Duff, Howard

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1913-11-24
Death 1990-07-08
Americans

Biographical notes:

Biography

Prolific character actor Howard Duff was born on November 24, 1913 in Bremerton, Washington and raised in Seattle. Duff's career spans the early days of radio when he played detective Sam Spade to his numerous roles in television, theater, and film.

Duff began acting in school plays at Roosevelt High School only after he was cut from the school's basketball team. Upon graduating from high school in 1932, Duff got a job as a news reader and disc jockey with KOMO radio station. When he wasn't on the air, Duff honed his voice by reading everything from soup commercials to Shakespeare.

Also at this time, Duff began acting with the Seattle Repertory Playhouse. His first big role was in "Treasure Island". During the next five years, Duff starred in classics by Chekhov, Shakespeare, and Ibsen. In 1938, Duff got a job with a children's radio serial in San Francisco. When the broadcast moved to Hollywood, Duff followed.

When World War II began, Duff joined the Armed Forces Radio Service where he directed a weekly radio show called "Tonight at Fort Lewis". He also worked on the Bob Hope radio show before being discharged as a staff sergeant in 1945.

Duff returned to Hollywood and in 1946, he got his big break. Duff landed the role of hard-boiled detective Sam Spade. His Sam Spade celebrity attracted the attention of writer-producer Mark Hellinger, who put Duff under contract with Universal. Duff's first film was "Brute Force" (1947) starring Burt Lancaster. Duff continued to star in the "Adventures of Sam Spade" radio show until 1951 when he was blacklisted and fired. Duff's name appeared in an unofficial newsletter called Red Channels. Duff wasn't a Communist but he did attend a 1948 Hollywood dinner for Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Wallace who was endorsed by the Communist Party.

Duff's career didn't recover until 1957 when his name was cleared and his new television series "Mr. Adams and Eve" debuted. Duff starred in the show with his wife Ida Lupino, whom he married in 1951. The series lasted from 1957-1958.

Duff and Lupino separated in 1966 but didn't officially divorce until 1984. Soon after, Duff married Judy Jenkinson, a New York theatre casting and production executive, whom he met in 1973 when she was an assistant producer for the Arthur Miller play "The Price" in which Duff starred.

Duff appeared in over fifty television shows including "The Golden Girls", "Knots Landing", "Dallas", "Magnum P.I.", "Charlie's Angels", "Murder, She Wrote", "The Mod Squad", "Batman", and "The Twilight Zone". He had recurring roles as detective Sam Stone on the "Felony Squad" (1966-1969) and Sheriff Titus Semple on "Flamingo Road" (1981-1982).

Duff also appeared in over thirty films including "Kramer Vs. Kramer", Robert Altman's "A Wedding", "No Way Out", "Too Much Sun", "The Naked City", and "All My Sons".

Duff died of a heart attack at the age of 76 on July 9, 1990 in Santa Barbara, CA. He is survived by his wife Judy, his brother Douglas, and his daughter from his first marriage, Bridget Donovan.

From the guide to the Howard Duff Collection, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Performing Arts Special Collections)

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