Happy Birthday, Claire Trevor!

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Claire Trevor (March 8, 1910 – April 8, 2000),   "The Queen of Film Noir," was an American Academy Award-winning actress. She appeared in over 60 films, including Dead End (1937), Stagecoach (1939), Born to Kill (1947), Key Largo (1948) and The High and the Mighty (1954). For her talents, Trevor won an Oscar for best actress in a supporting role (Key Largo, 1948) and was awarded a star on Hollywood Boulevard. 

ClaireTrevor2Claire Wemlinger was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York in 1910. Her father was a Parisian ex-patriot and Fifth Avenue merchant-tailor who lost his business during The Great Depression. Her family was of German, Irish and French descent and she was her parents' only child. Trevor expressed an interest in acting at the age of eleven. After graduating from high school, she took classes at Columbia University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her first foray into professional acting was in the late 1920s, when she appeared in summer stock plays at local theaters.

In 1930, Trevor appeared on stage with Robert Henderson's Repertory Players in Ann Arbor, MI. Later that year, she signed with Warner Bros. Studios. When Warner Bros. bought the Brooklyn-based Vitaphone Studios, Trevor appeared in many of their 2000 short films. After appearing in more stock theater productions, she finally made her Broadway debut in Whistling in the Dark (1932).

 

Honeymoon Scene from Baby Take a Bow (1934)

Trevor's first credited film role came in 1933, when she played Judy Halloway in western Life in the Raw. As she continued to play parts in features throughout the 1930s, she began to be typecast as the competent, hardcase woman. Her versatility came through when, despite playing these roles, she was able to portray a sense of vulnerability. After starring alongside Spencer Tracy in Dante's Inferno (1935), Hollywood began to pay attention. She was nominated for a Best Support Actress Oscar in Dead End (1937), opposite Humphrey Bogart.

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Claire Trevor and Humphrey Bogart in Dead End

In 1937, Trevor performed in the popular radio show Big Town alongside Edward G. Robinson. Trevor ended up marrying the show's director--this would be her first marriage out of three. She stayed with the radio show for three years before reunited with Humphrey Bogart to star in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938). Director John Ford picked Trevor to star alongside John Wayne in his western Stagecoach (1939). This was Wayne's first film with Ford and became his breakthrough role. His chemistry with Trevor made for excellent performances and rave reviews. Trevor would appear alongside John Wayne again in Allegheny Uprising (1939) and Dark Command (1940).

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Trevor and John Wayne in Stagecoach

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Trevor in Key Largo

Trevor performing Moanin' Low

Trevor in Interview about Key Largo

ClaireTrevor4In the 1940s, Trevor appeared mainly the Film Noir genre. These films featured common conventions, such as plots revolving around crime, low-key black and white cinematography and cynical characters, often with overtones of sexual motivation. Trevor starred as killer Ruth Dillon in Street of Chance (1942) and the complex Mrs. Grayle in Murder, My Sweet (1944). Her role as nightclub singer Gaye Dawn in Key Largo (1948) won her an Academy Award. In a memorable scene, she sings the song "Moanin' Low" in an effort to receive a drink.

Trevor was still interested in theater and live TV, and appeared on several shows in the 1950s. She won an Emmy for a role in Dodsworth (1956), part of NBC's Producers' Showcase (1954). As she got older, Trevor would return to supporting roles, often playing the mother and matron figures.

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Trevor starred in TV drama The Untouchables in 1959, then had her final film role in Kiss Me Goodbye (1982). Trevor's son from her second marriage to Navy lieutenant Cylos Dunsmoore tragically died in a plane accident. By this time she was married to her third husband, who died from cancer the following year. Trevor mourned these losses in her Fifth Avenue apartment before emerging again as the strong, hard-headed actress that she was. She lived in Newport Beach, California for the last few years of her life, while generously supporting the arts. The Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine was named in her honor.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 08 March 2014
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