Passings: Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark died on March 26 at the age of 93. His debut, as crazy gangster Tommy Udo in 1947’s Kiss of Death, won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and was followed by other film noir roles.

Although he starred in a number of other noir classics — including The Street With No Name (1948), Jules Dassin’s Night and the City, Joseph Mankiewicz’s No Way Out and Panic in the Streets (all 1950, quite a year for crime dramas!) — my favorite performance has to be that of the cool Skip McCoy in Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (1953). Widmark is a slippery pickpocket who mistakenly lifts commie-destined microfilm from the wallet of Jean Peters in a claustrophobic opening scene aboard a New York subway car. His loyalties are tested, but like any great noir hero, he really ought to only think about himself. Plus, wouldn’t it be great to live in that rickety shack, perched above the harbor, with a case of beer cooling at the end of a rope from the window?

He made westerns too, and was good in them, but had such a great noir face that he’ll always be associated with those films. Two things I didn’t know about him: he was born in Sunrise, Minnesota, and Sandy Koufax was his son-in-law!

It’s hard to see another one of these big-screen legends go — there are so few left. RIP Mr. Widmark.