Joel McCrea

Active - 1927 - 1984  |   Born - Nov 5, 1905 in South Pasadena, California, United States  |   Died - Oct 20, 1990   |   Genres - Western, Drama, Action, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actor Joel McCrea came from a California family with roots reaching back to the pioneer days. As a youth, McCrea satiated his fascination with movies by appearing as an extra in a serial starring Ruth Roland. By 1920, high schooler McCrea was a movie stunt double, and by the time he attended USC, he was regularly appearing at the Pasadena Playhouse. McCrea's big Hollywood break came with a part in the 1929 talkie Jazz Age; he matriculated into one of the most popular action stars of the 1930s, making lasting friendships with such luminaries as director Cecil B. DeMille and comedian Will Rogers. It was Rogers who instilled in McCrea a strong business sense, as well as a love of ranching; before the 1940s had ended, McCrea was a multi-millionaire, as much from his land holdings and ranching activities as from his film work. Concentrating almost exclusively on westerns after appearing in The Virginian (1946), McCrea became one of that genre's biggest box-office attractions. He extended his western fame to an early-1950s radio series, Tales of the Texas Rangers, and a weekly 1959 TV oater, Wichita Town, in which McCrea costarred with his son Jody. In the late 1960s, McCrea increased his wealth by selling 1200 acres of his Moorpark (California) ranch to an oil company, on the proviso that no drilling would take place within sight of the actor's home. By the time he retired in the early 1970s, McCrea could take pride in having earned an enduring reputation not only as one of Hollywood's shrewdest businessmen, but as one of the few honest-to-goodness gentlemen in the motion picture industry.

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