Cornel Wilde

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Cornel Wilde
Frame of a film. A man wearing a suit and tie is smiling towards the camera. The words "CORNEL WILDE" are superposed on the image across the bottom of the frame.
Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
Born Kornél Lajos Weisz
(1912-10-13)October 13, 1912[1]
Privigye, Hungary (now Prievidza, Slovakia)
Died October 16, 1989(1989-10-16) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California
Other names Clark Wales, Jefferson Pascal
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1935–87
Spouse(s)
Patricia Knight
(m. 1937; div. 1951)

Jean Wallace
(m. 1951; div. 1981)
Children 2

Cornel Wilde (October 13, 1912 – October 16, 1989) was a Hungarian-American actor and film director.

Wilde's acting career began in 1935, when he made his debut on Broadway. In 1936 he began making small, uncredited appearances in films. By the 1940s, he had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, and by the mid-1940s, he was a major leading man. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in 1945's A Song to Remember. In the 1950s, he moved to writing, producing and directing films, and still continued his career as an actor.

Early life[edit]

Kornél Lajos Weisz was born in 1912[2][3] in Privigye, Kingdom of Hungary (now Prievidza, Slovakia),[4][5] although his year and place of birth are usually and inaccurately given as 1915 in New York City.[6][7] His Hungarian Jewish parents were Vojtech Béla Weisz (Americanized to Louis Bela Wilde) and Renée Mary Vid (Rayna Miryam). He was named for his paternal grandfather, and upon arrival in the U.S. at age 7 in 1920,[4] his name was Americanized to Cornelius Louis Wilde.[2]

A talented linguist and an astute mimic, he had an ear for languages which became apparent later in his acting career. Wilde attended the City College of New York as a pre-med student, completing the four-year course in three years and winning a scholarship to the Physicians and Surgeons College at Columbia University.[8]

He qualified for the United States fencing team for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, but quit the team before the games in order to take a role in the theater. In preparation for an acting career, he and his new wife Marjory Heinzen (later to be known as Patricia Knight) shaved years off their ages, three for him and five for her. As a result, most publicity records and subsequent sources wrongly indicate a 1915 birth for Wilde.

Career[edit]

After studying at Theodora Irvine's Studio of the Theatre, Wilde began appearing in plays in stock and in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1935 in Moon Over Mulberry Street. He also appeared in Love Is Not So Simple, Daughters of Etreus, and Having a Wonderful Time.

He did the illustrations for Fencing, a 1936 textbook on fencing[9] and wrote a fencing play, Touché, under the pseudonym Clark Wales in 1937.[10] He toured with Tallulah Bankhead in a production of Anthony and Cleopatra; during the run he married his co-star Patricia Knight.

Acting jobs were sporadic over the next few years. Wilde supplemented his income with exhibition fencing matches; his wife also did modelling work. Wilde wrote plays, some of which were performed by the New York Drama Guild.[11]

Wilde was hired as a fencing teacher by Laurence Olivier for his 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet and was given the role of Tybalt in the production. His performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract with Warner Bros.[10]

Early films[edit]

Warner Bros.[edit]

Wilde had an uncredited bit part in Lady with Red Hair (1940), then got a small part in High Sierra (1941), which included a scene with Humphrey Bogart. He also had small roles in Knockout (1941) and Kisses for Breakfast (1941).

20th Century Fox[edit]

Wilde was then signed by 20th Century Fox who gave him a good role in a B picture The Perfect Snob (1941). It was followed by a war movie Manila Calling (1942).

He was the romantic male lead in Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942), supporting Monty Woolley, and supported Sonja Henie in Wintertime (1943).

A Song to Remember and stardom[edit]

In 1945, Columbia Pictures began a search for someone to play the role of Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember. They eventually tested Wilde, and agreed to cast him in the role after some negotiation with Fox, who agreed to lend him to Columbia and one film a year for several years. Part of the deal involved Fox borrowing Alexander Knox from Columbia to appear in Wilson (1944).[12] A Song to Remember was a big hit, made Wilde a star and earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Columbia promptly used him in two more films, both swashbucklers: as Aladdin in A Thousand and One Nights with Evelyn Keyes[13] and as the son of Robin Hood in The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (made 1945, released 1946).

Back at Fox, he played the male lead in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), with Gene Tierney and Jeanne Crain, an enormous hit at the box office. So too when it was released was Bandit.

In 1946, Wilde was voted the 18th most popular star in the US, and in 1947 – 25th.[14] Fox announced him for Enchanted Voyage.[15] It ended up not being made; instead he was reunited with Crain in Fox's musical Centennial Summer (1946).

Suspension[edit]

In January 1946, Wilde was suspended by Fox for refusing the male lead in Margie (1946).[16] This suspension was soon lifted so Wilde could play the male lead in the studio's big budget version of Forever Amber (1947). Filming started, then was halted when the studio decided to replace Peggy Cummins, the female star. In October 1946, Wilde refused to return to work unless he was paid more; his salary was $3,000 a week, with six years to run - he wanted $150,000 per film for two films per year.[17] The parties came to an agreement and filming resumed. Wilde also appeared with Maureen O'Hara in The Homestretch (1947).

He was in a comedy at Columbia with Ginger Rogers, It Had to Be You (1947), then went back to Fox for The Walls of Jericho (1948), from the same director as Leave Her to Heaven but less popular. Road House (1948), for Fox, was a highly regarded noir and a decent-sized hit.

At Columbia, he was in Shockproof (1949), another noir, with his then-wife Patricia Knight. They appeared together in Western Wind, a play at the Cape Playhouse.[18]

Wilde made Swiss Tour, aka Four Days Leave (1949), an independent film in Switzerland. He returned to Fox for Two Flags West (1950), then went to RKO for At Sword's Point (filmed in 1949, but not released until 1952), a swashbuckler with Maureen O'Hara.

He played a trapeze artist in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) for Cecil B. de Mille, an enormous hit, though Wilde was one of several stars in the movie.

At Columbia, he was in California Conquest (1952), a Western for producer Sam Katzman. He went over to Warner Bros. for Operation Secret (1952), then was back at Fox for Treasure of the Golden Condor (1952).

He focused on adventure stories: Saadia (1953) for MGM, Star of India (1954) for United Artists. He had a part in the all-star executive drama Woman's World (1954) for Fox, then went back to action and adventure with Passion (1954) for RKO.

Producer and director[edit]

In the 1950s, Wilde and his second wife Jean Wallace formed their own film production company, Theodora, that was named after Theodora Irvine. Their first move was the film noir The Big Combo (1955), released through Allied Artists. Wilde and Wallace played the leads.

That same year, he appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy as himself and starred in The Scarlet Coat (1956) for MGM.

Storm Fear[edit]

Wilde produced and starred in another for Theodora with Wallace, Storm Fear (1956) from a script by Horton Foote. This time Wilde also directed.[19]

Theodora announced Wilde would play Lord Byron, but the film was never made.[20] Other announced projects included Curly and Second Act Curtin. Wilde was meant to appear as Joshua in de Mille's The Ten Commandments but was not in the final film.[21]

As an actor only, he appeared in Hot Blood (1956) with Jane Russell for director Nicholas Ray, and Beyond Mombasa (1956), shot in Kenya; both were released by Columbia. In 1957, he guest-starred on an episode of Father Knows Best as himself. Also in 1957, he played the role of the 13th century Persian poet Omar Khayyám in the film Omar Khayyam.

The Devil's Hairpin and Maracaibo[edit]

He produced, directed and starred in two films for Theodora that were released through Paramount: The Devil's Hairpin (1957), a car-racing drama, and Maracaibo (1958).

He had the lead in Edge of Eternity (1959) for director Don Siegel.

Lancelot and Guinevere[edit]

Wilde went to Italy to star in Constantine and the Cross (1962). In Britain, he wrote, produced, directed and starred in Lancelot and Guinevere (1963).

The Naked Prey[edit]

Wilde produced, directed, and starred in The Naked Prey (1965), in which he played a man stripped naked and chased by hunters from an African tribe affronted by the behavior of other members of his safari party. The original script was largely based on a true historical incident about a trapper named John Colter being pursued by Blackfeet Indians in Wyoming. Lower shooting costs, tax breaks, and material and logistical assistance offered by Rhodesia persuaded Wilde and the other producers to shoot the film on location in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It is probably his most highly regarded film as director.[22]

Beach Red[edit]

Wilde followed this with a war movie, Beach Red (1967). He announced Namugongo, another movie in Africa, about the White Fathers missionaries in the Kingdom of Buganda, but it was never made.[23] He had a supporting role in The Comic (1969), directed by Carl Reiner.

No Blade of Grass[edit]

He wrote, produced, and directed the science fiction film No Blade of Grass (1970).

During the early 1970s, Wilde took a break from motion pictures and theater to turn toward television. He appeared as an unethical surgeon in the 1971 Night Gallery episode "Deliveries in the Rear" and portrayed an anthropologist in the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles.

Shark's Treasure[edit]

He returned to film shortly thereafter and wrote, directed, and starred in the exploitation film Sharks' Treasure, a 1975 film intended to capitalize on the "Shark Fever" popular in the mid-1970s in the wake of the success of Peter Benchley's Jaws. He acted in The Norseman (1978) and The Fifth Musketeer (1979).

Personal life[edit]

He married the actress Patricia Knight in 1937. She appeared with him in Shockproof (1949). They had a daughter, Wendy (born February 22, 1943), and divorced in 1951.

He married the actress Jean Wallace in 1951. Wallace, formerly married to actor Franchot Tone, co-starred with Wilde in several films, including The Big Combo (1955), Lancelot and Guinevere, aka Sword of Lancelot (1963), and Beach Red (1967). Her two children from her marriage to Tone became Wilde's stepsons. They also had a son together, Cornel Wallace Wilde Jr. (born December 19, 1967). They divorced in 1981.

A Democrat, Wilde supported the campaign of Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election[24].

Death[edit]

Wilde died of leukemia three days after his 77th birthday. He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Cornel Wilde has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1635 Vine Street.

Partial filmography[edit]

As director[edit]

As actor[edit]

As writer[edit]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Screen Guild Players "Wuthering Heights"[25]
1952 Hollywood Star Playhouse "The End of Aunt Edlia"[26]
1953 Cavalcade of America "Down Brake"[27]
1954 Suspense "Somebody Help Me"[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as approximately 1912
  2. ^ a b http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/18413308/person/656253550(subscription required)
  3. ^ United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Austrian-Hungarian Empire and his birth year as approximately 1912. Furthermore, it indicates his immigration to the U.S. in 1920.
  4. ^ a b List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States, S.S. Noordam, Passengers Sailing from Rotterdam, May 4, 1920, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. iProvo, Utah, 2010.
  5. ^ Air Passenger Manifest, Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc. Flight 971/05, December 5, 1948. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Provo, Utah, 2010. In this immigration record, Wilde gives his birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as 1912.
  6. ^ Peter B. Flint (October 17, 1989). "Cornel Wilde, 74, a Performer and Film Producer". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Actor-Director Cornel Wilde Dies at 74". The Los Angeles Times. October 16, 1989.
  8. ^ Rhinelander Daily News, June 26, 1945, p. 4
  9. ^ "Cornel Wilde adds new skill". The Washington Post. October 1, 1947. closed access publication – behind paywall
  10. ^ a b Ingram, Frances Cornel Wilde: Gentle Swashbuckler, Classic Images, February 5, 2009
  11. ^ Masters, M. (1945, Dec 23). Cornel Wilde strong on psychological drama. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/165616212?accountid=13902
  12. ^ E. Challert (December 3, 1943). "Drama And Film". Los Angeles Times. closed access publication – behind paywall
  13. ^ "Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes In New Technicolor Arabia". Christian Science Monitor. July 13, 1945. p. 4.
  14. ^ Richard L. Coe (January 3, 1948). "Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ "Special to The New York Times". News of the Screen. The New York Times (1923-Current File). March 27, 1945. Retrieved October 9, 2018 – via ProQuest. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ H. Hopper (January 11, 1946). "Studio suspends Cornel Wilde". Los Angeles Times. closed access publication – behind paywall
  17. ^ "Fox's 'Forever Amber' in trouble again as Cornel Wilde holds out for salary rise". The New York Times. October 16, 1946. closed access publication – behind paywall
  18. ^ "Cornel Wilde from Hollywood". The Christian Science Monitor. August 5, 1949. closed access publication – behind paywall
  19. ^ Thomas M Pryor (March 7, 1955). "Theodora Plans Its Second Movie". The New York Times. closed access publication – behind paywall
  20. ^ Thomas M Pryor (December 21, 1954). "Independents Buy Two New Stories". The New York Times. closed access publication – behind paywall
  21. ^ T. M. (September 5, 1954). "Hollywood Canvas". The New York Times. closed access publication – behind paywall
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ "Cornel Wilde screenplay". Los Angeles Times. September 10, 1969. closed access publication – behind paywall
  24. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  25. ^ a b "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 34. Summer 2016.
  26. ^ Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
  27. ^ Kirby, Walter (January 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read

External links[edit]