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Duryea, Dan


Nationality: American. Born: White Plains, New York, 23 January 1907. Education: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Family: Married Helen (Duryea) (died 1976), sons: Peter and Richard. Career: Early 1930s—worked in advertising, quit after heart attack; 1935—debut on Broadway in Sidney Kingsley's Dead End; 1939—critical acclaim for role of Leo in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes on Broadway, and in film version, 1941; mid-1940s—contract with Universal; 1952–55—in TV series China Smith; 1967–68—in TV series Peyton Place as Eddie Jacks. Died: Of cancer in Hollywood, 8 June 1968.

Films as Actor:


The Little Foxes (Wyler) (as Leo Hubbard); Ball of Fire (Hawks)


The Pride of the Yankees (Wood); That Other Woman (Ray McCarey)


Sahara (Zoltan Korda); Ministry of Fear (Lang)


Man from Frisco (Florey); The Woman in the Window (Lang); Mrs. Parkington (Garnett); None but the Lonely Heart (Odets); Main Street after Dark (Cahn)


The Great Flamarion (Mann); The Valley of Decision (Garnett); Along Came Jones (Heisler); Lady on a Train (David); Scarlet Street (Lang)


The Black Angel (Neill); White Tie and Tails (Barton)


Black Bart (Black Bart, Highwayman) (Sherman); Another Part of the Forest (Gordon); River Lady (Sherman); Larceny (Sherman); Criss Cross (Siodmak)


Manhandled (Foster); Too Late for Tears (Haskin); Johnny Stool Pigeon (Castle)


One Way Street (Fregonese); Winchester '73 (Mann); The Underworld Story (The Whipped) (Endfield)


Al Jennings of Oklahoma (Nazzaro); Chicago Calling (Reinhardt)


Thunder Bay (Mann); Sky Commando (Sears); Thirty-Six Hours (Terror Street) (Tully); Ride Clear of Diablo (Hibbs)


World for Ransom (Aldrich); Rails into Laramie (Hibbs); Silver Lode (Dwan); This Is My Love (Heisler)


Foxfire (Pevney); The Marauders (Mayer); Storm Fear (Wilde)


The Burglar (Wendkos); Battle Hymn (Sirk); Kathy O' (Sher); Night Passage (Neilson); Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (Laven)


Gunfight at Sandoval (Keller—for TV); Platinum High School (Rich, Young, and Deadly) (Haas)


Six Black Horses (Keller)


He Rides Tall (Springsteen); Do You Know This Voice? (Nesbitt); Walk a Tightrope (Nesbitt)


Taggart (Springsteen)


The Bounty Killer (Bennet); The Flight of the Phoenix (Aldrich); Incident at Phantom Hill (Bellamy)


Un fiume di dollari (The Hills Run Red) (Beaver, i.e. Carlo Lizzani)


Winchester '73 (Daugherty—for TV); Five Golden Dragons (Summers); Stranger on the Run (Siegel—for TV)


The Bamboo Saucer (Telford)


On DURYEA: articles—

Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), March 1981.

Michelson, Leon M., "Dan Duryea: Playing Villains Pays Well," in Video Movies (Skokie, Illinois), October 1984.

Dolven, Frank, "Dan Duryea: Charming Villain," in Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), April 1996.

* * *

Dan Duryea's fate as a film actor was sealed with his first role as Leo Hubbard in The Little Foxes. The tall, almost emaciated actor with the slicked-back blond hair and the ready smirk became the 1940s' premier louse. Duryea made an art of selfish cynical opportunism. He developed a repertoire of understated shoulder shrugs, slight raisings of the eyebrow, a twitch of the mouth, and an almost imperceptible "suit-yourself, take-it-or-leave-it" movement of the hand. He became a master of the small signs of character that the camera could pick up, and he wielded his reedy, high voice like an irritating, cutting scimitar.

While his best known roles as the petty thief and blackmailer in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street allowed him to display his skill, his presence is as memorable in his portrayal of the reporter in Pride of the Yankees. As the evil counterpart for the lanky heroes of the 1940s, particularly Gary Cooper in Along Came Jones, Duryea brought out the emerging attitude of disillusionment toward the end of World War II and in the years after. In the 1950s Duryea's mocking image became less one to be faced and overcome by the hero than one which had to be accepted as part of the postwar world. As the neurotic, tubercular brother to Cornel Wilde in Storm Fear, Duryea was an uncomfortable alternative to the villain. As the tough sergeant in Battle Hymn, he portrayed a heroic cynic, and contributed to the character of the 1960s anti-hero. By 1965, Duryea's persona had developed its final twist. In The Flight of the Phoenix, he played a bespectacled passenger on a crashed plane who nervously supports rather than mirrors the lanky hero played by Jimmy Stewart. However, Duryea's mastery of the uncomfortable, deceitful, mocking and cynical villain had pioneered a new type of villainy carried on briefly by Richard Widmark, and finally turned to filmic art by Lee Marvin.

—Stuart Kaminsky

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