The other famous Crawford in movies. (Did someone say, “Joan?”)
Our man Broderick Crawford was born in Philadelphia in 1910, the son of vaudevillians Lester Crawford and Helen Broderick, who went on to a fine career as a second lead-comic relief “dame” in many of RKO’s top hits of the 1930s.
The Crawford fils was burly, fast talking and belligerent, ideal for roles as bad guys and cops.
He won an Oscar for his memorable performance as a Southern political demagogue — evoking Louisiana’s Huey Long — in director Robert Rossen’s 1949 drama All The King’s Men. He was even better in George Cukor’s 1950 comedy Born Yesterday, costarring Judy Holliday.
On tv, Crawford is best remembered for his “10-4”-spouting turns as Police Captain Dan Matthews in the mid-to-late Fifties series, Highway Patrol.
Our favorite Crawford story stems from his portrayal of bad-guy politician versus Clark Gable’s good-guy cattleman in MGM’s 1952 extravaganza, Lone Star.
The director (Vincent Sherman) and the cast (which included Ava Gardner) harbored no illusions about the quality of this overblown western. “It was a terrible picture,” Sherman later recalled. According Gardner biographer Lee Server, “Crawford was often in an alcoholic stupor while filming.”
In one scene, Gable on horseback confronted Crawford, demanding to know what are we going to do about the people?
Writes Server in his Gardner biography: Crawford was out of it, just couldn’t remember his line…Without breaking character, he screams, ‘Fuck the people!’ And he rides away on his horse…Ava just fell on her ass, screaming with laughter.
Ok, let’s see how you do on our Crawford Mini-Quiz. As usual, questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: Crawford supposedly based his loud-mouth lunk character — a vulgarian businessman — in Born Yesterday on the mannerisms of a prominent studio mogul at the time. Who was he? a) Samuel Goldwyn; b) Louis B.Mayer; c) Harry Cohn; or d) Jack Warner.
2) Question: Crawford, noted for his alcohol-fueled antics on movie sets, was paired in this respect with which one of the following actors? a) Lon Chaney Jr. ; b) Robert Stack; c) Robert Mitchum; or d) Rock Hudson.
3) Question: In a 1955 film directed by one of Italy’s finest directors, Crawford plays a confidence man disguised as a rural priest. Can you name the picture and its famous director?
4) Question: Crawford was known as one tough nut both offscreen and on, but few were prepared for the sheer ferocity of his performance as Rollo Lamar, the toughest of the violent characters populating 1955’s Big House U.S.A. Which of the following cast members did NOT play Crawford’s phychotic cellmates? a) Charles Bronson; b) Ralph Meeker; c) William Talman; or d) Ronald Colman.
5) Question: Take a guess as to how many movies Crawford made in his Hollywood career. a) 50; b) 62; c) 81; or d) 145?