Dane Clark, the law student who turned to boxing and semipro baseball before launching a stage and film career that spanned 50 years, has died of lung cancer, his publicist said Monday.
Clark, 85, smoked nearly all of his adult life, quitting only 1 1/2 years ago, said the publicist, Pegge Forrest. He died Friday at Santa Monica’s St. John’s Hospital.
Needing money to pay for law school, Clark started acting at the suggestion of actor John Garfield.
Clark’s widow, Geraldine, recalls that Garfield asked her husband: “Why don’t you become an actor, kid?”
“What’s that?” Clark responded.
Garfield sent him to his first audition, and he won a part. He never graduated from law school.
His stage work in the early 1930s included a stint with New York’s celebrated Group Theatre, and he was in the original cast of Clifford Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty.”
Clark went to Hollywood in 1942 and played leads critics have described as brooding, pugnacious tough guys--much like characters Garfield played.
Born Bernard Zanville in Brooklyn, Clark appeared in several films under his birth name, among them “Wake Island” and “The Pride of the Yankees.”
By some accounts Humphrey Bogart changed Bernard Zanville to Dane Clark, but it was a change Clark once professed to dislike.
“An amazing thing about Hollywood is the way they change your name without a by-your-leave,” he told The Times in a 1948 interview. “I don’t like my new name.”
He said that when he went to see his latest picture, “they had ‘Dave’ on the screen.”
At Warner Bros. in the 1940s, Clark appeared with Bogart and Raymond Massey in “Action in the North Atlantic.” Clark joined Cary Grant and Garfield in “Destination Tokyo” and worked with Garfield again in “Pride of the Marines.”
His other film credits include “Hollywood Canteen,” “A Stolen Life” with Bette Davis, “Without Honor” with Franchot Tone and Agnes Moorehead, and “Go Man Go!” with Sidney Poitier.
Clark maintained a mix of stage, film and television work during most of his career. In 1955, co-star Isabel Bonner died of a brain hemorrhage in his arms during a performance of “The Shrike” at Los Angeles’ old Carthay Circle Theater.
He left Hollywood in 1956 to make films abroad and work on Broadway. Clark worked for J. Arthur Rank in London and made several films including “Highly Dangerous,” “The Gambler and the Lady,” and “Blackout.” In France, Clark worked with Simone Signoret in “The Hunted.”
He later returned to Hollywood and worked in several television series. He starred in “Wire Service,” “Bold Venture” and “The New Perry Mason.” Some of his movies of the week include “The Jimmy Dean Story,” “Don’t Cry for Me Maggie Cole” and “Murder on Flight 502.” He also was a guest on such television shows as “Twilight Zone,” “The Name of the Game” and “Cannon.”
Clark appeared in his last film--"Last Rites” with Tom Berenger--in 1988.
Clark is survived by his wife of 27 years. A memorial service is scheduled for Oct. 4.