William Redfield (1927 - 1976)

A photo of William Redfield
William Redfield
1927 - 1976
updated March 08, 2019
William Redfield was born on January 26, 1927. He died on August 17, 1976 at 49 years old.

William Redfield
Born January 26, 1927 in New York City, New York, USA
Died August 17, 1976 in New York City, New York, USA (leukemia and respiratory ailment)
Birth Name William Henry Redfield
Height 5' 9¾" (1.77 m)
Manhattan-born thespian William Redfield was influenced early on into an acting career as the son of an orchestra conductor and a former Ziegfeld Follies girl. Born on January 26, 1927, young "Billy Redfield" made his Broadway debut in "Swing Your Lady" in 1936 at the age of 9. Within a few years, the young boy was also heard on radio and appeared in his first movie, the crime drama Back Door to Heaven (1939). As a juvenile, he continued on Broadway with such productions as "Our Town" (1938) and "Junior Miss" (1941). In subsequent years, Redfield would become one of the original founders of the famed Actor's Studio.
Gainfully employed on stage and TV throughout the 50s, he starred in a short-lived series as Jimmy Hughes, Rookie Cop (1953) (which appeared on the early Dumont Network) in 1953 and followed it up the next year with the one-season show The Marriage (1954), which has the distinction of being the first live network series to be regularly broadcast in color. An exceptionally talented writer and speaker, he co-created the Mister Peepers (1952) sitcom in the 50s, wrote the theater play "A View with Alarm" and later published his memoir, "Letters From an Actor", which recalled his experiences playing Guildenstern in the 1964 theater production of "Hamlet" starring Richard Burton and directed by John Gielgud. Other Broadway fare included "Misalliance" (1953), "Midgie Purvis" (1961) which starred Tallulah Bankhead, and "A Man for All Seasons" (1961) with Paul Scofield. In 1968, he replaced George Grizzard in the popular "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running".
Redfield also stretched his visibility with audiences as a highly candid, warmly-received raconteur on the talk show circuit. He certainly didn't mince words as he described the ups and downs of the acting profession. It wasn't until the late 60s that Redfield started making a dent in film with roles in such popular screen fare as Morituri (1965), Fantastic Voyage (1966), A New Leaf (1971), Such Good Friends (1971), The Hot Rock (1972), and For Pete's Sake (1974), usually playing intense, unsympathetic parts.
Redfield finally hit the big time in the third-billed role of "Harding", the tense, logical, but high-strung mental patient opposite Jack Nicholson's "Randall McMurphy" in the Oscar-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). What should have been the start of an enviable film support career and making a name for himself turned out to be nearly his swan song. Redfield died of leukemia the following year at the age of 49. His son, Adam Redfield, who was born in 1960, also became an actor on stage and TV.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh
Spouse (2)
Lynda Helen Bright (26 February 1971 - 17 August 1976) ( his death)
Betsy Meade ( divorced) ( 2 children)
Trivia (7)
Father of actor Adam Redfield.
Friend of Marlon Brando.
During the filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), fellow actor and real-life psychiatrist Dean R. Brooks diagnosed Redfield with leukemia (this was long before the days of bone marrow transplants) and gave him 18 months to live. Redfield died 18 months later, pretty much to the day.
Played Guildenstern in the 1964 Richard Burton Hamlet (1964) directed by John Gielgud, which premiered in Toronto, was previewed in Boston and opened on Broadway on April 9, 1964 and closed on August 8, 1964 after a total of 137 performances, thus breaking the record set by John Barrymore, who himself had broken Edwin Booth's record. Burton was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play 1964 while Hume Cronyn won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Play as Polonius.
Redfield wrote a memoir of the 1964 stage production of Hamlet (1964) directed by John Gielgud and starring Richard Burton that was captured on film. In "Letters from an Actor" (1967, Viking Press), Redfield -- who played Guildenstern -- said that his friend Marlon Brando had been considered the Great White Hope by his generation of American actors. That is, they believed that Brando's more naturalistic style, combined with his greatness as an actor, would prove a challenge to the more stylized and technical English acting paradigm epitomized by Laurence Olivier, and that Brando would supplant Olivier as the world's greatest actor. Redfield would tell Burton stories of Brando, whom the Welsh actor had not yet met. Refield sadly confessed that Brando, by not taking on roles such as Hamlet, and "betraying" his craft by abandoning the stage, thus allowing his instrument to be dulled by film work), had failed not only as an actor, but had failed to help American actors create an acting tradition that would rival the English in terms of expertise.
He starred in 83 episodes of the "CBS Radio Mystery Theater," which ran on CBS Radio from January of 1974 to December of 1982.
Father: Henry C. Redfield; Mother: Mareta A. George (former Follies girl).
Personal Quotes (3)
Let's face it. Movies are the swellest way to make money that ever happened in the history of the world.
[on Marlon Brando]: Brando, as a young actor, seemed bounded by no borders at all.
Acting is the most mortal of the arts. Like perishable foods, it must be taken fresh or not at all.

William Redfield Biography

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Long Island National Cemetery Section 2C Site 1255, 2040 Wellwood Avenue, in Farmingdale, New York


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Branch of service: Us Army
Rank attained: T5
Wars/Conflicts: World War II
He served as an infantryman in World War II.

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William Redfield Dead at 49; A TV, Stage and Movie Actor

August 18, 1976, Page 36
The New York Times Archives
William Redfield, who started a 40‐year acting career when he appeared in 1936 at the age of 9 in the Broadway musical “Swing Your Lady,” died yesterday at St. Clare's Hospital of a respiratory ailment complicated by leukemia. He was 49 years old and lived at 888 Eighth Avenue.

Mr. Redfield's long and varied career included more than 2,000 performances on the stage, in films, on television and on radio.

His most recent film appearance was as Harding in the Oscar winning film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.”
Vincent Canby, movie critic for The New York Times, described his performance as “close to brilliant.”

Mr. Redfield took his craft seriously. He wrote about acting in letters to newspaper drama pages, and contributed a monthly column to Playfare Magazine.
“After his appearance in 1967 as Guildenstern in the John Gielgud‐Richard Burton Broadway production of “Hamlet,” he wrote a book entitled “Letters From an Actor,” which dealt with his experiences in the play and reflections on the performances and personal actions of those involved in it.
Some of his opinions on the relations between actors and directors resulted in controversy between him and drama critics.

In collaboration with the late Wally Cox, he wrote “Mr. Peepers,” a book containing vignettes on the Peepers role that Mr. Cox had played on television.

An outgoing man with bright visage and ready wit, he had half-completed an account of the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” which he entitled “200 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.” He had also completed the outlines of two novels and a screenplay.

His philosophy on the relationship between performers and critics was expressed in a letter to The New York Times in which he asserted: “The trouble with 90 percent of critics is that they know nothing about the theater…. The not so surprising truth is that the only people who know anything about the theater are the people who put on plays.”

Despite his poor opinion of critics, Mr. Redfield was generally acclaimed by them for his performances, especially for his Inlaying of the title role in Lillian Hellman's play “Montserrat” his enactment of the god Mercury in Cole Porter's Broadway musical “Out of This World,” his costarring role with Paul Scofield in a “A Man for All Seasons,” and in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's “Misalliance.”

Some of the more recent films in which he appeared were with Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” with Barbara Streisand in “For Pete's Sake,” and with Robert Redford in “The Hot Rock.”

Mr. Redfield was a founding member of the Actor's Studio with Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, and lectured frequently on, acting before professional and nonprofessional groups. He was also a frequent panelist on television talkshows, where he was considered a witty performer.

Although he had been suffering from leukemia for the last two years, he continued to perform in films and on television. He had returned only a week ago from California after finishing his role in a new movie with Jackie Gleason. He estimated that he had made more than over 2,000 appearances, live and taped, on television shows.

Mr. Redfield was born on the West Side of Manhattan, on Jan. 26, 1927. His father, Henry C. Redfield, was a music conductor and arranger, and his mother, the former Mareta A. George, had been a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl.
He served as an infantryman in World War II.

He is survived by his wife, Lynda, and a son, Adam. a daughter, Liza, from his first marriage to Betsy Meade, and his mother.

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1927 - 1976 World Events

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In 1927, in the year that William Redfield was born, the first "talkie" (a movie with music, songs, and talking), The Jazz Singer, was released. Al Jolson starred as a cantor's son who instead of following in his father's footsteps as expected, becomes a singer of popular songs. Banished by his father, they reconcile on his father's deathbed. It was a tear-jerker and audiences went wild - especially when they heard the songs. Thus begun the demise of silent films and the rise of "talkies".

In 1933, when he was only 6 years old, the day after being inaugurated, the new President, Franklin Roosevelt, declared a four-day bank holiday to stop people from withdrawing their money from shaky banks (the bank run). Within 5 days of his administration, the Emergency Banking Act was passed - reorganizing banks and closing insolvent ones. In his first 100 days, he asked Congress to repeal Prohibition (which they did), signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, signed legislation that paid commodity farmers to leave their fields fallow, thus ending surpluses and boosting prices, signed a bill that gave workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions as well as suspending some antitrust laws and establishing a federally funded Public Works Administration, and won passage of 12 other major laws that helped the economy.

In 1945, by the time he was 18 years old, on August 15th, Imperial Japan announced its surrender. On September 2nd, a formal agreement of surrender was signed. Japan and nine other states signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay, calling for the return of all Allied prisoners of war and subordinating the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. VJ (Victory in Japan) Day was celebrated in the United States on August 14th and 15th. World War II was over.

In 1951, at the age of 24 years old, William was alive when on April 5th, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (husband and wife) were sentenced to death for treason. They were executed on June 19th. American citizens, they were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. Their two young sons were adopted by a high school teacher and his wife.

In 1976, in the year of William Redfield's passing, The United States celebrated the Bicentennial of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It was a year long celebration, with the biggest events taking place on July 4th.

Other Biographies

Other William Redfields

William R Redfield
Born: around 1926
New York, United States
William J Redfield
Born: around 1918
Illinois, United States
William C Redfield
Born: around 1925
New York, United States
William P Redfield
Born: around 1916
New York, United States
William M Redfield
around 1867 - May 27, 1938
William J Redfield
around 1891  - Jun 20, 1891
William H Redfield
around 1856 - Apr 14, 1917
William H Redfield
around 1877 - Jan 31, 1897
William G Redfield
around 1866 - Sep 12, 1908
William B Redfield
around 1856 - May 11, 1902
William Redfield
around 1903 - Sep 13, 1938
William Redfield
around 1859 - Jun 13, 1932
William S. Redfield
Born: around 1957
William S. Redfield
Born: around 1957
William E. Redfield Jr
Born: around 1976

Other Redfields

Edwin F Redfield
Nov 4, 1897 - Aug 24, 1989
Barnstable, MA
Patricia D Redfield
Feb 20, 1928 - May 17, 1995
Santa Barbara, CA
Ethel Redfield
Sep 13, 1896 - October 1981
Princeton Junction, NJ
Gladys Redfield
Mar 19, 1901 - August 1982
Adams, NY
Helen T Redfield
Dec 31, 1920 - Jul 3, 1996
Cutchogue, NY
Henry Redfield
Feb 8, 1905 - Sep 12, 1990
George Roswell Redfield
Jan 23, 1908 - Apr 24, 1973
New York, NY
Norma A Redfield
Mar 20, 1931 - Apr 3, 2011
Alden, NY
Grace C Redfield
Feb 12, 1912 - Apr 24, 2002
Jamesville, NY
Margaret Redfield
Dec 6, 1898 - February 1977
Chicago, IL
Elaine M Redfield
Jun 5, 1918 - Jun 10, 2007
Elizabeth Redfield
Jun 22, 1883 - May 1964
Peggy Redfield
Sep 24, 1927 - Dec 20, 1994
Bronx, NY
Mildred Redfield
Jul 10, 1891 - May 1974
East Bloomfield, NY
Renee Redfield
Apr 29, 1925 - Nov 11, 1997
Palm Desert, CA
Dudley Redfield
Nov 28, 1889 - October 1967
White Plains, NY
Doris R Redfield
Dec 18, 1897 - Dec 5, 1991
San Diego, CA
Robert W Redfield
Jul 6, 1937 - Jun 4, 2007
Green Cove Springs, FL
Scott F Redfield
May 31, 1908 - November 1991
James Redfield
Jan 12, 1915 - November 1978
Edison, NJ

Other Bios

Walter Ochs
May 30, 1894 - July 1964
Victoria B Moore
Nov 5, 1911 - Dec 9, 1996
Roswell, NM
Gloria Mitchell
Mar 11, 1918 - November 1975
Edward S Crosswell
Aug 17, 1910 - Mar 13, 1989
Mary Esther, FL
Fayette Lentz
Jun 20, 1907 - October 1984
Dayton, OH
Aaron Helwitz
Mar 4, 1904 - September 1964
Gerard Connell
Jul 27, 1902 - August 1978
Belmont, CA
Earl Ebi
Jun 25, 1903 - January 1973
Sherman Oaks, CA
Glenna Wood
Jun 21, 1898 - May 1976
Princeton, NJ
Stella Marchant
Sep 15, 1921 - March 1966
Anthony Debellis
Oct 3, 1897 - July 1981
New York, NY
Marian Venuti
Dec 16, 1914 - Nov 26, 2003
Wallkill, NY
Sidney M Grossman
Jul 21, 1918 - Oct 27, 2000
Pompano Beach, FL
Raymond Henry
Mar 22, 1884 - February 1965
Charline v Gaubert
Nov 22, 1910 - Feb 27, 1999
Cedar Hill, TX
Daniel Leary
Sep 21, 1903 - July 1975
New York, NY
Felicia Bucca
Mar 27, 1911 - Nov 15, 2009
Melbourne Beach, FL
David Kaufman
Oct 27, 1892 - February 1974
New York, NY
Florence Picciotti
Jun 23, 1917 - Jun 22, 2007
Sarasota, FL
Abraham S Silver
Jan 9, 1914 - Mar 4, 1992
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