Claire Trevor

Claire Trevor (born Claire Wemlinger; March 8, 1910[1][2][3][4][5] – April 8, 2000) was an American actress.

Claire Trevor
Trevor in the 1930s.
Claire Wemlinger

(1910-03-08)March 8, 1910
DiedApril 8, 2000(2000-04-08) (aged 90)
Years active1929–1987
Home townLarchmont, New York, U.S.
Clark Andrews
(m. 1938; div. 1942)

Cylos William Dunsmore
(m. 1943; div. 1947)

Milton H. Bren
(m. 1948; died 1979)

She appeared in 68 feature films from 1933 to 1982 (per IMDB), winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Key Largo (1948), and received nominations for her roles in The High and the Mighty (1954) and Dead End (1937). She was billed first for Stagecoach (1939); her profile was higher than John Wayne at the time.

Early life

Trevor was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the only child of Noel Wemlinger, a Fifth Avenue merchant tailor (of French birth but German ancestry), and his wife, Benjamina ("Betty"), who was of Irish birth. She was raised in New York City and, from 1923, in Larchmont, New York.[6][7] For many years, her year of birth was misreported as 1909, a rare instance of an actress actually being younger than her given age, which is why her age at the time of her death was initially given as 91, not 90.[8]


According to her biography on the website of Claire Trevor School of the Arts, "Trevor's acting career spanned more than seven decades and included successes in stage, radio, television and film...[She] often played the hard-boiled blonde, and every conceivable type of 'bad girl' role."[9]

After completing high school, Trevor began her career with six months of art classes at Columbia University and six months at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She made her stage debut in the summer of 1929 with a repertory company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She subsequently returned to New York where she appeared in a number of Brooklyn-filmed Vitaphone short films and performed in summer stock theatre.[7] In 1932, she starred on Broadway as the female lead in Whistling in the Dark.[7] She starred in her film debut, Life in the Raw.

From 1933 to 1938, Trevor starred in 29 films, often having either the lead role or the role of heroine. In 1937, she was the second lead actress (after top-billed Sylvia Sidney) in Dead End, with Humphrey Bogart, which led to her nomination for Best Supporting Actress. From 1937 to 1940, she appeared with Edward G. Robinson in the popular radio series Big Town while continuing to make movies. In the early 1940s, she also was a regular on The Old Gold Don Ameche Show on the NBC Red Radio Network, starring with Amech in presentations of plays by Mark Hellinger.[10] In 1939, she was well established as a solid leading lady. Some of her more memorable performances during this period include the western Stagecoach (1939).[7] Over a decade later, she gained her third and final Oscar nomination for her performance in The High and the Mighty (1954).[7]

Two of Trevor's most memorable roles were opposite Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944) and with Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill (1947). In Key Largo (1948), Trevor played Gaye Dawn, the washed-up nightclub singer and gangster's moll. For that role she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1957, she won an Emmy for her role in the Producers' Showcase episode entitled Dodsworth.[11][7] Trevor moved into supporting roles in the 1950s, with her appearances becoming very rare after the mid-1960s. She played Charlotte, the mother of Kay (Sally Field) in Kiss Me Goodbye (1982).[7] Her final television role was for the 1987 television film, Norman Rockwell's Breaking Home Ties. Trevor made a guest appearance at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998.

Personal life

Trevor married Clark Andrews, director of her radio show, in 1938, but they divorced four years later. Her second marriage in 1943 to Navy lieutenant Cylos William Dunsmore produced her only child, son Charles.[12] The marriage ended in divorce in 1947. The next year, Trevor married Milton Bren, a film producer with two sons from a previous marriage, and moved to Newport Beach, California.[7]

In 1978, Trevor's son Charles died in the crash of PSA Flight 182, followed by the death of her husband Milton from a brain tumor in 1979. Devastated by these losses, she returned to Manhattan for some years, living in a Fifth Avenue apartment and taking a few acting roles amid a busy social life.[7] She eventually returned to California, where she remained for the rest of her life, becoming a generous supporter of the arts.[8]


Trevor died of respiratory failure in Newport Beach, California, on April 8, 2000, at the age of 90. She was survived by her two stepsons and extended family.[8] For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard.


The Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine, was named in Trevor's honor. Her Oscar and Emmy statuettes are on display in the Arts Plaza, next to the Claire Trevor Theatre.


Year Title Role Notes
1933 Life in the Raw Judy Halloway Film debut
Jimmy and Sally Sally Johnson
The Mad Game Jane Lee
The Last Trail Patricia Carter
1934 Elinor Norton Elinor Norton
Baby Take a Bow Kay Ellison
Wild Gold Jerry Jordan
Hold That Girl Tonie Bellamy
1935 Spring Tonic Betty Ingals
Black Sheep Jeanette Foster
My Marriage Carol Barton
Navy Wife Vicky Blake
Dante's Inferno Betty McWade
1936 Career Woman Carroll Aiken
Star for a Night Nina Lind
To Mary - with Love Kitty Brant
Human Cargo Bonnie Brewster
Song and Dance Man Julia Carroll
15 Maiden Lane Jane Martin
1937 Big Town Girl Fay Loring
Second Honeymoon Marcia
One Mile from Heaven Lucy 'Tex' Warren
King of Gamblers Dixie Moore
Time Out for Romance Barbara Blanchard
Dead End Francey Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1938 Five of a Kind Christine Nelson
Valley of the Giants Lee Roberts
Walking Down Broadway Joan Bradley
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse Jo Keller
1939 Stagecoach Dallas
I Stole a Million Laura Benson
Allegheny Uprising Janie MacDougall
1940 Dark Command Miss Mary Cloud
1941 Texas 'Mike' King
Honky Tonk 'Gold Dust' Nelson
1942 The Adventures of Martin Eden Connie Dawson
Crossroads Michelle Allaine
Street of Chance Ruth Dillon
1943 The Woman of the Town Dora Hand
Good Luck, Mr. Yates Ruth Jones
The Desperadoes Countess Maletta
1944 Murder, My Sweet Mrs. Helen Grayle
1945 Johnny Angel Lilah 'Lily' Gustafson
1946 The Bachelor's Daughters Cynthia
Crack-Up Terry Cordell
1947 Born to Kill Helen Trent
1948 Raw Deal Pat Cameron
The Velvet Touch Marian Webster
The Babe Ruth Story Claire (Hodgson) Ruth
Key Largo Gaye Dawn Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1949 The Lucky Stiff Marguerite Seaton
1950 Borderline Madeleine Haley, aka Gladys LaRue
1951 Best of the Badmen Lily
Hard, Fast and Beautiful Millie Farley
1952 Stop, You're Killing Me Nora Marko
My Man and I Mrs. Ansel Ames
Hoodlum Empire Connie Williams
1953 The Stranger Wore a Gun Josie Sullivan
1954 The High and the Mighty May Holst Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1955 Man Without a Star Idonee
Lucy Gallant Lady MacBeth
1956 The Mountain Marie
1958 Marjorie Morningstar Rose Morgenstern
1962 Two Weeks in Another Town Clara Kruger
1963 The Stripper Helen Baird
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Edna
1967 The Cape Town Affair Sam Williams
1982 Kiss Me Goodbye Charlotte Banning (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Ford Television Theatre Felicia Crandell episode: The Summer Memory
Lux Video Theatre Ellen Creed episode: Ladies in Retirement
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Single Performance
General Electric Theater Cora Leslie episode: Foggy Night
1955 Lux Video Theatre Mary Scott episode: No Bad Songs for Me
1956 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Mary Hunter episode: Fool Proof
Producers' Showcase Fran Dodsworth episode: Dodsworth
Primetime Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actress
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mary Prescott episode: Safe Conduct
1957 Playhouse 90 Elizabeth Owen episode: If You Knew Elizabeth
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Savannah Brown episode: Happy Hill
Wagon Train C.L. Harding episode: The C.L. Harding Story
The Untouchables Kate Clark 'Ma' Barker episode: Ma Barker and Her Boys
1961 The Investigators Kitty Harper episode: New Sound for the Blues
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mrs. Meade episode: A Crime for Mothers
1962 Dr. Kildare Veronica Johnson episode: The Bed I've Made
1983 The Love Boat Nancy Fairchild episode: The Misunderstanding/Love Below Decks/The End is Near
1987 Murder, She Wrote Judith Harlan episode: Witness for the Defense
Breaking Home Times Grace Porter Television film

Radio appearances

1946Suspense"The Plan"[13]
1946Reader's Digest -- Radio EditionTwo for a Penny[14]
1949Suspense"The Light Switch"[15]
1952Hollywood Star PlayhouseFather's Day[16]


  1. Drew, William M. (1999). At the Center of the Frame: Leading Ladies of the Twenties and Thirties. Vestal Press. p. 319. ISBN 1-879511-42-8.
  2. Hagen, Ray; Laura Wagner (2004). Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. McFarland. p. 222. ISBN 0-7864-1883-4.
  3. Clara Wenlinger [sic], daughter of Noel and Benjamina, age 2 mos, is in the April 1910 Census of Brooklyn Ward 30, District 1054. This places her birth unambiguously in 1910.
  4. "Actress Trevor dies at 90". The Charleston Gazette Associated Press. April 9, 2000. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  5. "Claire Trevor biography". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  6. Sculthorpe, Derek (2018). Claire Trevor: The Life and Films of the Queen of Noir. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 3.
  7. Aronson, Steven M. L. (April 1992). "Claire Trevor's Glamorous Fifth Avenue Apartment". Architectural Digest. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  8. "Claire Trevor, 91, Versatile Actress, Dies". The New York Times. 2000-04-10. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  9. "About Claire Trevor". Claire Trevor School of the Arts University of California, Irvine. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  10. "Friday's Highlights" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (3): 52. July 1940. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  11. The Complete Directory to Prime Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1413. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  12. "Claire Trevor". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  13. "Suspence - The Plan". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  14. "'Digest' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 26, 1946. p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2015 via
  15. "Suspence - The Light Switch". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  16. Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 via

Further reading

  • Sculthorpe, Derek Claire Trevor: The Life and Films of the Queen of Noir (McFarland & Co, Inc., 2018) ISBN 978-1476671932
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