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Joel McCrea 

His career spanned almost five decades and appearances in more than 90 films. These films include comedies, dramas, and Westerns.

Joel McCrea

1926 Torrent (stunts)
1927 The Fair Co-Ed  
The Enemy 
1928 The Five O’Clock Girl 
Dead Man’s Curve 
Freedom of the Press 
1929 The Jazz Age 
The Divine Lady  
The Single Standard 
So This Is College 
1930 Framed  
The Silver Horde 
1931 Once a Sinner  
Kept Husbands  
Born to Love 
The Common Law  
Girls About Town 
1932 Business and Pleasure 
The Lost Squadron  
Bird of Paradise  
The Most Dangerous Game  
The Sport Parade  
1933 Scarlet River 
The Silver Cord 
Bed of Roses  
One Man’s Journey 
Chance at Heaven 
1934 Gambling Lady  
Half a Sinner
The Richest Girl in the World 
1935 Private Worlds 
Our Little Girl  
Woman Wanted  
Barbary Coast  
1936 These Three 
Two in a Crowd  
Adventure in Manhattan  
Come and Get It 
Banjo on My Knee 
1937 Internes Can’t Take Money  
Woman Chases Man 
Dead End  
Wells Fargo 
1938 Three Blind Mice  
Youth Takes a Fling  
1939 Union Pacific  
They Shall Have Music  
Espionage Agent  
1940 He Married His Wife 
Primrose Path  
Foreign Correspondent  
1941 Reaching for the Sun 
Sullivan’s Travels  
1942 The Great Man’s Lady 
The Palm Beach Story 
1943 The More the Merrier  
1944 Buffalo Bill  
The Great Moment 
1945 The Unseen 
1946 The Virginian 
1947 Ramrod  
1948 Four Faces West  
1949 South of St. Louis  
Colorado Territory  
1950 The Outriders  
Stars in My Crown  
Saddle Tramp 
1951 Hollywood Story  
Cattle Drive 
1952 The San Francisco Story 
1953 The Lone Hand  
Rough Shoot 
1954 Border River 
Black Horse Canyon  
1955 Stranger on Horseback  
1956 The First Texan 
1957 The Oklahoman  
Trooper Hook 
Gunsight Ridge  
The Tall Stranger 
1958 Cattle Empire 
Fort Massacre 
1959 The Gunfight at Dodge City  
1960 The Crowning Experience 
1962 Ride the High Country  
1966 The Young Rounders 
1970 Cry Blood, Apache  
Sioux Nation 
1976 Mustang Country 

Joel McCrea was never nominated for an Academy Award.

I have no regrets, except perhaps one: I should have tried harder to be a better actor. ~ Joel McCrea

Joel Albert McCrea was born November 5, 1905 in South Pasadena, California, the son of Thomas McCrea, who was an executive with the L.A. Gas & Electric Company, and Louise “Lou” Whipple. As a boy, he had a paper route, and delivered 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.

McCrea graduated from Hollywood High School and then Pomona College (class of 1928), where he had acted on stage and took courses in drama and public speaking, while appearing regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse. As a high school student, he worked as a stunt double and held horses for cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix.

Evelyn Brent, Joel McCrea, and Louis Wolheim in The Silver Horde (1930)

Evelyn Brent, Joel McCrea, and Louis Wolheim in The Silver Horde (1930)

The 6’2½” McCrea worked as an extra, stunt man and bit player from 1927-28, when he signed a contract with MGM, where he was cast in a major role in The Jazz Age (1929) and got his first leading role that same year in The Silver Horde. He moved to RKO in 1930, where he established himself as a handsome leading man who was considered versatile enough to star in both dramas and comedies.

In the 1930s, McCrea starred in Bird of Paradise (1932), directed by King Vidor, causing controversy for his nude scenes 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 as well as cast members Wray and Robert Armstrong.

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

Later in the decade, he was the first actor to play “Dr. Kildare”, in the film Internes Can’t Take Money (1937), and he 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 Foreign Correspondent (1940), The More the Merrier (1943) directed by George Stevens, and two by Preston Sturges: Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942).

Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea in The Great Man's Lady (1942) © Copyright 1995 - Universal City Studios, Inc. - All rights reserved.

Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea in The Great Man’s Lady (1942) © Copyright 1995 – Universal City Studios, Inc. – All rights reserved.

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 Virginian in 1946, McCrea made Westerns exclusively for the rest of his career, with the exception of the British-made Rough Shoot (1953).

In 1959, McCrea and his son Jody starred in the NBC-TV series Wichita Town, which lasted only one season. 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 films: Cry Blood, Apache, again with his son Jody, and Sioux Nation. He made his final film appearance in 1976, in Mustang Country.

According to David Ragan’s Stars of the ’30s, the McCreas were prodigious savers, accumulating a large estate, which included working-ranch properties. Joel McCrea’s work ethic was in part attributed to his Scottish heritage and it also may have stemmed from his friendship in the 1930s with fellow personality and sometime actor Will Rogers.

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 in a then unincorporated area of eastern Ventura County, California, which later became Thousand Oaks, California. This was the beginning of what became a 3,000-acre spread on which McCrea and his wife Frances lived, raised their sons, and rode their horses.

By the end of the 1940s, McCrea was a multi-millionaire, as much from his real-estate dealings as from his movie stardom. In the late 1960s, he sold 1,200 acres of land to an oil company, on the condition that they would not drill within sight of his home.

The McCreas ultimately donated several hundred acres of their personal property to the newly formed Conejo Valley YMCA for the city of Thousand Oaks, California. Today, the Conejo Valley YMCA is located in “Joel McCrea Park”.

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

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