Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Richard Widmark, R.I.P.

One of the last links to the classic age of film noir has been severed with the passing of actor Richard Widmark at age 93.

Regular readers know that Widmark was a favorite around here. Watch his landmark performance as cackling psychopath Tommy Udo in 1947’s Kiss of Death today and it still feels breathtakingly modern; Widmark, with his utter disregard for generating sympathy and his wealth of telling detail, seems to be inventing an entirely contemporary style of acting before your eyes. There’s his turn in Samuel Fuller’s Pickup On South Street, as a pickpocket up to his jittery eyeballs in a Communist spy plot who responds to appeals to patriotism with, “Don’t wave the flag at me.”

And then there’s his Harry Fabian in Night and the City. It was only last month that I saw it during a Widmark double bill at Noir City. It’s a movie that only grows in my estimation with each viewing, largely because of Widmark’s brave, spare work in the lead role. Performances don’t cut any deeper than that one.

The New York Times obituary features some terrific quotes and a great sense of the man’s life. Richard Widmark will be remembered, and missed.