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More Widmark films to check out

Published: Monday, March 10, 2014 2:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 10, 2014 2:06 p.m. CDT

Princeton area residents who want to rediscover hometown Hollywood star Richard Widmark now have eight more of his movies close at hand.

Among the movies I was pleased to donate to the Princeton Public Library are two films that illustrate the chronological range of talented performers with whom Widmark acted.

In 1955’s “The Cobweb,” a soap opera-style movie based in a posh psychiatric clinic, Widmark’s co-stars were Lauren Bacall (Humphrey Bogart’s wife), Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame and Lillian Gish — a celebrated silent film star of the 1910s and 1920s.

Fast-forward to 1991’s “True Colors,” a political drama that was Widmark’s last movie. He played a supporting role to the film’s young co-stars, John Cusack and James Spader, both of whom are active today in the film industry.

Widmark’s 44-year Hollywood career thus has acting connections that span the 1910s to the 2010s – amazing!

I particularly enjoyed watching “Red Skies of Montana,” a 1952 film where Widmark plays the leader of a crew of firefighters who deploy by parachute to battle forest fires. Jeffrey Hunter co-stars as a young firefighter who seeks revenge against Widmark’s character after his father dies in a flareup.

“Death of a Gunfighter,” a 1969 film that some consider Widmark’s final movie as a leading man before he transitioned to character roles, features legendary singer Lena Horne. Widmark’s stockyard confrontation with villain Carroll O’Connor, who went on to play Archie Bunker in TV’s “All in the Family,” is not to be missed.

Other DVDs new to the library’s Widmark collection are “My Pal Gus” (1952), which supplements the library’s existing VHS copy; “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (1977), a nuclear hostage drama starring Burt Lancaster; “The Domino Principle” (1977), which stars Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen; and “National Lampoon’s Movie Madness” (1982), with Robbie Benson and Christopher Lloyd.

It’s clear to me that this 1932 graduate of Princeton High School kept pretty good company on the silver screen. If it’s true that “you’re known by the company you keep,” Widmark deserves to be known, and long remembered, as the enduring and exceptional actor he was.

The library’s collection now numbers nearly 50 of his 72 movies, representing a wide variety of genres.

The next time you visit the library, treat yourself to a Richard Widmark movie.

The next Widmark Wednesday film, by the way, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the library. One of Widmark’s finest film noir movies, a 1950 classic that was shot in London, will be shown. Mark your calendars!

Jim Dunn

Ohio, Ill.

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