A very notable first role in the cinema, a career boosted occasionally by the meeting with some major filmmakers, a journey representative of what the Hollywood system was offering at the time in full questioning, if not in full crisis. Actor Don Murray died in Goleta, California on February 2, 2024. He was born in Los Angeles on July 31, 1929 to a choreographer, singer and dancer father and a singer mother. who moved to the East Coast in the early 1930s.
After studying at high school in East Rockaway, New York, he joined the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He made his stage debut on Broadway in 1951 in Tennessee Williams’ play The Tattooed Rose . He spent his military service in Europe in humanitarian action, due to his refusal, as a conscientious objector, to participate in the Korean War. He dealt in particular with the numerous refugees regrouped in Italy since the post-war period, before returning to the stage in 1954. This was the moment when television, which had become a true mass medium, in search of stories and especially fresh flesh, offers various opportunities to young actors. He thus appears in various episodes of programs, often live, such as Lux Video Theater , Kraft Television Theater , etc.
But it was the theater that earned him the attention of the cinema. Joshua Logan, himself from the stage, spotted him in the play The Skin of Our Teeth , by Thornton Wilder, and offered him the leading male role in Bus Stop , adapted from a play by William Inge. There is Beauregard Decker, a naive and boorish young cowboy who comes from Montana to Arizona to participate in a rodeo and who falls in love with a trainer. He stubbornly pursues her until he tries to kidnap her.
Bus Stop depicts the meeting of a young aspiring debutant with the star Marilyn Monroe who, by accepting the role, tried to change her image by “deglamorizing” herself. The film is in fact part of this psychological naturalism, often coming from the theater, which attempted to give greater realism and authenticity to the characters in American cinema of the time. The film was a success and earned Don Murray an Oscar nomination. The following year, he appeared in two other films in this vein, The Night of Husbands by Delbert Mann and A Handful of Snow by Fred Zinnemann, in which he played a drug addict.
It was then thanks to two westerns that Don Murray was able to perfect a very particular type of character which would stick with him for a time: that of the youngster discovering the world, of the tender foot confronted with the brutality of the West and who will choose, in each case, a different path. In The Fury of Men (1958) by Henry Hathaway, he is a peaceful young man who accidentally causes the death of a man whose father pursues his vengeance. In the Stendhalian Duel in the Mud (1959) by Richard Fleischer, he plays a novice cowboy determined to get rich even if it means denying his own youthful principles.
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