Richard John “Dick” Cusack was an award-winning American actor, advertising executive, filmmaker, screenwriter, and playwright. The multi-talented person with a dry sense of humor was the patriarch of a noted family of actors from Chicago. Born and raised in New York, into an Irish Catholic family, Cusack served in World War II and later studied at the ‘College of the Holy Cross.’ He made a successful career in advertising and earned a ‘Clio Award.’ However, later, he left the advertising field to form his own production company, ‘Cusack Productions,’ and won an ‘Emmy Award’ for his educational documentary ‘The Committee.’ Cusack wrote a number of plays and screenplays. He also appeared in a number of movies, portraying authoritative characters in most of them. Though he worked in nearly 15 films, his first preference was writing. He wrote the 1999 film ‘The Jack Bull,’ which starred his son, John Cusack. Dick Cusack was married to Ann Paula “Nancy” and had five children, all of whom later made their mark in acting. He died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 77.
Childhood & Early Life
Cusack was born on August 29, 1925, in Manhattan, New York, to Margaret (née McFeely) and Dennis Joseph Cusack. He belonged to an Irish Catholic family.
During World War II, Cusack served in the ‘US Army’ in the Philippines. After the war, he joined the ‘College of the Holy Cross’ in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was a member of the 1947 ‘Holy Cross’ basketball team and played alongside Bob Cousy. During his college days, he shared a room with peace activist Philip F Berrigan. Cusack graduated in 1950.
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After completing his education, Cusack initially worked for ‘General Electric.’ His job was to write speeches. He soon left the job and joined the New York firm ‘McCann-Erickson.’ With this, he stepped into advertising. In 1966, he became the creative director at ‘Post-Keyes-Gardner’ in Chicago. He was a successful advertising executive for 17 years and won the ‘Clio Award’ for his work.
In 1970, he left advertising and started his own company, ‘Cusack Productions,’ as he felt that there were more important issues in life than advertising consumer products. Within a year of starting his own film company, Cusack won an ‘Emmy Award’ for his educational documentary about abortion, ‘The Committee’ (1971).
Cusack also wrote plays. His first play was ‘The Night They Shot Harry Lindsey With a 155-Millimeter Howitzer and Blamed it on Zebras.’ Chicago’s ‘Body Politic’ presented this farcical play in 1971. Two of his other plays were ‘Punto’ and ‘The Last Word of the Bluebird.’
Cusack entered the entertainment industry by accident. He filled in for the role of a bell captain in the play ‘The Man in 605’ because his friend Byrne Piven wanted a New Yorker for that role. When film director Tony Bill watched the play, he found Cusack perfect for the role of the principal in his film ‘My Bodyguard’ (1980). This was Cusack’s first film appearance.
Thus, in the latter part his life, Cusack appeared in films such as ‘Eight Men Out’ (1988), ‘The Package’ (1989), ‘The Fugitive’ (1993), ‘While You Were Sleeping’ (1995), and ‘Chain Reaction’ (1996). He wrote and performed in the 1999 movie ‘The Jack Bull,’ in which his son John Cusack portrayed a Wyoming horse trader of the 1890s, looking for justice.
Cusack’s last movie appearance was in Bonnie Hunt’s ‘Return to Me’ (2000). In most of his films, Cusack portrayed judges, principals, state authority officials, or ministers.
A year before his death, he mentioned in an interview that he had written some more movies, which were likely to be made. One of them was about mafia hitmen. Just before passing away, Cusack had finished writing ‘Backoff Barkman,’ a play about his former roommate. The play was produced in the Midwest after his death.
Family & Personal Life
Cusack was married to Ann Paula “Nancy” (Carolan), a former math teacher. They had five children: John, Joan, Ann, Bill, and Susie. All five children later stepped into acting.
He was an active member of the ‘Peace Movement.’
Cusack lived in Evanston, near Chicago, Illinois. As the chairman of the ‘Evanston Arts Council,’ he helped in saving the ‘Noyes School’ and in converting it into the ‘Noyes Cultural Arts Center,’ for which he received an award from the ‘Council.’ The center includes a number of art groups, one of which is the ‘Piven Theater Workshop.’ Cusack’s children received training at the workshop.
Dick Cusack died of pancreatic cancer on June 2, 2003, at his home in Evanston, Illinois. He was 77 at the time of his death.