Randolph Scott (1898 - 1987)

Randolph Scott
Randolph Scott

Randolph Scott will always be remembered for his Western movies playing usually the tough, handsome, upright hero, but earlier in his career he appeared in a variety of other genres, including crime thrillers, comedies, romantic dramas, adventure tales, and war films. In his 30 year career he made over 100 movies and well over half were Westerns. During his peak period of popularity during the early 1950's, Scott was a consistent box-office winner. He ranked tenth in 1950, eighth in 1951, and again tenth in 1952 in the annual Top Ten Polls.

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Randolph Scott was born George Randolph Crane, on 23 January 1898, in Orange County, Virginia. He came from wealthy family and he was educated at private schools, where he excelled at sports, particularly football, baseball and swimming. After service in World War I he continued his education first at Georgia Tech then, after a back injury prevented him from achieving his ambition to become a professional footballer, at the University of North Carolina where he graduated with a degree in textile engineering and manufacturing.

Scott's introduction to acting came at college and in 1928 he journeyed to Hollywood with an all-important letter of introduction from his father to millionaire film maker Howard Hughes. The letter worked and Scott was given a small part in a film called 'Sharp Shooters' in 1928. Over the next few years, Scott continued to get work as a bit player in several films, including 'Weary River' and 'The Virginian' in 1929, on which he was also used as Gary Cooper's dialogue coach.

With the advent of Talkies and on the advice of director Cecil B. DeMille, Scott gained much-needed acting experience by performing in stage plays with the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1932, after Paramount scouts saw him in a play entitled 'Under a Virginia Moon' he was offered a contract and he became a movie actor at last.

He began by playing some easy-going romantic leads and then he began his Western apprenticeship with starring roles in Paramount's extensive series of 'B' movies based on Zane Grey cowboy novels, including 'Wild Horse Mesa' in 1932, 'Heritage of the Desert', 'Man of the Forest', and 'Sunset Pass', all in 1933, 'Wagon Wheels', and 'The Last Roundup' both 1934, and 'Home on the Range' and 'Rocky Mountain Mystery' both in 1935.

By way of implausible contrast he then escaped into the world of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals with 'Roberta' in 1935 and 'Follow the Fleet' in 1936. He was also cast in two horror films: 'Murders in the Zoo' in 1933 with Lionel Atwill, and 'Supernatural' in the same year, with Carole Lombard.

By the mid 1930's Scott had thoroughly learned his trade and was fast becoming a well known star. He started being offered better roles in 'A' films such as 'The Last of the Mohicans' in 1936, his first big hit as lead. In 1936 he also played opposite Mae West in 'Go West, Young Man' and his growing popularity was reinforced in 'High, Wide and Handsome' in 1937 with Irene Dunne, and in 'Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm' the following year, with Shirley Temple.

Scott's contract with Paramount ended in 1938 and he now had more control over his material. After playing opposite his close friend-and, some even suggested, lover - Cary Grant in the comedy 'My Favorite Wife' in 1940 and in several war movies: 'Coast Guard' in 1939, 'To the Shores of Tripoli' in 1942, and 'Bombardier', 'Corvette K-225' and 'Gung Ho!', all in 1943.

After a departure into swashbuckling with 'Captain Kidd' in 1945, and a comedy-mystery, 'Home, Sweet Homicide' the following year Scott then concentrated on what he did best, and he focused almost exclusively on big-budget color Westerns, whilst riding his beautiful palomino horse, Stardust. The movies were made by his own company, Ranown Productions, and it was at this period of his career, from the late 1940's through the 1950's that he reached his greatest level of stardom and became the screen persona that is remembered today - tough, hard-bitten and tall in the saddle and projecting a stoicism that often hides an inner grief, completely different to the light characters he had played early in his career.

Scott's output during this fertile period includes 'Abilene Town' in 1946, 'Trail Street' and 'Gunfighters', both in 1947, 'The Walking Hills' in 1949, 'The Nevadan' and 'Colt.45' in 1950, and 'Santa Fé' and 'Fort Worth' in 1951. In a later series of seven Westerns which he made with director Budd Boetticher Scott completes his transition to the tough lone hero nursing a deep hurt and pitting his wits and courage against a villainous world. This series made Scott an important figure in the history of Hollywood movies and includes 'Seven Men from Now' in 1956, 'The Tall T' in 1957,'Ride Lonesome' in 1959, and 'Commanche Station' in 1960.

Scott made his final film appearance in 1962 playing an ageing lawman in 'Ride the High Country', directed by Sam Peckinpah and co-starring Joel McCrea. The film is a classic of the genre and proved a fitting finale to Scott's career as he retired after it, still at the peak of his popularity.

He enjoyed the million-dollar proceeds of both his fame and some clever investments. Religious in later life, he was a close friend of the Reverend Billy Graham.

Scott married twice. The first time, in 1936, to heiress Marion Du Pont but it was not a success and they divorced three years later. After romances with several leading actresses of the day including Sally Blane, Claire Trevor, and Dorothy Lamour, Scott married in 1944 Patricia Stillman. They adopted two children, Christopher and Sandra, and the marriage lasted for 43 years, ending with Scott's death.

Randolph Scott died in 1987 in Beverly Hills. He was 89.

Randolph Scott Academy Awards

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