Untroubled good looks, faraway poise & self-control, with a satyric smile and brushed-aside sophistication – that’s Bradford Dillman
Bradford Dillman is one of those ubiquitous & versatile actors who you find popping up just about everywhere, and whenever I either see him in the credits or think about some of his performances, I am immediately happified by his presence in my mind and on screen. It’s this familiarity that signposts for me that whatever upcoming diversion I’m in store for will be something memorable indeed.
He’s been cast as a saint, a psychopath, an elite ivy league intellectual with an edge, an unconventional scientist, a military figure, a droll, and prickly individualist, a clueless bureaucrat, or drunken malcontents and he’s got a sort of cool that is wholly appealing.
Bradford Dillman was omnipresent starting out on the stage, and in major motion pictures at the end of the 50s, and by the 1960s he began his foray into popular episodic television series and appeared in a slew of unique made-for-television movies throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the addition of major motion picture releases through to the 90s. His work intersects many different genres from melodramas, historical dramas, thrillers, science fiction, and horror.
There are a few actors of the 1960s & 70s decades that cause that same sense of blissed-out flutters in my heart — that is of course if you’re as nostalgic about those days of classic cinema and television as I am. I get that feeling when I see actors like Stuart Whitman, Dean Stockwell, Roy Thinnes, Scott Marlow, Warren Oates, James Coburn, Lee Grant David Janssen, Michael Parks, Barbara Parkins, Joanna Pettet, Joan Hackett, Sheree North, Diana Sands, Piper Laurie, Susan Oliver, and Diane Baker. I have a fanciful worship for the actors who were busy working in those decades, who weren’t Hollywood starlets or male heartthrobs yet they possessed a realness, likability, a certain individual knack, and raw sex appeal.
Bradford Dillman was born in San Francisco in 1930 to a prominent local family. During the war, he was sent to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. At Hotchkiss, his senior year he played Hamlet. At Yale, he studied English Literature and performed in amateur theatrical productions, and worked at the Playhouse in Connecticut. Dillman served in the US Marines in Korea (1951-1953) and made a pact that he’d give himself five years to succeed as an actor before he called it quits. Lucky for us, he didn’t wind up in finance the way his father wanted him to.
Dillman enrolled and studied at the Actors Studio, he spent several seasons apprenticing with the Sharon Connecticut Playhouse before making his professional acting debut in an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarecrow” in 1953 with fellow Studio students Eli Wallach and James Dean. Dillman referred to Dean as ‘a wacky kid’ but ‘very gifted’.
He only appeared in two shows in October 1962 The Fun Couple in 1957 with Dyan Cannon and Jane Fonda before the play closed in New York only after two days.
We lost Bradford Dillman last year in January 2018. I was so saddened to hear the news. And I missed the chance to tribute to his work then, but now that his birthday is here, I feel like celebrating his life rather than mourning his death, so it’s just as well.
Bradford Dillman wrote an autobiography called Are You, Anybody? An Actor’s Life, published in 1997 with a (foreword by Suzy Parker) in which he downplays the prolific contribution he made to film and television and acting in general. Though Dillman didn’t always hold a high opinion of some of the work he was involved in, appearing in such a vast assortment of projects, he always came across as upbeat and invested in the role.
“Bradford Dillman sounded like a distinguished, phony, theatrical name, so I kept it.”
[about his career] “I’m not bitter, though. I’ve had a wonderful life. I married the most beautiful woman in the world. Together we raised six children, each remarkable in his or her own way and every one a responsible citizen. I was fortunate to work in a profession where I looked forward to going to work every day. I was rewarded with modest success. The work sent me to places all over the world I’d never been able to afford visiting otherwise. I keep busy and I’m happy. And there are a few good films out there that I might be remembered for.”
Dillman made his debut on the Broadway stage in the production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1956, where he played Edmund Tyrone and won a Theatre World Award for his performance. He co-starred with Fredric March whom he considered as a mentor. March played his father and Jason Robards as his alcoholic brother Jamie. Dillman got rave reviews which were his stepping-off place for his future career. Darryl F. Zanuck liked what he saw in this new young actor and so 20th Century-Fox placed the dark-haired up-and-comer under contract.
And while O’Neill’s play was adapted to screen in 1962 the role of Edmund went to Dean Stockwell who had been in the Broadway production of Compulsion, as Bradford Dillman’s contract with 20th Century Fox required him to debut in the romantic melodrama adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile 1958 directed by Jean Negulesco. Bradford Dillman plays Bertrand Griot who is engaged to Dominique, though she is enamored with his playboy Uncle Luc (Rossano Brazzi) married to the beautiful Françoise (Joan Fontaine). He earned a Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer” as the Parisian art student who loses his girl (Christine Carère) to the worldly Italian lover Rossano Brazzi.
Bradford Dillman is shown above with Christine Carère in A Certain Smile (1958). His next film was In Love and War co-starring Mort Sahl, Dana Wynter, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner, Sheree North, Hope Lang, France Nuyen, and Bradford Dillman as Alan Newcombe. In 1944, the film tells the stories of three Marines and the effect the war had on their personal lives.
Dana Wynter and Bradford Dillman in In Love and War (1958).
The following year was perhaps his most notable early major motion picture — Compulsion (1959) directed by Richard Fleischer is writer Meyer Levin’s fictional account of the Leopold and Loeb sensational murder case. Compulsion also stars Dean Stockwell with the supportive cast of Diane Varsi, Martin Milner, and E.G. Marshall who plays prosecutor Robert Crowe, Robert F. Simon, Louise Lorimer, Richard Anderson, Edward Binns and Orson Welles’ character Jonathan Wilk whose character is fashioned after famous criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow. Based on the infamous crime of the century 1920s kidnapping/murder of a little boy. The film covers the crime the two college boys Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb commit and their subsequent trial. Darrow managed to keep the two murderous psychopaths from being sent to the gallows.
Edward Binns, Bradford Dillman and Louise Lorimer in Compulsion (1959).
Dillman was perfectly unsettling as the dominant Arthur A. Straus who is the fictional parallel of real-life Dicky Loeb, son of a Sears, Roebuck & Co. executive who tried to commit the perfect crime. And equally engaging as always, is Dean Stockwell as the submissive Judd Steiner the counterpart for Leopold. Their performances were startling as the murderous pair of elitist psychopaths, which earned them both the best actor award at the 1959 Cannes film festival. Bradford Dillman also won a Golden Globe as the most promising newcomer.
Bill Miller was the cinematographer on Compulsion who worked with his stark tones that set the potent mood on the other Richard Fleischer film that cast Bradford Dillman once again with Orson Welles and Juliette Grèco — Crack in the Mirror (1960).
Bradford went on in 1961 to play the 13th-century Italian saint Francis Bernadone, who chooses a monastic life and starts his own religious order sanctioned by the Pope, Francis of Assisi is directed by Michael Curtiz.
Then came his role as the spy tortured by the Nazis, Captain Paul Raine unknowingly is sent on “a doomed mission because of the high likelihood of him divulging secrets if captured and tortured” in Circle of Deception 1960 co-starring with soon-to-be wife, fashion model Suzy Parker who studied under Coco Chanel. Parker appeared in the 50s pulp melodrama The Best of Everything (1959) and in 1964 appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone episode Number 12 Looks Just Like You. In 1968 Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman moved to Montecito California and Suzy made the decision to give up her acting career so that she could spend time raising their six children.
Bradford Dillman and Suzy Parker in Circle of Deception (1960).
Bradford Dillman as Paul Raine captured by the Nazis in Circle of Deception (1960)
In 1962 Bradford Dillman was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the Alcoa Premiere presentation of The Voice of Charlie Point, co-starring Bill Bixby and Diana Hyland.
The overly ambitious U.S. Army battalion commander Major Barnes (Bradford Dillman) co-stars in The Bridge at Remagen with George Segal, E.G. Marshall, Ben Gazzara, and Robert Vaughn.
Publicity shot of Bradford Dillman and Lee Remick in William Faulker’s Sanctuary (1961).
He starred as Gowan Stevens, the sinful Temple Drake’s (Lee Remick) husband in William Faulker’s Sanctuary (1961) directed by Tony Richardson co-starring Lee Remick. In A Rage to Live 1965, Dillman plays Sidney Tate a gentleman farmer who falls in love with Grace Caldwell portrayed by Suzanne Pleshette in an incredible role as a woman who is driven by her sexual desires. Grace marries Sidney and promises to be faithful but she carries her tainted past around with her and cannot resist temptation when her ex-lover Ben Gazzara) comes back into the picture. A few more film roles in the 1960s came his way. The Plainsman 1966, Jigsaw 1968, where he plays Jonathan Fields a man who wakes up with amnesia in the middle of a murder plot, and Sergeant Ryker (1968) co-starring Peter Graves and Vera Miles. Directed by Buzz Kulik, the film was the pilot movie for the Court Martial television series and then there was the engaging The Bridge at Remagen (1969). And there is an outre atmospheric tv movie directed by Paul Wendkos – Fear No Evil (1969) which was supposed to be a pilot for a supernatural television series starring Louis Jourdan, Carroll O’Connor, Marsha Hunt, and Lynda Day George. And then came the 1970s!
Bradford Dillman plays Bill Delancey in the film adaptation of Fred Mustard Stewart’s first novel The Mephisto Waltz 1971 directed by Paul Wendkos. Though Dillman’s role was more on the periphery in relation to the rest of the characters, it goes to show that he inhabited an actor’s world, often cast as the representative archetype of a sophisticated ‘everyman’. The film is an atmospheric and trippy indulgence with his use of color and disorienting camera work. I saw the film during its theatrical release as a double feature with Rosemary’s Baby which was initially released in 1968. In New York, they double-billed it with The Mephisto Waltz. It was a time in cinema when filmmakers not only delved into the devil worship hysteria but also wanted to ride on the coattails of the success of Rosemary’s Baby from the mind of writer Ira Levin’s novel and William Castle’s eye for gold brought to provocative fever pitch by director Roman Polanski’s brilliant vision as a director. And of course, the casting was sheer poetic embellishment. But that’s for a whole other post.
When I went to the theater to be treated to two decadent films, I was a very old 9-year-old. I was riveted by the narratives and their bewildering rhythm and heady pace. The Mephisto Waltz did not go over well with critics yet, I am a fan of Wendkos’ style, and I hung on every frame. Plus I was mesmerized by Barbara Parkin’s raven-haired exquisiteness. The movie came out during cinema’s preoccupation with devil worship in an urban setting and in the midst of a seemingly clean-cut American lifestyle of bougie suburbia. The film is a lesser-known ‘devil’ picture concerning a dying concert pianist Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens) who practices black magic and intends to master soul transference into the body of his protégé Myles Clarkeson. This diabolical plot is brewed with the help of his arrestingly beautiful daughter Roxanne, the sylph-like Barbara Parkins whose exquisite beauty makes one woozy just to look at her. As the bewitching Roxanne, Parkins is far from the wayward ingénue she played in Valley of the Dolls who must find her way back home again. In The Mephisto Waltz, she is a she-devil who carries on satanic rituals and aids in her father’s diabolical plan by possessing Paula Clarkson’s (Jacqueline Bisset) body so she can continue to be with her father who will now reside in Myles’ body. There is an overt allusion to an incestuous relationship between Jurgens and Parkins, which explains why Quinn Martin did not release this film for television and it is the only theatrical release produced by the prolific Quinn Martin. Jurgens- wants his youth and his maestro legacy to live on in pianist Myles Clarkson (a very handsome and serious Alan Alda. Bradford Dillman plays Barbara Parkin’s ex-husband Bill who is aware of her predilection toward devil worship and warns Paula of how dangerous Roxanne and her father are, and how they practice devil worship to do anything they want to get what they want, much to his mistake as he winds up with the fatal blue oily dot on his forehead. This film possesses a very artful mean streak that lingers. Not to mention that slick 70s style, Moss Mabry’s fashion design, and Jerry Goldsmith’s potent score that incorporates composer Franz Liszt’s forceful & infernal The Mephisto Waltz.
Three talking chimpanzees (Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, and Sal Mineo) arrive in a U.S. spacecraft. Soon they become a hit with society until they are seen as a threat to the human race but they are aided by the amiable Dr. Lewis Dixon played with flawless charm and humor by Bradford Dillman
Bradford Dillman, Kim Hunter, Natalie Trundy, and Roddy McDowall in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Bradford Dillman plays the compassionate Dr. Lewis Dixon appearing with Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and in the outre creepy science fiction tv movie Dillman plays Senator Zachary Wheeler who is at the center of a profane secret medical plot in The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971) co-starring Lesley Nielsen, James Daly, and Angie Dickinson.
Revenge! (1971) made for tv movie co-stars Shelley Winters as the deranged Amanda Hilton who blames the suicide of her daughter on Frank Klaner (Bradford Dillman) and holds him hostage in her cellar. The film also stars Stuart Whitman as a psychic enlisted by Bradford Dillman’s wife (Carol Rossen.) Five Desperate Women (1971) made for tv movie co-stars an ensemble cast as five women are marooned on the island and one of the men there is actually a homicidal maniac. Could it be Jim Meeker? (Bradford Dillman). Robert Conrad, Anjanette Comer, Joan Hackett, Denise Nicholas, and Stephanie Powers and The Eyes of Charles Sands (1972) made for tv movie co-starring the always marvelous Barbara Rush, Joan Bennett, and Peter Haskell who inherits his Uncles gift of second sight.
There was director Daniel Petrie’s atmospheric Moon of the Wolf (1972) another made for tv movie Bradford Dillman plays a tormented Andrew Rodanthe, Barbara Rush’s brother who might be a werewolf, it also stars David Janssen, who is investigating the strange murders in the small bayou community.
Bradford Dillman did his share of tantalizing, terrifying made for tv movies… In Five Desperate Women, he plays Jim Meeker, the strange boat captain who brings 5 lovely ladies to an isolated island for a vacation retreat only to become suspected of murdering one of them!
In director Daniel Petrie’s Moon of the Wolf (1972) starring David Janssen as Sheriff Aaron Whitaker and Barbara Rush as Louise Rodanthe, Bradford Dillman plays Andrew Rodanthe who may be behind the local murders, and the killings just may be the work of a werewolf!
Shelley Winters tortures Bradford Dillman in this taut psychological thriller Revenge! (1971) screenplay by Joseph Stefano.
In 1973 he played Redford’s easygoing sidekick J.J. (Dillman plays an undergrad though he was in his early 40s) in The Way We Were (1973). I read that Bradford Dillman’s favorite screen role was that of Willie Oban in director John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh starring Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin.
He earned a Daytime Emmy for his appearance in The ABC Afternoon Playbreak: Last Bride of Salem (1974) and also in 1974 Dillman appeared as Major Mike Dunning in the television movie The Disappearance of Flight 412, co-starring Glenn Ford and David Soul. Bradford Dillman made a lot of films in the 70s, he played the unscrupulous mine manager Manfred Steyner in Gold (1974) co-starring Roger Moore, Ray Milland, John Gielgud, and Susannah York.
In 1974 he appeared as Peter Macomber in Chosen Survivors a post-apocalyptic film about a select group of individuals sent to an underground facility to see how they will fair when assailed by mutant bats. The film is a claustrophobic exercise in hysteria.
Edmond O’Brien plays Uncle Frank Kelly who hires Harry Crown (Richard Harris) to help him fight a gang war. Uncle Frank’s No. One enemy is the lisping dandy Big Eddie played with delicious camp by Bradford Dillman in John Frankenheimer’s comedy action thriller 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974)
Bradford Dillman plays scientist James Parmiter who discovers the Parmiter bug in William Castle’s Bug (1975) directed by Jeannot Szwarc about an earthquake that uncovers deep within the earth, very large and super intelligent cockroaches who start fires and can do tactical precision spelling on the wall… eeewwww! But Dillman does a brilliant job of over the topping it with his scientific zeal becoming more and more grubby and demented by the loss of his wife (Joanna Miles) as he is determined to first preserve his discovery and then must find a way to destroy them before they take over the earth. Watch for poor Joanna Miles who gets one of those nasty suckers in her hair and goes up in flames. Also, feline lovers like me, be warned a cat is killed in the film.
By this time, Bradford Dillman had attained a well-deserved cult status. Dillman played Clint Eastwood’s inept, opportunistic, and oblivious superior Captain McKay in the Dirty Harry series’ The Enforcer (1976) And similarly ignorant and narcissistic Capt. Briggs in Sudden Impact (1983). Bradford Dillman played John Wilkes Booth in The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977) Dillman also played a renegade DEA agent in The Amsterdam Kill (1977) with Robert Mitchum.
Bradford Dillman plays John Wilkes Booth and John Anderson manifests Abraham Lincoln
Then he went on to star as the gruff Paul Grogan, a retired scientist who has walked away from life to remain in nature’s solitude with his supply of alcohol until a military experiment is accidentally released into the water. The film co-stars Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, and Barbara Steele. In Joe Dante’s delicious cult hit and I do mean delicious for those flesh-eating fiendish Piranha (1978). And if nature wasn’t having enough fun waging war against humankind Irwin Allen decided that deadly swarms of killer bees were more fun than capsizing cruise ships and earthquakes combined in this mega flop swarming with stars Michael Caine, Olivia de Havilland, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda, Cameron Mitchell and our birthday guy Bradford Dillman as Major Baker in The Swarm (1978)
In between doing major motion pictures, Bradford Dillman was a fixture on television. He co-starred with Stuart Whitman in the intense biopic Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979).
Into the 80s he co-starred with Raquel Welch in The Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982), and returned as Dirty Harry’s boss in Sudden Impact (1983). He appeared in the cult adventure schlock Treasure of the Amazon (1985) Man Outside 1987, and a film by Roger Corman – Lords of the Deep (1989) but in 1992 Bradford Dillman retired from acting. He and Suzy Parker remained married for 43 years until her death in 2003 at the age of 69. Bradford Dillman, who was born on April 14, 1930, died from natural causes on January 16, 2018, at the age of 87.
JUST TO MENTION A FEW TELEVISION SHOWS!
From Breaking Point ep Shadow of a Starless Night (1964)
A scene from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode To Catch a Butterfly (1962) directed by David Lowell Rich with Bradford Dillman co-starring Diana Hyland as a husband and wife who are terrorized by a psychotic little boy next door.
Bradford Dillman plays the victim in the superb detective series featuring Peter Falk as the tenacious and underestimated Columbo in the episode directed by Boris Sagal —The Greenhouse Jungle (1972) starring Ray Milland.
In Rod Serling’s horror anthology series of the 1970s Night Gallery, Bradford Dillman stars in a ghoulish tale based on a story by H.P Lovecraft co-starring Louis Sorel in Pickman’s Model.
As walking stick killer Mike Trayne in The Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Cut-Throats.
Bradford Dillman plays John Rubenstein’s father architect Matt Bryan, in The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode You Certainly are a Big Boy.
Bradford Dillman and the brilliant Eileen Heckart excel in an episode of Naked City’s episode “Her Life in Moving Pictures” in 1963. Dillman plays a predatory male suitor, with a cold calculating sadistic streak.
Dillman stars in an episode of The Eleventh Hour television series. “Eat Little Fishie Eat”
Kraft Theatre 1953-1956* Omnibus 1957* Climax! 1957* Matinee Theatre 1957
*The Eleventh Hour 1962 ep Eat Little Fishy Eat *Naked City 1963 ep Her Life in Moving Pictures
*Alcoa Premier 1962-63* Kraft Mystery Theater 1963* Kraft Suspense Theatre 1963 ep The Case Against Paul Ryker, Dillman defends Sergeant Ryker played by Lee Marvin. *Wagon Train 1963* The Doctors and The Nurses 1964 ep Credo* Ben Casey 1964 ep The Bark of a Three-Headed Hound *Breaking Point 1964 ep Shadow of a Starless Night *The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1963-64 ep To Catch a Butterfly & Isabel *Court Martial 1965-66 Bradford Dillman’s show – he appeared as Capt. David Young of the pilot premiered on Kraft Suspense Theatre *Dr. Kildare 1964-66 *The Man from UNCLE 1967 *The Big Valley 1966-67 *The Wild Wild West 1967 *The F.B.I. 1966-71 *Judd for the Defense 1968 *The Name of the Game 1968 ep The Taker *The Bold Ones: The New Doctors 1969-ep Crisis *Marcus Welby M.D. 1969-ep The Chemistry of Hope *Dan August 1970 *Ironside 1970 *The Virginian 1963-71 *Longstreet 1971 pilot *The F.B.I. 1966-71 *Bonanza 1971 *Night Gallery 1971 ep Pickman’s Model *Mission: Impossible 1968-72 *Alias Smith and Jones 1972 *The Mary Tyler Moore Show 1972 ep You Certainly are a Big Boy *The Sixth Sense 1972 ep Face of Ice
*Mod Squad 1972 *Columbo 1972 ep The Greenhouse Jungle *McCloud 1973 *Medical Center 1970-1973 eps A Life at Stake, A Shattered Man, The Assailant *Barnaby Jones 1973-1978 ep Requiem for a Son *The Manhunter 1975 *Cannon 1972-75 ep Cain’s Mark *The Streets of San Francisco 1975 ep Murder by Proxy *Thriller 1975-ep Death in Deep Water *Barnaby Jones 1973-78 ep Final Judgement *The Incredible Hulk 1979 ep The Snare *Charlie’s Angels 1980 ep Angels of the Deep *Fantasy Island 1980 *Kings Crossing 1982 *Falcon Crest 1982-1983 *The Love Boat 1983 *Dynasty 1984 *Hotel 1984-85 *Murder, She Wrote (1985-95)-8 episodes
LIST OF VARIOUS FILMS
As Bertrand Griot in A Certain Smile 1958 as Alan Newcombe in In Love and War 1958 as Arthur A. Straus in Compulsion 1959 as Larnier / Claude in Crack in the Mirror 1960 as Paul Raine in Circle of Deception 1960 as Gowan Stevens in Sanctuary 1961 as Francis Bernardone of Assisi in Francis of Assisi 1961 as Sidney Tate in A Rage to Live 1965 as Lt. Stiles in The Plainsman 1966 as Jonathan Fields in Jigsaw 1968 as Paul Varney in Fear No Evil tv movie 1968 as Major Barnes in The Bridge at Remagen 1969 as Jabez Link in Mastermind 1969 as Capt. Myerson in Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? 1970 as Bill Delancey in The Mephisto Waltz 1971 as Dr. Lewis Dixon in Escape from the Planet of the Apes 1971 as Jim Meeker in Five Desperate Women tv movie 1971 as Frank Klaner in Revenge! tv movie 1971 as Senator Zachary Wheeler in The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler 1971
as Jeffrey Winslow in The Eyes of Charles Sand tv movie 1972 as Andrew Rodanthe in Moon of the Wolf tv movie 1972 as Steven Dennis in Deliver Us from Evil tv movie 1973 as J.J. in The Way We Were 1973 as Willie Oban in The Iceman Cometh 1973 as Sam Champion in Murder or Mercy tv movie 1974
as Peter Macomber in Chosen Survivors 1974 as Manfred Steyner in Gold 1974 as Professor Michael Lagrange in the giallo thriller A Black Ribbon For Deborah 1974 as Big Eddie in 99 AND 44% DEAD (1974) as Major Mike Dunning in The Disappearance of Flight 412 tv movie 1974 as James Parmiter in Bug 1975 as Ned McLean in The Legendary Curse of the Hope Diamond TV movie 1975 as Michael Dominick in Force Five tv movie 1975 as Sam in The Wide World of Mystery TV movie 1975–Demon, Demon 1975 as Capt. McKay in The Enforcer 1976 as Howard Bronstein in Street Killing tv movie 1976 as Howard Odums in The Amsterdam Kill 1977 un-credited role in The Dark Secrets of Harvest Home tv mini series 1978 as Major Baker in The Swarm 1978 as Paul Grogan in Piranha 1978 as Brickman in Love and Bullets 1979 as Jack Matthews in Before and After 1979 tv movie as Dr. Gary Shaw in Guyana: Cult of the Damned 1979 tv movie as Captain Briggs in Sudden Impact 1983 as Clark in Treasure of the Amazon 1985 as Frank Simmons in Man Outside 1987 as Dobler in Lords of the Deep 1989
Bradford Dillman as Big Eddie in John Frankenheimer’s 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974)
Bradford Dillman in Treasure of the Amazon (1985)
Here is a very fascinating interview with Bradford Dillman who talked very openly about his experience working with Orson Welles on Compulsion and Crack in the Mirror. The interview was carried out exclusively through American Legends in 2006, conducted over lunch at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Four-Star Hotel. I’ll let Bradford Dillman speak for himself…
AL: In the film Compulsion, Dean Stockwell played Judd Steiner, the fictional counterpart of Nathan Leopold, the brilliant 19 year old law student who helped plot the crime. How did you come to be cast as Artie Straus?
BD: Compulsion was one of Dick Zanuck’s early assignments as a producer. Fortunately, he chose me. Dean Stockwell had been in the Broadway company of Compulsion with Roddy McDowall whom I came to know later, a terrific guy. But Dean didn’t appreciate the fact that I had been cast and Roddy had not. Dean was standoffish and very difficult with me sometimes. That was okay. Since we were both playing heavies, we didn’t have to be in love with each other.
AL: Orson Welles played the Darrow-like lawyer, Jonathan Wilk, in the film.
BD: The first thing I said to him was, “In my judgment, Citizen Kane is the greatest motion picture that’s ever been made. It’s a great privilege for me to be able to work with you.” He said, “Thank you.” That’s when we were on very good terms.
AL: Did you seek out Welles for advice?
BD: On the set of Compulsion, Orson was very good. He was kind of supportive. He had such an eye for what was going on. If I had any questions, and I didn’t want to ask Richard Fleischer, the director, Orson was right there.
AL: There were a number of young actors in the film. Martin Milner played the young reporter (based on Al Goldstein) who had helped crack the case. Diane Varsi and Edd Byrnes were also in the cast. Did Welles encourage them?
BD: Although Orson was helpful to me on Compulsion, he was not overly friendly. Welles was not a gregarious person. We didn’t have sessions in which we sat around and talked of all the great movies he had done and all the people he had worked with. Orson didn’t talk to the other actors. He never talked about the plot, he never talked about the script. He was the last person called on the set. Everything would be rehearsed. You learned to be very wary in a scene that you didn’t step on his lines or anything like that.
AL: Did Welles rehearse his scenes?
BD: He didn’t like rehearsing. He wanted to keep his performance fresh. My recollection is that he would do a scene three times– and take three was fine.
AL: Did Welles discuss acting technique?
BD: Orson was more a director than he was an actor. He always heard a scene. If he was making a suggestion to Dick Fleischer, Welles would say, “My voice could come down on this word… then Brad’s can come up….” It was all radio acting. When he was performing, he was performing for radio.
AL: You worked several times with both Fredric March and Welles. How would you compare the two?
BD: Welles and Freddie March acted from the outside in. I came from the Actors Studio. We were trained to act from the inside out. Welles and Freddie March were what we call “indicators.” Rather than experiencing the emotion, they indicated it. That was contrary to everything I had been taught. Of course, Welles never talked about the Actors Studio. To him, his Mercury Theater was the definitive acting group. Who’s to say it wasn’t? Some pretty terrific people came out of there: Agnes Moorehead and others.
AL: In Compulsion there is the climatic courtroom scene in which the great attorney pleads for the boys’ lives. Meyer Levin used Darrow’s actual speech.
BD: Orson had read a great deal about Darrow. But he was more interested in knowing where the cameras were going to be during the courtroom summation. We filmed it in one shot. The cameras were fully loaded. Orson plotted in out very carefully. The word was that he was going to stand at particular moments during the speech because he wanted to be sure that he would be seen by the cameras. This was all wonderful preparation.
AL: Did Fleischer and Welles clash on the set?
BD: Orson considered himself to know a lot more than Richard Fleishcher to put it bluntly. Fleischer took it all very nicely. He was able to baby Orson, to sweet talk him to get some of the things that he wanted from Orson.
AL: After finishing Compulsion, Fox put you in Crack in the Mirror, another Welles movie, also directed by Richard Fleischer. Supposedly, Darryl Zanuck wrote the film for Juliette Greco.
BD: Compulsion had been a terrific success, and Dick Zanuck wanted to use me again right away. The movie was shot in Paris. Orson’s attitude toward me completely changed because he had to share the Cannes Film Festival award for best actor with Dean Stockwell and myself. I was then portrayed as an enemy.
AL: Even someone like David O. Selznick found Orson Welles overly competitive.
BD: Orson was hell on wheels. He did everything humanly possible to sabotage me. In the film we each played dual roles that required complicated make-up for the different characters. I would have my hair sprayed blond for one character, for the other it would be tightly curled. Orson would come in every morning after my make-up had been carefully done, and he would say, “How you doing, Curly?” and ruffle my hair; or, he’d do the same thing: “Hi, Blondie.” Orson, by the way, did his own make-up. He had this make-up box that must have gone back to the Mercury Theater. It had never been washed.
AL: Darryl Zanuck was known as a tough master on the set. What was his relationship with Welles?
BD: Darryl Zanuck was too busy taking care of Juliette Greco to have interaction with Welles. Zanuck was very protective of Juliette. The few times he was down on the set, he was making sure that no one was making eyes at her.
AL: In her biography, Barbara Leming writes that Orson Welles resented not being selected to direct Compulsion and so was out to undermine Richard Fleischer on Crack in the Mirror. (Barbara Leming, Orson Welles, New York, Penguin Books ed., 1985)
BD: Richard didn’t fool around with Orson. Nobody fooled around with Orson. He did his own thing. I was sitting in make-up one particular day, and Welles came in. He said, “You seem damn cheerful this morning.” I said, “Well, as a matter of fact, I am…” I told him: “My wife is coming today.” He said, “Your wife? You’re kidding….” I asked him why he thought I was kidding, and he said: “Well, nothing personal, I always thought you were a fag.” The make-up area was upstairs. I was still reeling from his comment when I headed downstairs to the sound stage. Suddenly, it hit me. I was about to do my most important scene in the film, and Welles knew it. He was deliberately trying to knock me off balance so my performance would be affected.
AL: Did things get better toward the end of the shoot?
BD: No. Finally, there was this one scene in which I was supposed to murder him. As we started in with the blocking, Welles said to Dick Fleischer, “This is ridiculous. This is like a gnat attacking a lion.” Remember, Welles was a huge man; he weighed 300 pounds, whatever. I said, “Orson, I realize this looks ludicrous…but if I could bring you to your knees, we might make it look believable….”He said, “Bring me to my knees…” and went on ridiculing me. I asked him, “If I could just demonstrate…” and finally he said, “I suppose so….” By that time I was really angry. I got him to his knees and put a Marine Corps move on him. He screamed…he just screamed like a baby and backed away from me. I thought how silly that it had come to this. The man is a genius, and he feels threatened by some 28 year old kid. This is silly….
AL: Welles died in 1985. Did you ever see or work with him again?
BD: No. We parted in Paris…that was the last time I saw him.
This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying Happy Birthday Bradford Dillman you always bring a smile to my face whenever I see that sexy crooked smile of yours!