Back when the Oscars were the only game in town performances of note were often overlooked at nominating time. Today we look at "the one" from David Clarke.
Chicago born Clarke was a modern-day Vincent Crummles. I shouldn't be surprised if he often said of the theatre "I had a dog that lived and died in it from a puppy...". A performer, playwright and stage manager. A fellow toiler beside the Lunts, Houseman, Welles, and Hepburn.
Clarke married Nora Dunfee in 1946. His marriage to the revered actress and coach (Master Teacher of Speech New York University Tisch School of Arts) lasted 48 years. Their daughters found life in the Arts as well.
K.C. Ligon performed on stage with her parents and in films. She followed in her mother's footsteps as a renowned dialect coach. She followed in her parents footsteps with a long (1976 - 2009) marriage to actor Tom Ligon. In 1975 Tom directed a production of David's play Never a Snug Harbor for the New Dramatists in NYC.
Susan Dunfee (Clarke), born November 18, 1956, now Susan Bennet, performed on stage and screen as a youngster and is the married mother of two.
I first became aware of Mr. Clarke through his role in the 70s television series Ryan's Hope. He played old-school gangster Tiso Novotny. He played it well. Through the years I have seen him in such favourite movies as The Narrow Margin, Intruder in the Dust, The Boy With Green Hair and Edge of the City.
1949s The Set-Up directed by Robert Wise and based on a poem by Joseph Moncure March gave David Clarke the most memorable role of his screen career. (That's Clarke in the poster above with his arm around Robert Ryan.) The Set-Up is a story told in real time. One evening in the lives of boxers and gangsters, both scrambling for a living on the mean streets. The cast in this ensemble piece work together in theatrical and cinematic perfection. The role of a punchdrunk boxer could be such a cliche, yet in Clarke's capable hands, Gunboat Johnson seems revealed to us with his entire heartbreaking life story to view.
David Clarke had a life in the career of his choice and a family to be proud of and love. He didn't need an Oscar, but if that peer recognition were to come his way, it would surely have been for Gunboat.
The Set-Up is readily available on DVD for your pleasure. The year of its release it was nominated for a BAFTA (Best Film from any source/USA). The Cannes Film Festival Milton Krasner won for Best Cinematography and Robert Wise received the FIPRESCI Prize awarded by the International Federation of Film Critics. The film was not nominated for any Oscars.