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Actor-Director Cornel Wilde Dies at 74

October 16, 1989|From Times Wire Services

Cornel Wilde, who starred in a string of swashbuckling film melodramas and was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Frederic Chopin in "A Song to Remember," died today at 74, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Wilde, who produced, directed and starred in many of his medium-budget films, entered Cedars Sinai Hospital Sept. 2, for treatment of leukemia and died of the disease, a spokeswoman said. His son, Cornel Wilde Jr., was at his side when he died.

Wilde's big chance came in 1945 when he played an ailing Chopin in the Technicolor film "A Song to Remember." One film writer said he grew paler and wanner with each reel while fingering an impressive sound track on a mute piano. The pianist off screen was Jose Iturbi.

During his Hollywood career, which spanned from 1940 to 1987, he was involved in more than 50 movies.

He was best known for acting in adventure movies including "The Naked Prey," "High Sierra," "The Bandit of Sherwood Forest," "Beyond Mombasa," "Omar Khayyam," "Constantine and the Cross," and "The Fifth Musketeer."

The 1955 movie "The Big Combo," which he produced and starred in, was criticized at the time for being too violent.

"You can't get away from violence in drama," was his reply. "If you do not have conflict, you do not have drama. If a brutal scene is shown for no reason except to shock, then it is bad."

He also acted in, directed and produced "Devil's Hairpin," "Maracaibo," "Sword of Lancelot," and "Shark's Treasure." His last movie was "My Very Wilde Life," filmed in 1987.

Born in New York City on Oct. 13, 1915, Wilde married actress Patricia Knight in 1938. They had a daughter, Wendy, and divorced in 1951. He married actress Jean Wallace that year and had a son. He and Wallace were divorced in 1980.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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