In 1979, hard-living Oscar winner Broderick Crawford lit up St. Ed’s

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, who won an Academy Award in 1949 for his role as populist politician Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men,” in half light.

“I remember wanting to move his drink,” Godwin says, “but thought I’d pull back a stub if I reached a hand towards 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 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 writer 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.

Zelma Richardson, in charge of Crawford’s publicity appearances, was so put off by his brusqueness that she as Bill McMillan to accompany Crawford on one day’s publicity itinerary. When McMillan reported to the hotel, he found Crawford beginning his breakfast Bloody Mary. After each appearance and interview, Crawford suggested a stop at a tavern.”

The long day did not end well for McMillan.

Crawford’s co-star, Susan Loughran, remembered one of Crawford’s first evenings in Austin.
“He drank,” she says. “Tom Graves, who also drank, and Broderick and I went out to talk about the show. We went to — I don’t think it’s there anymore — there was a bar at the corner of Oltorf and Interstate 35 and it had a second story, and it was dark, and the reputation was that there were a lot of divorcees and it would be a good place to meet if you wanted to have an affair. And we went up there to have drinks.”
She recalls that Crawford ordered scotches on the rocks.
“Some manly drink — he was a very manly man, a big rumbling voice, and he wore this hat, a hat that he got from Bear Bryant,” Loughran says. “I probably had maybe two drinks but the bar bill was something like $150. You know, when drinks were maybe $2 apiece. … So that was my introduction to Broderick.”