So, how much did you know about our “quiet star,” Robert Ryan?
Although he excelled in a wide range of film noir movies, he was equally adept — if not more so — in westerns (see above). Who can forget his extraordinary performance as no-illusions bounty hunter ‘Deke Thornton’ in 1969’s The Wild Bunch.
Ryan had a long and productive career, and in some respects the roles got better as he got older. Still, he lamented until the end that he was constantly being offered nothing but “Goddamed ‘B’ pictures.” Ryan was too hard on himself. His career offers a profusion of memorable pictures — A-list and otherwise.
Let’s get to the answers to our Robert Ryan quiz. As usual, scroll down to the blog below to refresh yourselves about the questions. Here we go:
1) Answer: Ryan’s career took off after his riveting portrayal of an anti-Semitic nasty in a) 1947’s Crossfire. The picture against all odds was a big hit, and Ryan was established. So much so that he was nominated for an Oscar in best supporting actor category for his performance. The bad news: to a large degree Ryan was then typecast as a mentally unbalanced villain in need of anger management.
2) Answer: In 1949’s The Set-Up, Ryan plays an over-the-hill boxer who runs afoul of the mob because he does NOT take a dive. This is an excellent movie with Ryan showing off his (c) athletic form to great advantage — a rare example of a classic movie actor not appearing ridiculous playing a professional pugilist. Ryan, a boxing champ in both college and in the U.S. Marines, was perfectly qualified for his leading role
3) Answer: As mentioned above, Ryan’s Oscar nomination was for Crossfire. He lost out to winner Edmund Gwenn for Miracle on 34th Street.
4) Answer: b) False. Politically, Ryan was Wayne’s opposite, a confirmed liberal.
5) Answer: a) True. A native of Chicago, Ryan attended Dartmouth College where he studied theater. He fancied himself a writer and harbored ambitions in that direction. But the Great Depression intruded, and Ryan turned to acting to pay the bills.
6) Answer: b) False. Ryan made The Wild Bunch in 1969, four years before his death of lung cancer. The year he died, however, he appeared with pal Lee Marvin in a big screen version of Eugene O’Neill’s marvelous play, The Iceman Cometh. Ryan knew at the time that his performance would be his last, and it’s a beauty.
7) Answer: Ryan did NOT appear with c) Dan Dailey and d) Jane Powell. He teamed with Ginger Rogers in 1943’s Tender Comrade, his first big starring role. He costarred with Harry Belafonte in the superb 1959 thriller, Odds Against Tomorrow. If you haven’t seen the latter, do so immediately.
8) Answer: Ryan admired and envied c) Cary Grant. Whereas Ryan said he toiled on remote, sweaty locales sporting a two day beard when making westerns, Grant worked almost exclusively on “fabulous locations” — Monte Carlo, Paris and the Riviera.
9) Answer: b) False. Ryan married just once, in 1939 to ex-actress Jessica Cadwalader, and it lasted until her death a year before his in 1972.
10) Answer: Nothing personal, it’s just that Ryan sometimes resented Gregory Peck for getting the starring roles Ryan yearned for.