Longtime photojournalist Robert Godwin has been going through his archives to rescue an abundance of Austin history.
This arresting image catches Hollywood actor Broderick Crawford in half light: Crawford won a 1949 Academy Award for his role as populist politician Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men.”
“I remember wanting to move his drink,” Godwin says, “but thought I’d pull back a stub if I reached a hand toward it. It was about 9 or 10 in the morning and he finished his third Bloody Mary — that only had a splash of tomato juice — and then started on martinis that came in a tumbler instead of a martini glass! Never blinked or slurred a word while I was there.”
So, why was hard-working, hard-living Crawford in town? He was best known at the time for the syndicated TV crime series, “Highway Patrol.” Yet he came to Austin in November 1979 to reprise his role in “Born Yesterday.” Almost 30 years earlier in 1950, Crawford had played the bullying boyfriend of Judy Holliday in the film version.
In Austin, he worked with Mary Moody Northen Theatre founder Ed Mangum, who fertilized his budding Equity acting union program at St. Edward’s University with the stars of stage, screen and television. So, Crawford joined the ranks of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Mercedes McCambridge, John Carradine and Sal Mineo as a guest star.
“During the 1950s, Crawford became known for his large appetite for food and alcohol,” writes actor, teacher and author Ev Lunning Jr. “He brought these appetites to Austin, along with his crusty personality.”
Lunning recently released “Stars over St. Edward’s: The SEU Theater Arts Program, 1962-1982,” a thorough and invaluable online resource published by the Munday Library.
In it, he describes brusque Crawford hitting every tavern along the way as he was interviewed by local media stalwarts such as John Bustin, Paul Beutel and Cactus Pryor, as well as running up an after-show bar tab of something like $150 back when drinks cost $2.