William Redfield - Biography

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), Le voyage fantastique (1966), A New Leaf (1971), Des amis comme les miens (1971), Les quatre malfrats (1972), and Ma femme est dingue (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 Vol au-dessus d'un nid de coucou (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.