Claire Trevor

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Claire Trevor
Trevor in the 1930s
Claire Wemlinger

(1910-03-08)March 8, 1910
New York City, NY, U.S.
DiedApril 8, 2000(2000-04-08) (aged 90)
Alma materColumbia University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1929–1987
Known for
  • Clark Andrews
    (m. 1938; div. 1942)
  • Cylos William Dunsmore
    (m. 1943; div. 1947)
  • (m. 1948; died 1979)

Claire Trevor (née Wemlinger; March 8, 1910[1] – April 8, 2000) was an American actress. She appeared in 65 feature films from 1933 to 1982,[2] winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Key Largo (1948), and received nominations for her roles in The High and the Mighty (1954) and Dead End (1937). Trevor received top billing, ahead of John Wayne, for Stagecoach (1939).

Early life[edit]

Trevor was born on March 8, 1910, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York City, the only child of Noel Wemlinger, a Fifth Avenue merchant tailor (of French birth but German ancestry), and his wife, Benjamina ("Betty"), who was of Irish birth. She was raised in New York City, and from 1923 on, in Larchmont, New York.[3][4] For many years, her year of birth was misreported as 1909, which is why her age at the time of her death was initially given as 91, not 90.[5]


With Fred MacMurray (r.) in Borderline (1950)

According to her biography on the website of Claire Trevor School of the Arts, "Trevor's acting career spanned more than seven decades and included successes in stage, radio, television, and film...[She] often played the hard-boiled blonde, and every conceivable type of 'bad girl' role."[6]

After completing high school, Trevor began her career with six months of art classes at Columbia University and six months at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She made her stage debut in the summer of 1929 with a repertory company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She subsequently returned to New York, where she appeared in a number of Brooklyn-filmed Vitaphone short films and performed in summer stock theatre.[4] In 1932, she starred on Broadway as the female lead in Whistling in the Dark.[4]

Trevor made her film debut in Jimmy and Sally (1933), a film originally written for the popular screen duo of James Dunn and Sally Eilers. When Eilers declined the role, Trevor was cast in her place.[7][8] From 1933 to 1938, Trevor starred in 29 films, often having either the lead role or the role of heroine. In 1937, she was the second lead actress (after top-billed Sylvia Sidney) in Dead End, with Humphrey Bogart, which led to her nomination for Best Supporting Actress. From 1937 to 1940, she appeared with Edward G. Robinson in the popular radio series Big Town, while continuing to make movies. In the early 1940s, she also was a regular on The Old Gold Don Ameche Show on the NBC Red Radio Network, starring with Ameche in presentations of plays by Mark Hellinger.[9] In 1939, she was well established as a solid leading lady. One of her more memorable performances during this period includes the Western Stagecoach (1939).[4]

Trevor in The High and the Mighty (1954), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress

Two of Trevor's most memorable roles were opposite Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944) and with Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill (1947). In Key Largo (1948), Trevor played Gaye Dawn, a washed-up, alcoholic nightclub singer and gangster's moll. For that role, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her third and final Oscar nomination was for her performance in The High and the Mighty (1954).[4] In 1957, she won an Emmy for her role in the Producers' Showcase episode entitled "Dodsworth".[10][4] Trevor moved into supporting roles in the 1950s, with her appearances becoming very rare after the mid-1960s. She played Charlotte, the mother of Kay (Sally Field) in Kiss Me Goodbye (1982).[4] Her final television role was for the 1987 television film, Norman Rockwell's Breaking Home Ties. Trevor made a guest appearance at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998.

Personal life and death[edit]

Trevor married Clark Andrews, director of her radio show, in 1938; they divorced four years later. She married Navy Lieutenant Cylos William Dunsmore in 1943. Their son Charles was her only child.[11] The couple divorced in 1947. The next year, Trevor married Milton Bren, a film producer with two sons from a previous marriage, and moved to Newport Beach, California.[4]

In 1978, Trevor's son, Charles, died in the crash of PSA Flight 182, and this was followed by the death of her husband Milton from a brain tumor in 1979. Devastated by these losses, she returned to Manhattan for some years, living in a Fifth Avenue apartment and taking a few acting roles amid a busy social life.[4] She eventually returned to California, where she remained for the rest of her life, becoming a generous supporter of the arts.[5]

Trevor supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 United States presidential election.[12]

On April 8, 2000, Trevor died at a hospital in Newport Beach, California.[5] For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard.[13]


The Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine, was named in Trevor's honor. Her Oscar and Emmy statuettes are on display in the Arts Plaza, next to the Claire Trevor Theatre.


Year Title Role Notes
1933 Life in the Raw Judy Halloway Film debut
Jimmy and Sally Sally Johnson
The Mad Game Jane Lee
The Last Trail Patricia Carter
1934 Elinor Norton Elinor Norton
Baby Take a Bow Kay Ellison
Wild Gold Jerry Jordan
Hold That Girl Tonie Bellamy
1935 Spring Tonic Betty Ingals
Black Sheep Jeanette Foster
My Marriage Carol Barton
Navy Wife Vicky Blake
Dante's Inferno Betty McWade
1936 Career Woman Carroll Aiken
Star for a Night Nina Lind
To Mary – with Love Kitty Brant
Human Cargo Bonnie Brewster
Song and Dance Man Julia Carroll
15 Maiden Lane Jane Martin
1937 Big Town Girl Fay Loring
Second Honeymoon Marcia
One Mile from Heaven Lucy 'Tex' Warren
King of Gamblers Dixie Moore
Time Out for Romance Barbara Blanchard
Dead End Francey Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1938 Five of a Kind Christine Nelson
Valley of the Giants Lee Roberts
Walking Down Broadway Joan Bradley
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse Jo Keller
1939 Stagecoach Dallas
I Stole a Million Laura Benson
Allegheny Uprising Janie MacDougall
1940 Dark Command Miss Mary Cloud
1941 Texas 'Mike' King
Honky Tonk 'Gold Dust' Nelson
1942 The Adventures of Martin Eden Connie Dawson
Crossroads Michelle Allaine
Street of Chance Ruth Dillon
1943 The Woman of the Town Dora Hand
Good Luck, Mr. Yates Ruth Jones
The Desperadoes Countess Maletta
1944 Murder, My Sweet Mrs. Helen Grayle
1945 Johnny Angel Lilah 'Lily' Gustafson
1946 The Bachelor's Daughters Cynthia
Crack-Up Terry Cordell
1947 Born to Kill Helen Trent
1948 Raw Deal Pat Cameron
The Velvet Touch Marian Webster
The Babe Ruth Story Claire (Hodgson) Ruth
Key Largo Gaye Dawn Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1949 The Lucky Stiff Marguerite Seaton
1950 Borderline Madeleine Haley, aka Gladys LaRue
1951 Best of the Badmen Lily
Hard, Fast and Beautiful Millie Farley
1952 Stop, You're Killing Me Nora Marko
My Man and I Mrs. Ansel Ames
Hoodlum Empire Connie Williams
1953 The Stranger Wore a Gun Josie Sullivan
1954 The High and the Mighty May Holst Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1955 Man Without a Star Idonee
Lucy Gallant Lady MacBeth
1956 The Mountain Marie
1958 Marjorie Morningstar Rose Morgenstern
1962 Two Weeks in Another Town Clara Kruger
1963 The Stripper Helen Baird
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Edna
1967 The Cape Town Affair Sam Williams
1982 Kiss Me Goodbye Charlotte Banning Final film role
Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Ford Television Theatre Felicia Crandell Episode: The Summer Memory
Lux Video Theatre Ellen Creed Episode: Ladies in Retirement
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Single Performance
General Electric Theater Cora Leslie Episode: Foggy Night
1955 Lux Video Theatre Mary Scott Episode: No Bad Songs for Me
1956 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Mary Hunter Episode: Fool Proof
Producers' Showcase Fran Dodsworth Episode: Dodsworth
Primetime Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actress
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mary Prescott Season 1 Episode 21: Safe Conduct
1957 Playhouse 90 Elizabeth Owen Episode: If You Knew Elizabeth
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Savannah Brown Episode: Happy Hill
Wagon Train C.L. Harding Episode: The C.L. Harding Story
The Untouchables Kate Clark 'Ma' Barker Episode: Ma Barker and Her Boys
1961 The Investigators Kitty Harper Episode: New Sound for the Blues
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mrs. Meade Season 6 Episode 16: A Crime for Mothers
1962 Dr. Kildare Veronica Johnson Episode: The Bed I've Made
1983 The Love Boat Nancy Fairchild Episode: The Misunderstanding/Love Below Decks/The End is Near
1987 Murder, She Wrote Judith Harlan Episode: Witness for the Defense
Breaking Home Times Grace Porter Television film

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Suspense "The Plan"
1946 Reader's Digest – Radio Edition Two for a Penny[14]
1949 Suspense "The Light Switch"
1952 Hollywood Star Playhouse Father's Day[15]


  1. ^ Drew, William M. (1999). At the Center of the Frame: Leading Ladies of the Twenties and Thirties. Vestal Press. p. 319. ISBN 1-879511-42-8.; Hagen, Ray; Laura Wagner (2004). Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. McFarland. p. 222. ISBN 0-7864-1883-4.; Clara Wenlinger [sic], daughter of Noel and Benjamina, age 2 mos, is in the April 1910 Census of Brooklyn Ward 30, District 1054. This places her birth unambiguously in 1910.; "Actress Trevor dies at 90". The Charleston Gazette Associated Press. April 9, 2000. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.;
  2. ^ "A Hollywood Reputation : Claire Trevor Bren, known for playing strong if imperfect women, never achieved the stature of contemporaries Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, but she had other priorities. Family—including stepson and Irvine Co. Chairman Donald L. Bren—has always come first". Los Angeles Times. May 28, 1995. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  3. ^ Sculthorpe, Derek (2018). Claire Trevor: The Life and Films of the Queen of Noir. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 3. ISBN 9781476630694.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Aronson, Steven M. L. (April 1992). "Claire Trevor's Glamorous Fifth Avenue Apartment". Architectural Digest. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Claire Trevor, 91, Versatile Actress, Dies". The New York Times. April 10, 2000. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  6. ^ "About Claire Trevor". Claire Trevor School of the Arts University of California, Irvine. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  7. ^ Adams, Marjory (October 2, 1933). "Movie Facts and Fancies". The Boston Globe. p. 15 – via access icon
  8. ^ Sculthorpe, Derek (2018). Claire Trevor: The Life and Films of the Queen of Noir. McFarland. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-476-63069-4.
  9. ^ "Friday's Highlights" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. Vol. 14, no. 3. July 1940. p. 52. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  10. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1413. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  11. ^ "Claire Trevor". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  12. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (October 21, 2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107650282.
  13. ^ "Claire Trevor". Hollywood Walk of Fame. October 25, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  14. ^ "'Digest' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. October 26, 1946. p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2015 – via Open access icon
  15. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 – via Open access icon

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