Robert Ryan

Happy birthday to actor Robert Ryan, born Nov. 11, 1909 in Chicago, IL. Classic film noir as we know it would not be the same without Robert Ryan’s indelible contribution. Appearing in over a dozen noir films, Ryan’s intensity, focus, and undeniable presence is deeply engrained in the film noir DNA. One cannot see a photo of Ryan without viscerally recalling the hateful killer in Crossfire, the vicious gangster in The Racket, the ugly racist in Odds Against Tomorrow, the desperate boxer in The Set-Up, or any number of RobertRyanother unforgettable characters portrayed by Ryan. Ryan’s contribution to the film noir oeuvre is immense: The Woman on the Beach (1947), Crossfire (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Act of Violence (1948), Caught (1949), I Married a Communist (aka The Woman on Pier 13) (1949), The Set-Up (1949), The Secret Fury (1950), Born to Be Bad (1950), The Racket (1951), On Dangerous Ground (1951), Clash by Night (1952), Beware, My Lovely (1952), House of Bamboo (1955, color), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1932, Ryan tried to pursue a career as a playwright, but eventually turned to acting to support himself. His first film appearances were in small parts for MGM in the early 1940s. In 1944 he signed with RKO, and in 1947 achieved recognition for his role as the anti-Semitic killer in Crossfire, earning a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Ryan would continue to play darker roles in noir films for the remainder of the 1940s and 50s. However, he also appeared in westerns, war movies, and adventure films. Ryan’s career continued through the 1960s and into the early 70s with appearances in several notable films: The Longest Day (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Anzio (1968), The Wild Bunch (1969), and The Iceman Cometh (1973). Throughout his life, Ryan held deep political convictions as a liberal and pacifist, which often ran counter to the roles he played, but he actively supported anti-war and civil rights organizations, donating money and volunteering his time. Ryan died in 1973 of lung cancer at age 63.

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