Dan Duryea (1907-1968)

Dan Duryea
Dan Duryea
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Dan Duryea was an American movie, stage and television actor who became very popular in the 1940's and 1950's, making his mark particularly as a screen villain. During his 28 year movie career, he made more than 60 films and 75 television shows, playing unsavory characters in most of them.


Dan Duryea was born on January 23, 1907, in White Plains, New York. After graduating from White Plains High School he studied English and Drama at Cornell University in New York, where, in his senior year in 1928 he became president of the college drama society, succeeding one Franchot Tone in the position.

His ambition was to become a stage actor but he bowed to parental disapproval and entered the advertising profession as a space salesman. The nature of the job proved too stressful for him and after working for six years he had a heart attack when still in his twenties. After a year of convalescence Duryea decided to leave the stressful life behind and he joined a summer stock company, determined to gain the experience necessary for an acting career.

A Cornell classmate was the future playwright, Sidney Kingsley, and through him Duryea was able to get a walk-on role in Kingsley's Broadway play 'Dead End'. During the play's long run, Duryea was able to change roles several times, each time featuring more prominently and ending up with the leading role of Gimpy.

His new prominence caused him to be noticed and led to good roles in more Broadway productions such as 'Many Mansions' in 1937 and 'Missouri Legend' the following year. In February, 1939, Duryea began a year long run in the Lillian Hellman play, 'The Little Foxes', starring Tallulah Bankhead. It was to herald the start of his Hollywood career.

Hollywood Actor

The Broadway success of 'The Little Foxes' caused Hollywood producers to take notice and in 1940 the newly independent producer, Sam Goldwyn, purchased the rights to the play and invited Duryea to reprise his stage role of Leo in the movie. Duryea took full advantage of the offer and in 1941 made a successful debut in the movie which received nine Academy Award nominations.

The actor had found his acting m├ętier and he never again appeared on Broadway.

Hollywood Career

Duryea 's career blossomed and he found himself immediately cast in secondary roles in good quality films, supporting top stars. In 1941 he appeared in the Billy Wilder movie 'Ball of Fire' and the following year he appeared with Gary Cooper in 'The Pride of the Yankees'. He soon found a niche playing unpleasant, antagonistic characters in various genres, particularly Westerns and films noirs such as 'The Woman in the Window' in 1944 and 'Scarlet Street' and 'Along Came Jones' in 1945.

After 'Winchester '73' with James Stewart in 1950, the quality of movies offered to Duryea declined and he became something of a 'B' movie specialist, still mainly in films noirs like 'Chicago Calling' in 1951 and Westerns such as 'Rails Into Laramie' and 'Ride Clear of Diablo' in 1954.

Television Career

Duryea continued making films until 1968 but as his movie career wound down after the mid 1950's he became one of the first movie actors to take up the new challenge of television acting. He starred in his own TV series,'China Smith', in 1952, and he continued to appear on television for the rest of his career in programmes such as 'The Jack Benny Program', 'The 20th Century-Fox Hour', 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour' and 'Burke's Law'. He also made numerous guest appearances on such popular series as 'Wagon Train' between 1957 and 1964, 'Bonanza' in 1960 and 1964 and 'Peyton Place' from 1967 to 1968.


Duryea's unsavoury film persona was in stark contrast to his off screen character. He was a quiet family man whose hobbies included gardening and boating and who was a keen leader of a local Boy Scout troop.

In 1932 he married Helen Bryan and the marriage lasted until her death in 1967. The couple had two sons.

Dan Duryea died on June 7, 1968 from cancer. He was 61 years old.

Dan Duryea Academy Awards

No Nominations:

Dan Duryea Filmography

El tango en Broadway
The Little Foxes
Ball of Fire
The Pride of the Yankees
That Other Woman
Man from Frisco
Mrs. Parkington
Ministry of Fear
None But the Lonely Heart
The Woman in the Window
Main Street After Dark
The Great Flamarion
The Valley of Decision
Along Came Jones
Lady on a Train
Scarlet Street
Black Angel
White Tie and Tails
Black Bart, Highwayman
Another Part of the Forest
River Lady
Criss Cross
Too Late for Tears
Johnny Stool Pigeon
One Way Street
Winchester '73
The Underworld Story
Chicago Calling
Al Jennings of Oklahoma
36 Hours
Sky Commando
Thunder Bay
This Is My Love
Silver Lode
Rails Into Laramie
Ride Clear of Diablo
World for Ransom