Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good Guy Gone Bad

Hard to believe, but this fresh-faced, clean-cut, angelic-looking choir boy would eventually become one of Hollywood's go-to villains: handsome tough Dan Duryea. In his earliest films, though, Duryea often played the wishy-washy, unsympathetic weakling (including the 1941 film adaptation of The Little Foxes, in a role he originated on Broadway). It wasn't long, however, before producers began capitalizing on his sexy-yet-sinister presence, casting him as the charismatic bad guy in such noir classics as The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1946), and Criss Cross (1949); in the latter, the formidable Duryea manages to off Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo!

Other handsome villains followed in Duryea's footsteps, including Richard Widmark, David Brian and, later, Aldo Ray; but arguably, no one played the part better. With the decline of film noir in the 1950's, Duryea transitioned easily into Westerns, along with the occasional romantic potboiler, his hulking presence well-matched by some positively Amazonian co-stars: most memorably, the turgid This is My Love (1954) with Linda Darnell and Faith Domergue, and the equally hot-blooded Foxfire (1955) with Jane Russell and Mara Corday.

In contrast to his menacing screen persona, Duryea was the quintessential family man: a PTA parent who was married to the same woman for 35 years until her death. If he never became a superstar, Dan Duryea did carve out a niche for himself as one of the classic villains of the film noir era, and remained a solidly reliable performer up until his untimely death from cancer at age 61.

January 23, 1907 - June 7, 1968


  1. Loved him as the comical tough guy Duke Pastrami, in "Ball Of Fire."

    "He sends ya' a love message. He says to tell ya' he gets more bang outta' you den any dame he ever knew.

  2. Fascinating - never heard of him before! Jx