Partner David Bacon

Queer Places:
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA, Plot Eventide Section, lot 37, space 2

Samuel Laird Cregar (July 28, 1913 – December 9, 1944) was an American stage and film actor.[4] Cregar was best known for his villainous performances in films such as I Wake Up Screaming and The Lodger. Cregar was an unlikely Hollywood star: a honey-voiced, shifty-eyed, six-foot-three, three-hundred-pound villain in trenchcoat and fedora. Historian Gregory Mank called him "an anguished homosexual", yet those few who remember him don't consider his sexuality the only, or even the chief, cause of his anguish. "He was very ambitious," said one friend, "and it was the weight that he blamed for keeping him from becoming a star." Gay activist Harry Hay recalled Cregar living quite happily with a boyfriend in the late 1930s: "There was no attempt to hide it. He wasn't troubled by being gay."

He was born Samuel Laird Cregar on July 28, 1913, in Philadelphia, and was always known to family and friends as Sammy. His family was affluent, his father a woolen importer and well-known local cricket player. He had five older brothers, and Sammy Cregar became the spoiled baby. His father, Edward Cregar, sent Sammy to England when he was 8, enrolling the youth at the disciplinarian Winchester Academy. During his school breaks, he signed on with the Stratford-on-Avon players, taking the role of a page boy in several productions.

Laird Cregar returned to Philadelphia when his father died, and was sent to a series of private schools before the 1929 stock market crash wiped out the Cregar fortune. His mother was forced to take a job in a department store to continue paying for her sons' educations. Sammy meanwhile hopped a ship and fled by steerage to Miami, where he worked as a dishwater in a restaurant. His salary included meals, but he was fired after his boss discovered just how much the rapidly growing teenager ate.

"Pleasingly plump as a child," he remembered, "it developed into the frighteningly fat between the ages of 16 and 18. It gave me terrific inferiority and I suffered. It was my lack of appeal for girls that troubled me." He may not have appealed to girls, but he did have a boyfriend within a few years, if Harry Hay is to be believed. They worked together in a Los Angeles stock company; Laird had gone west with the desire to break into movies. At one point he worked as a bouncer at a nightclub, sleeping in his car at night, for which he was arrested on a charge of vagrancy and spent some time in jail. Once free, he went back to Philadelphia, where a friend of the family gave him $400 to fulfill a dream: to study at the Pasadena Playhouse and emerge a professional actor.

At Pasadena, he met DeWitt Bodeen. "I knew Laird Cregar quite well," Bodeen recalled. "He always had a weight problem. Sometimes he'd actually starve himself for a week until he looked like a leading man." After scoring a hit playing none other than Oscar Wilde at Hollywood's El Capitan Theater in 1940, Cregar was signed to a 7 years contract at Fox. Right away he was put into "fat" parts: buffoon sidekick to Paul Muni in Hudson's Bay, smarmy foil to Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand, psycopathic detective in I Wake Up Screaming.

Cregar's screen career began in 1940 working as an extra in films. By 1941, he had signed a film contract with 20th Century Fox. Cregar quickly rose to stardom, appearing in a variety of genres from screwball comedy to horror.

In This Gun For Hite (1942) Laird Cregar played a prissy, arrogant, effeminate villain with the habit of popping peppermints as he reposed in silk pajamas. In Blood and Sand, his venomous bullfight critic was likened by one writer to "a fat, effeminate iguana lounging in the ringside sun."

The actor Henry Brandon recalled when, at the height of his career, Laird went onstage at a Los Angeles theater in place of his chorus-boy lover, an incongruous fat man among a like of well-built boys. "Zanuck found out about it," Brandon said, "and put his foot down with a bang." By 1943, he was romantically involved with the actor David Bacon, who'd played a few small parts at Universal and Republic, notably in The Masked Marvel. In September of that year, Bacon was found dead with a knife in his back; the headlines suggested he'd met his fate at a gay bathhouse in Venice Beach. Several accounts also ran pictures of Laird, noting he was "such a good friend."

The crash diet that Cregar followed for his role in The Lodger (which included prescribed amphetamines) placed a strain on his system, resulting in severe abdominal problems. Of his most famous part, Jack the Ripper in The Lodger (1944), critic Joel Greenburg later observed: "Laird Cregar, plump, soft-spoken, suggesting reserves of violence and rage held barely in check, found in the role of the Ripper an almost therapeutic alleviation of his private angst, the misogyny of a tormented homosexual."

"Some actors who are homosexual are quite content," remembered Laird Cregar's Hangover Square (1945) costar Alan Napier, "but Cregar was not content, he wanted to be Clark Gable." He began taking weight-loss drugs and underwent plastic surgery on his face. During the course of filming, he dropped 80 pounds. The once charming and easygoing actor became surly and temperamental.

Cregar underwent surgery for an abdominal operation in December 1944.[21] "He wanted to be considered attractive," said one acquaintance. "He always wanted to be considered attractive," said one acquaintance. "He always wanted to be a handsome leading man." Remembered DeWitt Bodeen, "He was like a big Saint Bernard who couldn't understand why you didn't want him in your lap."

It was intended that Cregar's next film would be Les Misérables, directed by John Brahm,[22] and Billy Rose wanted to star him on Broadway in Henry VIII. A few days after surgery, Cregar had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital.[23] He rallied briefly when put in an oxygen tent, but died on December 9, aged 31 years. His mother was at his bedside.[8][24] Hangover Square was released two months after his death.

The funeral was held on December 13, 1944.[25] Vincent Price, Cregar's co-star in his first film Hudson's Bay (1941), delivered the eulogy. Cregar is interred in Eventide Section, lot 37, space 2 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[26] His estate was valued at $10,000.[27]

On February 8, 1960, Cregar received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion pictures industry, at 1716 Vine Street.[28][29]


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