Childhood & Early Life
He was born William Broderick Crawford on 9 December1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Lester Crawford and Helen Broderick. Helen was a Broadway and film actress while Lester was a popular vaudeville performer.
As a child, he often went along with his parents on vaudeville tours. Sometimes he even played small roles in their comedy satires.
He studied at the Dean Academy in Franklin, Massachusetts, and did extremely well in athletics, football, baseball, and swimming. Later, he enrolled at Harvard University at his parents’ insistence. Within three weeks at Harvard, he dropped out to work as a stevedore on the New York docks.
Thereafter, he engaged in various jobs like professional boxing, being a fit seaman aboard tankers, etc. In due course, he returned to acting through the radio.
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Broderick Crawford returned to acting via radio, following which he made his Broadway debut in ‘She Loves Me Not’ (1934) at the Adelphi Theatre, London. With his heavily built looks, he quickly gained fame as an actor in John Steinbeck's Broadway production - ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1937).
Next, he moved to Hollywood and in 1939, played a supporting role in the production of ‘Beau Geste’. This was followed by another important supporting role in the 1942 gangster comedy spoof, ‘Larceny, Inc.’
His career, till then, was largely restricted to ‘B films’ in supporting roles as he did not fit the archetypal description of a handsome leading man. Nevertheless, he excelled in playing villains.
During World War II, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. In 1944, he travelled to Britain as a sergeant and served as a radio announcer for the Armed Forces Network. In his show, he introduced live musical performances of artists like Glenn Miller.
In 1949, he played the role of Willie Stark, in ‘All the King's Men’. The film was a huge hit and his performance won him an Oscar award. In 1950, he starred in another blockbuster A-list production, ‘Born Yesterday’.
He eventually starred in films like Phil Karlson's ‘Scandal Sheet’ (1952), Fritz Lang's ‘Human Desire’ (1954), Federico Fellini's ‘Il bidone’ (1955), and Stanley Kramer's ‘Not as a Stranger’ (1955), showcasing his versatility.
In 1955, he played the role of the most brutal criminal, Rollo Lamar in ‘Big House, U.S.A’. In the film, his character is a hardened prisoner who commands submission from the toughest criminals possible.
In 1955, he also appeared in the television series ‘Highway Patrol’ as ‘Dan Mathews’. Though fictional, his realistic performance as a tough police officer made the show an immediate success and revived his career. He quit the show in 1959 owing to its hectic schedule.
In between ‘Highway Patrol’, he starred in films like Richard Fleischer's ‘Between Heaven and Hell’ and Russell Rouse’s ‘The Fastest Gun Alive’, both released in 1956.
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He also played the lead role of a diamond industry security chief in the television series ‘King of Diamonds’. The show was cancelled after a single season.
In 1962, he returned to acting in movies. He took up intermittent roles in European films such as Vittorio Cottafavi's ‘La vendetta di Ercole’ (1960) and Javier Setó's ‘The Castilian’ (1963).
From 1962 to 1970, he appeared in around seventeen films, some of which were not so successful. Thereafter, he turned to television again. In 1970–71, he played the role of Dr. Peter Goldstone in ‘The Interns’ and in 1977, he starred as J. Edgar Hoover in ‘The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover’.
He also made a series of guest appearances on TV. His final role was as a film producer who gets murdered in a 1982 television series episode of ‘Simon and Simon’.
Awards & Achievements
Broderick Crawford's performance in ‘All the King's Men’ (1949) as the harassing and brash, yet self-doubting Governor Willie Stark won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 6901, Hollywood Boulevard and the other for television at 6734, Hollywood Boulevard.
Personal Life & Legacy
For the most part of his adult life, Crawford suffered from alcoholism and gluttony. This led to serious weight gain during the 1950s and consequently numerous injuries on the set of ‘Highway Patrol’.
He married thrice; first he married Kay Griffith on 20 November 1940 and divorced her on 19 August 1958. The couple had two children together.
Next he married Joan Tabor on 4 January 1962 and got divorced on 26 April 1967.
Finally, he married Mary Alice Moore on 8 August 1973. The couple remained together till his death.
Broderick Crawford died on 26 April 1986 following a series of strokes, at the age of 74, in Rancho Mirage, California.