He was a really BIG star in the 1940s, but is almost totally forgotten today. Why that is a question we throw open to our readers. Tell us why, please.
Cornel Wilde — born in what is now Slovakia as Kornel Weisz in 1912 — is eclipsed in the fog of Hollywood history while, say, Erroll Flynn, a fellow sword and swordsman, stubbornly sticks in our collective memory. And, honestly, we don’t know quite why that is.
Wilde starred in some pretty big pictures over the course of a half-century career, and was a director of note. He was an athlete-scholar, a skilled linguist (he reportedly spoke five plus English) and was a forceful actor. Why doesn’t he register more today?
Even in profile, she (the woman above) looks gorgeous. She’s Jean Wallace, the beautiful blond second wife of our Quiz subject, Cornel Wilde.
They were married from 1951 through 1982, and the union was professionally productive. They were paired in several pictures, war dramas, film noir titles, and an occasional historical drama. Check them out, for example, in 1963’s Sword of Lancelot with Wilde as the title character and Wallace as Guinevere. One good-looking duo.
They were almost a John Derek-like couple. (Remember? His wife was named Bo.) Wilde was Wallace’s Svengali, directing and controlling her performances in what he believed were challenging movies. And she looked great — one of the cinema’s true Eves, wrote British critic David Thomson.
What is perhaps most interesting today about the actress is her colorful pre-Wildean private life. She married a much older Franchot Tone in 1941. It lasted through most of the Forties. The divorce was nasty. She charged that he had an affair with bombshell Barbara Payton (true!) while he cited her fling with Hollywood mobster Johnny Stompanato (he of Lana Turner fame).
There were suicide attempts, drunken driving charges and Wallace’s loss to Tone of custody of the couple’s two children. After all that, marriage to Wilde must have been a walk in the park.
Some other Cornel Wilde tidbits:
— Leave Her To Heaven, the 20th Century Fox drama costars Wilde as a writer who is the obsessive love interest of a pretty socialite. As the latter Gene Tierney gives a stunning performance, one that still is frightening to behold. She, not Wilde, steals the show. If you haven’t seen this 1945 outing, do so soonest.
— Among other things, Wilde was a superb fencer. He almost participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team.
— The 29-year-old Wilde was cast in director Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra, the 1941 crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. It was one of Bogie’s biggest early-career hits. Wilde, who plays one Louis Mendoza, later became close friends with Lupino.