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Joel McCrea
McCrea in Four Faces West (1948)
Joel Albert McCrea

(1905-11-05)November 5, 1905
DiedOctober 20, 1990(1990-10-20) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeRemains scattered into the Pacific Ocean
Alma materPomona College
Years active1927–1976
(m. 1933)
Children3, including Jody McCrea

Joel Albert McCrea (November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990) was an American actor whose career spanned a wide variety of genres over almost five decades, including comedy, drama, romance, thrillers, adventures, and Westerns, for which he became best known.

He appeared in over one hundred films,[1] starring in over eighty, among them Alfred Hitchcock's espionage thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940), Preston Sturges' comedy classics Sullivan's Travels (1941), and The Palm Beach Story (1942), the romance film Bird of Paradise (1932), the adventure classic The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Gregory La Cava's bawdy comedy Bed of Roses (1933), George Stevens' six-time Academy Award nominated romantic comedy The More the Merrier (1943), William Wyler's These Three, Come and Get It (both 1936) and Dead End (1937), Howard Hawks' Barbary Coast (1935), and a number of Westerns, including Wichita (1955) as Wyatt Earp and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962), opposite Randolph Scott.

He starred in a total of three Best Picture Oscar nominees: Dead End (1937), Foreign Correspondent (1940), and The More the Merrier (1943).

With the exception of the British thriller Rough Shoot (1953) and film noir Hollywood Story (1951), McCrea appeared in Western films exclusively from 1946 until his retirement in 1976.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Funny Joel McCrea scene from the movie The First Texan Full Screen
  • Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea in ''The More and Merrier'' (1943)
  • Joel McCrea Plays Pool
  • Funny Joel McCrea Scene From The Movie Wichita
  • Joel McCrea Cameo | Scarlet River | HD |


Early life

McCrea was born in South Pasadena, California, the son of Thomas McCrea, an executive with the L.A. Gas & Electric Company,[2] and Louise "Lou" Whipple.[3] As a boy, he had a paper route delivering the Los Angeles Times to Cecil B. DeMille and other people in the film industry. He also had the opportunity to watch D. W. Griffith filming Intolerance, and was an extra in a serial starring Ruth Roland.[2][4]

McCrea graduated from Hollywood High School and then Pomona College (class of 1928.[5]) There he had acted on stage and took courses in drama and public speaking, while also appearing regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1928 he also met Wyatt Earp in Hollywood – later in 1955, McCrea would portray Earp in the film, Wichita. As a high school student McCrea worked as a stunt double[4] and held horses for Hollywood cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix.[2] McCrea had a love and understanding of horses from an early age, and later he was considered one of the best riders in Western films.[6][7]

The strapping 6'2½" McCrea variously worked as an extra, stunt man, and bit player from 1927 to 1928, when he signed a contract with MGM. He was cast in a major role in The Jazz Age (1929), and got his first leading role that year in The Silver Horde.[2] He moved to RKO in 1930, where he established himself as a handsome and versatile leading man capable of starring in both dramas and comedies.[6]


Ad of Joel McCrea and Dolores del Rio from Bird of Paradise in The Film Daily, 1932
McCrea with Fay Wray in The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

In the 1930s, McCrea starred in the pre-code film, Bird of Paradise (1932), directed by King Vidor, co-starring with Dolores del Río. In RKO's The Sport Parade (1932), McCrea and William Gargan are friends on the Dartmouth football team, who are shown snapping towels at each other in the locker room, while other players are taking a shower. In 1932 he starred with Fay Wray in The Most Dangerous Game – which used some of the same jungle sets built for King Kong (1933) as well as cast members Wray and Robert Armstrong, and was filmed at night while King Kong was filmed during the day. He was originally intended for the character Jack Driscoll in King Kong, but he turned down the role which subsequently went to Bruce Cabot.[8][9][10]

In 1934 he made his first appearances with two leading ladies he would be paired with often, Miriam Hopkins in The Richest Girl in the World, the first of their five films together,[11] and Barbara Stanwyck in Gambling Lady, the first of their six pairings.[12]

McCrea in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Later in the decade he was the first actor to play "Dr. Kildare", in the film Internes Can't Take Money (1937), and starred in two large-scale Westerns, Wells Fargo (1937) with his wife Frances Dee, and Cecil B. DeMille's Union Pacific (1939).

McCrea reached the peak of his early career in the early 1940s, in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940), a romantic comedy, The More the Merrier (1943), directed by George Stevens, and two comedies by Preston Sturges: Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942).[13] While shooting Sullivan's Travels, it was an on-set joke that tall McCrea's leading lady, Veronica Lake, had to stand on a box for some shots, as she was reportedly 16 inches shorter than McCrea, and it was otherwise impossible to get both of their heads in the same shot.

McCrea turned down playing in a number of films; he was offered the lead role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) but he refused, saying "This character is too much of a gigolo. I don't like his moral standards." Among other movies he declined were Spitfire (1934), The Impatient Years (1944), Intruder in the Dust (1949), and The Story of Will Rogers (1952). During World War II, McCrea refused to portray military heroes, with the explanation, "Since I was too old to be called, I was too old for that kind of a show".[6] He was also notoriously modest about his acting abilities, and would say that he didn't feel good enough to play certain parts. He also preferred playing roles that he could see himself in. Despite his own opinion of his acting, Katharine Hepburn reportedly felt that he was one of the best actors with whom she had worked. She believed McCrea should have been ranked alongside Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart.

McCrea with Veronica Lake in Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941)

McCrea also starred in two William A. Wellman Westerns, The Great Man's Lady (1942), again with Stanwyck, and Buffalo Bill (1944), with character actor Edgar Buchanan and a young Maureen O'Hara. After the success of the film The Virginian in 1946, McCrea made Westerns exclusively for the rest of his career, with two exceptions: an uncredited role in the 1951 film noir Hollywood Story and the British-made Rough Shoot (1953).[14][15]

By that time the multi-millionaire McCrea had long been working his own ranch in Ventura County outside of L.A.. Specializing in Westerns was not merely a return to what he had done earlier in his career, but a genre he immensely enjoyed. As he described it (in a 1978 interview):

I liked doing comedies, but as I got older I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations.... Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn't feel like I was an actor anymore. I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.[2]

On November 19, 1950, McCrea appeared on Television Theatre in an adaptation of Foreign Correspondent.[16] In the early 1950s, McCrea starred as Jace Pearson on the radio series Western, Tales of the Texas Rangers.[17][18] In 1955 he was Wyatt Earp in Wichita directed by Jacques Tourneur. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded the film with "Best Picture – Outdoor Drama" that year.

In 1959, McCrea and his son Jody starred in the brief NBC-TV series Wichita Town. Earlier he had turned down the lead in Rawhide, feeling it would make too heavy a workload. A few years later, McCrea united with fellow veteran of Westerns Randolph Scott in Ride the High Country (1962), directed by Sam Peckinpah, after which he did not make another feature film until The Young Rounders (1966). Four more years were to pass before his next film, but 1970 saw the release of two: Cry Blood, Apache, again with his son Jody, and Sioux Nation. He made his final film appearance in 1976, in Mustang Country.


In 1968, McCrea received a career achievement award from the L.A. Film Critics Association,[19] and the following year he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, McCrea has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Blvd. and another star at 6241 Hollywood Blvd. for his contribution to radio.

He was also a winner of the Golden Boot Award in 1987, the Golden Laurel Award in 1951, a Photoplay Award in 1939 for his performance in Union Pacific, the Silver Medallion Award in 1982, and the Trustees Award in 1976 for the film, Mustang Country.

Personal life

McCrea married actress Frances Dee in Rye, New York, on October 20, 1933,[20][21] after they met while filming The Silver Cord.[2][22] Coincidentally, Dee was born only a few blocks away from McCrea's home, but she moved to Chicago during her childhood. They had three sons, Jody, Peter and David. They were married until McCrea's death 57 years later.[7]

McCrea – who was an outdoorsman who had once listed his occupation as "rancher" and his hobby as "acting" – had begun buying property as early as 1933, when he purchased his first 1,000 acres (400 ha) in a then unincorporated area of eastern Ventura County, California, which later became Thousand Oaks. This was the beginning of what evolved into a 3,000-acre (1,200 ha) spread where McCrea and his wife lived, raised their sons, and rode their horses.[2][23] At one point, McCrea's ranch produced 200,000 pounds of beef every year. He was noted for being a hard worker on his ranch; he was very active in the management, including riding, roping and branding.

By the end of the 1940s, McCrea was a multi-millionaire, as much from his real-estate dealings as from his movie stardom. It is said that McCrea once joked that he "only acted so he could afford to ranch." In the early 1960s, he sold 1,200 acres (490 ha) of land to an oil company on the condition that they would not drill within sight of his home.[4] McCrea's perspicacity may have stemmed from his friendship in the 1930s with fellow personality and sometime actor Will Rogers. McCrea recounted that "the Oklahoma Sage" gave him a profound piece of advice: "Save half of what you make, and live on just the other half."[24]

McCrea supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 United States presidential election, Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election, and Ronald Reagan in the 1966 California gubernatorial election.[25][26]

In a story originally published in 1954, McCrea said he was a man of faith, who relied on the guidance of God in his personal life and career, saying that through the years he followed the principle of "asking my way of Him." At the end of the article, McCrea added, "I don't claim I haven't made mistakes. I have. But most of my mistakes were due to trusting 'luck' or my own judgment instead of His."[27]

McCrea made his final public appearance on October 3, 1990, at a fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Wilson in Beverly Hills.[2] He died less than three weeks later on October 20, at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, from pneumonia at the age of 84.[6]

After his death his family ultimately donated thirty-five acres (14 ha) of McCrea's former ranch to the newly formed Conejo Valley YMCA for the city of Thousand Oaks.[28] They also donated 75 acres (30 ha) to the Conejo Open Space Conservancy Agency (COSCA), which designated it the Joel McCrea Wildlife Preserve;[29] and five acres (2.0 ha) to the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo.

Partial filmography

Radio appearances


  1. ^ "Joel McCrea Filmography". AFI Catalog. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Joel McCrea at the TCM Movie Database
  3. ^ 1930 United States Federal Census
  4. ^ a b c Erickson, Hal Biography (Allmovie)
  5. ^ Pomona College Alumni Directory, 2000, p. 294.
  6. ^ a b c d Joel McCrea, Actor, Dies at 84; A Casual, Amiable Leading Man The New York Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "From the Archives: Cowboy Actor Joel McCrea Dies at 84". Los Angeles Times. October 21, 1990. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  8. ^ Bawden, James; Miller, Ron (April 2016). Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era. University Press of Kentucky. p. 266. ISBN 978-0-8131-6712-1.
  9. ^ Kinnard, Roy (1988). Beasts and Behemoths: Prehistoric Creatures in the Movies. Scarecrow Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-8108-2062-3.
  10. ^ Senn, Bryan (2014). The Most Dangerous Cinema. McFarland. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7864-3562-3.
  11. ^ McCrea and Hopkins appeared together in The Richest Girl in the World (1934), Barbary Coast (1935), Splendor (1935), These Three (1936) and Woman Chases Man (1937).
  12. ^ McCrea and Stanwyck appeared together in Gambling Lady (1934), Banjo on My Knee (1936), Internes Can't Take Money (1937), Union Pacific (1939), The Great Man's Lady (1942) and Trooper Hook (1957).
  13. ^ McCrea also appeared in Sturges' The Great Moment, which was filmed in 1942 but not released until 1944 because of studio interference. The film was not a success and marked a decline in Sturges' career.
  14. ^ Thomas, Tony (1992). Joel McCrea: Riding the High Country. Riverwood Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-880756-00-3.
  15. ^ Marill, Alvin H. (June 1, 2011). Television Westerns: Six Decades of Sagebrush Sheriffs, Scalawags, and Sidewinders. Scarecrow Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-8108-8133-4.
  16. ^ "Television Highlights of the Week". The Boston Globe. November 19, 1950. p. 20-A. Retrieved May 4, 2021 – via
  17. ^ Cox, Mike (August 18, 2009). Time of the Rangers: Texas Rangers: From 1900 to the Present. Tor Publishing Group. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-4299-4116-7.
  18. ^ III, Charles M. Robinson (July 25, 2000). The Men Who Wear the Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-375-50535-5.
  19. ^ Awards,; accessed April 7, 2018.
  20. ^ New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907–1995
  21. ^ "An Interview with Peter McCrea". Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  22. ^ McCrea and Dee appeared together in six films: The Silver Cord (1933), One Man's Journey (1933), Come and Get It (1936), Wells Fargo (1937), Four Faces West (1948) and Cattle Drive (1951).
  23. ^ Flans, Robyn (February 7, 2017). "McCrea family's Hollywood legacy lives on at Conejo ranch". Ventura County Star. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  24. ^ Ragan, David Movie stars of the '30s: A complete reference guide for the film historian or trivia buffStars of the '30s, 1985, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-13-604901-X
  25. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. Cambridge University Press. p. 192. ISBN 9781107650282.
  26. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107650282.
  27. ^ McCrea, Joel (June 29, 2020). "Guideposts Classics: Joel McCrea on God's Guidance". Guideposts. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  28. ^ Flint, Peter B. (June 16, 1995). "Conejo District Acquires 220 Acres of McCrea Ranch for Parkland". The Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  29. ^ "Joel McCrea Wildlife Refuge",
  30. ^ "'Hollywood' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. December 21, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 7, 2015 – via Open access icon

Further reading

  • Nott, Robert Last of the Cowboy Heroes: The Westerns of Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, and Audie Murphy, 2000, McFarland & Company, Inc., ISBN 0-7864-2261-0

External links

This page was last edited on 23 June 2024, at 17:02
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