“Each one assumes that his mere presence is God’s gift to humanity and he finds out over the years that this isn’t the case, but that the acquisition of the skills is equally important. You find out that the essence of it is simplification.”-actor Robert Ryan on young actors
My next addition into the Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series with whom I’m paying tribute to is an immensely talented, prolific and captivating individual; a phenomenal highly regarded US character actor who seems to, in my opinion, define the method acting down pact (like Brando, Monroe, Dean, Wallach and Clift) with his towering, compelling and poignant performances in a film & television career that’s spanned for more than 30 years (33): the Oscar nominated American film, stage & television actor Robert Ryan (November 11th, 1909-July 11th, 1973)
Ryan often portrayed hardened cops & ruthless villains onscreen but I felt that he also had an intense cinematic versatility to his hard-as-nails persona as well; he was a compelling, ruggedly handsome leading man with an enthralling individualism, a muscular vigor, a fervently impassioned gaze that may be an acquired taste for some but whom I’ve personally enjoyed because I think that it’s more of a unique picturesque characteristic about him & a distinctly pronounced unyielding tone emanating from within. Even though he was incredibly versatile in many genres from the classic film and television world, my favorite genres that I’ve become a huge fan of whenever I mention the name of Robert Ryan are film noir, military/war and of course action/adventure. He was also the optimal actor for the complex, urbane, illustrious and poignant world of the dark yet mysterious world that we know now is the film noir genre by selflessly contributing substantial achievements marked by authentic portrayals via the silver screen (Robert Mitchum also delivered equally stunning performances in the film genre like Robert Ryan did); Ryan’s extraordinary & exceptional roles featured unparalleled acting skills combined with awe-inspiring, strong & profoundly masterful impressions on movie goers/audiences alike. I’ve had the honor and immense pleasure of witnessing just how much genuine star quality Robert Ryan had in my life as a passionate young classic film lover with the viewing of 32 of his many -classic films from his impressive awe-inspiring livelihood during Hollywood’s Golden Age including: Bombardier (1943) with Randolph Scott, Gangway for Tomorrow (1943) with Margo, John Carradine and James Bell, The Woman on the Beach (1947) starring Joan Bennett and Charles Bickford, Tender Comrade (also from 1943) starring Ginger Rogers, Act of Violence (1948) with Janet Leigh and Van Heflin, Caught (1949) with James Mason and Barbara Bel Geddes, I Married a Communist (1949) starring Laraine Day and John Agar, The Racket (1951) with Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott and William Conrad, Beware, My Lovely (1952) with Ida Lupino, About Mrs. Leslie (1952) an underrated romantic drama co-starring a favorite actress of mine named Shirley Booth
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) starring alongside Spencer Tracy, Dean Jagger, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Russell Collins & Walter Sande, House of Bamboo (1955) with Robert Stack, Cameron Mitchell, Brad Dexter and Sessue Hayakawa, Back From Eternity (1956) with Anita Ekberg, Gene Barry and Rod Steiger, Men in War (1957) starring Aldo Ray, Robert Keith and Vic Morrow, Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) co-starring Ed Begley, Sr. and Harry Belafonte, Billy Budd (1962) with Peter Ustinov, Melvyn Douglas and Terence Stamp in the title role, The Professionals (1966) co-starring Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode and Ralph Bellamy, Hour of the Gun (1967) starring James Garner and Jason Robards, Jr., Anzio (1968) with Peter Falk and Robert Mitchum, Lawman (1971) with Robert Duvall, Burt Lancaster and Lee J. Cobb, Executive Action (1973) starring Will Geer, Burt Lancaster, John Anderson and Ed Lauter, Berlin Express (1948) starring Merle Oberon, Robert Coote and Paul Lukas, The Wild Bunch (1969) directed by Sam Peckinpah & starred Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, William Holden and the late great Ernest Borgnine, The Set-Up (1949) with Audrey Totter & George Tobias, Born to Be Bad (1950) starring Oscar winner Joan Fontaine and Mel Ferrer, On Dangerous Ground (1951) with Ida Lupino & Ward Bond, Clash by Night (1952) starring Marilyn Monroe, Paul Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck, The Naked Spur (1953) with James Stewart, Janet Leigh & Ralph Meeker, Alaska Seas (1954) starring Gene Barry, Jan Sterling and Brian Keith, God’s Little Acre (1958) one of my all-time favorite films based on the 1933 best-selling novel of the same name by Erskine Caldwell and starred Aldo Ray, Jack Lord, Tina Louise, Rex Ingram, Fay Spain, Michael Landon, Helen Wescott & Vic Morrrow, The Longest Day (1962) with Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Eddie Albert, John Wayne, Sal Mineo and a talented international ensemble cast of stage, silver screen and television, The Dirty Dozen (1967) co-starring Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas among others & finally his only Academy Award nod as Best Supporting Actor for his tour-de-force performance as an anti-Semitic killer named Sgt. Montgomery in the classic film noir drama Crossfire (1947)
directed by Edward Dmytryk with Sam Levene, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Marlo Dwyer, Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame and Robert Young which later on became a favorite film of his as well (Ryan would lose the coveted golden statuette to English theatre and film actor Edmund Gwenn for his role as Kris Kringle/Santa Clause in Miracle on 34th Street during the 20th Annual Academy Awards held on March 20th, 1948; interestingly enough not only did Gwenn at the time became the oldest Oscar nominee ever to win an Academy Award at the age of 71, but he was also the only person to date that has ever won an acting Oscar award for portraying the role of Santa Claus on screen). Along with hitting his magnitude in the late 1940s playing a string of unbalanced, disdainful, vindictive and often callous typed roles with such memorable & noteworthy films like Crossfire as well as the classic boxing drama The Set-Up, Robert Ryan was also a tremendously versatile cinematic artist and he lend his well-deserving gifted credentials in such film works as Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), the black and white film noir Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), King of Kings (1961), Billy Budd (1962) and The Professionals (1966) as well as television programs like The Eleventh Hour (1964), Breaking Point (1964), The Reporter (1964), Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater (from 1956-1959), a Screen Directors Playhouse (1955) episode entitled Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog in which he portrayed Abraham Lincoln (the 16th President of the United States), Wagon Train (from 1962-1964), Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963) the 1960 TV movie The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Alcoa Theatre ( 1957-1958) and finally Goodyear Theatre (also from 1957-1958). A truly enthralling, ingenious and powerful artisan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Ryan was truly one of a kind; his individualistic caliber was that he often portrayed relentless commanding leaders which was in well-defined distinction to his real life persona and one in which I feel has sometimes made him typecast like so many others such as Bogie or Edward G. Robinson. The truth of the matter is Robert Ryan was multi-faceted in every way –both on the exterior and interior as well; his culminating vitality artfully combined with an eclectic smoldering cinematic intensity & a passionate, authentic and perceptive personality highlighted his legendary status resulting in high caliber, distinguished, resourceful and paramount characterizations worth mentioning in the cinematic limelight. Ryan had the awe-inspiring honor of being named TCMs Star of the Month twice: once for February 2000 which was and still is a rare but exceptional honor for a character leading/supporting player of the silver screen and the other for May of this year; actor Kris Kristofferson & Oscar winning actor Jeff Bridges have both stated Ryan as their favorite actor. Ryan was also a close personal friend of fellow actor Lee Marvin (February 19th, 1924-August 29th, 1987); they’ve made several films together, including The Dirty Dozen, and he served in the Marine Corps during WWII. He was married once in his life to Jessica Cadwalder from March 11th, 1939 (together they had 3 children during their 33 year marriage—sons Cheyney and Tim as well as a daughter named Lisa) that lasted until her death in 1972; Ryan passed away the following year from lung cancer at the age of 63. Despite his prominent ruffian exterior onscreen, off-screen Ryan was the complete opposite—he was more of a benevolent soul and he was also a remarkably kind, thoughtful & influential individual
More often than not, some would proclaim him as an actor who was always tough, demeaning and a hooligan just like his countless roles in film but honestly I don’t see it that way at all because there’s a much deeper & fascinating persona behind the actor Robert Ryan; just like the wonderfully talented actor Dan Duryea was, I saw in Ryan a charismatic, intelligent, compelling, awe-inspiring, wonderful, impassioned, mystifying, poignant & benevolent human being with real emotions and feelings—one whose shown the classic film world and countless classic film lovers alike the raw, intense, passionate, fervently inspiring, dedicating, ardently insightful, and cinematically masterful picturesque moments of a craftsman at work who also deeply cared for and appreciated his family/personal life as well….Robert Ryan IS that craftsman and so much more!