Stars and Stripes: Dan Duryea Interview (1958)


The Stars and Stripes
Saturday, May 24, 1958


NEW YORK (INS) --- The nicest "heel" in Hollywood, Dan Duryea, has with few exceptions confined his 20-year career to slapping hapless lasses around on screen and snarlingly double-crossing his gangster pals.

As of now, however, Dan's going straight --- straight dramatic with an accent on light comedy.

"Desperate Dan the hatchet man is through," says Duryea, in town for the U.S. Steel Hour's drama "The Hour of the Rat."

"And I don't play the title role in this one, either," he adds. ("Hour of the Rat" is Japanese for midnight and Dan's part is strictly sympathetic.)

"But what I'm primarily interested in is doing light comedy. I figure it this way: If I can make the switch successfully it'll be as good as a 20-year annuity. I'll be around that much longer. Audiences get tired of a face fast enough without that face looking the same in the same kind of parts all the time."


Dan terms himself a businessman, says he's a "bread and butter actor" rather than the artistic variety.

Back in the 30s, Dan was four years out of Cornell University and coming up fast as a junior executive in a Philadelphia advertising agency when he had a heart attack. It was touch and go whether he'd live. After months of uncertainty, doctors told him, "You'll live, but you won't be able to hold a full-time job. And no job in a field as high-pressure as advertising. Try to do something relaxing, that you like."

He'd been president of the college drama club and acting was certainly something he "liked."

Hearing that one of his former classmates had written a play, he prevailed on the friendship to get a walk-on job. The job called for him to saunter on stage to a burst of machine-gun fire. It paid $40 a week. The playwright was Sidney Kingsley, the show "Dead End." Desperate Dan was on his way.