Widmark's Forehead Almost Got in the Way of Kiss of Death

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Richard Widmark’s forehead almost cost him his first acting role.

Director Henry Hathaway was looking for someone to play the maniacal Tommy Udo for Kiss of Death when he was asked to test Widmark for the role.

“Hathaway didn’t want me,” Widmark remembered, and apparently, it was because his forehead made him look “too intellectual.”

Either way, Hathaway had another actor in mind, but studio head Darryl Zanuck overrode the decision. The part was his first ever acting gig, and was it memorable!

“The scene where I push the old lady down the stairs was the first day I’d ever worked in the movies,” he said.

The chilling moment is amplified by Widmark’s distinct laugh, an improvisation that Hathaway encouraged.

“I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast,” he said. “I'd never seen myself on the screen, and when I did, I wanted to shoot myself. That damn laugh of mine! For two years after that picture, you couldn't get me to smile.”

Despite his own assessment, the performance was a critical success and earned Widmark his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

As for his relationship with Hathaway, whom he called a “tough cookie” since he gave him a hard time initially, the pair eventually made amends.

“Henry became a very close friend. I did five more pictures with him.”