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Subject: Yes, this choice was a wild card. -Actor William Eythe was an able studio player, who had few choice parts, but gave memorable performances in a couple favorite films of mine, so I gave him the small honor on the board. ...

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Date Posted: Sunday, April 08, 12:35:54pm
In reply to: Russ 's message, "Today's picture: actor I've never heard of William Eythe. For some reason I read the autograph as William Blythe, father of Bill Clinton who was also born in 1918, and read all about him before noticing the picture was a different person" on Saturday, April 07, 10:17:46pm

William Eythe
(April 7, 1918 January 26, 1957)

American actor of film, radio, television and stage.

Early Life ...

Born William John Joseph Eyth on April 7, 1918, in the small dairy town of Mars, about 25 miles from Pittsburgh, he was the son of a contractor. His brother Howard "Dutch" Eyth, later became All-American halfback at Carnegie Tech. But William Eythe developing an early interest in theatrics after appearing in an elementary school play, he put on his own shows as an amateur producer/director. He even converted an old barn into a theatre and started performing plays he had written. He managed a dairy store in his home town for a year and began taking night courses at the Pittsburgh Art Institute. One night, he went to see Burgess Meredith on stage in Winterset, and Meredith advised him to study at Carnegie Tech University. At Carnegie, Eythe appeared in over 80 plays. Following high school he applied to the School of Drama at Carnegie Tech where he initially focused on set design and costuming due to a stammering problem (it was corrected while there). He also produced some of the school's musicals in which he also wrote the songs. Graduating from college in 1941, he began leaning towards a professional music theater and started involving himself in musicals and revues in the Pittsburgh era. He appeared in various stock shows in other states as well, including the "borscht circuit", while radio work in the form of announcing came his way. Following a failed attempt at forming his own stock company, he was discovered by a 20th Century-Fox talent scout while performing impressively on Broadway in "The Moon Is Down" and moved west when the show closed in the summer of '42.

Theatre Work ...
Eythe appeared in and produced Lend an Ear for the Pittburgh Civic Playhouse. He also acted in that play in Cohassett Massachusetts with Sheila Barrett. He formed the Fox Chapel Players in Pittburgh, a stock company composed mostly of former Carnegie students; it lasted one production of Lilliom. In June 1941 Eythe joined his first professional stock company, in Cohassett, appearing alongside such names as Ruth Chatterton, Nancy Carroll and George Nagel. He was seen in a production of Ladies in Retirement by a talent scout form 20th Century Fox who offered a screen test but Eythe turned it down saying he was not ready. He appeared in Caprice in Canada with Chatterton, then went to New York. ...

New York ...
In New York, Eythe he got various jobs performing in radio dramas and as an announcer for a local television station, WBNT. He was MC for a variety show. Eythe had a role on Broadway in The Moon is Down (1942) by John Steinbeck. During try outs in Baltimore, Eythe was hit on the head doing a scene, injuring his hearing. This meant he would be unfit for medical service. During the Second World War, many of Hollywood's young male stars were away at war, and the film studios were forced to locate newer, younger actors who were below the age of military service, or those actors who were considered unfit for service due to medical conditions. Eythe was one such actor.

20th Century Fox ...
He was spotted by a talent scout for 20th Century Fox films, under studio head Darryl Zanuck. The test was successful and Eythe signed a long term contract with the studio on 20 June 1942. Eythe, who had "4-F status, benefitted from the fact that many major Hollywood male stars were actively serving in WWII, was quickly given a screen-test, landing his film debut role in the morality-play film, "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), which co-starred Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews, and Frank Conroy. In the film, Eythe was cast as the weak, wavering son of a lynch mob member (Conroy) in the superb ensemble film. ...

More quality films ensued in 1943, he starred opposite Jennifer Jones in the Academy Award-winning
film "The Song of Bernadette", playing a man who is romantically interested in Bernadette (Jones). ...

He received his best Hollywood top-lining assignments as the rural WWII soldier who has telepathic capabilities in "The Eve of St. Mark" (1944), opposite Anne Baxter, from a play by Maxwell Anderson. He played the juvenile lead in Wilson (1944), Fox's prestige picture of the year; it was a box office disappointment but Eythe's casting in the movie indicated the regard with which he was held at the studio, at the time.

...Eythe was one of the three leads in a war film, "Wing and a Prayer" (1944), directed by Henry Hathaway, alongside Don Ameche and Dana Andrews. Eythe replaced Randolph Scott. He was to have appeared in "Sunday Dinner for a Soldier" (1944), but ended up being replaced by John Hodiak. Eythe was then given the lead role in "The House on 92nd Street" (1945) playing double-agent Bill Dietrich (based on William G. Sebold). This was a semi-documentary directed by Henry Hathaway and was a big hit. He was announced for Doll Face with Vivian Blaine and a musical remake of The Bowery but neither were made.

...When Fox star Tyrone Power turned down the lead role opposite Tallulah Bankhead and Charles Coburn, in the plush costumer "A Royal Scandal" (1945), Eythe inherited the part, reuniting with Anne Baxter. Naturally Tallulah's histrionics dominated the proceedings and Eythe, though sincere and quite photogenic, was completely overlooked. This happened in other movies as well. Eythe was the romantic male lead in Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946), starring Coburn. And though Eythe was a talented singer/dancer, the only musical film he ever appeared in required minor singing in "Centennial Summer" (1946), a musical directed by Otto Preminger, featuring Jeanne Crain, Cornel Wilde and Linda Darnell. Adding insult to injury, he was dubbed. Eythe never conformed easily to the strictest of rules that studio head Darryl F. Zanuck imposed and it proved a detriment to his career in the long run. He was either suspended or (in one case) farmed out to England to do a "B" film as punishment for his rebellious nature. In 1946 he was one of eight Hollywood actors to give a performance in front of King George VI and his wife.

...Eythe went to England where he starred in "Meet Me at Dawn" (1947),
a swashbuckler produced by Marcel Hellman and released through Fox.

...A close "friendship" with fellow actor Lon McCallister had to be carefully dampened, and, out of concern, an impulsive marriage in 1947 to socialite and Fox starlet Buff Cobb was the result. It may have ended rumors for a spell but, not unsurprisingly, the couple divorced a little over a year later. Ms. Cobb later married veteran TV newsman Mike Wallace. Fox soon released him from his contract.

Pine-Thomas ...

...He returned to Hollywood where he starred in Mr. Reckless (1948), with Barbara Britton, a drama for Pine Thomas,
a low budget unit associated with Paramount. Pine-Thomas used him again for Special Agent (1949).

Return to Broadway ...
Eythe returned to New York directing, even appearing in a stage production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie", in the showy role of son 'Tom'. He then turned producer, buying the rights to the revue "Lend an Ear" and much revising it. It debuted in New York in 1948, the cast including Eythe and a young Carol Channing. It ran for 460 performances until 1950. He enjoyed seeing one of his early revues, which was revamped by Charles Gaynor and given a Broadway run in 1948. Eythe was one of the show's producers and singing stars. The musical is best remembered for putting co-star Carol Channing on the map. In November 1949, Eythe left the cast of "Lend an Ear", replaced by John Beal. He announced he had bought the rights to the novel "The Perfect Round" by Henry Morton Robinson and wanted to turn it into a play.

He returned to films with the lead role in a B film at Columbia, Customs Agent (1950). ...

In 1950 he appeared in the musical "The Liar', directed by Alfred Drake, which only had a short run. Eythe also appeared in a starring (though non-singing) role in the 1950 Cole Porter musical Out of this World, based on the Greek myth of Amphitryon, in which Jupiter (George Gaynes) comes to earth to bed a lovely young lady, taking the shape of her much-loved husband (Eythe). The song "From This Moment On," which went on to become a standard, was originally written for the couple. In 1953 he was in a stage production of Garson Kanin's The Live Wire. By 1956, he and McAllister, along with Huntington Hartford, produced a musical revue with the hopes of it reaching Broadway but it closed in Chicago. Uninspired TV work did little to alter his decline.

Television ...
During the run of "Lend an Ear" in NY, he began appearing in TV in episodes of The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse ("Dinner at Antoine's", "This Time, Next Year", an adaptation of "The Little Sister", "The Promise"). Eythe then focused on television. He was in episodes of Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre ("Follow Fat Flora"), Studio One in Hollywood ("Summer Had Better Be Good"), Armstrong Circle Theatre ("Fog Station"), Lux Video Theatre ("Dames are Poison"), Tales of Tomorrow ("The Invader", with Eva Gabor), Lights Out ("Sisters of Shadow", "Perchance to Dream"), Schlitz Playhouse ("The Haunted House"), and Hollywood Opening Night ("The Singing Years"). His last screen appearance was in The Ford Television Theatre ("Indirect Approach"), opposite French actress Corinne Calvet, and Robert Stack.

Later Career ...
Eythe became a professional photographer. He and his partner Lon McCallister would tour the world producing films for the Hilton Hotel chain.

Personal life ...
Eythe was linked with many of the female stars in Hollywood of the time, such as Anne Baxter, June Haver, Margaret Whiting and others. Eythe quickly married a young 20th Century Fox contract actress, Buff Cobb, in June 1947. The marriage was short-lived and was not a happy one, and the couple would divorce in 1949. Cobb would later sue Eythe for $2,500 owing under the settlement. It resulted in Eythe being arrested. "I suppose I do owe the money," he said. "I'm a bum book-keeper and a bum businessman." In reality, Eythe was closeted homosexual, on-and-off, involved in a long-time relationship with Lon McCallister.

Death ...
With a declining career, depression eventually set in and he turned heavily to drink with an unfortunate series of tabloid-making arrests resulting. In January 1957, he was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles in January 1957, for treatment of acute hepatitis and died ten days later on January 26th, at the age of 38. Carol Channing, who was at his bedside shortly before he died, described Lon McCallister as Eythe's "dearest friend". McCallister would died in 2001 from congestive heart failure, at the age of 82. William Eythe was buried in his native Pennsylvania, in the EYTH family plot, at Saint Peters Cemetery. in Butler, PA. ...

Link ...

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