Kornél Lajos Weisz
October 13, 1912
Privigye, Kingdom of Hungary (now Prievidza, Slovakia)
|Died||October 16, 1989 (aged 77)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California|
|Other names||Clark Wales, Jefferson Pascal|
(m. 1937; div. 1951)
(m. 1951; div. 1981)
Cornel Wilde (born Kornél Lajos Weisz; October 13, 1912 – October 16, 1989) was a Hungarian-American actor and filmmaker.
Wilde's acting career began in 1935, when he made his debut on Broadway. In 1936 he began making small, uncredited appearances in films. By the 1940s he had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, and by the mid-1940s he was a major leading man. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in 1945's A Song to Remember. In the 1950s he moved to writing, producing and directing films, and still continued his career as an actor. He also went into songwriting during his career.
Wilde was born in 1912 in Privigye, Kingdom of Hungary (now Prievidza, Slovakia), although his year and place of birth are usually and inaccurately given as 1915 in New York City. His Hungarian Jewish parents were Vojtech Béla Weisz (anglicized to Louis Bela Wilde) and Renée Mary Vid (Rayna Miryam). He was named for his paternal grandfather, and upon arrival in the United States at the age of seven in 1920, his name was Anglicized to Cornelius Louis Wilde.
A talented linguist and an astute mimic, he had an ear for languages which became apparent later in his acting career. Wilde attended the City College of New York as a pre-med student, completing the four-year course in three years and winning a scholarship to the Physicians and Surgeons College at Columbia University. Wilde entered Columbia University, class of 1933, as one of the youngest undergraduates. He fenced for the Columbia Lions fencing team. He won the National Novice Foils Championship held at the New York Athletic Club in 1929.
He qualified for the United States fencing team for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, but quit the team before the games in order to take a role in the theater. In preparation for an acting career, he and his new wife Marjory Heinzen (later to be known as Patricia Knight) shaved years off their ages, three for him and five for her. As a result, most publicity records and subsequent sources wrongly indicate a 1915 birth for Wilde.
After studying at Theodora Irvine's Studio of the Theatre, Wilde began appearing in plays in stock and in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1935 in Moon Over Mulberry Street. He also appeared in Love Is Not So Simple, Daughters of Etreus, and Having Wonderful Time.
He did the illustrations for Fencing, a 1936 textbook on fencing and wrote a fencing play, Touché, under the pseudonym of Clark Wales in 1937. He toured with Tallulah Bankhead in a production of Antony and Cleopatra; during the run he married his co-star Patricia Knight.
Acting jobs were sporadic over the next few years. Wilde supplemented his income with exhibition fencing matches; his wife also did modelling work. Wilde wrote plays, some of which were performed by the New York Drama Guild.
Wilde was hired as a fencing teacher by Laurence Olivier for his 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet and was given the role of Tybalt in the production. Although the show only had a small run, his performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract with Warner Bros.
Wilde had an uncredited bit part in Lady with Red Hair (1940), then got a small part in High Sierra (1941), which included a scene with Humphrey Bogart. He also had small roles in Knockout (1941) and Kisses for Breakfast (1941).
20th Century Fox
Wilde was then signed by 20th Century Fox who gave him a good role in a B picture The Perfect Snob (1941). It was followed by a war movie Manila Calling (1942).
He was the romantic male lead in Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942), supporting Monty Woolley, and supported Sonja Henie in Wintertime (1943).
A Song to Remember and stardom
In 1945, Columbia Pictures began a search for someone to play the role of Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember. They eventually tested Wilde, and agreed to cast him in the role after some negotiation with Fox, who agreed to lend him to Columbia and one film a year for several years. Part of the deal involved Fox borrowing Alexander Knox from Columbia to appear in Wilson (1944). A Song to Remember was a big hit, made Wilde a star and earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Columbia promptly used him in two more films, both swashbucklers: as Aladdin in A Thousand and One Nights with Evelyn Keyes and as the son of Robin Hood in The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (made 1945, released 1946).
Back at Fox, he played the male lead in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), with Gene Tierney and Jeanne Crain, an enormous hit at the box office. Bandit was also a big hit when it was released.
In 1946, Wilde was voted the 18th-most popular star in the United States, and in 1947 the 25th-. Fox announced him for Enchanted Voyage. It ended up not being made; instead he was reunited with Crain in Fox's musical Centennial Summer (1946).
In January 1946, Wilde was suspended by Fox for refusing the male lead in Margie (1946). This suspension was soon lifted so Wilde could play the male lead in the studio's big budget version of Forever Amber (1947). Filming started, then was halted when the studio decided to replace Peggy Cummins, the female star. In October 1946, Wilde refused to return to work unless he was paid more; his salary was $3,000 a week, with six years to run – he wanted $150,000 per film for two films per year. The parties came to an agreement and filming resumed. Wilde also appeared with Maureen O'Hara in The Homestretch (1947).
He was in a comedy at Columbia with Ginger Rogers, It Had to Be You (1947). At Fox he turned down a role in That Lady in Ermine (1948). Not wanting to go on suspension again he agreed to make The Walls of Jericho (1948), from the same director as Leave Her to Heaven but less popular. Road House (1948), for Fox, was a highly regarded noir and a decent-sized hit. He then left Fox, which he later regarded as a mistake.
At Columbia, Wilde was in Shockproof (1949), another noir, with his then-wife Patricia Knight. They appeared together in Western Wind, a play at the Cape Playhouse.
Wilde made Swiss Tour, aka Four Days Leave (1949), an independent film in Switzerland. He returned to Fox for Two Flags West (1950), then went to RKO for At Sword's Point (filmed in 1949, but not released until 1952), a swashbuckler with Maureen O'Hara.
He played a trapeze artist in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) for Cecil B. de Mille, an enormous hit, though Wilde was one of several stars in the movie.
At Columbia, he was in California Conquest (1952), a Western for producer Sam Katzman. He went over to Warner Bros. for Operation Secret (1952), then was back at Fox for Treasure of the Golden Condor (1952).
He focused on adventure stories: Saadia (1953) for MGM, Star of India (1954) for United Artists. He had a part in the all-star executive drama Woman's World (1954) for Fox, then went back to action and adventure with Passion (1954) for RKO.
Producer and director
In the 1950s Wilde and his second wife, Jean Wallace, formed their own film production company, Theodora, named after Theodora Irvine. Their first movie was the film noir The Big Combo (1955), a co production with Security Pictures that was released through Allied Artists. Wilde and Wallace played the leads. That year he also directed an episode of General Electric Theatre.
That same year, he appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy as himself and starred in The Scarlet Coat (1956) for MGM.
Wilde produced and starred in another for Theodora with Wallace, Storm Fear (1956) from a script by Horton Foote. This time Wilde also directed "to save money".
Theodora announced Wilde would play Lord Byron, but the film was never made. Other announced projects included Curly and Second Act Curtin.
Wilde was meant to appear as Joshua in de Mille's The Ten Commandments but was not in the final film – he turned down the role, saying it was too small and the pay was too little (John Derek ended up playing it). Wilde later said it was his worst mistake because having even a small role in a big blockbuster would have given him career momentum.
As an actor only, he appeared in Hot Blood (1956) with Jane Russell for director Nicholas Ray, and Beyond Mombasa (1956), shot in Kenya; both were released by Columbia. In 1957, he guest-starred in an episode of Father Knows Best as himself. Also in 1957, he played the role of the 13th century Persian poet Omar Khayyám in the film Omar Khayyam.
The Devil's Hairpin and Maracaibo
He produced, directed and starred in two films for Theodora that were released through Paramount: The Devil's Hairpin (1957), a car-racing drama, and Maracaibo (1958). Wilde called them "an acceptable A-B, meaning a picture with B budget but A pretensions".
He had the lead in Edge of Eternity (1959) for director Don Siegel.
Lancelot and Guinevere
Wilde went to Italy to star in Constantine and the Cross (1962). In Britain, he wrote, produced, directed and starred in Lancelot and Guinevere (1963).
The Naked Prey
Wilde produced, directed, and starred in The Naked Prey (1965), in which he played a man stripped naked and chased by hunters from an African tribe affronted by the behavior of other members of his safari party. The original script was largely based on a true historical incident about a trapper named John Colter being pursued by Blackfeet Indians in Wyoming. Lower shooting costs, tax breaks, and material and logistical assistance offered by Rhodesia persuaded Wilde and the other producers to shoot the film on location in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It is probably his most highly regarded film as director.
Wilde followed this with a war movie, Beach Red (1967). He announced Namugongo, another movie in Africa, about the White Fathers missionaries in the Kingdom of Buganda, but it was never made. He had a supporting role in The Comic (1969), directed by Carl Reiner.
No Blade of Grass
He wrote, produced, and directed the science fiction film No Blade of Grass (1970).
He returned to film shortly thereafter and wrote, directed, and starred in the exploitation film Sharks' Treasure, a 1975 film intended to capitalize on the "Shark Fever" popular in the mid-1970s in the wake of the success of Peter Benchley's Jaws. He acted in The Norseman (1978) and The Fifth Musketeer (1979).
Cornel Wilde played himself in the 1955 I Love Lucy episode "The Star Upstairs." He also appeared in the 1957 episode of Father Knows Best "An Evening to Remember". He appeared as an unethical surgeon in the 1971 Night Gallery episode "Deliveries in the Rear" and portrayed an anthropologist in the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles.
In 1937, he married actress Patricia Knight. She starred alongside him in Shockproof (1949). Their daughter, Wendy, was born on February 22, 1943. The family lived at Country House on Deep Canyon Road, Los Angeles.  They divorced in 1951.
Five days after his divorce, he married actress Jean Wallace. Wilde became stepfather to Wallace's two sons, Pascal and Thomas, from her marriage to Franchot Tone. Their son, Cornel Wallace Wilde, was born on December 19, 1967. Wilde senior and Wallace starred together in several films including The Big Combo (1955), Lancelot and Guinevere (1963), and Beach Red (1967). They divorced in 1981.
A Democrat, Wilde supported the campaign of Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.
Wilde died of leukemia on October 16, 1989, three days after his 77th birthday. He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Cornel Wilde has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1635 Vine Street.
|1937||The Rhythm Party||Party Guest||Short film|
|1940||Lady with Red Hair||Mr. Williams||Uncredited|
|1941||High Sierra||Louis Mendoza|
|1941||Kisses for Breakfast||Chet Oakley|
|1941||The Perfect Snob||Mike Lord|
|1942||Manila Calling||Jeff Bailey|
|1942||Life Begins at Eight-Thirty||Robert Carter|
|1945||The Bandit of Sherwood Forest||Robert of Nottingham|
|1945||A Song to Remember||Frédéric Chopin|
|1945||A Thousand and One Nights||Aladdin|
|1945||Leave Her to Heaven||Richard Harland|
|1946||The Bandit of Sherwood Forest||Robert of Nottingham|
|1946||Centennial Summer||Philippe Lascalles|
|1947||The Homestretch||Jock Wallace|
|1947||Forever Amber||Bruce Carlton|
|1947||It Had to Be You||George McKesson/Johnny Blaine|
|1947||Stairway for a Star||Jimmy Banks||Utilized scenes from an unfinished 1940 film |
|1948||The Walls of Jericho||Dave Connors|
|1948||Road House||Pete Morgan|
|1950||Two Flags West||Captain Mark Bradford|
|1952||The Greatest Show on Earth||The Great Sebastian|
|1952||At Sword's Point||D'Artagnan Jr.|
|1952||California Conquest||Don Arturo Bordega|
|1952||Operation Secret||Peter Forrester|
|1953||Treasure of the Golden Condor||Jean-Paul|
|1953||Main Street to Broadway||Himself|
|1954||Star of India||Pierre St. Laurent|
|1954||Woman's World||Bill Baxter|
|1955||The Big Combo||Lieutenant Leonard Diamond||Also associate producer|
|1955||The Scarlet Coat||Major John Boulton|
|1955||Storm Fear||Charlie Blake||Also director & producer|
|1956||Hot Blood||Stephano Torino|
|1956||Beyond Mombasa||Matt Campbell|
|1957||Omar Khayyam||Omar Khayyam|
|1957||The Devil's Hairpin||Nick Jargin||Also director, writer & producer|
|1958||Maracaibo||Vic Scott||Also director & producer|
|1959||Edge of Eternity||Les Martin|
|1961||Constantine and the Cross||Constantine|
|1963||Lancelot and Guinevere||Sir Lancelot||Also director, writer (as Jefferson Pascal) & producer|
|1965||The Naked Prey||Man||Also director & producer|
|1967||Beach Red||Captain MacDonald||Also director, writer (as Jefferson Pascal) & producer|
|1969||The Comic||Frank Powers|
|1970||No Blade of Grass||Radio Voice||Also director, writer (as Jefferson Pascal) & producer|
|1975||Sharks' Treasure||Jim Carnahan||Also director, writer & producer|
|1979||The Fifth Musketeer||Charles de Batz de Castelmore d'Artagnan|
|1985||Flesh and Bullets||Police Captain|
|1955||General Electric Theater||Peter Maresy||Episode: "The Blond Dog"|
|1955||I Love Lucy||Himself||Episode: "The Star Upstairs"|
|1956||Star Stage||Author||Episode: "Screen Credit"|
|1957||Father Knows Best||Himself||Episode: "An Evening to Remember"|
|1958||Alcoa Theatre||Damon Phillips||Episode: "Coast to Coast"|
|1960||The Dinah Shore Chevy Show||Steve Roberts/German Captain/Count/Jaque/Sheik||Episode: "Around the World with Nellie Bly"|
|1961||General Electric Theater||Rudy Alberti||Episode: "The Great Alberti"|
|1972||Night Gallery||Dr. John Fletcher||Episode: "Deliveries in the Rear"|
|1972||Gargoyles||Dr. Mercer Boley||Television film|
|1978||Fantasy Island||Daring Danny Ryan||Episode: "Charlie's Cherubs/Stalag 3"|
|1983||The Love Boat||Edgar Dolan||Episode: "Youth Takes a Holiday/Don't Leave Home Without It/Prisoner of Love"|
|1986||The New Mike Hammer||George Burnett||Episode: "Mike's Baby"|
|1987||Murder, She Wrote||Duncan Barnett||Episode: "The Way to Dusty Death"|
|1946||Screen Guild Players||"Wuthering Heights"|
|1952||Hollywood Star Playhouse||"The End of Aunt Edlia"|
|1953||Cavalcade of America||"Down Brake"|
|1953||Suspense||"The Mystery of Marie Roget"|
|1954||Suspense||"Somebody Help Me"|
- ^ United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as approximately 1912
- ^ a b "Cornel Wilde". Ancestry.com.
- ^ United States Census 1930; Manhattan, New York; Roll: 1576; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1009; Image: 1057.0. This record dated April 9, 1930, gives Wilde's birthplace as Austrian-Hungarian Empire and his birth year as approximately 1912. Furthermore, it indicates his emigration to the United States as a first class passenger on a Dutch steamer in 1920.
- ^ a b List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States, S.S. Noordam, Passengers Sailing from Rotterdam, May 4, 1920, New York Passenger Lists, 1820–1957. iProvo, Utah, 2010.
- ^ Air Passenger Manifest, Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc. Flight 971/05, December 5, 1948. New York Passenger Lists, 1820–1957. Provo, Utah, 2010. In this immigration record, Wilde gives his birthplace as Hungary and his birth year as 1912.
- ^ Flint, Peter B. (October 17, 1989). "Cornel Wilde, 74, a Performer and Film Producer". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 3, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- ^ "Actor-Director Cornel Wilde Dies at 74". Los Angeles Times. October 16, 1989. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- ^ Rhinelander Daily News, June 26, 1945, p. 4
- ^ "Cornel Wilde Dies of Leukemia After 50-Year Career". AP NEWS. Archived from the original on September 25, 2022. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- ^ a b "Columbia Daily Spectator 27 November 1929 – Columbia Spectator". spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu. Archived from the original on September 25, 2022. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde adds new skill". The Washington Post. October 1, 1947. ProQuest 151896525.
- ^ a b Ingram, Frances Cornel Wilde: Gentle Swashbuckler, Classic Images, February 5, 2009
- ^ Masters, M. (December 23, 1945). "Cornel Wilde strong on psychological drama". Los Angeles Times.
- ^ Hopper, Hedda (September 19, 1954). "That Wilde Man". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. v30.
- ^ Challert, Edwin (December 3, 1943). "Drama And Film". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 165466539.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes In New Technicolor Arabia". The Christian Science Monitor. July 13, 1945. p. 4.
- ^ Richard L. Coe (January 3, 1948). "Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown". The Washington Post.
- ^ "News of the Screen". The New York Times. March 27, 1945. ProQuest 107254401.
- ^ Hopper, Hedda (January 11, 1946). "Studio suspends Cornel Wilde". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 165657309.
- ^ "Fox's 'Forever Amber' in trouble again as Cornel Wilde holds out for salary rise". The New York Times. October 16, 1946. ProQuest 107755306.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde from Hollywood". The Christian Science Monitor. August 5, 1949. ProQuest 508069729.
- ^ Schallert, Edwin (March 15, 1955). "Jack Hawkins New Space Conqueror; French King Set for John Williams". Los Angeles Times. p. B7.
- ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (June 22, 1954). "Palladium Stars Sought for Movie: History of Famous London Music Hall Would Include American Entertainers". The New York Times. p. 24.
- ^ Schallert, Edwin (June 23, 1954). "'Big Combo' Will Star Cornel Wilde; Vanessa Brown Debates Musical". Los Angeles Times. p. B7.
- ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (March 7, 1955). "Theodora Plans Its Second Movie". The New York Times. ProQuest 113204307.
- ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (December 21, 1954). "Independents Buy Two New Stories". The New York Times. ProQuest 113000136.
- ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (September 5, 1954). "Hollywood Canvas". The New York Times. ProQuest 113071008.
- ^ Bawden, James; Miller, Ron (2017). You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813174235.
- ^ "The Naked Prey". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde screenplay". Los Angeles Times. September 10, 1969. ProQuest 156304920.
- ^ "Search | 1950 Census". Archived from the original on April 16, 2022. Retrieved April 11, 2022.
- ^ "Clipped From St. Louis Post-Dispatch". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 31, 1951. p. 21. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde Weds Jean Wallace". The New York Times. September 5, 1951. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
- ^ "Patricia Knight – The Private Life and Times of Patricia Knight. Patricia Knight Pictures". www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
- ^ "Cornel Wilde, Dashing Film Star, Dies at 74". Los Angeles Times. October 17, 1989. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
- ^ Fowler, Glenn (February 18, 1990). "Jean Wallace, 66, Screen Actress Known for 1940's and 50's Roles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on July 19, 2018. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
- ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
- ^ Sheppard, Gene Cornel Wilde in American Classic Screen Profiles edited by John C. Tibbetts, James M. Welsh Scarecrow Press, August 12, 2010
- ^ "The Star Upstairs". IMDb. Archived from the original on October 27, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
- ^ a b "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 34. Summer 2016.
- ^ Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54. Archived from the original on April 30, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- ^ Kirby, Walter (January 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Cornel Wilde at IMDb
- 1912 births
- 1989 deaths
- 20th Century Studios contract players
- 20th-century American male actors
- American male film actors
- American people of Hungarian-Jewish descent
- Burials at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
- California Democrats
- Columbia Lions fencers
- Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons alumni
- Deaths from cancer in California
- Deaths from leukemia
- Hungarian Jews
- Hungarian emigrants to the United States
- Jewish American male actors
- Male Western (genre) film actors
- Townsend Harris High School alumni