Aldo Ray

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Aldo Ray
Aldo ray 1954.jpg
Ray on the DuMont version of Twenty Questions, 1954
Born Aldo Da Re
(1926-09-25)September 25, 1926
Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died March 27, 1991(1991-03-27) (aged 64)
Martinez, California, U.S.
Cause of death Throat cancer
Occupation Film actor
Years active 1951–1991
Children 4

Aldo Ray (born Aldo Da Re; September 25, 1926 – March 27, 1991) was an American actor.


Early Life[edit]

Ray was born in Pen Argyl in Northampton County in eastern Pennsylvania, to an Italian family with five brothers (Mario, Guido, Dante, Dino and Louis) and one sister (Regina). (His brother, Mario DaRe (1933-2010), lettered in football at USC in the years 1952 to 1954, and on May 12, 1955 appeared as a contestant on the NBC quiz show You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx.[1])

Ray's family moved to northern California when he was an infant. In 1944, at age 18, during World War II, Aldo entered the United States Navy, serving as a frogman until 1946; he saw action at Okinawa with UDT-17.

Acting Career[edit]

Upon leaving the Navy in May 1946 he returned to his family's hometown of Crockett, California. He studied and played football at Vallejo Junior College, then entered the University of California at Berkeley to study political science. (Ray later described himself as an "arch conservative" and a "right winger".[2]) He left college in order to run for the office of Constable of the Crockett Judicial District in Contra Costa County California. "I always knew I was going to be a big man but I thought it was going to be in politics," he said.[3]Brookner, Mary (9 Mar 1952). "A CLOSE-UP OF THE EX-CONSTABLE OF CROCKETT: Aldo Ray, Former Officer of the Law, Is Also at Home as Romantic Movie Hero". New York Times. p. X5. </ref>

In April 1950 Columbia Studios sent a unit to San Francisco to look for some athletes to appear in a film they were making called Saturday's Hero (1951). Ray drove his brother Guido to an audition for the film. Director David Miller was more interested in Ray than his brother because of his voice; also, Ray was comfortable talking to the camera due to his political experience. He later recalled, "They...said 'What's wrong with your voice kid? Are you sick? If you're sick you don't belong here.' I said, 'No, no, no, this is the way I've always spoken.' And they loved it."[2]

Ray signed a contract and was sent to Los Angeles for a screen test. He was cast in the small role of a cynical college football player opposite John Derek and Donna Reed.[4]

Ray worked on the film between the primary and general elections. He was elected constable on 6 June. "I was 23 and a sort of child bride to the voters," he later said.[4]

Columbia picked up their option on Ray's services. "Of all the people in the picture they took up only one option - mine," he said. "And I said, 'thank you, good bye. I'm going home where I can be a big fish in my small pond. You can take this town (Hollywood) and shove it."[2]

Columbia refused to release him from his contract and put him under suspension, giving him a leave of absence. "I told them I couldn't care less, they could give me whatever they wanted," he said.[2] Ray went to work as constable.

Hollywood Stardom[edit]

After several months Ray found "the quiet life... monotonous"[4], so he contacted Max Arnow, talent director at Columbia, and expressed interest in appearing in more movies. Four weeks later Arnow called back, saying Columbia wanted to audition Ray for a small part in Judy Holliday's new movie, The Marrying Kind.

Ray went to Hollywood and did a screen test with the director, George Cukor. The first test went badly but head of Columbia Harry Cohn liked Ray and asked for another test. The second one was done opposite Jeff Donnell, who Ray later married; it was more successful and Ray ended up being cast in the lead.[4]

Harry Cohn felt the name "Aldo Da Rae" was too close to "Dare" and wanted to change it to "John Harrison"; the actor refused and "Aldo Ray" was the compromise.[5]

Cukor famously suggested that Ray go to ballet school because he walked too much like a football player.

"Cukor is hypersensitive to reality," recalled Ray. "He told me exactly what to do and why. He explains everything and he knows exactly what he wants."[6]

Cukor then cast Ray in a support role in Pat and Mike, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Ray's work in Pat and Mike led to his nomination, along with Richard Burton and Robert Wagner, for a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer. Burton won the award that year, but Ray’s career was launched.

Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn liked Ray and wanted him for the role of Private Robert Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953) but Fred Zinnemann insisted Montgomery Clift be cast.[7]

In 1953, he starred opposite Rita Hayworth in Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), a remake of the W. Somerset Maugham story Rain.

In 1954 Ray walked off the set of My Sister Eileen and had to be replaced by Dick York.[8]

In 1955, Ray featured in starring roles in Battle Cry, Three Stripes in the Sun, and one of his best-loved films, We're No Angels (1955), in which he starred with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone, Leo G. Carroll, and Joan Bennett.

In 1956 Ray refused to appear in Beyond Mombassa because he did not want to go on location. He was put under suspension by Columbia. However the situation was resolved when he agreed to make Nightfall.[9]

In 1956, in between appearances in Three Stripes In The Sun and Men in War, Ray tried his hand at radio, working as a personality and announcer at Syracuse, New York hit music station WNDR. A photo of Ray with a colleague in the WNDR studios, taken as part of a station promotional package, survives and can be found on a WNDR tribute website, although it's not known if any aircheck tapes of his radio shows still exist. By 1957, in any event, he had left WNDR and the radio business and returned to Hollywood.

"In some ways the tough soldier role locked me in," reflected Ray later. "There were no sophisticated roles for me. I never seemed to get past master sergeant, though I always thought of myself as upper echelon."[10]

Ray later admitted producers were scared off by his drinking.[2]

On January 31, 1957, Ray appeared on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. He and Tennessee Ernie Ford did a comedy skit from a foxhole.[11]

He also co-starred with Anne Bancroft and Brian Keith in the 1957 crime drama Nightfall, playing an artist who encounters a pair of ruthless bank robbers.

By the seventh year of his contract with Columbia he was earning $750 a week. He later said for the first ten years of his career he made less than $100,000.[2]

Columbia lent Ray to star in God's Little Acre (1958), an adaptation of Erskine Caldwell's controversial novel, starring Robert Ryan and Tina Louise.

Ray appeared in The Naked and the Dead, an adaptation of Norman Mailer's novel.

Leaving Hollywood[edit]

Ray left Hollywood in 1958.

He starred in 1959 in Four Desperate Men (The Siege of Pinchgut). The movie was filmed on location in Sydney Harbour, Australia. Pinchgut is actually Fort Denison. The film was the last produced by Ealing Studios, a small British Studio which lasted from 1939 to 1959.

In 1959, Ray was cast as Hunk Farber in the episode, "Payment in Full" of the NBC western series, Riverboat. In the story line, Farber betrays his friend and employer to collect reward money, which he uses to court his girlfriend, Missy.[12]

Ray made The Day They Robbed the Bank of England in England.

Ray later described his British sojourn as a "big mistake" because none of his British films were widely seen in America.[2]

"Everything went well until the end of '62 - then everything collapsed - including me," he later said. "I didn't take care of myself physically and mentally."[13]

He hired a press agent, started taking better care of himself physically and changed agents.[13]

Return to Hollywood[edit]

Ray returned to Hollywood in 1964. He had a small role in Sylvia (1965) and made a pilot for a TV series financed by Joe E. Levine, Steptoe and Son. "I feel I shall have a complete regeneration of my career," he said in 1965.[13]

He later appeared in What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round and Welcome to Hard Times. He also made several guest appearances on television.

In 1966 Ray claimed that "I've been turning down a lot of TV and B movies. I won't consider anything but important roles in important pictures."[6] He said he was "almost independently wealthy" having saved and invested wisely in real estate from the times when his fee was $100,000 a film. He was interested in returning to politics but not until he had made "at least" four more movies. "The ideal situation would be three films every two years."[6]

His best-known work of the 1960s was his portrayal of Sergeant Muldoon, alongside John Wayne, in The Green Berets.

Ray starred in Kill a Dragon and Suicide Commando. He also made two television pilots in the 1960s; neither was picked up.[citation needed]

Career decline[edit]

As the 1960s ended, Hollywood’s appetite for Ray’s machismo started to wane. Though he worked steadily in the 1970s, the quality of his roles diminished, and he was typically cast as gruff and gravelly rednecks. In 1976, Ray appeared in Haunted, and also a pornographic movie, Sweet Savage, in a non-sexual role.

In 1981 Ray told a newspaper that his drinking was "under control" and "I think things are going to shoot straight up. I'm working on a deal now and if the picture is made my worries... are over... If things go the way I anticipate and I stay healthy I think I've got better years ahead of me than behind me."[2] He said he was open to a return to politics "if my movie career doesn't take off like I think it will."[2] He admitted being unhappy with his career saying "I think I should have gotten more good stuff."[2]

His career decline accelerated in the 1980s, and after being diagnosed with throat cancer, he accepted virtually any role that came his way to maintain his costly health insurance. Ray was originally cast in the role of Gurney Halleck in David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel Dune, but was replaced by Patrick Stewart due to ongoing issues with alcoholism. His SAG membership was revoked when it was discovered he was acting in non-union productions.

He returned to Crockett in 1983. His last film was Shock 'Em Dead which was filmed in 1990 appearing with Traci Lords and Troy Donahue.

Final years and death[edit]

Ray remained in Crockett, with his mother and family and friends. On 19 February 1991 he was admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Martinez, 40 miles east of San Francisco. He died of complications from throat cancer and pneumonia on 27 March. [10][5] He was cremated and buried in Crockett, with a majority of the residents coming out to pay their respects.

Personal Life[edit]

Ray was married several times:

  • Shirley Green. They had one child, a daughter named Claire.
  • Jeff Donnell (married 30 September 1954, divorced 1956)
  • British actor Johanna Bennet (married 1960, divorced 67), who continues to work today under the name Johanna Ray, as a respected casting director. They had two sons and a daughter. Johanna Ray, a longtime collaborator with David Lynch, cast her son Eric DaRe with Aldo in Lynch’s Twin Peaks series, as well as the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.


Author Richard Matheson said that his best-known work, The Incredible Shrinking Man, was inspired by a scene in Aldo Ray's Let's Do It Again in which a character puts on someone else's hat and it sinks down past his ears; "I thought, what if a man put on his own hat and that happened?" he recounted in an interview for Stephen King's non fiction work Danse Macabre.[citation needed]

Brad Pitt's character in writer-director Quentin Tarantino's 2009 war film Inglourious Basterds is a soldier named "Aldo Raine."

The Crockett Museum has a display depicting his life.

Selected filmography[edit]



  1. ^ Wolf, Scott (April 21, 2010). "DaRe Dies". Inside USC. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stein, Mark (8 Jan 1981). "Gravel-Voiced Actor: Aldo Ray Recalls Career Ups, Downs". Los Angeles Times. p. ws14. 
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference mary was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b c d Hopper, Hedda (22 March 1953). "ALDO RAY'S CAREER IS WEIRD AS HIS 'FROGHORN' VOICE: Aldo Ray Career Weird as His Frog-like Voice". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. 
  5. ^ a b Flint, Peter (28 March 1991). "Aldo Ray, Actor, Is Dead at 64; Portrayed Lovable Tough Guys". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b c Thomas, Kevin (10 Jan 1966). "Aldo Ray Takes Stock---Market Provides Cushion". Los Angeles Times. p. c15. 
  7. ^ From Here to Eternity at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Parsons, Louella (26 Oct 1954). "Aldo Ray Walks Out On 'My Sister Eileen'". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. 23. 
  9. ^ Parsons, Louella (20 Feb 1956). "Aldo Ray Gets Recall at Columbia". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. 19. 
  10. ^ a b "Actor Aldo Ray; noted for combat film roles". Chicago Tribune. 28 Mar 1991. p. S8. 
  11. ^ "The Ford Show". Tennessee Ernie Ford. Season 1. Episode 19. 31 January 1957. 
  12. ^ Payment in Full (Riverboat) at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ a b c Alpert, Don (27 Dec 1964). "Aside, King's Men, Let Aldo Ray Put Humpty Together Again". Los Angeles Times. p. D4. 

External links[edit]