Saturday, October 16, 2010
Celebrity Grave: Actor & Director Cornel Wilde
Cornelius Louis Wilde (October 13, 1912 – October 16, 1989) was an American actor and film director.
Wilde was born in 1912 in Prievidza, Hungary (now Slovakia). His Hungarian Jewish parents, according to some sources, were Béla Weisz and Renée Vojtech. Other sources give his parents' names as Louis Bela Wilde and Renée Mary Vid, and indicate Wilde was named for his grandfather, Cornel 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 prior to the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, but quit the team just prior to the games in order to take a role in the theater.
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. His performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract.
He had several small film roles until he played the role of Frédéric Chopin in 1945's A Song to Remember, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor. In 1945 he also starred in A Thousand and One Nights with Evelyn Keyes. He spent the rest of the decade appearing in romantic and swashbuckling films, but he also appeared in some significant films noir, opposite Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Road House (1948) and Shockproof (1949), the latter film also starring his then wife Patricia Knight.
In the 1950s, Wilde created his own film production company and produced the film noir The Big Combo (1955). Wilde played the male lead alongside his second wife Jean Wallace. That same year, he appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy as himself. In 1957, he played the role of the 13th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam in the film Omar Khayyam.
He produced, directed, and starred in The Naked Prey (1966), in which he played a naked man being tracked by hunters from an African tribe affronted by the behavior of members of a safari party. The original script for The Naked Prey 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 convinced Wilde and the other producers to shoot the film there.
Wilde's other notable directing efforts include Beach Red (1967) and No Blade of Grass (1970).
He married the actress Patricia Knight in 1937. She appeared with him in Shockproof (1949). They had a daughter, Wendy (born February 22, 1943), and divorced in 1951.
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) , Sword of Lancelot (1963), and Beach Red(1967). Her two children from her marriage to Franchot Tone became Wilde's stepsons. They also had a son together, Cornel Wilde Jr. (born December 19, 1967). They divorced in 1981.
Wilde died of leukemia three days after his 77th birthday. He was survived by a daughter and a son (one from each marriage); two stepsons, Pascal Franchot Tone and Thomas Jefferson Tone; and three grandchildren. Wilde is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Cornel Wilde has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1635 Vine Street.
2.^ Wilde's first wife reported in interviews that the pair shaved three years off their ages in their official biographies. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0461036/bio
5.^ Rhinelander Daily News, June 26, 1945, p. 4
6.^ "Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes In New Technicolor Arabia". Christian Science Monitor: p. 4. 1945-07-13.