Kiss Of Death

Kiss Of Death

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Kiss Of Death

Edited highlights from an interview Richard Widmark gave to Adrian Wooton at the National Film Theatre, London, in 2002, when he was 88, are nothing short of terrific. The only downside is Wooton’s off screen laughter, which occasionally drowns out Widmark’s anecdotes.

Born in Minnesota, he moved to Chicago and taught drama at the college where he graduated in Speech & Political Science before heading for New York where he worked in radio (Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories) and the theatre. Offered a screen test in Hollywood for the role of the psychopath Tommy Udo in the 20th Century Fox picture Kiss Of Death, he made the trip. The director Henry Hathaway wanted a nightclub comic, called Harry the Hipster, to play the part, but Fox boss Darryl Zanuck, who had seen and liked the test, insisted on the unknown Widmark. As a result, Hathaway gave him a terrible time at the start – he was only required for 13 days – until his first scene at a boxing bout, surrounded by a room-full of extras, when the director shouted at him constantly and Widmark walked off, saying, “I don’t want to be in pictures; I’ve had enough.” Hathaway’s assistant rushed after him with an invitation to lunch the next day. “I went,” Widmark recalls. “Nothing was said.” He returned to work, after which Hathaway was as sweet as pie and they went on to make five more movies together.

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Widmark talks of the studio system in Hollywood, which many actors hated and called exploitative. He says it was like being in college and loved the sense of security. During the seven years he was under contract to Zanuck (“He was a tough cookie as a producer, but good with writers”), he made two or three movies a year.

He is affectionate towards “the Irish drunk” John Ford, who could be a tyrant on the set. “I found him so funny, I couldn’t wait to go to work in the morning,” unlike Otto Preminger, with whom he made St Joan. “Actors all wanted to avoid Otto,” he remembers.

He talks about making Night And The City with director Jules Dassin, whom he admired tremendously, in a bomb damaged London soon after the war, and The Alamo with “Duke” Wayne directing, helped (maybe hindered) by the presence of his mentor Ford.

He has a lot of stories, mostly hilarious, and for a guy who never had any formal training he is crystal clear when he talks about the craft of acting, as well as being generous and complimentary towards his friends.

“I’ve had a very lucky, happy life and I don’t regret turning anything down.”

Turning what down, Dick? He doesn’t say.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2007
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Kiss Of Death packshot
When the criminal code is broken, there's a killer loose in New York.
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Product Code: BFIVD676

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.33:1

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Interview with Richard Widmark; trailer

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