William Broderick Crawford (December 9, 1911 – April 26, 1986) was an American stage, film, radio, and television actor, often cast in tough-guy roles and best known for his Oscar and Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Willie Stark in All the King's Men and for his starring role as Dan Mathews in the television series Highway Patrol (1955–1959).
Until filming All the King's Men, Crawford's career had been largely limited to "B films" in supporting or character roles. He realized he did not fit the role of a handsome leading man, once describing himself as looking like a "retired pugilist". Nevertheless, he excelled in roles playing villains and authoritarian figures.
Crawford in The Interns (1971)
William Broderick Crawford
December 9, 1911
|Died||April 26, 1986 (aged 74)|
|Resting place||Ferndale Cemetery, Johnstown, New York|
(m. 1940; div. 1958)
(m. 1962; div. 1967)
Mary Alice Moore
(m. 1973; his death 1986)
Crawford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Lester Crawford and Helen Broderick, who were both vaudeville performers, as his grandparents had been. Lester appeared in films in the 1920s and 1930s. Helen Broderick had a career in Hollywood comedies, including a memorable appearance as Madge in the classic musical Top Hat and as Mabel Anderson in the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time.
Young William joined his parents on the stage, working for producer Max Gordon. After graduating from high school in Franklin, Massachusetts, Crawford was accepted by Harvard College where he enrolled. However, after only three weeks at Harvard he dropped out to work as a stevedore on the New York docks.
He played his first serious character as a footballer in She Loves Me Not at the Adelphi Theatre, London in 1932. Crawford was originally stereotyped as a fast-talking tough guy early in his career and often played villainous parts.
He gained fame in 1937 as Lenny in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. He moved to Hollywood and began working in films.
Crawford made his film debut for Sam Goldwyn in Woman Chases Man (1937). He was in Start Cheering (1938) at Columbia but missed out on reprising his stage performance as Lenny in the film version of Of Mice and Men, losing it to Lon Chaney Jr.
After appearing in Island of Lost Men (1939), Crawford had a Beau Geste style role in The Real Glory (1939). He appeared in two films for Walter Wanger and Tay Garnett, Eternally Yours (1939) and Slightly Honorable (1939).
Crawford moved over to Universal, where he was given his first starring role, in the "B", I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby (1940).
He had support parts in When the Daltons Rode (1940); Seven Sinners (1940), for Garnett; and Trail of the Vigilantes (1940). He went back to Paramount for Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) then returned to Universal for The Black Cat (1941), Tight Shoes (1941), and Badlands of Dakota (1941).
Crawford had one of the leads in South of Tahiti (1941) and North to the Klondike (1941). He supported Edward G. Robinson in Larceny, Inc. (1942) and George Raft in Broadway (1942), and co-starred with Robert Stack in Men of Texas (1942) and Constance Bennett in Sin Town (1942).
During World War II Crawford enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. Assigned to the Armed Forces Network, he was sent to Britain in 1944 as a sergeant, he served as an announcer for the Glenn Miller American Band. He was one of two announcers on Miller's weekly program I Sustain The Wings, prior to Miller and the band being shipped to England.
Crawford made The Flame (1947) for Republic, and The Time of Your Life (1948) for James Cagney's company. He went back to Paramount for Sealed Verdict (1948) and had a co-starring role in Bad Men of Tombstone (1949) for the King Brothers.
At Warner Bros Crawford was in A Kiss in the Dark (1949) with David Niven and Jane Wyman and Night Unto Night (1949) with Ronald Reagan and Viveca Lindfors. He was also in Monogram's Anna Lucasta (1949) with Paulette Goddard.
In 1949, Crawford reached the pinnacle of his acting career when he was cast as Willie Stark, a character inspired by and closely patterned after the life of Louisiana politician Huey Long, in All the King's Men, a film based on the popular novel by Robert Penn Warren. The film was a huge hit, and Crawford's performance as the bullying, blustering, yet insecure Governor Stark won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
The film was made by Columbia who put Crawford under contract. He co-starred with Glenn Ford in Convicted (1950), then starred in another hit 'A'-list production with William Holden and Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor.
Crawford returned to Columbia to star in some Westerns, Last of the Comanches (1953), and The Last Posse (1954). 20th Century Fox borrowed him to co-star with Gregory Peck in Nunnally Johnson's Night People (1954).
In 1955, Crawford assumed the starring role as Rollo Lamar, the most violent of convicts in Big House, U.S.A.. In the film, Crawford's character is a hardened convict so violent he commands the obedience of even the most violent and psychotic prisoners in the prison yard, including those portrayed by such famous tough-guy actors as Charles Bronson, Ralph Meeker, William Talman, and Lon Chaney, Jr..
In 1955, television producer Frederick Ziv of ZIV Television Productions offered Crawford the lead role as "Dan Mathews" in the police drama Highway Patrol, which dramatized law enforcement activities of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). ZIV Television Productions operated on an extremely low budget of $25,000 per episode of Highway Patrol with ten percent of gross receipts going to Crawford as per his contract. While the show's scripts were largely fictional, the use of realistic dialogue and Crawford's convincing portrayal of a hard-as-nails police official helped make the show an instant success. Highway Patrol remained popular during its four years (1955–1959) of first-run syndication, and would continue in repeat syndication on local stations across the United States for many years after. For much of the period from 1955 until 1965 most of Crawford's television roles involved ZIV Television, which was among the relative handful of producers willing to accept the occasional challenges inherent with working with the hard-living and hard-drinking Crawford. Years later, Frederick Ziv admitted in an interview, "To be honest, Broderick could be a handful!"
Highway Patrol helped revive Crawford's career and cement his 'tough guy' persona, which he used successfully in numerous movie and TV roles for the rest of his life.
During the series' run he appeared in The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) with Ford at MGM, a successful Western; Between Heaven and Hell (1956) with Robert Wagner at Fox, directed by Richard Fleischer; and The Decks Ran Red (1958) with James Mason for Andrew L. Stone.
Fed up with the show's hectic shooting schedule, Crawford quit Highway Patrol at the end of 1959 in order to make a film in Spain, and try to get his drinking under control.
His followup role, as diamond industry security man John King in the 1961-62 Ziv series King of Diamonds was a failure, the show lasting only one season.
Crawford's successful run as Dan Mathews in Highway Patrol earned him some two million dollars under his contract with ZIV, which eventually paid him in exchange for his agreement to sign for the pilot and subsequent production of a new ZIV production, King of Diamonds. Recently back from Europe, and having temporarily stopped drinking, Crawford was signed to play the starring role as diamond industry security chief John King. King of Diamonds was picked up for syndication in 1961, but ran for only one season before being cancelled. In 1962, after the end of King of Diamonds, Crawford returned to acting in motion pictures: Square of Violence (1962); Convicts 4 (1962); Javier Setó's The Castilian (1963); A House Is Not a Home (1964); Up from the Beach (1965); Kid Rodelo (1966); The Oscar (1966); The Texican (1966) with Audie Murphy; The Vulture (1967); Red Tomahawk (1967).
After 1970, Crawford again returned to television. From 1970–71, he played the role of Dr. Peter Goldstone in The Interns.
In 1977, he starred as J. Edgar Hoover in the TV movie The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover. He would eventually make a series of guest appearances on several TV programs, while starring in several made-for-TV movies.
Spoofing his most famous TV role, he wore the trademark fedora and black suit when he made an appearance as guest host of a 1977 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live that included a spoof of Highway Patrol.
In an episode of CHiPs Crawford appeared as himself, recognized after being stopped by Officer Poncherello, who presses a reluctant Crawford to give his trademark line from Highway Patrol ("Twenty-One-Fifty to Headquarters!"). Musician Webb Wilder's instrumental, "Ruff Rider" (on the album It Came From Nashville), is dedicated to Broderick Crawford in admiration of his Highway Patrol character's ability to solve any crime committed in California by setting up a road block. Crawford worked in 140 motion pictures and television series during his career and remained an especially durable presence in television.
Crawford is mentioned in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit in the scene where a patrol officer angrily confronts Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) and his damaged vehicle. When Justice starts to introduce himself, the trooper interrupts him and barks, "I don't care if your name is Broderick Crawford!"
His last role was as a film producer who is murdered in a 1982 episode of the Simon and Simon television series. The actor who played the part of the suspected murderer was Stuart Whitman, who had played the recurring part of Sergeant Walters on Highway Patrol.
Throughout his adult life, Crawford was prone to bouts of heavy alcohol consumption, and was known for eating large meals. These habits contributed to a serious weight gain for Crawford during the 1950s. His weight and penchant for heavy drinking contributed to several injuries suffered on the set of Highway Patrol. It became particularly difficult for Crawford to perform certain scenes, such as when he had to enter and exit a police helicopter. In 1958, Crawford broke his ankle while exiting the helicopter and was forced to wear an ankle cast, which may be seen in some episodes.
Crawford's heavy drinking increased during the filming of Highway Patrol, eventually resulting in several arrests and stops for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), which eventually gained him a suspended driving license. While representing the California Highway Patrol as "Chief Mathews", Crawford was known with considerable embarrassment by the CHP as "Old 502" due to his habit of driving under the influence of alcohol ("Code 502" was the CHP police radio code for drunken driving). According to the show's creator, Guy Daniels, "We got all the dialogue in by noon, or else we wouldn't get it done at all. He [Crawford] would bribe people to bring him booze on the set." The show used their CHP technical advisor, Officer Frank Runyon, to keep the actor sober: "I was told to keep that son of a bitch away from a bottle. I think his license was suspended. Some scenes had to be shot on private roads so that Brod could drive." Eventually the drinking strained the show's relationship with the CHP as well as Crawford's relationship with ZIV.
Crawford married three times. His first marriage was to actress Kay Griffith in 1940; the couple had two sons together, Christopher Broderick Crawford (1947-2002) and Kelly Griffith Crawford (1951–2012). Through his elder son, Christopher, Crawford has one grandchild, Katherine Lee Crawford (born 1970). Crawford's second marriage was to Joan Tabor in 1962; they divorced in 1967. His third and final marriage, which lasted until Crawford's death in 1986, was to Mary Alice Moore in 1973.
He died following a series of strokes in 1986 at the age of 74 in Rancho Mirage, California. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard and another for television at 6734 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1952||Hollywood Star Playhouse||Santa Is No Saint|
|1953||Cavalcade of America||Star and Shield|
|1954||Suspense||Parole to Panic|
All the King's Men is a 1949 American film noir written, produced, and directed by Robert Rossen. It is based on the Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name. The triple Oscar-winning production features Broderick Crawford in the role of the ambitious and sometimes ruthless politician, Willie Stark.Bad Men of Tombstone
Bad Men of Tombstone is a 1949 Western film from King Brothers Productions. It was co-written by Philip Yordan and stars Barry Sullivan and Broderick Crawford. King Brothers announced plans for a sequel, The Marshall of Tombstone but it was never made.Broadway (1942 film)
Broadway is a 1942 crime drama musical film directed by William A. Seiter and starring George Raft as himself and Pat O'Brien as a detective. The supporting cast features Janet Blair and Broderick Crawford.
Another fictionalized biographical movie based on Raft's life, The George Raft Story (1961) featured a different actor (Ray Danton) playing Raft.Butch Minds the Baby
Butch Minds the Baby is a 1942 American comedy film directed by Albert S. Rogell and written by Leonard Spigelgass. The film stars Virginia Bruce, Broderick Crawford, Dick Foran, Porter Hall, Richard Lane and Shemp Howard. The film was released on March 20, 1942, by Universal Pictures.Convicted (1950 film)
Convicted is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Henry Levin starring Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford. It was the third Columbia Pictures film adaptation of the 1929 stage play The Criminal Code by Martin Flavin, following Howard Hawk's The Criminal Code (1931) and John Brahm's Penitentiary (1938).Eternally Yours (film)
Eternally Yours is a 1939 American comedy drama film produced and directed by Tay Garnett with Walter Wanger as executive producer, from a screenplay by C. Graham Baker and Gene Towne. The film stars Loretta Young and David Niven, and also features a strong supporting cast including Broderick Crawford, Billie Burke, Eve Arden, ZaSu Pitts, and C. Aubrey Smith. Composer Werner Janssen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music.Goliath and the Dragon
Goliath and the Dragon (Italian: La vendetta di Ercole, lit. 'Revenge of Hercules') international co-production peplum film starring Mark Forest and Broderick Crawford. The identity of the title character was changed from Hercules to Emilius known as Goliath for release in North America by American International Pictures to tie in with their previous use of "Goliath" in Goliath and the Barbarians (1959).
The American version of the film was produced by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff, with Lee Kresel serving as dubbing director.Harlequin (film)
Harlequin (known as Dark Forces in US) is a 1980 Australian thriller film directed by Simon Wincer and starring Robert Powell, Carmen Duncan, David Hemmings and Broderick Crawford. The film is a modern-day version of Rasputin's story: the major characters have the same first names as Rasputin and the Romanov royal family; and their family name, 'Rast', is simply the word 'Tsar' backwards.I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby (film)
I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby is a 1940 American musical comedy film starring Broderick Crawford and Jessie Ralph. It was also released under the title Trouble in B flat.Larceny, Inc.
Larceny, Inc. is an American film. Originally released on May 2, 1942 by Warner Brothers, the film is a cross between the comedy and gangster genres. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, the picture stars Edward G. Robinson, Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford, and Jack Carson, and features Anthony Quinn, and Edward Brophy.
The film is based on the play The Night Before Christmas by Laura Perelman and S. J. Perelman.Last of the Comanches
Last of the Comanches (released in the UK as The Sabre and the Arrow) is a 1953 American Technicolor Western film directed by Andre DeToth, starring Broderick Crawford and Barbara Hale. The film is a remake of the 1943 World War II film Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart. Lloyd Bridges appeared in both films.Men of Texas
Men of Texas is a 1942 American Western film directed by Ray Enright and starring Robert Stack and Broderick Crawford.Sin Town (1942 film)
Sin Town is a 1942 American western film directed by Ray Enright and starring Constance Bennett, Broderick Crawford and Patric Knowles. It is set during the Texas Oil Boom of the early 20th century.Stop, You're Killing Me
There was also a Two Ronnies mini-series of this name.Stop, You're Killing Me is a 1952 film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Broderick Crawford and Claire Trevor.The Last Posse
The Last Posse is a 1953 American black-and-white western film directed by Alfred L. Werker. The film stars Broderick Crawford, John Derek, Charles Bickford and Wanda Hendrix.The Runaround (1946 film)
The Runaround is a 1946 American black-and-white film directed by Charles Lamont and starring Rod Cameron, Ella Raines, Broderick Crawford, and Frank McHugh. The film is also known as Deadly Enemies.The Texican
The Texican is a Technicolor 1966 Techniscope film produced and written by John C. Champion and directed by Lesley Selander. It is a paella western remake of their 1948 film Panhandle adapted for the persona of Audie Murphy that featured Broderick Crawford as the heavy. The film was retitled Ringo il Texano in Italy to coincide with the popularity of the Ringo spaghetti western film series.Trail of the Vigilantes
Trail of the Vigilantes is a 1940 75-minute black-and-white Western comedy directed by Allan Dwan, written by Harold Shumate, and featuring Franchot Tone, Warren William, Broderick Crawford and Andy Devine.Undercover Doctor
Undercover Doctor is a 1939 American crime film directed by Louis King, written by William R. Lipman and Horace McCoy, and starring Lloyd Nolan, Janice Logan, J. Carrol Naish, Heather Angel, Broderick Crawford and Robert Wilcox. It was released on June 9, 1939, by Paramount Pictures.