If, as Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert has observed,
Robert Mitchum "embodies the soul of film noir," Richard Widmark provides the genre with its definitive face. Gaunt, almost skeletal, and with a smile that can never quite conceal a sneer, Widmark’s face was the perfect mask for Tommy Udo, the cold-blooded killer of his 1947 film debut,
KISS OF DEATH.
In that film, Widmark shocked audiences by tying an old woman in her wheelchair, then pushing her down a flight of stairs to her death. Such disrespect for an elderly woman would have been horrifying enough, but equally shocking was Widmark’s laugh: maniacal and gleefully sadistic, it provided a more ominous soundtrack for the moment than the composer of the score could have conceived.
It may have even unnerved