Dan Duryea — Dan, the Deadly (1945) 🇺🇸

Dan Duryea — Dan, the Deadly (1945) | www.vintoz.com

February 22, 2023

Conversation overheard recently on a Los Angeles bus:

  • 1st Girl: "Have you seen 'Along Came Jones'?"
  • 2nd Girl: "Yeah! Swell picture. That Dan Duryea is sure a menace."
  • 1st Girl: "Isn't he a scare sack? If I'd meet him face to face he'd curdle me on the spot. There's really a desperate character, I'll bet."

by Fredda Dudley

This vivid reputation has been earned by Mr. Duryea's work in "The Little Foxes" with Bette Davis in which he played the nasty nephew; in "Ball of Fire" as the hoodlum who got clunked on the head by a picture whose cord had been burned through by one of the resourceful professors; in Ministry of Fear as an excessively irresistible Nazi; as the blackmailer in Woman in the Window; and as the foppish son in "The Valley of Decision." His latest viciousness is exercised against Gary Cooper in "Along Came Jones" and Joan Bennett in "Scarlet Street."

Having gathered a good idea of what this man is cinematically, let us investigate his red-pointless hours, which is to say, his ham pursuits. Let us locate him in a small Los Angeles theater, sitting as inconspicuously as possible in the back of the house, next the walk Mr. Duryea, seeing one of his own pictures, is sitting with head bowed, one hand shielding his eyes. He winces at some of the lines. He cannot endure to watch the screen. Confidentially, he can't stand the sight of himself in pictures.

After one of these screenings (he never sees his pictures in the private studio projection rooms for reasons of intense self-consciousness), he said to his wife, "Every time I see myself in pictures, I say to myself, 'there is the kind of a guy that I don't like. Not in the least.'"

This fact gives us the first key to the character of Dan Duryea: he is modest almost to the point of apology.

Physically, off screen, he is tall, slim, blond, soft-voiced and cultured. His manners are perfect, his intellect is sharper than a Bob Hope answer, and his sense of humor is 24-carat. During his formative years he toyed with the idea of becoming an actor (during his senior year in Cornell he was president of the Cornell Dramatic Club), but when the time came to select a profession, Dan's father had a talk with the young man.

"If you wish to have a home and a family, if you wish to be a useful citizen," said the elder Duryea, "don't consider the theater for a career. Select a steadier, surer means of earning a living."

So Dan took up advertising during the lush years when every third novel dealt with a hero in the advertising game. He worked furiously, frantically, making a swarm of locusts seem to flit as dreamily as butterflies in comparison. He commuted, and on the train he made friends with an engaging older man who got off at Dan's station. One day this gentleman's pretty daughter, Helen Bryan, was waiting to drive her father home. "We'll be glad to drop you, too," said Mr. Bryan.

That wasn't entirely the way it turned out; Dan was dropped in a manner of speaking that night, but later became a member of the family when he married Helen. It was a beautiful wedding, solemnized in a church in White Plains. The groom wore a handsome dress suit, rented for the occasion, and lost his mind in a quiet way when the bride was very late for the ceremony. Seems that the taxi driver who was to transport the bride to the church got lost and delivered her to the wrong edifice. It required the better part of an hour to rectify this mistake while Dan engaged in the mental state that the Army would describe as "sweating it out."

Having been a rapidly advancing young bachelor in the business world, Dan — as a married man — worked even harder than before. He carried his work and worries home from the office; he slept little; he drove himself unmercifully. When he learned that there was to be a new Duryea, he really extended his efforts.

One Sunday he and Helen went on a family picnic; Dan got out with the rest of the men to play a little sandlot baseball and noticed that he was no good at fielding, he couldn't run bases, and his pitching arm was unsteady. He felt like macaroni left overnight in ice water. But, manlike, he refused to take it seriously.

A week later he and Helen went dancing. He discovered that it was impossible for him to circle the small night club floor without becoming breathless and dizzy. "Guess I'll have to slow down a little," he thought. "Get more rest."

A few days later, walking from the subway to his office, he knew that there was a bother in his heart. His ears rang. His tongue was dry. His chest was a bellows. Somehow he managed to reach his desk and the telephone. He called Helen. "Now, don't get excited, and don't be nervous, but I think you had better drive into town, pick me up and take me to a doctor. There's something wrong."

The doctor agreed. "Serious heart strain," he said, and ordered Dan to bed. There he lay for three months. When the stork began to flutter around the chimney, Dan thrust himself into an overcoat and a pair of shoes and took Helen to the hospital. "Which of you is the patient?" asked the nurse as the Duryeas ascended the steps.

Dan went home and returned to bed, calling the hospital every thirty minutes. Between calls he lay there cursing his illness, his inability to be with Helen. Those were black moments; and then the nurse had to tell him as gently as possible that his small daughter had been born dead, but that Helen was recovering easily because of her superb constitution and her magnificent spirit.

Three months later Dan and Helen went to Florida to make possible their complete recuperation. During all these months, Dan's former employer in the advertising firm had kept him on half salary, a kindness that Dan has never forgotten. The instant he hits New York these days, his first call is made on the man who stuck with him when the going was tough.

In Florida, Dan had to think about getting back to work. Advertising was out, that he knew — too strenuous. His college friend, Franchot Tone, was doing well on Broadway, and another classmate, Sidney Kingsley, had just written a hit play, Men in White.

"What would you think about my making a pass at the stage?" Dan asked Helen.

"I think you'd be good," said that loyal wife. "If that's what you want, it's what I want."

So Dan went to see Sidney Kingsley, who was casting Dead End. He gave Dan a G-man part and Dan improved the shining hour by learning the entire play, especially the lines of the male lead. The play ran and ran and ran for 85 weeks. But three weeks before closing night both the leading man and his understudy left the cast for other roles and Daft had the glittering opportunity to play the lead. Yes, this sounds like a Hollywood scenario, but what good is Hollywood if occasionally it can't make life live up to art.

Dan's next play lasted twenty-one weeks and his next only six. But at no time, was he out of work except between one stage door and the next. Then came the hundred-week run (fifty on Broadway, fifty on the road) of The Little Foxes in which Dan enacted the poltroon nephew of Tallulah Bankhead. When Sam Goldwyn decided to film this play, he signed Dan to filmatize his original stage role. So much for the professional Mr. Duryea, matchless menace.

In private life, this quick man with the Colts has never fired a serious shot in his life. As a kid he heard again and again the chilling story about the time his father shot off his uncle's hat with an unloaded gun. Only by a miracle did Dan's uncle escape death. Unlike most boys, Dan didn't want, and never owned, a BB gun nor a.22. Furthermore, he has never been hunting in his life.

In "The Great Flammarion," Dan was required to stand against a backdrop on which were a series of electric globes outlining his silhouette. Eric von Stroheim  was supposed to shoot out the lights, with Dan looking as indestructible as possible amid the barrage. Naturally, a professional sharpshooter was engaged for this scene as the camera frame picked up only Dan, then swung around to pick up von Stroheim. The professional sharpshooter loved his work and was fully conscious of his audience of droop-tongued, breathless big eyes. He was supposed to be using only quarter shots in his pistols, but Dan is accustomed to the detonation of quarter shots so knew instantly that a much heavier charge was being used.

There he stood, the bad man, flinching from poetic justice as a marksman smashed globe after globe a scant few inches from the Duryea head. When the scene was shot about half the people on the set wanted to faint.

When he was cast in "Along Came Jones," he had to learn how to handle a pair of pistols convincingly. Enviously, he watched Gary Cooper spinning the shooting irons with masterly nonchalance. "Er — I'd like to learn how to do that," said Dan. So Gary showed him.

At last they were ready to film the first scene in which Dan had to menace local citizens with lead. He twirled his pistols expertly; he backed through the door, kicked the door shut. Then he dropped his gun, causing one chamber to discharge. He was disgusted. Everyone else was tickled to pieces and gave him a bad time.

When the Duryeas moved into their Mulholland Drive home, Dan found a forgotten BB gun in one of the closets. Procuring a step ladder, he climbed up to a point from which he could slide the firearm to the extreme rear of the highest shelf in the closet. He didn't want the young Duryeas, Pete, aged 6, and Dick, aged 3, to see the gun and get early ideas.

In other matters, he is quick to instruct his sons. Recently, Dan went on a hospital tour throughout the east. He made arrangements for his wife and the two boys to meet in White Plains because he wanted Pete and Dick to know something of the east, to understand some of the things that Dan knew so well during his own boyhood. He took them up to the family attic, loaded with the castoffs of an active family life; he took them down into the cellar to display the stored fruit and other provender. (There are neither attics nor cellars in most modern California houses.) Said Peter of the cellar, "Daddy, do people actually live down here?"

Neither boy had ever seen a brook, nor a spring. All three of the Duryea men fished lackadaisically with shorn twigs, string and bent pins, showing no surprise when they caught nothing. The two youngsters stripped off shoes and stockings to go wading.

"A little later on I want to take the boys east during the winter. I want them to build snow forts and have snow battles like I did as a kid," Dan told his wife.

When Dan is between pictures (which is practically never) he reads a great deal (considers The Robe one of the greatest stories he has ever had the pleasure of devouring, until three and four A.M.), and he works in his garden.

Don't let him get started on a conversational spree about that garden. He is currently growing roses to make Burbank swoon, sweet peas and delphinium that have bees as far east as Denver buzzing his plants.

Sartorially, Dan belongs to the raunchy division, in an elegant sort of way. His sports coats are of the best material, left somewhat unpressed. He likes slacks of one color, coats of harmonizing tones, colored shirts (preferably navy blue) and ties that would sprain a rainbow.

Occasionally someone writes to Dan, congratulating him on his brilliant theatrical work, and asking to what tricks, if any, he attributes the success that is piling higher on his doorstep every day. Answers Dan with husky gratitude, "I've been shot with luck."

Friends, hearing of a current Duryea antic, are now discounting his ability and begging him for word from his personal expert. Seems that he went to the races not so long ago, idly noticed an equine named Air Glory. Having just completed a hospital tour during which he talked day in and day out to some of our flying heroes, Dan viewed this horse's name as a legitimate tip.

He wagered in accordance with his hunch and his belief that horseshoes are practically his coat of arms. Whereupon, Desperate Dan's horse thrust a nose in front of several hastening oaters, and paid $149.10 to win, $55.60 to place, and $19.30 to show.

This proves conclusively that Dan Duryea will keep track of success — one way or another.

Remember Woman in the Window? Then you'll want to see Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in the new drama, "Scarlet Street" (left).

Dan is also featured with Deanna Durbin and Ralph Bellamy in "Lady On A Train."


Why Hollywood's "Teen-Agers" Choose The Only Pet That Sings!

Peggy Ann Garner, star of "Junior Miss," a Twentieth Century-Fox Production, says: '"Canaries are favorite pets with me because they're so full of fun and happiness. You should have one, too!"

Yes, you'll find a canary is so easy to care for and so full of cheer that you'll agree, "a songster is truly a perfect pet!" So, own a canary, the only pet that sings! Or give a songster to one you love. You can help keep your canary healthy and singing if you'll always remember to feed French's Bird Seed and Bird Biscuit. It's the balanced songster diet and a nationwide favorite.

French's Canary Diet — America's First Choice!

French's Bird Seed and Bird Biscuit contains 11 proven aids to a canary's health and song. Air-washed and time-tested, French's is the largest selling bird seed in the U.S.

Send for this colorful thrilling canary book— it's free!

"Keep a Song in Your Home," French's entertaining canary book, will thrill you with true canary stories... photos (some in full-color) of your favorite movie stars with their canaries. Send for your free copy now! Write to: The R. T. French Company, 2593 Mustard Street, Rochester 9, N.Y.


Loveliest In America!

Marie McDonald, Hunt Stromberg Star, appearing in "Getting Gertie's Garter"

An Edward Small Production for United Artists Release


"Gems for Lady America"


Product of Axel Bros.

Diamond Ring Stylists... New York

5-Diamond Engagement Ring $330

5-Diamond Wedding Ring $67.50

Fed. Tax Incl.

Buy a Bigger Victory Bond and a Smaller Diamond

Collection: Screenland MagazineDecember 1945