Richard Wilson

Active - 1948 - 1991  |   Born - Dec 25, 1915 in McKeesport, PA  |   Died - Aug 12, 1991   |   Genres - Action, Comedy, Drama, Western, Adventure

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Fresh from the University of Denver, American actor Richard Wilson headed to Chicago and then New York, for the hectic life of a radio actor. He befriended fellow performer Orson Welles while both were making the radio-network rounds. In 1937, Welles invited Wilson to join his Mercury Theatre stage troupe, where Wilson functioned as actor, adaptor, production associate and assistant director. When Welles moved his Mercury troupe to Hollywood in 1940 for Citizen Kane, Wilson went along as jack-of-all-trades; if you look closely, you can see the angular Mr. Wilson as one of the shadowy reporters in Kane's closing scenes. After working as a production assistant on Welles' followup film The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Wilson joined Welles in Rio de Janeiro to work on the ill-fated Technicolor documentary It's All True (1942). Stories involving this disaster-prone effort have fallen into the realm of legend, making it difficult for the historian to separate fact from fancy in reporting on the film. Indeed, so many falsehoods concerning It's All True were repeated as gospel in one 1970 book on Welles that Wilson was moved to write a rebuttal article for Sight and Sound magazine, titled "It's Not Quite All True." While many of Welles' Mercury associates had scattered by the late '40s, Wilson remained loyal, acting as associate producer for Welles' The Lady From Shanghai (1947) and Macbeth (1948). On his own as a staff producer at Universal in the '50s, Wilson helmed everything from swashbucklers to Ma and Pa Kettle pictures. He began directing in the '50s, mostly program westerns like Man with the Gun (1955). Wilson did what he could to draw a performance from a burned-out Errol Flynn in The Big Boodle (1957), and coaxed a convincingly dramatic turn from aquatic star Esther Williams in Raw Wind in Eden (1958). Wilson deservedly won critical plaudits for his handling of a brace of brutal Allied Artists gangster pictures, Al Capone (1960) and Pay or Die (1961). Richard Wilson retired in 1968, making an unexpected return to the cameras in 1989 as an actor in the British satire How to Get Ahead in Business.

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