Illinois though, growing up in Lake Forest, which is a little more noirish.



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