Dan Duryea


Actor
Dan Duryea

About

Birth Place
White Plains, New York, USA
Born
January 23, 1907
Died
June 07, 1968
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

One of the best known and most effective movie villains of the postwar years, actor Dan Duryea specialized in truly unpleasant figures who lacked even a shred of moral decency in such popular screen efforts as "Ball of Fire" (1941), "Along Came Jones" (1945), "Winchester '73" (1950) and classic noir like "Criss Cross" (1949). A rare screen heel that could charm audiences despite his crim...

Photos & Videos

Too Late for Tears - Movie Poster
Too Late for Tears - Lobby Cards
Too Late for Tears - Publicity Stills

Notes

"The heel with sex appeal." --From his obituary in The New York Times, June 8, 1968.

Biography

One of the best known and most effective movie villains of the postwar years, actor Dan Duryea specialized in truly unpleasant figures who lacked even a shred of moral decency in such popular screen efforts as "Ball of Fire" (1941), "Along Came Jones" (1945), "Winchester '73" (1950) and classic noir like "Criss Cross" (1949). A rare screen heel that could charm audiences despite his criminal acts, Duryea enlivened both minor and major features for over a decade, which later boosted him from character player to leading man in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with occasional forays into heroic roles, most notably in "Black Angel" (1946) and on the television series "China Smith" (syndicated, 1952-56). In the late 1950s, Duryea returned to character parts, playing more even-tempered if still deeply flawed men in "The Burglar" (1957) and "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) for Robert Aldrich, who cast Duryea in several of his feature efforts. Television became his primary outlet in the 1960s, where he essayed memorable turns on "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964), among countless other shows, while lending his Hollywood pedigree to low-budget efforts for international film producers. A versatile character actor for over 20 years, Dan Duryea proved that, at least in the film business, bad guys sometimes finished first.

Born Jan. 23, 1907 in White Plains, NY, Dan Duryea was the son of textile salesman Richard Duryea and his wife, Mabel. He began acting in his teenaged years as a member of the White Plains High School drama club, and considered pursuing as a career while majoring in English at Cornell University, where he replaced future star Franchot Tone as the president of the school's famed Dramatic Society. But after graduation, Duryea bowed to his parents' wishes for a more stable career by working in advertising. He toiled in the industry for six years before suffering a stress-induced heart, which spurred him to return to his first love, acting. In later years, he would confess to interviewers that he could summon up the required level of violence needed for his characters by imagining that his victims were his corporate employers from his advertising days.

After a period in summer stock, Duryea reportedly made his film debut with a bit role in an Argentinean film, "El tango en Broadway" (1934), which was filmed in New York City during his pursuit of theater roles on the Great White Way. The following year, he reached out to playwright Sidney Kingsley, who was mounting the Broadway debut of his new play, "Dead End." Duryea managed to secure a bit part in the production before assuming a larger role during its year-long run. From there, he tackled his first Western heel as Bob Ford, the man who killed Jesse James, in the short-lived "Missouri Legend" (1938). Producer-director Herman Shumlin was taken by Duryea's ability to make even the most loathsome role watchable, and cast him as the weak-willed Leo in Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" (1939). When Samuel Goldwyn bought the film rights to the play, Duryea was brought to Hollywood to recreate his performance in the feature version with Bette Davis (1941), which began his long and celebrated screen career.

Almost immediately, Duryea became the go-to for malevolent supporting roles in Westerns and crime pictures. Tall and reed-thin, he possessed a baleful glare and a generous mouth that frequently curled into a sneer before splitting to let forth a mocking cackle - in short, the perfect physiological makeup to play a host of hoods, gunmen, rustlers, low-rent criminals and other undesirables who enjoyed brief moments in the spotlight before meeting their much-deserved, often violent ends. In the first decade of his career, Duryea played mostly supporting roles which allowed him to menace some of Hollywood's biggest leading men, from Gary Cooper in "Ball of Fire" (1941), "The Pride of the Yankees" (1941) and "Along Came Jones" (1945) to Edward G. Robinson in "The Woman in the Window" (1944) and "Scarlet Street" (1945). By the following year, he was firmly established as one of the movies' most popular character actors, as evidenced by his inclusion in a 1946 motion picture exhibitors' poll by Motion Picture Herald of the 10 most promising stars of the day. Duryea placed eighth on the list, trailing Zachary Scott and Eve Arden but ahead of Robert Mitchum.

In the late '40s, Duryea signed a lucrative contract with Universal, which provided him with not only financial stability, but also the option to freelance for other studios. He soon moved up to leading roles, playing deeply flawed heroes like his alcoholic composer in "Black Angel" (1946) and his real-life Western bandit "Black Bart" (1948). He was still best used as a supporting heavy, most notably as the gangster husband of Yvonne De Carlo in "Criss Cross" (1949) and as the unsavory hombre Waco in the Western "Winchester '73." But by the 1950s, Duryea had begun to play heroes in mid-level to low-budget adventure pictures. He was also top-billed on his own television series, "China Smith," as a white-suited soldier of fortune operating in Singapore. Most of the show's cast and production team were featured in Robert Aldrich's "World for Ransom" (1954), which starred Duryea as a slightly different adventurer also working in the Far East.

Television soon became Duryea's best showcase; there, he gave memorable turns as a broken-down gunfighter given a second chance in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," the third episode of "The Twilight Zone," and a religious fanatic in a 1960 episode of "Wagon Train" (NBC/ABC, 1957-1965). He continued to work regularly in features, mostly B-grade efforts, though some had their admirers, especially "The Burglar" (1957), a late-period noir with Duryea as a professional thief contending with amoral partners. In 1965, he enjoyed one of his best sympathetic roles as a meek oil company accountant in Aldrich's "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965).

By the late 1960s, Duryea was working in overseas productions like the Italian Western "The Hills Run Red" (1966) and the spy thriller "Five Golden Dragons" (1967) in West Germany while maintaining a regular presence on American television. He also appeared twice on the big screen with his son, character actor Peter Duryea, in the low-budget Westerns "Taggart" (1964) and "The Bounty Killer" (1965). From 1967 to 1968, he played Eddie Jacks, the estranged husband of Evelyn Scott, on "Peyton Place" (ABC, 1964-68), before making his final screen appearance in the science fiction adventure "The Bamboo Saucer" (1968). Not long after undergoing surgery to have a malignancy removed, Duryea died prematurely from cancer on June 7, 1968 at the age of 61, leaving behind a storied career as one of Hollywood's most admired screen baddies.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Bamboo Saucer (1968)
Hank Peters
The Hills Run Red (1967)
Getz
Incident at Phantom Hill (1966)
Joe Barlow
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
Standish
The Bounty Killer (1965)
Willie Duggan
Taggart (1964)
Jason
Walk a Tightrope (1964)
Lutcher
He Rides Tall (1964)
Bart Thorne
Six Black Horses (1962)
Frank Jesse
Platinum High School (1960)
Maj. Redfern Kelly
Kathy O' (1958)
Harry Johnson
Night Passage (1957)
Whitey Harbin
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957)
John Jacob Masters
Battle Hymn (1957)
Sergeant Herman
The Burglar (1957)
Nat Harbin
Storm Fear (1956)
Fred Blake
Foxfire (1955)
[Dr.] Hugh Slater
The Marauders (1955)
Mr. Avery
Rails into Laramie (1954)
Jim Shanessy
Silver Lode (1954)
Fred McCarty
Ride Clear of Diablo (1954)
Whitey Kincade
This Is My Love (1954)
Murray Myer
World for Ransom (1954)
Mike Callahan
Terror Street (1953)
Maj. William Rogers
Thunder Bay (1953)
Johnny Gambi
Sky Commando (1953)
Col. Editor Wyatt
Chicago Calling (1952)
William R. Cannon
Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951)
Al Jennings
The Underworld Story (1950)
Mike Reese
One Way Street (1950)
John Wheeler
Winchester '73 (1950)
Waco Johnny Dean
Criss Cross (1949)
Slim Dundee
Manhandled (1949)
Karl Benson
Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)
Johnny Evans
Too Late For Tears (1949)
Danny Fuller
River Lady (1948)
Beauvais
Another Part of the Forest (1948)
Oscar Hubbard
Black Bart (1948)
Charles E. Boles [also known as Black Bart]
Larceny (1948)
Silky Randall
Black Angel (1946)
Martin Blair
White Tie and Tails (1946)
Charles Dumont
The Valley of Decision (1945)
William Scott, Jr.
Lady on a Train (1945)
Arnold Waring
Scarlet Street (1945)
Johnny
The Great Flamarion (1945)
Al Wallace
Along Came Jones (1945)
Monte Jarrad
Main Street After Dark (1945)
Posey [Dibson]
Mrs. Parkington (1944)
Jack Stilham
None But the Lonely Heart (1944)
Lew Tate
Ministry of Fear (1944)
Costume, also known as Travers
Man from Frisco (1944)
Jim Benson
The Woman in the Window (1944)
Heidt
Sahara (1943)
Jimmy Doyle
The Pride of the Yankees (1943)
Hank Hanneman
Ball of Fire (1942)
Duke Pastrami
That Other Woman (1942)
Ralph Cobb
The Little Foxes (1941)
Leo Hubbard

Cast (Special)

Confidentially Yours (1960)
Barnaby Hooke
Justice of the Peace (1959)
Mark Johnston

Cast (Short)

Screen Actors (1950)
Himself

Life Events

1935

Broadway debut

1941

Film debut in "The Little Foxes"

Photo Collections

Too Late for Tears - Movie Poster
Too Late for Tears - Movie Poster
Too Late for Tears - Lobby Cards
Too Late for Tears - Lobby Cards
Too Late for Tears - Publicity Stills
Too Late for Tears - Publicity Stills
The Burglar - Movie Posters
The Burglar - Movie Posters
Ride Clear of Diablo - British Front-of-House Stills
Ride Clear of Diablo - British Front-of-House Stills
The Burglar - Lobby Card Set
The Burglar - Lobby Card Set
Scarlet Street - Movie Posters
Scarlet Street - Movie Posters
Ride Clear of Diablo - Movie Posters
Here are a few original movie posters for Universal Pictures' Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), starring Audie Murphy and Dan Duryea.

Videos

Movie Clip

Ball Of Fire (1942) - Shove In Your Clutch Sugarpuss (Barbara Stanwyck) briefed backstage by thugs Pastrami (Dan Duryea) and Asthma (Ralph Peters), all of them mistaking Professor Potts (Gary Cooper) for a lawman, in Howard Hawks' Ball Of Fire, 1942, from an original script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.
Sahara (1943) - Opening: In Your Own Language, Scram! With standard wartime context provided in the credits from Columbia, Zoltan Korda's North Africa tank drama Sahara, 1943, begins with bad news for Jimmy (Dan Duryea), Waco (Bruce Bennett) and Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart).
Sahara (1943) - We Like Chestnuts American Sgt. Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) is bluffing when he offers water to German Major Von Falken (John Wengraf), whose superior forces have his unit surrounded, in North Africa, 1942, a critical moment in director Zoltan Korda's Sahara, 1943.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - What Kind Of A Guy Is He? Alice (Joan Bennett) serves a drink to the blackmailer Heidt (Dan Duryea) in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window, 1944.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) - Eat The Monkey Brit officer Harris (Peter Finch) organizes, pilot Towns (James Stewart) his ally, accountant Dan Duryea frets, Ernest Borgnine surrenders his radio, Hardy Kruger interferes, Richard Attenborough, Christian Marquand, George Kennedy, Ian Bannen in the mix, in The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
Flight Of The Phoenix, The (1965) - Send Up Some Smoke Stranded in the Libyan desert, survivors George Kennedy and Ian Bannen try to dissuade Alex Montoya from joining Harris (Peter Finch) to seek water, pilot Towns (James Stewart) and Moran (Richard Attenborough) seeing them off, in Robert Aldrich's The Flight Of The Phoenix, 1965.
Scarlet Street (1945) - Not Even When I Was Young Following his testimonial dinner, Chris (Edward G. Robinson) with Charlie (Samuel S. Hinds) discussing their bosses' mistress, then meeting Kitty (Joan Bennett), in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, 1945.
Scarlet Street (1945) - Use Your Imagination The scene confirming that Johnny (Dan Duryea), previously seen beating Kitty (Joan Bennett), is in fact her boyfriend, who now schemes to fleece her incorrectly presumed-rich suitor, in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, 1945.
Little Foxes, The (1941) - Not Even A Whole Violin Spectacular bit between Dan Duryea as shiftless Leo and Carl Benton Reid, his even more brazen father, discussing what might be done with their uncle and brother-in-law’s dormant assets, while they shave, in the circa 1900 South, William Wyler directing from Lillian Hellman’s script, in The Little Foxes, 1941.
Little Foxes, The (1941) - Good Names Are Always Useful Alexandra (Teresa Wright) arriving home from a ride, as we meet her aunt Birdie (Patricia Collinge), uncle Ben (Charles Dingle), mother Regina (Bette Davis), Birdie's husband and other uncle Oscar (Carl Benton Reid) and son Leo (Dan Duryea), early in William Wyler's The Little Foxes, 1941.
Pride Of The Yankees, The (1943) - Lou Lou Lou! Elaborate recreation of a real event from the 1928 World Series, Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) hitting two home runs "for" ailing Billy (Gene Collins), family (Ludwig Stossel, Elsa Janssen) and spouse Eleanor (Teresa Wright) on the radio, in The Pride Of The Yankees, 1943.
Pride Of The Yankees, The (1943) - The Last Straw On the team train, (the real!) Babe Ruth and fellow Yankees (Mark Koenig, Bill Dickey et al) sucker Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) into a joke, sportswriters Hank (Dan Duryea) and Sam (Walter Brennan) observing, in The Pride Of The Yankees, 1943.

Trailer

Winchester '73 - (Re-issue Trailer) A man (James Stewart) combs the West in search of his stolen rifle. Co-starring Shelley Winters. Directed by Anthony Mann.
Lady On A Train (1945) -- (Original Trailer) Yes, there is a Deanna Durbin murder mystery! The trailer from Universal emphasizing provocative elements for the 21-year old who was by then Hollywood’s highest-paid female star, in Lady On A Train, 1945.
Along Came Jones -- (Original Trailer) Gary Cooper spoofs his screen image playing a mild-mannered cowboy who is mistaken for a notorious outlaw in Along Came Jones (1945).
Burglar, The - (Original Trailer) A band of crooks robs a spiritualist in The Burglar (1956).
Woman in the Window, The - (Original Trailer) Joan Bennett gets innocent professor Edward G. Robinson mixed up in murder in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944).
Night Passage - (Original Trailer) James Stewart's guarding the railroad's money and his brother Audie Murphy is out to take it in the western adventure Night Passage (1957).
Criss Cross - (Re-issue Trailer) Burt Lancaster is an armored-car driver pulled into a bank heist in the film noir classic Criss Cross (1949).
Thunder Bay - (Original Trailer) James Stewart wants to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Local shrimp fishermen say no, violently in Anthony Mann's Thunder Bay (1953).
Ball Of Fire - (Original Trailer) A stuffy professor (Gary Cooper) takes in a sexy showgirl (Barbara Stanwyck) to study her syntax in Howard Hawks' Ball Of Fire (1942).
None But The Lonely Heart - (Re-issue Trailer) A young ne'er-do-well (Cary Grant) tries to get his life on track to help his ailing mother (Ethel Barrymore) in None But The Lonely Heart (1944).
Main Street After Dark - (Original Trailer) Lieutenant Lorrigan (Edward Arnold) goes after a family of pickpockets working Main Street After Dark (1945).
Flight of the Phoenix, The - (Original Trailer) The survivors of a desert plane crash fight to get back in the air in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).

Family

Peter Duryea
Son
Actor.

Bibliography

Notes

"The heel with sex appeal." --From his obituary in The New York Times, June 8, 1968.