Historical records matching Cornel Wilde
About Cornel Wilde
Athletic, darkly handsome Cornel Wilde left behind a medical future and a slot on the 1936 Olympic fencing team to pursue his acting career. From Broadway (notably as Tybalt in Olivier's 1940 production of Romeo and Juliet), Wilde entered films in 1940 and made his name playing Frederic Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945). Of limited charm and talent, he fluctuated between A and B pictures (including a number of swashbucklers) before beginning to direct and star in his own independent productions in the mid-1950s. Among his more inspired directorial efforts is the striking adventure feature, The Naked Prey (1966).
Wilde was born in Prievidza, Hungary (now Slovakia). His Hungarian Jewish parents, according to some sources, were Béla Weisz and Renée Vojtech. Other sources give his parents' names as Louis Bela Wilde and Renée Mary Vid, and indicate Wilde was named for his grandfather, Cornel Louis Wilde. His father was a traveling salesman who did a lot of business in Europe, and Wilde spent much of his youth traveling in Europe with him, where he became fluent in several languages.
For several years he studied medicine in college, but he gave it up to pursue acting; he also gave up a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic fencing team. He appeared in a number of plays in New York and on the road, playing everything from bit parts to leads.
In 1940 he was hired as a fencing instructor and a featured player for the Broadway production of Hamlet with Laurence Olivier; some of the rehearsals were in Hollywood, where he landed a film contract. On-screen from 1940, Wilde played small roles as heavies in several films, then switched studios and began getting leads in B movies. His career took off after he played Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945), for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
For several years he starred in major productions, such as the 1952 Best Picture winner The Greatest Show on Earth, then in the mid-late '50s he was back in B movies, often playing swashbucklers. In 1955 he formed his own company, Theodora Productions, to produce, direct, and star in his own films; he ultimately made 11 films in that capacity, but earned little critical respect for his work. Most notable of those films were the film noir The Big Combo (1955) in which he played the male lead alongside his second wife Jean Wallace, The Naked Prey (1966) which he also directed and starred in, Beach Red (1967) and No Blade of Grass (1970).
Divorced from actress Patricia Knight, Wilde married his frequent costar, actress Jean Wallace (e.g., The Big Combo 1955, Sword of Lancelot 1963).
Wilde died of leukemia three days after his 77th birthday. He was survived by a daughter and a son (one from each marriage); two stepsons, Pascal Franchot Tone and Thomas Jefferson Tone; and three grandchildren. Wilde is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Cornel Wilde has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1635 Vine Street.