Cornel Wilde (born Kornél Lajos Weisz; October 13, 1912 – October 16, 1989) was a Hungarian-American actor and film director.
Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
Kornél Lajos Weisz
October 13, 1912
|Died||October 16, 1989 77) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California|
|Other names||Clark Wales, Jefferson Pascal|
(m. 1937; div. 1951)
(m. 1951; div. 1981)
Wilde's acting career began in 1935, when he made his debut on Broadway. In 1936 he began making small, uncredited appearances in films. By the 1940s, he had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, and by the mid-1940s, he was a major leading man. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in 1945's A Song to Remember. In the 1950s, he moved to writing, producing and directing films, and still continued his career as an actor.
Wilde was born in 1912 in Privigye, Kingdom of Hungary (now Prievidza, Slovakia), although his year and place of birth are usually and inaccurately given as 1915 in New York City. His Hungarian Jewish parents were Vojtech Béla Weisz (Anglicized to Louis Bela Wilde) and Renée Mary Vid (Rayna Miryam). He was named for his paternal grandfather, and upon arrival in the U.S. at age seven in 1920, his name was Anglicized to Cornelius Louis Wilde.
A talented linguist and an astute mimic, he had an ear for languages which became apparent later in his acting career. Wilde attended the City College of New York as a pre-med student, completing the four-year course in three years and winning a scholarship to the Physicians and Surgeons College at Columbia University.
He qualified for the United States fencing team for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, but quit the team before the games in order to take a role in the theater. In preparation for an acting career, he and his new wife Marjory Heinzen (later to be known as Patricia Knight) shaved years off their ages, three for him and five for her. As a result, most publicity records and subsequent sources wrongly indicate a 1915 birth for Wilde.
After studying at Theodora Irvine's Studio of the Theatre, Wilde began appearing in plays in stock and in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1935 in Moon Over Mulberry Street. He also appeared in Love Is Not So Simple, Daughters of Etreus, and Having Wonderful Time.
He did the illustrations for Fencing, a 1936 textbook on fencing and wrote a fencing play, Touché, under the pseudonym Clark Wales in 1937. He toured with Tallulah Bankhead in a production of Anthony and Cleopatra; during the run he married his co-star Patricia Knight.
Acting jobs were sporadic over the next few years. Wilde supplemented his income with exhibition fencing matches; his wife also did modelling work. Wilde wrote plays, some of which were performed by the New York Drama Guild.
Wilde was hired as a fencing teacher by Laurence Olivier for his 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet and was given the role of Tybalt in the production. Although the show only had a small run his performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract with Warner Bros.
Wilde had an uncredited bit part in Lady with Red Hair (1940), then got a small part in High Sierra (1941), which included a scene with Humphrey Bogart. He also had small roles in Knockout (1941) and Kisses for Breakfast (1941).
20th Century Fox
A Song to Remember and stardom
In 1945, Columbia Pictures began a search for someone to play the role of Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember. They eventually tested Wilde, and agreed to cast him in the role after some negotiation with Fox, who agreed to lend him to Columbia and one film a year for several years. Part of the deal involved Fox borrowing Alexander Knox from Columbia to appear in Wilson (1944). A Song to Remember was a big hit, made Wilde a star and earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Columbia promptly used him in two more films, both swashbucklers: as Aladdin in A Thousand and One Nights with Evelyn Keyes and as the son of Robin Hood in The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (made 1945, released 1946).
In 1946, Wilde was voted the 18th most popular star in the US, and in 1947 – 25th. Fox announced him for Enchanted Voyage. It ended up not being made; instead he was reunited with Crain in Fox's musical Centennial Summer (1946).
In January 1946, Wilde was suspended by Fox for refusing the male lead in Margie (1946). This suspension was soon lifted so Wilde could play the male lead in the studio's big budget version of Forever Amber (1947). Filming started, then was halted when the studio decided to replace Peggy Cummins, the female star. In October 1946, Wilde refused to return to work unless he was paid more; his salary was $3,000 a week, with six years to run - he wanted $150,000 per film for two films per year. The parties came to an agreement and filming resumed. Wilde also appeared with Maureen O'Hara in The Homestretch (1947).
He was in a comedy at Columbia with Ginger Rogers, It Had to Be You (1947). At Fox he turned down a role in That Lady in Ermine (1948). Not wanting to go on suspension again he agreed to make The Walls of Jericho (1948), from the same director as Leave Her to Heaven but less popular. Road House (1948), for Fox, was a highly regarded noir and a decent-sized hit. He then left Fox which he later regarded as a mistake.
At Columbia, Wilde was in Shockproof (1949), another noir, with his then-wife Patricia Knight. They appeared together in Western Wind, a play at the Cape Playhouse.
Wilde made Swiss Tour, aka Four Days Leave (1949), an independent film in Switzerland. He returned to Fox for Two Flags West (1950), then went to RKO for At Sword's Point (filmed in 1949, but not released until 1952), a swashbuckler with Maureen O'Hara.
At Columbia, he was in California Conquest (1952), a Western for producer Sam Katzman. He went over to Warner Bros. for Operation Secret (1952), then was back at Fox for Treasure of the Golden Condor (1952).
He focused on adventure stories: Saadia (1953) for MGM, Star of India (1954) for United Artists. He had a part in the all-star executive drama Woman's World (1954) for Fox, then went back to action and adventure with Passion (1954) for RKO.
Producer and director
In the 1950s, Wilde and his second wife Jean Wallace formed their own film production company, Theodora, that was named after Theodora Irvine. Their first move was the film noir The Big Combo (1955), a co production with Security Pictures that was released through Allied Artists. Wilde and Wallace played the leads. That year he also directed an episode of General Electric Theatre.
Theodora announced Wilde would play Lord Byron, but the film was never made. Other announced projects included Curly and Second Act Curtin.
Wilde was meant to appear as Joshua in de Mille's The Ten Commandments but was not in the final film - he turned down the role saying it was too small and the pay was too little (John Derek ended up playing it). Wilde later said it was his worst mistake because having even a small role in a big blockbuster would have given him career momentum.
As an actor only, he appeared in Hot Blood (1956) with Jane Russell for director Nicholas Ray, and Beyond Mombasa (1956), shot in Kenya; both were released by Columbia. In 1957, he guest-starred on an episode of Father Knows Best as himself. Also in 1957, he played the role of the 13th century Persian poet Omar Khayyám in the film Omar Khayyam.
The Devil's Hairpin and Maracaibo
He produced, directed and starred in two films for Theodora that were released through Paramount: The Devil's Hairpin (1957), a car-racing drama, and Maracaibo (1958). Wilde called them "an acceptable A-B, meaning a picture with B budget but A pretensions".
Lancelot and Guinevere
The Naked Prey
Wilde produced, directed, and starred in The Naked Prey (1965), in which he played a man stripped naked and chased by hunters from an African tribe affronted by the behavior of other members of his safari party. The original script was largely based on a true historical incident about a trapper named John Colter being pursued by Blackfeet Indians in Wyoming. Lower shooting costs, tax breaks, and material and logistical assistance offered by Rhodesia persuaded Wilde and the other producers to shoot the film on location in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It is probably his most highly regarded film as director.
Wilde followed this with a war movie, Beach Red (1967). He announced Namugongo, another movie in Africa, about the White Fathers missionaries in the Kingdom of Buganda, but it was never made. He had a supporting role in The Comic (1969), directed by Carl Reiner.
No Blade of Grass
He wrote, produced, and directed the science fiction film No Blade of Grass (1970).
During the early 1970s, Wilde took a break from motion pictures and theater to turn toward television. He appeared as an unethical surgeon in the 1971 Night Gallery episode "Deliveries in the Rear" and portrayed an anthropologist in the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles.
He returned to film shortly thereafter and wrote, directed, and starred in the exploitation film Sharks' Treasure, a 1975 film intended to capitalize on the "Shark Fever" popular in the mid-1970s in the wake of the success of Peter Benchley's Jaws. He acted in The Norseman (1978) and The Fifth Musketeer (1979).
He married the actress Jean Wallace in 1951. Wallace, formerly married to actor Franchot Tone, co-starred with Wilde in several films, including The Big Combo (1955), Lancelot and Guinevere, aka Sword of Lancelot (1963), and Beach Red (1967). Her two children from her marriage to Tone became Wilde's stepsons. They also had a son together, Cornel Wallace Wilde Jr. (born December 19, 1967). They divorced in 1981.
- Exclusive (1937) as Reporter (uncredited)
- Lady with Red Hair (1940) as Mr. Williams (uncredited)
- High Sierra (1941) as Louis Mendoza
- Knockout (1941) as Tom Rossi
- Kisses for Breakfast (1941) as Chet Oakley
- The Perfect Snob (1941) as Mike Lord
- Manila Calling (1942) as Jeff Bailey
- Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942) as Robert Carter
- Wintertime (1943) as Freddy Austin
- The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1945) as Robert of Nottingham
- A Song to Remember (1945) as Frédéric Chopin
- A Thousand and One Nights (1945) as Aladdin
- Leave Her to Heaven (1945) as Richard Harland
- Centennial Summer (1946) as Philippe Lascalles
- The Homestretch (1947) as Jock Wallace
- Forever Amber (1947) as Bruce Carlton
- It Had to Be You (1947) as George McKesson / Johnny Blaine
- Stairway for a Star (1947) as Jimmy Banks
- The Walls of Jericho (1948) as Dave Connors
- Road House (1948) as Pete Morgan
- Shockproof (1949) as Griff Marat
- Swiss Tour (1950) as Stanley Robin
- Two Flags West (1950) as Capt. Mark Bradford
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) as The Great Sebastian
- At Sword's Point (1952) as D'Artagnan Jr.
- California Conquest (1952) as Don Arturo Bordega
- Operation Secret (1952) as Peter Forrester
- Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953) as Jean-Paul
- Main Street to Broadway (1953) as Cornel Wilde
- Saadia (1953) as Si Lahssen
- Star of India (1954) as Pierre
- Woman's World (1954) as Bill Baxter
- Passion (1954) as Juan Obreón
- The Big Combo (1955) as Police Lt. Leonard Diamond
- The Scarlet Coat (1955) as Maj. John Boulton
- Storm Fear (1955) as Charlie Blake
- Hot Blood (1956) as Stephano Torino
- Beyond Mombasa (1956) as Matt Campbell
- Father Knows Best - 'An Evening to Remember' Series 3, Episode 25 (1957) as himself (Cornel Wilde)
- Omar Khayyam (1957) as Omar Khayyam
- The Devil's Hairpin (1957) as Nick Jargin
- Maracaibo (1958) as Vic Scott
- Edge of Eternity (1959) as Les Martin
- Constantine and the Cross (1961) as Constantine
- Lancelot and Guinevere (1963) as Sir Lancelot
- The Naked Prey (1965) as Man
- Beach Red (1967) as Capt. MacDonald / Narrator
- The Comic (1969) as Frank Powers
- No Blade of Grass (1970) as Radio voice (voice)
- Gargoyles (1972) as Dr. Mercer Boley
- Sharks' Treasure (1975) as Jim Carnahan
- The Norseman (1978) as Ragnar
- The Fifth Musketeer (1979) as D'Artagnan
- Flesh and Bullets (1985)
|1946||Screen Guild Players||"Wuthering Heights"|
|1952||Hollywood Star Playhouse||"The End of Aunt Edlia"|
|1953||Cavalcade of America||"Down Brake"|
|1954||Suspense||"Somebody Help Me"|
- United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as approximately 1912
- "Cornel Wilde". Ancestry.com.
- United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Austrian-Hungarian Empire and his birth year as approximately 1912. Furthermore, it indicates his emigration to the U.S. as a first class passenger on a Dutch steamer in 1920.
- List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States, S.S. Noordam, Passengers Sailing from Rotterdam, May 4, 1920, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. iProvo, Utah, 2010.
- Air Passenger Manifest, Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc. Flight 971/05, December 5, 1948. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Provo, Utah, 2010. In this immigration record, Wilde gives his birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as 1912.
- Peter B. Flint (October 17, 1989). "Cornel Wilde, 74, a Performer and Film Producer". The New York Times.
- "Actor-Director Cornel Wilde Dies at 74". The Los Angeles Times. October 16, 1989.
- Rhinelander Daily News, June 26, 1945, p. 4
- "Cornel Wilde adds new skill". The Washington Post. October 1, 1947. ProQuest 151896525.
- Ingram, Frances Cornel Wilde: Gentle Swashbuckler, Classic Images, February 5, 2009
- Masters, M. (1945, Dec 23). Cornel Wilde strong on psychological drama. Los Angeles Times
- THAT WILDE MAN Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 19 Sep 1954: v30.
- E. Challert (December 3, 1943). "Drama And Film". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 165466539.
- "Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes In New Technicolor Arabia". Christian Science Monitor. July 13, 1945. p. 4.
- Richard L. Coe (January 3, 1948). "Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown". The Washington Post.
- "Special to The New York Times". News of the Screen. The New York Times (1923-Current File). March 27, 1945. ProQuest 107254401.
- H. Hopper (January 11, 1946). "Studio suspends Cornel Wilde". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 165657309.
- "Fox's 'Forever Amber' in trouble again as Cornel Wilde holds out for salary rise". The New York Times. October 16, 1946. ProQuest 107755306.
- "Cornel Wilde from Hollywood". The Christian Science Monitor. August 5, 1949. ProQuest 508069729.
- Jack Hawkins New Space Conqueror; French King Set for John Williams Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 15 Mar 1955: B7.
- PALLADIUM STARS SOUGHT FOR MOVIE: History of Famous London Music Hall Would Include American Entertainers By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.22 June 1954: 24.
- 'Big Combo' Will Star Cornel Wilde; Vanessa Brown Debates Musical Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 23 June 1954: B7.
- Thomas M Pryor (March 7, 1955). "Theodora Plans Its Second Movie". The New York Times. ProQuest 113204307.
- Thomas M Pryor (December 21, 1954). "Independents Buy Two New Stories". The New York Times. ProQuest 113000136.
- T. M. (September 5, 1954). "Hollywood Canvas". The New York Times. ProQuest 113071008.
- You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. 2017. ISBN 9780813174235.
- "The Naked Prey".
- "Cornel Wilde screenplay". Los Angeles Times. September 10, 1969. ProQuest 156304920.
- Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
- "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 34. Summer 2016.
- Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
- Kirby, Walter (January 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
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