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Bradford Dillman, who starred with Dean Stockwell in the taut 1959 crime drama Compulsion and portrayed Edmund in the original Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, has died. He was 87.
Dillman died Tuesday in Santa Barbara due to complications from pneumonia, family spokesman Ted Gekis announced.
The lanky, dark-haired Dillman also played Robert Redford’s best friend J.J. in The Way We Were (1973), and his daughter Pamela said that it was this movie that “perfectly captured the essence” of her father, particularly during the scene on a boat when the actors reminisce about their lives and best moments.
Dillman also appeared opposite Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry films The Enforcer (1976) and Sudden Impact (1983).
In director Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion, derived from the infamous Leopold & Loeb case of the 1920s, Dillman and Stockwell starred as the brazen killers Arthur A. Straus and Judd Steiner, respectively, who think they have committed the perfect murder.
Dillman, Stockwell and Orson Welles (who played their attorney) shared best actor honors at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. The Fox film was an adaptation of a Broadway hit, with Dillman taking on the role that Roddy McDowall had originated on the stage.
Dillman’s family said that he was most proud of his work in Compulsion, along with his portrayal of Willie Oban in O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (1973), an adaptation directed by John Frankenheimer for the American Film Theater.
Dillman had made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Long Day’s Journey into Night, creating the role of the author’s alter ego, Edmund Tyrone, for 390 performances and winning a Theater World Award in the process.
However, it was Stockwell who played Edmund in Sidney Lumet’s 1962 movie version.
Dillman was born on April 14, 1930, in San Francisco, the third of the four children. He grew up in the city but spent his summers in Santa Barbara acting in local theater productions.
He attended boarding school at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut and Yale University, where he studied English and drama, then entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a lieutenant in the Korean War.
After an honorable discharge, Dillman auditioned for Lee Strasburg and entered the Actors Studio alongside fellow classmates James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
Following Long Day’s Journey Into Night and a role in Katharine Cornell’s Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize-winning There Shall Be No Night, Dillman was signed by 20th Century Fox. He was cast in the 1958 films A Certain Smile and In Love and War and received the Golden Globe for most promising newcomer — male in 1959.
In 1961, Dillman had the title role in Francis of Assisi, directed by Michael Curtiz.
Omnipresent on television throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, Dillman had a recurring role on Dr. Kildare, starred with Peter Graves in the short-lived series Court Martial and guest-starred on shows including The Name of the Game; The Wild, Wild West; Mission: Impossible; The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; Columbo; Ironside; Barnaby Jones; and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
His autobiography, Are You Anybody?: An Actor’s Life, was published in 1997.
A lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Dillman was invited in the late ‘70s by coach Bill Walsh and owner Eddie DeBartolo to sit in on NFL Draft sessions, and he gave the team a suggested pick for the next 20 years. He wrote a book about another NFL team, Inside the New York Giants, in 1995.
Survivors include his children Jeffrey, Pamela, Charlie, Christopher and Dinah and stepdaughter Georgia. He was married to Frieda Harding McIntosh and, from 1963 until her death in 2003, model and actress Suzy Parker, whom he met in London while they made A Circle of Deception (1960).
The family asks that a donation in his memory be made to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care in Santa Barbara.
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