Like Sidney Greenstreet, Laird Cregar was a big man — standing 6-feet-three-inches tall, and weighing as much as 300 pounds — with a powerful voice. He was tailormade for costumes dramas, swashbucklers and, best of all, a creepy film noir or two. He was heading for an exceptional career in the early 1940s.
But something unexpected happened — he died, at age 31. His film, career almost exclusively at 20th Century Fox, covered 16 titles in just five years, 1940 to 1945.
Unlike Greenstreet, Cregar never graduated over time from strong character actor to top-of-the-line star. Still, he had a principal role right alongside Fox heavyweight Tyrone Power in 1942’s The Black Swan . With the Alan Ladd–Veronica Lake duo, he appeared in This Gun For Hire
Laird became one of Hollywood most reliable heavies. Check him out in the excellent 1941 Fox noir, I Wake Up Screaming, co-starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Betty Grable in her first and only non-musical role. Cregar all-too-convincingly plays the creepy villain.
His last movie outing in 1945 was in Hanover Square, paired this time with Linda Darnell. He died of heart failure following surgery for an intestinal ailment. Cregar’s overburdened his system trying to lose a large amount of weight in a very short period. A richly promising career was over much too quickly.