His Like Shall Never Come Again! --Diana Basehart

Richard Basehart's Biography

Richard Basehart was described as a thoughtful American leading man who never achieved major stardom. But he never wanted the parts that would have made him a superstar. He is described as "an actor" by his long time friend Warren Stevens. He just wanted to act. "He didn't play the game." said his wife, Diana. He was very serious about his acting. He strived hard to get it right. He also was a jokester and had a great sense of humor. His mother in law mentioned several jokes he played on her. He loved playing tricks on his friends. Diana also described him as a "gourmet" cook. He was an activist for the humane treatment of animals. Something that even now his family is still involved in. He loved his children. His children love him. Jenna said, "Daddy was my best friend."

Born John Richard Basehart on August 31, 1914 in Zanesville, Ohio, Richard spent much of his early childhood in an orphanage because his mother died of complications from childbirth and he was one of 5 siblings (he had 3 brothers, one Robert, died at the age of 9 months, and one sister) of Harry Basehart, a newspaperman who couldn't take care of small kids and do his job as a reporter too. He began his career as a reporter and a radio announcer.

His first plans were to follow in his father footsteps as a newspaperman (his dad was editor of the local Sunday paper THE ZANESVILLE OHIO TIMES SIGNAL), but when he was 12 years old. he cut his acting teeth with a local stock company and a career was born. His first acted, with the Wright Players Stock company in 1927. He also worked in the sewers with his brother and worked in a political campaign for his uncle who became mayor. Upon graduation from high school he was the "hottest" cub reporter on the paper - so hot he uncovered a scandal at city hall that caused the administration to topple and even cost him job when he punched a detective involved in the case in the face. He remembered the fun he had as an actor, when he had at the age of 24, was accepted at Philadelphia's famed Hedgerow Theater, where, in five years (from 1938 through 1942) , he played 40 roles from Shakespeare to Saroyan.

But for a stage actor there is only one Mecca, and after writing a letter pleading for a chance to act on Broadway, he then moved to New York where he soon made his presence felt, first in Producer Margaret Webster's Counter-attack, which was followed quickly by roles in Land of Fame, Othello, Take it as it Comes and Hickory Stick.

When he heard Director Bretaigne Windust was looking for an authentic Scotsman for the lead in The Hasty Heart, Basehart not only effected an authentic enough burr to win the part, but won also the 1945 New York Critic's Award as the most promising actor of the year. His accent was so good a visiting leader of a Scottish clan told him he knew what clan he was in.

This brought him to the attention of Hollywood, and in 1947 he made his film debut in Cry Wolf. That began a successful and varied screen career of almost four decades' duration. He selected his roles carefully and with discrimination to avoid typecasting. During his career he has played heroes, villains, the mentally disturbed, and many other types, often in a rugged and forceful manner. Besides making the occasional stage appearance, he further stretched his talents by performing in many European films, notably Fellini's La Strada (1954) in which he gave a sensitive performance as the Fool. Other roles include Ishmael in Moby Dick (1956) and the title role in the peculiar black-and-white film Hitler (1962). He also appeared frequently on television including a long stint on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

He married Stephanie Klein on January 14, 1940, but she died of a brain tumor July 28, 1950. They had no children. Shortly after this, Richard met Valentina Cortese, an Italian actress he met while making The House on Telegraph Hill, whom he married on March 24, 1951. He lived in Europe for much of the '50's. His marriage to Cortese resulted in one child, his son John Anthony Carmine Michael(Jack), and ended in divorce in 1960. He remarried again to his last wife, Diana Lotery in 1962. Their first daughter, Jenna, was born in 1964 and their second daughter, Gayla, was born in 1969. They were happily married until Basehart's untimely death following a series of strokes after narrating the closing ceremonies to the 1984 Olympics in LA. He died on September 17, 1984 .

Search WWW Search www.richardbasehart.com

biography | filmography | articles | interviews | pictures | sound bytes | film clips | memories | off camera | site map | thanks! | home |
Copyright --October 20, 2000 Stephanie Kellerman and the Basehart Family