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Cornel Wilde Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (12) | Personal Quotes (4) | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 13 October 1912Prievidza, Hungary (now Slovakia)
Date of Death 16 October 1989Los Angeles, California, USA  (leukemia)
Birth NameKornel Lajos Weisz
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Dashing actor Cornel Wilde was born Kornel Lajos Weisz on October 13, 1912, in Prievidza, Hungary (now part of Slovakia), to a Jewish family. He immigrated with his parents and elder sister Edith to New York City in 1920. His family Americanized their names and Kornel took the name Cornelius Louis Wilde. He spent much of his youth traveling in Europe, developing a continental flair as well as an affinity for languages. He received a scholarship for medical school, but turned it down in favor of his new love, the theatre. A natural athlete and a champion fencer with the U.S. Olympic fencing team, he quit the team just prior to the 1936 Berlin Olympics in order to take a role in a play. In 1937, he married Marjory Heinzen (later known as Patricia Knight), and they both shaved a few years off their ages in order to get work, Wilde thereafter claiming publicly that he was born in New York in 1915, though he continued to list his correct Hungarian birth in 1912 on government documents. Shortening his name to Cornel Wilde for the stage, he appeared in the Broadway hit "Having a Wonderful Time", but it was not until he was hired in the dual capacities of fencing choreographer and actor (Tybalt) in Laurence Olivier's 1940 Broadway production of "Romeo and Juliet" that Hollywood spotted him. He played a few minor roles before leaping to fame and an Oscar nomination as Frederic Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945). He spent the balance of the 1940s in romantic, and often swashbuckling, leading roles. In the 1950s his star dimmed a little, and aside from an occasional blockbuster like The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), he settled mainly into adventure films. A growing interest in directing led him to form his own production company with the goal of directing his own films. Several of his ventures into film noir in this period, both his own and other directors', are quite interesting (The Big Combo (1955) and Storm Fear (1955), for example). He produced, directed and starred in The Naked Prey (1965), a tour-de-force adventure drama that brought him real acclaim as a director. His later films were of varying quality, and he ended his career in near-cameos in minor adventure films. He died of leukemia in 1989, three days after his 77th birthday, leaving behind an unpublished autobiography, "The Wilde Life."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (2)

Jean Wallace (4 September 1951 - 1981) (divorced) (1 child)
Patricia Knight (21 September 1937 - 30 August 1951) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (12)

Daughter with first wife Patricia Knight: Wendy Wilde, born February 22, 1943. Son with second wife Jean Wallace: Cornel Wilde, Jr.
Spoke Hungarian, French, German, English, Italian, and Russian.
At his death he was editing his autobiography, "My Very Wilde Life, " and working on a sequel to his acclaimed film The Naked Prey (1965).
He graduated from Townsend Harris High School for gifted students in New York at the age of 14. Townsend Harris was affiliated with CCNY, the college he entered upon graduation.
Prior to his film career, Wilde had various jobs -- commercial artist, Macy's toys salesman, newspaper advertising and Boys' Club counselor.
Enrolled as a pre-med student at the City College of New York (CCNY) and completed the four-year course in three years. (CCNY at that time was tuition-free and admitted only the best scholars.) He was a member of CCNY's fencing team.
Chosen for the 1936 Olympic fencing team in Berlin, he turned down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actively pursue acting.
His role as Tybalt in the 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh led to a Warner Brothers contract.
Although most records indicate Wilde was born in New York City, the 1930 U.S. Census and the California Death Records database both state that he was born in Hungary.
Interred at Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.
1952 proved to be a vintage year for "beefcake bondage" in his film career. In At Sword's Point (1952), he appeared bound and stripped to the waist in a torture chamber where his torso was burned with a hot iron. In California Conquest (1952), he appeared stripped to the waist and bound to a tree where he was lashed across the chest with a whip.
Featured in "Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir" by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (McFarland, 2003).

Personal Quotes (4)

I realized long ago that I could not depend on luck to bring me success. I worked hard, extra hard to improve my chance by increasing my abilities and my experience. It was my goal to accomplish, in my life, something of value and to do it with self-respect and integrity.
Acting is not just "another day, another dollar". If I hate a script or think it's foolish or in bad taste, I'm miserable.
[on working with Paul Muni on A Song to Remember (1945)] He was very difficult to work with. He said he didn't want to hear how I did it, he had no interest in how I portrayed it, he had his own conception of [Frédéric Chopin] and he told me he'd worked on his role in relation to that conception, and he didn't care how I played it. And that was the approach to teamwork on that film.
[on Linda Darnell] Experienced, beautiful and nice -- a nice person.

Salary (3)

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) $50,000
California Conquest (1952) $100,000+ 50% of profits
Saadia (1953) $75,000

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