Two Film Noir Icons Die Within a Week of Each Other

Director Jules Dassin has died at age 96 today. Actor Richard Widmark died Monday, March 24. He was 93. Dassin and Widmark were major contributors to the film noir era. Their careers are recapitulated in The New York Times.

Richard Severo writes, “In 1962, with his best films largely behind him, Mr. Dassin told Cue magazine: ‘Of my own films, there’s only one I’ve really liked — ‘He Who Must Die.’ That is, I like what it had to say.” The film, released in 1957, is set on the island of Crete as locals prepare for their annual Passion Play performance. Things go wrong between two priests.

Widmark worked in over 60 movies and was one of my favorites. Two of his credits include Kiss of Death (1947) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Under the direction of Jules Dassin, he played in Night and the City (1950).

Aljean Harmetz recounts Widmark’s explanation, in a 1995 interview with The Guardian, for forming his own production company in the 1950s. Widmark said, “The businessmen who run Hollywood today have no self-respect. . . . What interests them is not movies but the bottom line. Look at ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ which turns idiocy into something positive, or ‘Forrest Gump,’ a hymn to stupidity. ‘Intellectual’ has become a dirty word.”

Harmetz adds that Widmark “vowed that he would never appear on a television talk show, saying, ‘When I see people destroying their privacy — what they think, what they feel — by beaming it out to millions of viewers, I think it cheapens them as individuals.’”

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