The son of a prosperous Philadelphian, Laird Cregar was educated at Winchester Academy in England, spending his summers as a page boy and bit player with the Stratford-on-Avon theatrical troupe. Upon completing his schooling, Cregar won a scholarship at California's Pasadena Playhouse, supporting himself as a nightclub bouncer when funds ran out. So broke that at times he had to sleep in his car, Cregar forced Hollywood to pay attention to him by staging his own one-man show, in which he portrayed Oscar Wilde. After a few minor film roles, the 24-year-old Cregar was signed to a 20th Century-Fox contract; among his first major roles was the middle-aged Francis Chesney in Charley's Aunt (1941), the first of several showcases for the actor's delightful comic flair. With his sinister portrayal of the psychopathic detective in I Wake Up Screaming (1941), Cregar became one of filmdom's top "heavies"--both figuratively and literally. Seldom weighing less than 300 pounds throughout his adult life, Cregar came to a tragic end because of his obsession to become a slim "beautiful man". After top-billing in The Lodger (1944), playing the reclusive British musician who may or may not be Jack the Ripper, the increasingly sensitive Cregar was growing tired of being thought of as merely a hulking villain. When assigned the role of demented pianist George Bone in Hangover Square (1945), Cregar decided to give the character a romantic veneer, and to that end lost one hundred pounds in a crash diet. The strain on his system resulted in severe abdominal problems; a few days after undergoing stomach surgery, the 28-year-old Laird Cregar died of heart attack.