November 15, 2018


Continuing our series on notable locals, meet Brian Donlevy, film noir movie star and onetime Tudor City resident. Here is his life, in bullet points:
Donlevy in 1942.

⭐  Born 1901 in Cleveland. Begins his acting career in New York in the '20s with stage and silent film work, but after the country slides into Depression, these offers dry up. 

⭐ Moves into Tudor City around 1931 and becomes friendly with another resident, gossip columnist Ed Sullivan. Years later, Sullivan reminisces that Donlevy was "a discouraged actor who lived near us in Tudor City, who used to walk down the street with his two dogs on a leash and wonder out loud if a producer would give a decent part in a decent play." Sullivan likes him ‒ he was a "nice person, quiet and thoughtful" ‒ and reports that Donlevy "never dreamed Lady Luck would tap him."

⭐ His luck does indeed change in 1934 when he abandons New York for Hollywood, where he establishes a name for himself via flashy turns in supporting roles. Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1940 for his performance as a sadistic legionnaire in Beau Geste.

⭐ Over time, he's cast in two kinds of roles: B-movie heroes and A-movie heavies. In the latter roles, his characters usually have a sentimental side.

His more memorable pictures include The Glass Key and The Great McGinty.
His post-war work (above) became part of a genre later labeled film noir, a dark mix of cynicism and menace reflecting the national mood after the bruising war years.

⭐ Segues into television in the '50s and eventually retires to Palm Springs. Dies of cancer in 1972. His Times of London obituary states that "any consideration of American film noir of the 1940s would be incomplete without him."

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