Claire Trevor (1910-2000)

Claire Trevor
Claire Trevor
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Claire Trevor was an American actress who appeared in over sixty movies in a long career which started with early Talkies and continued throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood. Towards the end of her career she appeared many times on the new medium of television. She was the love interest for John Wayne in 'Stagecoach' in 1939 and she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her appearance in 'Key Largo' in 1948.


She was born Claire Wemlinger in Brooklyn, New York on March 8, 1910. Her father was a French immigrant tailor and her mother was from Belfast, Northern Ireland. When she was very young the family moved to Larchmont in Westchester County, where Claire went to Mamaroneck High School. It was here that she developed an early interest in acting. She went on to study at Columbia University and at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Claire left the Academy after six months to become a full time professional actress in repertory theater, appearing in Long Island, Michigan and St Louis. She made an immediate impression and in 1932 was given good roles in two Broadway plays, 'Whistling in the Dark' and 'The Party's Over'. It was enough to get her noticed by Hollywood talent scouts and she was offered a five year contract by the Fox Film Corporation. She wanted to stay with her first love, the theater, but with no immediate prospective stage offers, she accepted Fox's offer and travelled to Hollywood in 1933.

Hollywood Actress

After a small role in the 1933 Western 'Life in the Raw', she began to make regular appearances in lead or good supporting roles in such films as 'The Mad Game' and 'Jimmy and Sally' both later the same year, 'Dante's Inferno' in 1935, 'Human Cargo' in 1936 and 'Dead End' in 1937 for which she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. She continued with successful movies such as 'Walking Down Broadway' and 'The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse' in 1938 whilst appearing for 3 years from 1937 in the successful radio series 'Big Town' with Edward G. Robinson. She had already made a name for herself but it was about to get a lot better.

'Stagecoach' 1939

Claire's name was really made in 1939 with director John Ford's superb Western 'Stagecoach', a classic movie which redefined the Western genre and which made a star of John Wayne. Claire plays Dallas, a prostitute, one of the passengers on the stagecoach. It is a good female role and she made the most of it. The chemistry between Claire and Wayne was palpable and they went on to make three more films together.

Films noirs

Claire was now a well known Hollywood actress and she achieved true stardom over the next few years with major roles in several top class film noir thrillers including 'Street of Chance' in 1942, 'Murder, My Sweet' in 1944, 'Born to Kill' in 1947 and 'Raw Deal' in 1948. Later in 1948 she received just reward for her skill and hard work in the film noir genre when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of the drunken, over the hill nightclub singer Gaye Dawn in 'Key Largo'.

In the 1950's Claire mixed television and stage work with her movie career. She received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role alongside John Wayne in the disaster movie 'The High and the Mighty' in 1954 but her film appearances became few and far between after 1958.

She was an enthusiastic television performer and appeared many times in such programs as 'Lux Video Theater', 'General Electric Theater', Alfred Hitchcock Presents' and 'The Love Boat' and she won an Emmy for her performance as the wife of Fredric March in the 'Dodsworth' episode of 'Producers' Showcase' in 1957.


Claire married three times, firstly in 1938 to Clark Andrews, who was one of the early directors of her 'Big Town' radio show. They divorced in 1943 and she married Cylos Dunsmoore, a Navy lieutenant, the marriage producing one son, Charles. They divorced in 1947 and the following year Claire married film producer, Milton Bren. The marriage lasted until Mr Bren's death in 1979. Her son, Charles had previously died in a plane crash in 1978.

After the devastating double loss of son and husband Claire moved to New York into semi-retirement. She occasionally went back to acting. Her last movie role was in 'Kiss Me Goodbye' in 1982 and her final acting performance was in the television movie 'Breaking Home Ties' in 1987.

In her later retirement Claire moved back to California and in 1999 she donated $500,000 to the University of California where the Claire Trevor School of the Arts was named in her honour and her Oscar and Emmy awards are on display in the Arts Plaza there.

Claire Trevor died on April 8, 2000 at Newport Beach, California, of respiratory failure. She was 90 years old.

Claire Trevor Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Supporting Actress ... Key Largo (1948)
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Supporting Actress ... Dead End (1937)
Best Supporting Actress ... The High and the Mighty (1954)

Claire Trevor Filmography

The Meal Ticket (Short)
The Imperfect Lover (Short)
Life in the Raw
The Last Trail
The Mad Game
Jimmy and Sally
Hold That Girl
Wild Gold
Baby Take a Bow
Elinor Norton
Black Sheep
Spring Tonic
Dante's Inferno
Navy Wife
My Marriage
Song and Dance Man
Human Cargo
To Mary - with Love
Star for a Night
Fifteen Maiden Lane
Career Woman
Time Out for Romance
King of Gamblers
One Mile from Heaven
Dead End
Second Honeymoon
Big Town Girl
Walking Down Broadway
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse
Valley of the Giants
Five of a Kind
I Stole a Million
The First Rebel
Dark Command
Honky Tonk
The Adventures of Martin Eden
Street of Chance
The Desperadoes
Good Luck, Mr. Yates
The Woman of the Town
Farewell My Lovely (aka Murder My Sweet)
Johnny Angel
Bachelor Girls
Born to Kill
Raw Deal
The Velvet Touch
Key Largo
The Babe Ruth Story
The Lucky Stiff