Joel Albert McCrea (November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990) was an American actor whose career spanned 50 years and appearances in over 90 film s. These film s include Alfred Hitchcock’s spy film Foreign Correspondent (1940), Preston Sturges’ comedy classic s Sullivan’s Travels (1940), and The Palm Beach Story (1941), the romance film Bird of Paradise (1932), the adventure classic The Most Dangerous Game (1933), George Stevens’ The More the Merrier (1941), and the titular character in the western classic The Virginian (1946). With the exception of the British thriller film Rough Shoot (1953), McCrea only appeared in western film s from 1946 to his retirement in 1976. His most notable western is Ride the High Country (1962), in which he starred with Randolph Scott.
McCrea was born in South Pasadena, California, the son of Thomas McCrea, who was an executive with the L.A. Gas & Electric Company,and 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 film ing 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,Even as a high school student, he was working as a stunt doubleand held horses for cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix. He worked as an extra, stunt man and bit player from 1927 to 1928, 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.
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).
When Apache chief Nanchez is captured by the cavalry, his white squaw and infant son are returned to civilization by Sergeant Hook, but Nanchez escapes.
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.