Actor Dan Duryea

Dan Duryea (/ˈdʊriːeɪ/ DUR-ee-ay, January 23, 1907 – June 7, 1968) was an American actor in film, stage, and television. Known for portraying a vast range of character roles as a villain, he nonetheless had a long career in a wide variety of leading and secondary roles.

Early life

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Duryea graduated from White Plains High School in 1924 and Cornell University in 1928. While at Cornell, Duryea was elected into the prestigious Sphinx Head Society, Cornell’s oldest senior honor society. He majored in English with a strong interest in drama, and in his senior year succeeded Franchot Tone as president of the college drama society.

As his parents did not approve of his choice to pursue an acting career, Duryea became an advertising executive. After six stress-filled years, he had a heart attack that sidelined him for a year.

Acting career


Returning to his earlier love of acting and the stage, Duryea made his name on Broadway in the play Dead End, followed by The Little Foxes, in which he portrayed Leo Hubbard. He also appeared on Broadway in Many Mansions (1937) and Missouri Legend (1938).


In 1940, Duryea moved to Hollywood to appear in the film version of The Little Foxes. He continued to establish himself with supporting and secondary roles in films such as The Pride of the Yankees and None But the Lonely Heart. As the 1940s progressed, he found his niche as the “sniveling, deliberately taunting” antagonist in a number of films noir (Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, The Great Flamarion, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears, Johnny Stool Pigeon), and westerns such as Along Came Jones and Black Bart, although he was sometimes cast in more sympathetic roles (Black Angel, One Way Street). In 1946, exhibitors voted him the eighth most promising “star of tomorrow”.

Duryea co-starred opposite Gary Cooper three times in the 1940s: Ball of Fire, Pride of the Yankees and Along Came Jones. In the 1950s, Duryea co-starred with James Stewart in three films, Winchester ’73 (as the dastardly “Waco Johnny” Dean), Thunder Bay, and Night Passage. He was featured in several other westerns, including Silver Lode, Ride Clear of Diablo, and The Marauders, and in more film-noir productions like 36 Hours, Chicago Calling, Storm Fear, and The Burglar.

When interviewed by Hedda Hopper in the early 1950s, Duryea spoke of career goals and his preparation for roles:

Well, first of all, let’s set the stage or goal I set for myself when I decided to become an actor … not just ‘an actor’, but a successful one. I looked in the mirror and knew with my “puss” and 155-pound weakling body, I couldn’t pass for a leading man, and I had to be different. And I sure had to be courageous, so I chose to be the meanest s.o.b. in the movies … strictly against my mild nature, as I’m an ordinary, peace-loving husband and father. Inasmuch, as I admired fine actors like Richard Widmark, Victor Mature, Robert Mitchum, and others who had made their early marks in the dark, sordid, and guilt-ridden world of film noir; here, indeed, was a market for my talents. I thought the meaner I presented myself, the tougher I was with women, slapping them around in well produced films where evil and death seem to lurk in every nightmare alley and behind every venetian blind in every seedy apartment, I could find a market for my screen characters…. At first it was very hard as I am a very even-tempered guy, but I used my past life experiences to motivate me as I thought about some of the people I hated in my early as well as later life … like the school bully who used to try and beat the hell out of me at least once a week … a sadistic family doctor that believed feeling pain when he treated you was the birthright of every man inasmuch as women suffered giving birth … little incidents with trade-people who enjoyed acting superior because they owned their business, overcharging you. Then the one I used when I had to slap a woman around was easy! I was slapping the over-bearing teacher who would fail you in their ‘holier-than-thou’ class and enjoy it! And especially the experiences I had dealing with the unbelievable pompous ‘know-it-all-experts’ that I dealt with during my advertising agency days … almost going ‘nuts’ trying to please these ‘corporate heads’ until I finally got out of that racket!”

In his last years, Duryea reteamed with Stewart for the adventure film The Flight of the Phoenix, about men stranded in the Sahara desert by a downed airplane, appearing as a mild-mannered accountant, closer to his real-life persona. He worked in overseas film productions including the Italian Western The Hills Run Red, aka Un Fiume di dollari, (1966) and the spy thriller Five Golden Dragons (1967) in West Germany, while continuing to find roles on American television. He also appeared twice on the big screen with his son, character actor Peter Duryea, in the low-budget Westerns Taggart (1964) and The Bounty Killer (1965).


Duryea starred as the lead character China Smith in the television series China Smith from 1952 to 1953 and The New Adventures of China Smith from 1954 to 1956.

He later guest-starred as Roy Budinger, the self-educated mastermind of a criminal ring dealing in silver bullion, in the episode “Terror Town” on October 18, 1958 of NBC’s western series Cimarron City. On season 1, episode 15 of Wagon Train, he guest-starred as the title character in “The Cliff Grundy Story” (December 1957).

In 1959, Duryea appeared as an alcoholic gunfighter in third episode of The Twilight Zone, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday”. He guest starred on NBC’s anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show and appeared in an episode of Rawhide in 1959, “Incident Of The Executioner.” On September 15, 1959, Duryea guest-starred as the outlaw Bud Carlin in the episode “Stage Stop”, the premiere of NBC’s Laramie western series. Duryea appeared again as Luke Gregg on Laramie on October 25, 1960, in the episode “The Long Riders”. Duryea also put in a great comic performance in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in an episode called “Three Wives Too Many” (1964).

Three weeks later, on November 16, 1960, Duryea played a mentally unstable pioneer obsessed by demons and superstitions in “The Bleymier Story” of NBC’s Wagon Train. Elen Willard played his daughter; James Drury, his daughter’s suitor. Duryea was cast twice in 1960 as Captain Brad Turner in consecutive episodes of the NBC western series Riverboat. He spoofed his tough-guy image in a comedy sketch about a robbery on the Dec. 4, 1960 episode of The Jack Benny Program.

In 1963, Duryea portrayed Dr. Ben Lorrigan on NBC’s medical drama, The Eleventh Hour. In 1967, a television version of Winchester ’73 was released in which Duryea played the part of Bart McAdam, an uncle to Lin and Dakin McAdam. A notable co-star in the film was John Saxon (Dakin McAdam). From 1967 to 1968, he appeared in a recurring role as Eddie Jacks on the soap opera Peyton Place.

Personal life

Duryea was different from the unsavory characters he often portrayed. He was married for 35 years to his wife, Helen, until her death in January 1967. The couple had two sons: Peter (who worked for a time as an actor), and Richard, a talent agent. At home, Duryea lived a quiet life at his house in the San Fernando Valley, devoting himself to gardening, boating, and community activities including, at various times, active membership in the local parent-teacher association and Scout Master of a Boy Scout troop.

On June 7, 1968, Duryea died of cancer at the age of 61. The New York Times tellingly noted the passing of a “heel with sex appeal.” His remains are interred in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His headstone reads: “DAN DURYEA 1907-1968 OUR POP A MAN EVERYBODY LOVED.”

Complete filmography

  • The Tango on Broadway (1934) as Bob – Laurita’s Boyfriend (uncredited)
  • The Little Foxes (1941) as Leo Hubbard
  • Ball of Fire (1941) as Duke Pastrami
  • The Pride of the Yankees (1942) as Hank Hanneman
  • That Other Woman (1942) as Ralph Cobb
  • Sahara (1943) as Jimmy Doyle
  • Man from Frisco (1944) as Jim Benson
  • Mrs. Parkington (1944) as Jack Stilham
  • None But the Lonely Heart (1944) as Lew Tate
  • The Woman in the Window (1944) as Heidt / Tim, the Doorman
  • Ministry of Fear (1944) as Cost / Travers the Tailor
  • Main Street After Dark (1945) as Posey Dibson
  • The Great Flamarion (1945) as Al Wallace
  • The Valley of Decision (1945) as William Scott Jr.
  • Along Came Jones (1945) as Monte Jarrad
  • Lady on a Train (1945) as Arnold Waring
  • Scarlet Street (1945) as Johnny Prince
  • Black Angel (1946) as Martin Blair
  • White Tie and Tails (1946) as Charles Dumont
  • Black Bart (1948) as Charles E. Boles / Black Bart
  • River Lady (1948) as Beauvais
  • Another Part of the Forest (1948) as Oscar Hubbard
  • Larceny (1948) as Silky Randall
  • Criss Cross (1949) as Slim Dundee
  • Manhandled (1949) as Karl Benson
  • Too Late for Tears (1949) as Danny Fuller
  • Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) as Johnny Evans
  • One Way Street (1950) as John Wheeler
  • Winchester ’73 (1950) as Waco Johnny Dean
  • The Underworld Story (1950) as Mike Reese
  • Chicago Calling (1951) as William R. Cannon
  • Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951) as Al Jennings
  • Thunder Bay (1953) as Gambi
  • Sky Commando (1953) as Col. Ed (E.D.) Wyatt
  • 36 Hours (aka Terror Street) (1953) as Major Bill Rogers
  • World for Ransom (1954) as Mike Callahan / Corrigan
  • Ride Clear of Diablo (1954) as Whitey Kincade
  • Rails Into Laramie (1954) as Jim Shanessy
  • Silver Lode (1954) as Fred McCarty
  • This Is My Love (1954) as Murray Myer
  • Foxfire (1955) as Hugh Slater
  • The Marauders (1955) as Avery
  • Storm Fear (1955) as Fred Blake
  • Battle Hymn (1956) as Sergeant Herman
  • The Burglar (1957) as Nat Harbin
  • Night Passage (1957) as Whitey Harbin
  • Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957) as John Jacob Masters
  • Kathy O’ (1958) as Harry Johnson
  • Platinum High School (1960) as Maj. Redfern Kelly
  • Six Black Horses (1962) as Frank Jesse
  • He Rides Tall (1964) as Bart Thorne
  • Do You Know This Voice? (1964) as John Hopta
  • Walk a Tightrope (1964) as Carl Lutcher
  • Taggart (1964) as Jay Jason
  • The Bounty Killer (1965) as Willie Duggan
  • The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) as Standish
  • Incident at Phantom Hill (1966) as Joe Barlow
  • The Hills Run Red, aka Un Fiume di dollari (1966) as Col. Winny Getz
  • Winchester ’73 (1967, TV Movie) as Bart McAdam
  • Five Golden Dragons (1967) as Dragon #1
  • Stranger on the Run (1967, TV Movie) as O.E. Hotchkiss
  • The Bamboo Saucer (1968) as Hank Peters (final film role)
  • Partial television appearances

  • China Smith (1952–1956) as China Smith
  • Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1952–1956) as Pete Richards / Federal Agent Sam Ireland
  • The New Adventures of China Smith (1953–1954) as China Smith
  • December Bride, episode “High Sierras” (1955) as Himself
  • Wagon Train (1957–1964) as Sam Race / Amos / Samuel Bleymier / Joshua Gilliam / Survivor / Cliff Grundy
  • Zane Grey Theater, episode “This Man Must Die” (1958) as Kirk Joiner
  • Laramie, “Stage Stop” (1959) as Bud Carlin
  • Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, “Texas John Slaughter: Showdown at Sandoval” (1959) as Dan Trask
  • The Twilight Zone, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” (1959) as Al Denton
  • Laramie, “The Long Riders” (1960) as Luke Gregg
  • Bonanza, in the episode “Badge Without Honor” (1960) as U.S. Dep. Marshall Gerald Eskith and in the episode “Logan’s Treasure” (1964) as Sam Logan
  • Route 66, “Don’t Count Stars” (1961) as Mike McKay
  • Zane Grey Theater, “Knight of the Sun” (1961) as Henry Jacob Hanley
  • Laramie, “The Mountain Men” (1961) as Ben Sanford
  • Naked City, “Daughter, Am I In My Father’s House?” (1962) as Clyde Royd
  • Route 66, “A Cage in Search of a Bird” (1963) as Jay Leonard Ringsby
  • Going My Way, “Mr. Second Chance” (1963) as Harold Harrison
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Three Wives Too Many” (1964) as Raymond Brown
  • Combat! (TV series), in the episode “Dateline” (1965) as Barton and in the episode “A Little Jazz” (1967) as Bernie Wallace
  • Peyton Place (1967–1968) as Eddie Jacks
  • Radio performances

  • Suspense, “The Man Who Couldn’t Lose” (1947)
  • The Man from Homicide (1951)
  • Suspense, “Remember Me” (1952)
  • External Links

    Actor Dan Duryea – Wikipedia

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