Broderick Crawford (1911-1986)

Broderick Crawford
Broderick Crawford
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Broderick Crawford was a stage, film, radio, and TV actor best known for his appearance in the hit movie 'All the King's Men' in 1949 when his performance as the bullying, blustering, yet insecure Governor Stark won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also remembered for his starring role as Chief Dan Matthews in the television series 'Highway Patrol' for ten years from 1957.


He was born William Broderick Crawford on December 9, 1911, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into an acting family. His parents and both sets of grandparents were vaudeville performers and his parents had both also appeared in movies during the 1920's and 30's. His mother, Helen (neé Broderick), in particular became well known as a comedienne and appeared in the Astaire-Rogers movies 'Top Hat' and 'Swing Time'.

William, as a child often accompanied his parents on their stage tours, occasionally being allowed to play small parts in their comedy act. He attended high school in Franklin, Massachusetts, where he starred at football and baseball and became captain of the swimming team. After graduation he was accepted to study at Harvard. However, after three months he dropped out in order to start earning money. He moved to New York City,where he worked in a variety of manual jobs, such as waterfront longshoreman and a seaman aboard a tanker.

Acting Career

Crawford began to find occasional acting work, first on radio in such programs as 'Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel' as a stooge to Groucho and Chico Marx, before moving to London where he made his professional stage debut at the Adelphi Theater in 1932 in 'She Loves Me Not', playing a football player.

Returning to New York he appeared on Broadway in 'Punches and Judy' in 1935, which brought him to the attention of Hollywood talent scouts. He was signed up by the independent Samuel Goldwyn Company and made his screen debut in 1937 with a small role in 'Woman Chases Man'. This led to another Broadway role, one which would make him famous, as Lenny, the simple giant in the stage adaptation of Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'.

Early Movie Career

Although he was replaced in the movie version of 'Of Mice and Men' by Lon Chaney Jr., his movie career began to flourish, initially with a series of roles in B movies, playing mainly heavies in Westerns and gangster films such as 'Ambush' and 'Island of Lost Men' in 1939 and 'The Texas Rangers Ride Again' and 'When the Daltons Rode' in 1940. He also appeared occasionally in small roles in 'A' pictures such as 'Beau Geste' in 1939, 'Slightly Honourable' in 1940 and 'Larceny, Inc.' in 1942, a comedy gangster film with Edward G. Robinson. This important early stage of his movie career also included experience in leading roles as in 'Tight Shoes' in 1941 and 'Butch Minds the Baby the following year.'

World War II

In 1942, Crawford enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Network with the rank of sergeant. He was sent to Britain in 1944, where he worked as a radio announcer, introducing live musical broadcasts for various artists, including Glenn Miller's Air Force Band.

After the war, he returned to Hollywood and resumed his career as a B movie actor in such movies as 'Black Angel' in 1946, 'Slave Girl' and 'The Flame' in 1947 and 'Sealed Verdict' in 1948.

'All the King's Men' 1949

Crawford's career seemed to be playing out in second rate films until 1949 when he was chosen by director Robert Rossen to play Willie Stark in 'All the King's Men'. Crawford gave the performance of his life as the bombastic, loud-mouthed politician in what is generally regarded as one of the finest political films ever made in Hollywood. The film made him a major star and he won the Academy Best Oscar Award as well as the Golden Globes Best Actor award and the New York Film Critics Circle award.

After this success Crawford was able to choose starring roles in top movies such as in the 1950 comedy 'Born Yesterday' opposite Judy Holliday and the gangster film 'The Mob' in 1951.

He continued to accept film parts in his familiar role as crude tough guy, in a sense trapped by his strong, burly physique and hard, rasping voice. So during the middle 1950's he played these roles in such films as 'Night People, in 1954, 'New York Confidential' and 'Big House, U.S.A.' the following year and 'The Fastest Gun Alive' and 'Between Heaven and Hell' in 1956.

Television Career

Crawford was saved from an inglorious end to his career by success in television. He had originally appeared on the new medium in October, 1951 in a live program called 'We, the People' and he followed this up in 1953 with appearances in the series 'Four Star Theatre' and 'General Electric Theater'.

His film career continued but was reverting to the standard, B movie fare of his early career, when in 1955 he was offered the plum lead role of "Dan Mathews" in the television police drama 'Highway Patrol' which was being made by Frederick Ziv of Ziv Television Productions. The show became hugely popular and Crawford was the only regular performer in the 156 episodes which were made over four years 1955 to 1959. Crawford refused to do a fifth season as, by then his drinking problem was getting worse, and he had decided to make a break in order to make films in Europe. After returning from Europe, Crawford starred again for Ziv in 'King of Diamonds' from 1961-2, playing insurance investigator John King.

For the rest of his career, Crawford continued to make regular appearances on television in series such as 'The Man from Uncle', 'Ironside' and 'Alias Smith and Jones'. He also appeared in TV movies such as 'The Phantom of Hollywood' in 1974 and 'Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby' in 1976. In addition he appeared regularly as Dr Peter Goldstone in the series 'The Interns' from 1970 to 1971.

Final Years

Although appearing regularly on television, Crawford never stopped making films. During the 1960's he worked mainly in Europe in such movies as 'The Castilian', made in Spain in 1963 and 'Mutiny at Fort Sharp' made in Italy in 1966. He continued into the 1970's and early 1980's making a succession of low-budget adventure films with predictably poor box-office returns.


Crawford was known to be a hard-drinking man and this, combined with a penchant for overeating, caused his weight to balloon from the 1950's on. His weight caused difficulties in certain scenes on the set of 'Highway Patrol' and caused him on one occasion to break his ankle when exiting a police helicopter.

Driving under the influence of alcohol caused him to have his driving licence suspended and some scenes in 'Highway Patrol' had to be shot on private roads so that he could legally drive.

Crawford married three times, firstly in 1940 to actress Kay Griffith. The couple had two sons before divorcing in 1958. His second marriage was again to an actress, Joan Tabor, in 1962. After three years she sued Crawford for divorce, alleging verbal and physical abuse. The divorce finally took place in 1967.

His third and final marriage was also to an actress, Mary Alice Moore, in 1973, the marriage ending with Crawford's death.

Broderick Crawford died, after a series of strokes, in Rancho Mirage, California, on April 26, 1986. He was 74 years old.

Broderick Crawford Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Actor ... All the King's Men (1949)
No Unsuccessful Nominations:

Broderick Crawford Filmography

Woman Chases Man
Start Cheering
Sudden Money
Undercover Doctor
Beau Geste
Island of Lost Men
The Real Glory
Eternally Yours
Slightly Honorable
I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby
When the Daltons Rode
Seven Sinners
Trail of the Vigilantes
The Texas Rangers Ride Again
The Black Cat
Tight Shoes
Badlands of Dakota
South of Tahiti
North to the Klondike
Butch Minds the Baby
Larceny, Inc.
Men of Destiny
Sin Town
Keeping Fit (Short)
The Runaround
Black Angel
Slave Girl
The Flame
The Time of Your Life
Sealed Verdict
Bad Men of Tombstone
A Kiss in the Dark
Night Unto Night
Anna Lucasta
All The King's Men
Cargo to Capetown
Born Yesterday
The Mob
Scandal Sheet
Lone Star
Castle in the Air
Stop, You're Killing Me
The Sabre and the Arrow
The Last Posse
Night People
Human Desire
Down Three Dark Streets
New York Confidential
Big House, U.S.A.
Not as a Stranger
Il Bidone
Man on a Bus (Short)
The Fastest Gun Alive
Between Heaven and Hell
The Decks Ran Red