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Get involved with Widmark

Published: Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 1:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 1:05 p.m. CDT

There will be a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Bureau County Republican’s meeting room to organize a Richard Widmark Centennial Committee.

The public is cordially invited to attend and get involved in honoring this Hollywood star who considered Princeton to be his hometown.

As of now, the committee exists only on paper. It will take participation from the community to turn it into reality.

Richard Widmark lived in Princeton for seven years as a youth, but those seven years were vital in forming the foundation of his future. Bart Kassabaum’s excellent Letter to the Editor, “Princeton’s effect on Widmark … and vice versa,” in Saturday’s paper did a good job explaining the connection.

Bart not only is a long-time student of Widmark’s career but an accomplished artist who last year created “The Widmark Look,” an artistic tribute to Widmark’s many film characters, his well-known co-stars, his life, his family and his Princeton connections.

Not every community can lay claim to being the hometown of a movie star. My interest in Widmark began in earnest only a year and a half ago, when I realized the 100th anniversary of Widmark’s birth in 2014 was approaching, yet I could find little that had been done in Princeton to commemorate him.

To prime the pump, I wrote a few items for the paper, bought and donated some Widmark DVDs to the Princeton Public Library (which then launched the Widmark Wednesday film series, for which I thank them), and generally tried to talk up the idea that Princeton should rediscover this guy.

And I believe he is worth rediscovering and commemorating. He appeared in more than 70 movies, many in starring roles, over a 44-year career. He won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Great Western Performers Hall of Fame.

His performances are strong. Many of his movies stand the test of time. For example, “Red Skies of Montana,” in which he plays the leader of a crew that parachutes in to battle forest fires, has parallels to modern times. (I’ll be donating that DVD to the library soon.)

Through it all, this tough-guy actor remained a loyal family man to his wife and daughter. He avoided the pitfalls of stardom, unlike many of his contemporaries. He also excelled on the stage and in radio dramas. (For an example, search YouTube for “Richard Widmark Death Bound,” an Inner Sanctum radio mystery from 1947. It’ll scare your socks off.)

Other Midwestern communities have done various things to honor their hometown Hollywood stars with museum displays, film festivals, and other events. Thursday’s meeting is an opportunity for Princeton to begin doing the same.

Please attend and get involved. Thank you.

Jim Dunn

Ohio, Ill.

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