Laird Cregar (Samuel Laird Cregar)

Laird Cregar

Laird Cregar was tested for the second lead in The Letter and made screen tests for MGM and Paramount. The producer and director of Oscar Wilde were reported as preparing an independent company to star Cregar in The Life of Mohammed. He was then tested by 20th Century Fox, who considered him as a replacement for Tyrone Power in a film called The Great Commandment. Cregar performed Oscar Wilde in San Francisco then eventually signed with 20th Century Fox. They announced him for The Californian, which was not made, but Cregar was then cast in the big-budget historical movie Hudson’s Bay, opposite Paul Muni. He followed this up supporting Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand, although he came down with measles during production, forcing filming to shut down for a week. Laird Cregar made a major impression in both films – the latter in particular was a big success. He was then cast as the middle-aged Francis Chesney (at the age of only 24) in Charley’s Aunt (1941), the first of several showcases for the actor’s delightful comic flair. After his sinister portrayal of the psychopathic detective in I Wake Up Screaming (1941), he was borrowed for RKO to make Joan of Paris. Cregar briefly returned to the stage to appear in the title role of The Man Who Came to Dinner; it was at the El Capitan, the site of his Oscar Wilde triumph, and was well received. Paramount borrowed him for This Gun for Hire, a hugely successful film noir. Cregar played the film’s antagonist, Willard Gates, opposite Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. He followed that up with the successful screwball comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942) playing a con artist opposite Gene Tierney, then back to villainy with Ten Gentlemen from West Point.

Laird Cregar had become one of filmdom’s top “heavies” — both figuratively and literally. Seldom weighing less than 300 pounds (136 kg) throughout his adult life, Cregar became obsessed with his weight. Nonetheless John Chapman predicted he would become one of the “stars of 1942”. In 1943, David Bacon, a young actor with whom Cregar had been having an affair, was knifed to death, according to accounts in the press, which also published pictures of Cregar, calling him “such a good friend” of the victim. This prompted studio executive Darryl Zanuck to arrange for an article in Silver Screen to link Cregar romantically with Dorothy McGuire, among others, and to report that, despite his weight, the actor was considered sexy by many women. The crash diet that Cregar followed for his role in The Lodger (which included prescribed amphetamines) placed a strain on his system, resulting in severe abdominal problems. He underwent surgery in December 1944. It was intended that Cregar’s next film would be Les Misérables, directed by John Brahm, and Billy Rose wanted to star him on Broadway in Henry VIII. A few days after surgery, Cregar had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He rallied briefly when put in an oxygen tent, but died on December 9, aged 31 years. His mother was at his bedside. Hangover Square was released two months after his death. The funeral was held on December 13, 1944. Vincent Price, Cregar’s co-star in his first film Hudson’s Bay (1941), delivered the eulogy. Laird Cregar is interred in Eventide Section, lot 37, space 2 of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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Born

  • July, 28, 1913
  • USA
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died

  • December, 09, 1944
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • heart attack

Cemetery

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • Glendale, California
  • USA

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