Charles McGraw

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles McGraw
Charles McGraw in The Narrow Margin trailer.jpg
McGraw in the trailer for The Narrow Margin (1952)
Charles Crisp Butters

(1914-05-10)May 10, 1914
DiedJuly 29, 1980(1980-07-29) (aged 66)[1]
Years active1942–1977
Freda Choy Kitt
(m. 1938; div. 1968)

Charles McGraw (born Charles Crisp Butters; May 10, 1914 – July 29, 1980) was an American stage, film and television actor whose career spanned more than three decades.

Early life[edit]

McGraw was born to Beatrice (née Crisp) and Francis P. Butters in Des Moines, Iowa.[2] Federal census records indicate that he later moved with his parents to Akron, Ohio, where his father worked as a salesman and service manager. In January 1932, McGraw graduated from high school in Akron and then attended one semester of college.[3]

His early jobs included working on a freighter and dancing in night clubs.[4]



Before getting into film, McGraw was active in theatrical road companies.[4] He also appeared in "dozens of off-Broadway productions."[5]


McGraw made his first film in 1942 with a small, uncredited role in The Undying Monster at Fox. He was in Tonight We Raid Calais (1942) and They Came to Blow Up America (1943) at the same studio, and also Two Tickets to London (1943), Destroyer (1943), Corvette K-225 (1943), The Mad Ghoul (1943), The Impostor (1944), and The Seventh Cross (1944).

He developed into a leading man, especially in the film noir genre, during the late 1940s and early 1950s. His gravelly voice and rugged looks enhanced his appeal in that very stylistic genre.[6]

McGraw (left) and William Conrad play the titular roles in The Killers (1946)

His first notable role was in The Killers (1946), which opens with McGraw and fellow heavy William Conrad as the two hitmen who terrorize a small-town diner in their search for double-crossing hoodlum Burt Lancaster.

McGraw was unbilled in The Farmer's Daughter (1947) and Brute Force (1947) and had small roles in The Big Fix (1947) and The Long Night (1947). He had slightly bigger parts in On the Old Spanish Trail (1947), a Roy Rogers Western, and some noirs, Roses Are Red (1947) and The Gangster (1947).

McGraw's parts remained small in T-Men (1947) for Anthony Mann, The Hunted (1948), Berlin Express (1948), Hazard (1948), and Blood on the Moon (1948). He had a bigger role in Once More, My Darling (1949), then went back to small parts in Reign of Terror (1949) and Border Incident (1949) for Mann, and The Story of Molly X (1949).

McGraw moved up to third billing in the noir The Threat (1949). He played a cop in Side Street (1950) for Mann and a gangster in Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1951). He played Perry Smith's (Robert Blake) father in "In Cold Blood" (1967).

Leading man[edit]

McGraw in the trailer for His Kind of Woman (1951)

McGraw was finally given a leading role in RKO's Armored Car Robbery (1950) directed by Richard Fleischer. He played a gangster in His Kind of Woman (1951), then had the lead in Roadblock (1951) as "Honest Joe," the insurance investigator turned thief by love.

Fleischer used McGraw in the lead of The Narrow Margin (1952). He was a sergeant in One Minute to Zero (1952) and War Paint (1953) and was a villain in Thunder Over the Plains (1954).

McGraw's other notable roles were as Kirk Douglas's gladiator trainer in the epic Spartacus (1960) and as "The Preacher" in the science fiction film A Boy and His Dog.


After appearing in radio, including the 03/13/1949 episode "Rubin Callaway's Pictures" of the noir-ish detective radio program "Pat Novak for Hire", McGraw moved to television. In the 1954-1955 television season, McGraw starred as the character Mike Waring in the 39-episode syndicated series Adventures of the Falcon.[7][8] The series updated the original Falcon premise to portray Waring as a secret agent in the Cold War.[9] He also starred in the first television version of Casablanca (1955), taking Humphrey Bogart's role as Rick Blaine.[10]: 165  Additionally, he had the role of Captain Hughes in The Smith Family.[10]

In 1963, McGraw played Dr. Simon Oliver in the pilot of Diagnosis: Danger, a medical drama.[10]: 257  He later had various single-appearance roles in television episodes such as the gruff and menacing Sheriff Gains in "The Gamble," an installment of the NBC western series Bonanza.

In 1964, he guest starred on Gunsmoke as “Albert Calvin”; a rich farm owner who lets jealousy ruin his life and drives him to murder in “Bently” (S9E28). He is suspected of this crime by “Chester Goode” (Dennis Weaver) in Weaver’s final role on the series.

In 1960, McGraw played United States Army scout Tom Barrows in the episode "The Scout" on the ABC/Desilu Western television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O'Brian. Though he has an Apache wife, Barrows is known for his attacks on Apache warriors. He is called "The Listener" because he cuts off and wears the ears of the Indians he has killed. The Indians retaliate by killing Barrows's wife. McGraw also appeared in an episode of The Untouchables titled "The Jake Lingle Killing." This was notable as a pre-Hawaii Five-O Jack Lord was the lead hero in the show instead of Ness. He also portrayed an trigger-happy rear admiral in an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea titled "The Sky is Falling."[citation needed] Late in his career, McGraw performed too as a voice actor, providing voice-over narrations for several productions.[11] He portrayed a boat captain in "Harbor Division," a 1973 episode of Adam-12. He also appeared in 1973 in Hawkins: Death and the Maiden, a TV movie that served as the pilot for the series Hawkins starring James Stewart.

Personal life[edit]

McGraw married Freda Choy Kitt in 1938, and had one daughter. They divorced in 1968.[4]

On July 29, 1980, he died accidentally at his home in Studio City, California, slipping in the bathroom and falling through a glass shower door, causing several cuts, including a gash to his arm that severed the brachial artery. Paramedics arrived after he bled to death.[1][11]

Honors and awards[edit]

In recognition of his contributions to the entertainment industry as an actor, McGraw was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California on February 8, 1960. His star is located at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard.[12]



  1. ^ a b California Death Index, 1940-1997; McGraw, Charles; California Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Section, Sacramento; full database copy, archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  2. ^ Rode, Alan K. (2012). Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy. McFarland & Company. p. 7. ISBN 978-0786471720.
  3. ^ Longden, Tom. "Charles McGraw". The Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on August 3, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c West, Alice Pardoe (May 20, 1951). "Behind the Scenes". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 23.
  5. ^ "Charles McGraw Of 'Toki-Ri' Cast Has Lived Drama". Brooklyn Eagle. January 23, 1955. p. 29.
  6. ^ Baxter, John (1970). The Gangster Film. New York: A. S. Barnes. p. 80. ISBN 9780498077142.
  7. ^ "Adventures of The Falcon". Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "The Falcon". The Thrilling Detective Web Site. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  9. ^ Erickson, Hal (1989). Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947-1987. McFarland & Company. p. 18. ISBN 978-0786411986.
  10. ^ a b c Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company. p. 984. ISBN 978-0786464777.
  11. ^ a b "Charles McGraw, Actor, Dies in Fall at His Home", The New York Times, August 2, 1980, p. 2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  12. ^ "Charles McGraw". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved December 29, 2017.

External links[edit]