American actor Joel McCrea (1905-1990) came from a California family with roots reaching back to the pioneer days. As a youth, McCrea satiated his fascination with movies by appearing as an extra in a serial starring Ruth Roland. By 1920, high schooler McCrea was a movie stunt double, and by the time he attended USC, he was regularly appearing at the Pasadena Playhouse. McCrea’s big Hollywood break came with a part in the 1929 talkie Jazz Age; he matriculated into one of the most popular action stars of the 1930s, making lasting friendships with such luminaries as director Cecil B. DeMille and comedian Will Rogers. It was Rogers who instilled in McCrea a strong business sense, as well as a love of ranching; before the 1940s had ended, McCrea was a multi-millionaire, as much from his land holdings and ranching activities as from his film work. Concentrating almost exclusively on westerns after appearing in The Virginian (1946), McCrea became one of that genre’s biggest box-office attractions… read more
He is possibly the most underrated male actor of thirties and forties films. As sexy and laconic as Gary Cooper, he has a warmer, wryer presence on screen. Often cast in Cooper's cast-offs ("Foreign Correspondent" is one), he is so good that you cannot imagine anyone else playing the parts.