During World War II, Howard Duff received theater training at the Seattle Repertory Playhouse and also worked in radio. Speaking to 'Copley News Service' and 'The Los Angeles Times', Howard Duff remarked, "As we get more mature, we play more heavies … The Seattle Repertory Company was my college education. I was very lucky to have been a part of it, because wherever our director led, we followed, and he led us into some pretty serious drama. I really haven't done anything like that since.

"I used to have a desire to play 'Richard III', but now (in 1978) I guess I'm ready for 'Lear'. Or maybe I'm not too old for 'MacBeth' … Doing 'East of Eden' near Salinas in that Steinbeck country was a joy. I'm the original Steinbeck fan. I've read every word he ever wrote – 'In Dubious Battle', 'To a God Unknown', 'Cup of Gold'. I started working early (in Seattle) so I didn't go to college, but I learned how to read and that's one of the things that makes the rat race worthwhile." 

In 1941, Howard Duff joined the army. After he had received infantry basic training, Howard was transferred to the Armed Forces Radio Service as a correspondent. On duty in Saipan (west of Hawaii), Howard wrote and produced a weekly radio show with Tyrone Power. "I was a Hollywood commando. We were supposed to be correspondents. I just tried to stay out of trouble.

"About 1944 they sent us out and I was on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guam. I was the lowest-ranked man in the outfit so I had to carry all the heavy equipment. On Saipan I produced and wrote 'Leatherneck of the Air' for Tyrone Power." In 1947, Howard Duff made his Hollywood acting debut. Between 1946 and 1951, he played Sam Spade on radio.

Howard recounted, "My name turned up in Red Channels on a list of people who supposedly were subversives. I was not a Communist, but I had signed a document supporting the Hollywood 10. They cancelled ‘Sam Spade’, and I couldn’t get work on radio for two years afterward. I continued working in pictures, and of course the stage was less influenced by all that business than the other media. Finally I asked what I had to do to end this blacklisting. They told me: 'Just say you're not a Communist.' I said it. I didn’t do it on moral grounds or anything. It was just so.

"The bad thing about it was you were also supposed to name names, and that’s a large part of the reason people remained so bitter afterwards. I went to a Henry Wallace dinner at Ciro's! I wasn't a Communist! That made me a Communist? They said I was a 'commsymp' (Communist sympathizer). We didn't take it very seriously when it came out. That shows you how silly we were. The networks took it very seriously. It destroyed – really destroyed – a lot of people."

Between 1980 and 1982, Howard Duff co-starred in the TV series, 'Flamingo Road'. "The only good thing about getting old (62 at the time) is that you get all the interesting parts you couldn't get as a kid," Howard told the press. "I was doing 'East of Eden', a mini-series, when I was offered two scripts. One was 'Dynasty' and the other was 'Flamingo Road'. The role for me in 'Dynasty' was more important, but I liked the 'Flamingo Road' story better. I don’t know how much fun J.R. has being a villain on 'Dallas' but I have a great time." In 1988, Howard Duff guest starred on 'Dallas' playing senator Henry Harrison O’Dell, a role he had described as a combination of John Connally, Strom Thurmond and Tip O’Neill.

Howard Duff continued, "They offered me the role (in 'Flamingo Road') and I took it. It's the easiest thing I've ever done. Whether it’s good or not is another matter. I just thought he was an unregenerate S.O.B and I’d play him that way. If people turn on the show mostly to watch Morgan (Fairchild), it’s all right with me. I don’t blame 'em. I've been kind of lucky lately (or at the time). Lucky enough to get some good roles, and one thing leads to another.

"I'm getting all kinds of different roles. I was a sleazy city councilman on a pilot. I was a farmer. A priest. I’ve done a lot of ruthless tycoons. Playing all those roles is the only good thing about growing old. I can't play those 'Tennis, anyone?' roles any more. Now that I'm older I'm getting the more interesting parts. That's the only virtue I can see in getting a little older. I love those roles."

In 'Kramer vs. Kramer', "I play a New York City divorce lawyer who's helping (Dustin) Hoffman retain custody of a child. I have two or three nice courtroom scenes. In one scene with Mery Streep in this custody battle, I really strip the lady, I cut her to the bone …  I used to play character parts when I was a kid in Seattle. That was what I did mostly. I didn't play young leading roles. Even though I was young I had a more authoritative voice than most of the people in the theater. So, I ended up playing mostly character parts, I was putting on moustaches, a lot of makeup."

On reflection, Bob Wisehart of 'Newhouse News Service' acknowledged, "Howard Duff's career has evolved in strange ways. Who would have thought years ago that Duff, who entire career is dismissed in one reference book as an actor who plays 'good-looking but shifty types' would be getting Sidney Greenstreet's old parts? That's what he has in 'Flamingo Road'. Duff plays Sheriff Titus Semple the same way Greenstreet did in the 1949 movie based on the novel by John Wilder that also starred Joan Crawford."

Set in the fictional town of Truro in Florida, Howard Duff maintained, "The Sheriff should be perceived as evil. Except that I have to add that no one who's evil ever thinks of himself as evil. He thinks he's doing it for the good of the town. For the best people. That's where the money is, that's where the power is, and he has something on everyone. He doesn't wants to be a big political figure, he wants to be in the background, manipulating and controlling.

"If he's got a single redeemable quality, I don't know what it is. He’s a pleasure to play because you always know exactly where he stands. If there's a right way to do anything and a wrong way, Titus will take the wrong way every time." Morgan Fairchild added, "People seem to remember you best when you play the bad guy … although it's fighting an uphill battle to win the audiences over. Everybody calls my character a villainess, but I haven't done anything bad. You have to take her viewpoint. It's not like a guest role where you go from A to B. You have a lot of range."

In 'East of Eden', Howard Duff played a New England whoremaster. It was noted John Steinbeck in the book always called him "Mister". Howard offered, "He was just a businessman. The whoremaster – it's an archaic term now – was a recognized profession. Not like a pimp. He was a respectable enough man, lived in Boston, had a good wife, three children, two dogs.

"His counterpart today would have a home in Encino or somewhere in the Valley. It was a regular business practice of his that when one of his stable got out of hand to put on his leather gloves and take his whip and beat her into line. But he wasn't a bad fellow, according to his way of thinking. He never really tried to disfigure and maul his girls, the way he did Cathy. But Cathy was a real monster, you know. He trafficked in women, which is a pretty dirty job, but she was much dirtier than he was."

Raoul Walsh "directed my first screen test. Kirk Douglas, who was also newly come to Hollywood, and I did it together. James Wong Howe was the cameraman, so you can see that I was surrounded by pretty formidable talent. Anyway, Walsh's entire direction consisted of, 'Let me hear the words,' and then 'Make it natural.' After that, he walked off to a corner and sort of turned his back on us."

Robert Altman, "he's really remarkable. He was always a bit of a maverick. He had us all wearing small mikes, recording each actor's voice separately so he could 'mix' them later. It's an amazing technical achievement. We were like walking radio stations. When (Mark Hellinger) died, my contract wound up at Universal, where I did a lot of mostly forgettable films.

"They were rather undistinguished, I'm afraid. The early Westerns I made in Utah were pretty rough just because of the difficulties of the location. But one of the hardest location's I've ever been on was 'Ski Lift to Death.' We worked at Baniff, where the scenery was spectacular, absolutely beautiful. But temperatures fell to 40 below zero. Working in weather like that is hard."

Morgan Fairchild made the comment, "There are a lot of fine actors in daytime, just as there are in prime time. There are also terrible performances in daytime and prime time as well. Prime time pays a lot more. The (daytime) soaps are more hurried. You put together a half-hour each day (such as 'Search For Tomorrow') and if you can cope with that over the long haul, you can survive anything. I realize it's ('Flamingo Road') not Ibsen, but we're trying to do the classiest trash we can come up with. It's entertainment. It's fantasy and provides escape. I believe that people realize this."

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