Laird Cregar

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Laird Cregar
Laird Cregar in Blood and Sand trailer.jpg
as Natalio Curro in the trailer for Blood and Sand (1941)
Born Samuel Laird Cregar
(1913-07-28)July 28, 1913[1][2]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States[3]
Died December 9, 1944(1944-12-09) (aged 31)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death
heart attack
Years active 1938–44

Laird Cregar (July 28, 1913 – December 9, 1944) was an American film actor.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Samuel Laird Cregar was the youngest of six sons of Edward Matthews Cregar, a cricketer and member of a team called the Gentlemen of Philadelphia. They toured internationally in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Laird's mother was the former Elizabeth Smith.[5]

Laird Cregar was educated at Winchester College in England, spending his summers as a page boy and bit player with the Stratford-upon-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 stage vehicle, Oscar Wilde by Leslie and Sewell Stokes, in which Cregar played the title role.[6]

as Sir Henry Morgan in the trailer for The Black Swan (1942)

After a few minor film roles, Cregar was signed to a 20th Century-Fox contract; among his first major roles was the middle-aged Francis Chesney (at the age of only 24) 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), he followed that up with the successful screwball comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942) playing a con artist opposite Gene Tierney. Cregar became one of filmdom's top "heavies" — both figuratively and literally. Seldom weighing less than 300 pounds (136 kg) throughout his adult life, Cregar became obsessed with his weight.

In 1943, David Bacon a young actor with whom Cregar had been having an affair, was knifed to death in a gay bathhouse, according to accounts in the press, which also published pictures of Cregar, calling him "such a good friend" of the victim. This prompted studio executive Darryl Zanuck to arrange for an article in Silver Screen to link Cregar romantically with Dorothy McGuire, among others, and to report that, despite his weight, the actor was considered sexy by many women.[7]

After top billing in The Lodger (1944), as a character 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.

Death[edit]

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 more than a hundred pounds on a crash diet which included prescribed amphetamines. The strain on his system resulted in severe abdominal problems; a few days after undergoing stomach surgery, Cregar died of a heart attack. He was 31 years old.[8] Hangover Square was released two months after his death.

Cregar is interred in Eventide Section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1940 Oh Johnny, How You Can Love Mechanic
Granny Get Your Gun Court clerk Uncredited
1941 Hudson's Bay Gooseberry
Blood and Sand Natalio Curro
Charley's Aunt Sir Francis Chesney Alternative title: Charley's American Aunt
I Wake Up Screaming Police Insp. Ed Cornell Alternative title: Hot Spot
1942 Joan of Paris Herr Funk
Rings on Her Fingers Warren
This Gun for Hire Willard Gates
Ten Gentlemen from West Point Maj. Sam Carter
The Black Swan Capt. Sir Henry Morgan Alternative title: Rafael Sabatini's The Black Swan
1943 Hello, Frisco, Hello Sam Weaver
Heaven Can Wait His Excellency
Holy Matrimony Clive Oxford
1944 The Lodger Mr. Slade
1945 Hangover Square George Harvey Bone

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1920 U.S. Census, State of Pennsylvania, County of Philadelphia, enumeration district 621, p. 5-B, family 115.
  2. ^ 1930 U.S. Census, State of Pennsylvania, County of Philadelphia, enumeration district 636, p. 1-A, family 9.
  3. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 64. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9. 
  4. ^ Obituary Variety, December 13, 1944.
  5. ^ LATE GREAT LAIRD: LATE GREAT LAIRD Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 2 December 1945: F2.
  6. ^ LAIRD CREGAR'S PORTRAYAL OF 'OSCAR WILDE' HAILED Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 April 1940: 14.
  7. ^ Mann, William J. (2001). Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking. p. 265. ISBN 0670030171. 
  8. ^ Laird Cregar at AllMovie

External links[edit]