Actor James Craig, once billed as a threat to Clark Gable for Hollywood's top leading-man roles, died in a Santa Ana hospital of lung cancer, Paramount Studios announced Monday. He was 73.
The handsome, mustachioed actor, who died June 27, began his film career in the 1930s and found himself stepping into movie-idol roles when Gable entered the armed services in World War II.
Film mogul Louis B. Mayer, who thought that Craig resembled Gable, signed the actor to a seven-year contract, foreseeing the need for someone to fill Gable's shoes while MGM's big box office star was under contract to Uncle Sam.
Among Craig's top roles during that period was a part as a Faustian character torn between the devil, played by Walter Huston, and orator Daniel Webster, portrayed by Edward Arnold, in 1941's "All That Money Can Buy," later retitled "The Devil and Daniel Webster."
Came to Hollywood in 1934
Born James Henry Meador in Nashville, Tenn., Craig came to Hollywood to study acting in 1934 and landed his first leading role in the 1937 film "Arizona Ames," for which he took the name James Mead. Later, when he was cast in a planned film titled "Craig's Wife," he became James Craig.
He appeared in such hits as "Kitty Foyle" in 1940 and "While the City Sleeps" in 1956. In the 1970s, Craig had several TV roles but then retired from show business and became a real estate agent.
He is survived by the three children from his first marriage--to Mary June Ray--James Jr., Diane and Michael, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service has been scheduled for 1 p.m. July 27 at Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn in Glendale.