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An engaging but unnecessary bit of backstory for one of blockbuster cinema's most beloved characters.

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Interview with Richard Widmark

The good thing about "Madigan," Richard Widmark said, "is that it's a straight, juicy, hard-boiled cop movie, period.

"I have this kind of nostalgia for crime films," he said. "I think we've about exhausted the fancy angles and trick cigarette lighters. Hollywood developed the crime film almost into an art over the years, and it hurt me to see all that work thrown away on spoofs and put-ons."

Widmark has made a lot of good cop movies during his career, although frequently on the wrong side of the law. In his first film, "Kiss of Death" (1948), he laughed fiendishly and pushed that old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs. Twenty years later, moviegoers still remember that scene.

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His latest, "Madigan," was shot partly on location in New York's Spanish Harlem, where Widmark and Harry Guardino play detectives given 48 hours to catch a killer.

"We got some good realistic scenes, but finally we had to get out," he said. "We have some gunfights near the end of the film and the police were afraid we might inspire the real thing."

How have crime movies changed between "Kiss of Death" and "Madigan"?

"I don't know," Widmark said, "or if I do, I'd better not say. There's something suspicious about a guy who's too articulate about his work. It's like John Ford says about Westerns, he makes them because he enjoys working in the fresh air."

Widmark said his own favorite films include two in which Ford directed him: "Two Rode Together" and "Cheyenne Autumn." "I also remember 'Panic in the Streets,' directed by Elia Kazan, very fondly," he said. "I got into Ford's films rather late, long after he had his stable of performers built up, but I'm glad I got him as a director at all."

Widmark is currently working on "Patch," a Western. "And then I'd like to do another crime movie," he said "I'll probably produce it myself. A realistic movie shot in the streets. You know where I want to shoot it? Chicago."

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