Date of Birth: 11 November 1909
Robert Ryan biography:
Originally intended to portray "Commodore Matt Decker" in the "Star Trek" (1966) (the original series) episode "Doomsday Machine", but was unable to do so. The character was intended as a Captain Ahab-type, obsessed with revenge for the loss of his crew. The role instead went to William Windom who portrayed Decker in a more tragic, sensitive light. Initially planned on studying at the Pasadena Playhouse, but instead became a student of Max Reinhardt in the late 1930s, where he met fellow student and future wife Jessica Cadwalader. Following their marriage, she gave up her acting aspirations and later became a childrens' fiction book writer. While performing in a stock play version of "A Kiss for Cinderella" in 1941 with actress Luise Rainer, Rainer's ex-husband, Clifford Odets, saw him and offered him the featured juvenile part in his Broadway play "Clash by Night" as "Joe Doyle", opposite Tallulah Bankhead. A decade later he starred in the film version but had outgrown the juvenile role and instead played Earl Pfeiffer, one of the leads, originated on Broadway by Joseph Schildkraut. His "Joe Doyle" character was played by Keith Andes in the film Clash by Night (1952). In 1973, he played the terminally-ill political activist Larry Slade in The Iceman Cometh (1973). Ironically, while filming, he knew he was approaching the final stages of lung cancer and died in July of that year. His wife Jessica Cadwalader preceded him in death by a year, also succumbing to cancer. Due to his towering frame, cruelly-lined face and a simmering intensity uncommon in his generation of "tough guys", he usually played hateful villains. Even on the rare occasions that he played a good guy, they often possessed a violent, obsessive personality that was a tad unsettling. Two sons, Tim (born circa 1946) and Cheyney (born March 10, 1948), and a daughter, Lisa (born September 10, 1951). At the time he was diagnosed with cancer, he was scheduled to play "Don Quixote" in a film version of Miguel Cervantes' novel. It was Rex Harrison, however, who was finally seen as the Don in a 1973 made-for-television film of the book, a year after Peter O'Toole had starred in the film version (Man of La Mancha (1972)) of the Broadway musical "Man of La Mancha". Shortly before his death, Ryan moved out of his apartment (number 72) at the Dakota in New York City. Ryan leased (and then his estate later sold) the apartment to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Co-founded the Theatre Group at the University of California at Los Angeles with John Houseman and Sidney Harmon in 1959. Nine years later in 1968 he co-founded the Plumstead Playhouse Repertory Company, with Henry Fonda and Martha Scott. Was Turner Classic Movies' "Star of the Month" for February 2000, a rare honor for a character lead/supporting player. Served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1944 to 1947. When casting the leading man role in the 1943 Ginger Rogers vehicle Tender Comrade (1943), RKO producer David Hempstead became interested in Ryan due to favorable preview cards hailing Ryan's performances in Bombardier (1943), The Sky's the Limit (1943) and Behind the Rising Sun (1943). He suggested him to Rogers, who was at first unimpressed after screening parts of the three movies. She turned him down as her leading man, as she thought he looked mean and, at 6'4", too big. A week later, when Rogers visited Hempstead at his office, he was busily going through preview cards of "The Sky's the Limit" and showed her some of them. Rogers saw that all the reviews of Ryan's performance were favorable and, since principal production was drawing near, she decided to have another look at him. Ryan was conveniently waiting in a nearby office for just such a possibility. Less than a minute later he came to the office and talked with both the producer and Rogers. After a few moments, she unobtrusively slipped Hempstead a note: "I think this is the guy." Today, the note hangs on the wall above Cheyney Ryan's (Ryan's son) desk in his study. Campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic primaries. Ryan was on his college boxing team and posted a 5-0 (3 knockouts) record. Ryan did not get along with John Wayne while filming Flying Leathernecks (1951), and was appalled by Wayne's active support for blacklisting in Hollywood. He was a founder of SANE (an anti-nuclear action group) and a vocal supporter of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten during the 1950s. His Shakespearean roles included "Antony and Cleopatra" with Katharine Hepburn in 1960, and the title role of "Othello" at the Nottingham Playhouse in England. Shortly before his death from lung cancer at the age of sixty-three, Ryan publicly denounced his heavy use of cigarettes as the cause of his illness. He was considered for Stephen Boyd's role as Messala in Ben-Hur (1959). His son Cheyney C Ryan is a Professor in the Philosophy Department of the University of Oregon. When he was 26, his father died after being hit by a car. When he was eight years old, his younger brother died from the flu. His son Cheyney has a graduate degree and a law degree, but no undergraduate degree. This is because he was expelled from Harvard due to his involvement in the civil rights and anti-war movements. He has three grandchildren, Tammy, Lisa, and Jeff from his son Cheyney. Actors Jeff Bridges and Kris Kristofferson have both cited Ryan as their favorite actor.