Dan Duryea on Turner Classic Movies

When we discovered TCM would feature a Starring Dan Duryea night, naturally we asked Mike Peros, author of DAN DURYEA: HEEL WITH A HEART to give us a list of his favorite Dan Duryea movies. If one night of Dan Duryea isn't enough, make sure you follow up with Mike's list. 

Starring Dan Duryea, March 31 on TCM 

By Mike Peros, author of DAN DURYEA: HEEL WITH A HEART

Finally, after years of opening my TCM Now Playing guide and seeing all kinds of luminaries (and not-so-luminaries) being offered a month, a night, or a day, I was thrilled when I saw TCM offering a “Starring Dan Duryea” night on March 31.  It’s a good line-up, including the classic Western Winchester ’73, the seminal noir Scarlet Street, 1950’s The Underworld Story (as the flawed good guy in a brave film for the era), Another Part of the Forest (he was Leo in The Little Foxes; in this prequel, he’s a young Oscar Hubbard—in essence, he’s, playing his own father!) and Pride of the Yankees (he and Walter Brennan share some good banter as sportswriters).

Now the good people at TCM didn’t consult me, but if they had, I’d have come up with a slightly different schedule for the evening (I might stretch it to the following morning):

The Little Foxes – Talk about vivid first impressions.  Duryea’s performance as the scheming, sniveling Leo received its fair share of praise, making an indelible mark (for better or worse) on both critics and moviegoers.  Duryea benefited when Lillian Hellman adapted her play, both with added screen time and a memorable scene with his father Oscar—which was shifted by director William Wyler from the living room to the bathroom—to great dramatic effect. 

Scarlet Street – A far darker film than its companion piece The Woman in the Window (both were directed by Fritz Lang and starred Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett), and as uncompromising as you can get.  Here Duryea shows all the traits that made him a guy you love to hate—including slapping the female lead around.  His female fans loved it.

Black Angel – My favorite sympathetic Duryea portrayal.  He’s a lovelorn alcoholic pianist helping a young lady (of whom he’s become enamored) clear her husband of murder—specifically of Duryea’s ex-wife.  It’s a haunting noir, with great support from June Vincent, Peter Lorre, and Broderick Crawford.

Still from Criss Cross
Criss Cross – Duryea is a slick mobster, Burt Lancaster is a naïve armored car driver, and Yvonne De Carlo is the woman they both desire. Duryea and Lancaster hate each other, but that doesn’t stop them from planning a daring heist.  If you’re thinking this can’t end well—it doesn’t.  Essential viewing!

The Underworld Story – Hard-hitting drama about an unscrupulous reporter exiled to the hinterlands who develops a conscience as he gets his big break which involves both a murder and the subsequent hounding of an innocent young woman.  It was a brave film that tackles mob rule, McCarthyism and racism. Duryea is terrific, with Herbert Marshall and Gale Storm lending good support.

Ride Clear of Diablo – A lively Audie Murphy western is elevated by Duryea’s performance as a cackling, carefree outlaw named Whitey (he played a few outlaws named Whitey in the 1950s) who befriends and bedevils Murphy’s naïve deputy.  Duryea and Murphy play beautifully off each other in the best of three Murphy/Duryea teamings.

World for Ransom – Robert Aldrich takes Duryea’s television China Smith, gives him a new name and more of a “fallen romantic” past in this low-budget drama of a jaded private eye doing his best to keep his friend out of trouble—at the behest of his former love—now married to the friend.  Duryea is both tough and sensitive as a very reluctant hero, with Patric Knowles, Marian Carr, and Reginald Denny providing very capable supporting work.

Still from The Burglar
The Burglar – Another low-budget thriller, another fine Duryea performance as an aging burglar who makes a big score, then fights his feelings for his ward (Jayne Mansfield) as he eludes a sweaty, corrupt and possibly murderous cop.   It’s one of Duryea’s best performances, as he invests a weary career criminal with a depth of feeling that makes his final redemptive actions quite credible.

To learn even more about Dan Duryea, purchase your copy of DAN DURYEA: HEAL WITH A HEART here.