Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series: Richard Basehart


Actor Richard Basehart During The Shooting Of The Movie '5 Branded Women'

Watching many classic films on TCM as well as viewing countless television shows on other networks respectively, the American film/television actor John Richard Basehart (August 31st, 1914-September 17th , 1984) has become another awe-inspiring gift of the silver screen, an immensely gifted & profoundly noteworthy actor who was immensely underrated yet exemplified his roles with the sheer ingenuity, charisma, passion and picturesque benevolent force that makes me greatly appreciate, respect and love all of the classic film actors/actresses with whom I’m incredibly grateful to dedicate my next chapter in the Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series6

I remembered viewing an underrated film noir classic entitled He Walked by Night (1948) starring the memorable veteran character actor Whit Bissell & future Dragnet/Sunset Blvd star Jack Webb. That remarkable, deep and distinctive voice of his had a compelling cinematic effect within each of his performances onscreen; clearly there was a raw, unadulterated and brilliant passion from his portrayals of the characters in his films. A certain depth, range & complexity began to mature immensely as Basehart’s talent emulated on the silver screen. His deeply renowned roles were as “ The Fool” in Federico Fellini’s touching cinematic masterpiece La Strada (in films) and as Admiral Harriman Nelson in the 1960s American science fiction television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the 1961 classic film of the same name) both created w/equally fervent passion, love and appreciation by the Master of disaster Irwin Allen; but to me, he should be remembered more often than these 2 classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age in Films and Television. Richard Basehart made 50 classic films & starred in countless television productions in his lifetime; I have since seen many of his classic films on TCM as well as DVD and deeply enjoyed all of his films7

Basehart was, in my opinion, an incredibly creative, talented and profoundly versatile actor who provided his own cinematic brilliance with his moving, heartfelt and poignant performances (whether portraying villains, heroes or otherwise); he wasn’t limited to just one role because he displayed a versatility unlike any other. Some may not have heard of him or his films, but one look at his face changes everything; emanating a tough, gritty, but emotional and masterful depiction through his performances on/screen is a rare sight to see even in the modern age of Hollywood today (though some may exhibit a noteworthy display of talent, Basehart’s superlative craftsmanship in his classic films emanated on a much deeper level). It deeply saddens me to think that he was not nominated for an Academy Award but his livelihood has artfully and cinematically flourished with an exceptional level of perspicacity, love, adoration, appreciation and respect for everything that he’s selflessly contributed to Turner Classic Movies and the countless devoted film lovers of his work

Cinema / TV. Personalities. pic: circa 1951. American actor Richard Basehart (1914-1984) appearing in the film "Fourteen Hours".

Richard Basehart was considered underrated because his sheer ingenuity, cinematic brilliance, stunning portrayals of the cruelest/kindest characterizations in films, and a masterful benevolent persona that originated into a compassionate, empathetic, humbled, deeply fervent, beloved, captivating and welcoming presence on screen may not have been understood by some (especially critics and audiences alike); but today, my ardent tribute to his career should be a reminder of just how important an actor’s cinematic significance is imperative to so many–sure, he wasn’t as popular as his other contemporaries like Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart or even William Holden. But Basehart paved the way for continuing unconditionally to fully appreciate all that classic film noir and other classics have to offer today because his films as well as the way in which his characterizations are brought to life with clear, concise, cinematic precision, picturesque tenderness and understanding touched my soul

England. 1955. A portrait of American actor Richard Basehart on the set of the film "The Extra Day".

I’ve become quite fond of Mr. Basehart and other classic film actors like him who were underrated during Hollywood’s Golden Age yet also displayed a more powerful, passionate and mesmerizing portrayal on the silver screen. His cinematic recollections weren’t limited to just the silver screen via theatres/classic television: One month before his passing, Richard Basehart became the announcer for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles California (the closing ceremonies were held on Sunday August 12th, 1984)- with his deep, distinctive voice and a prolific but deeply emblematic persona in his façade, Basehart was the ideal candidate to close out the Summer Olympics; generating a welcoming, passionate and ardent tribute to the athletes who’ve competed in the games and proving once more to the classic film world the incredible cinematic range/versatility that he embodied throughout his nearly 40 year career in films (1947-1984)8

I don’t think that one could ever forget the impact that he made in the classic film world; to me Richard Basehart was, and always will be, not only a welcoming definitive addition into the classic film world of Turner Classic Movies; he’s also one of my personal favorite actors to which I’m truly honored to have the fondest, warm and amazing cinematic memories of as well!9


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