Nationality: American. Born: Claire Wemlinger in Bensonhurst, Long Island, New York, 8 March 1909 (some sources say 1912). Education: Attended high school in Mamaroneck, Long Island; Columbia University, New York; American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York, for six months. Family: Married 1) the producer Clark Andrews, 1938 (divorced 1942); 2) Cylos William Dunsmoore, 1943 (divorced 1947), son: Charles Cylos; 3) the producer Milton Bren, 1948. Career: 1929—professional stage debut with Robert Henderson's Repertory Players in Ann Arbor, Michigan; 1930—with Warner Brothers stock company in St. Louis; 1931—summer stock with Hampton Players in Southampton, Long Island; 1932—Broadway debut in Whistling in the Dark ; 1933–37—contract with Fox: feature film debut in Life in the Raw ; 1937–40—in radio series Big Town with Edward G. Robinson; 1938–43—contract with Warner Brothers; 1947—on Broadway in The Big Two ; on television from mid-1950s. Awards: Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, for Key Largo , 1948. Died: 8 April 2000.
two Vitaphone shorts
Life in the Raw (Louis King); The Last Trail (Tinling); The Mad Game (Cummings) (as Jane Lee); Jimmy and Sally (Tinling) (as Sally Johnson)
Hold That Girl (MacFadden) (as Tony Bellamy); Wild Gold (George Marshall) (as Jerry Jordan); Baby, Take a Bow (Lachman) (as Kay Ellison); Elinor Norton (MacFadden) (title role)
Spring Tonic (Bruckman) (as Betty Ingals); Black Sheep (Dwan) (as Janette Foster); Dante's Inferno (Lachman) (as Betty McWade); Beauty's Daughter (Dwan)
My Marriage (Archainbaud) (as Carol Barton); The Song and Dance Man (Dwan) (as Julia Carroll); Human Cargo (Dwan) (as Bonnie Brewster); To Mary—With Love (Cromwell) (as Kitty Brant); Star for a Night (Seiler) (as Nina Lind); 15 Maiden Lane (Dwan) (as Jane Martin); Career Woman (Seiler) (as Carroll Aiken); Navy Wife (Dwan) (as Vicky Blake)
Time Out for Romance (St. Clair) (as Barbara Blanchard); King of Gamblers (Florey) (as Dixie); One Mile from Heaven (Dwan) (as Lucy "Tex" Warren); Dead End (Wyler) (as Francie); Second Honeymoon (Walter Lang) (as Marcia); Big Town Girl (Werker) (as Fay Loring)
Walking Down Broadway (Norman Foster) (as Joan Bradley); The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Litvak) (as Jo Keller); Valley of the Giants (Keighley) (as Lee Roberts); Five of a Kind (Leeds) (as Christine Nelson)
Stagecoach (Ford) (as Dallas); I Stole a Million (Tuttle) (as Laura Benson); Allegheny Uprising (Seiter) (as Janie)
Dark Command (Walsh) (as Mary McCloud)
Texas (George Marshall) (as "Mike" King); Honky Tonk (Conway) (as "Gold Dust" Nelson)
Crossroads (Conway) (as Michelle Allain); Street of Chance (Hively) (as Ruth Dillon); The Adventures of Martin Eden (Salkow) (as Connie Dawson)
The Desperadoes (Carson) (as Countess Maletta); Good Luck, Mr. Yates (Enright) (as Ruth Yates); The Woman of the Town (Archainbaud) (as Dora Hand)
Murder, My Sweet ( Farewell, My Lovely ) (Dmytryk) (as Mrs. Grayle)
Johnny Angel (Marin) (as Lilah)
Crack-Up (Reis) (as Terry Cordeau); The Bachelor's Daughters ( Bachelor Girls ) (Andrew L. Stone) (as Cynthia)
Born to Kill ( Lady of Deceit ) (Wise) (as Helen Trent)
Raw Deal (Anthony Mann) (as Pat); Key Largo (Huston) (as Gaye Dawn); The Velvet Touch (Gage) (as Marion Webster); The Babe Ruth Story (Del Ruth) (as Claire Hodgson)
The Lucky Stiff (Lewis R. Foster) (as Marguerite Seaton)
Borderline (Seiter) (as Madeleine Haley)
Best of the Badmen (William D. Russell) (as Lily Fowler); Hard, Fast, and Beautiful (Lupino) (as Milly Farley)
Hoodlum Empire (Kane) (as Connie Williams); My Man and I (Wellman) (as Mrs. Ansel Ames); Stop, You're Killing Me (Del Ruth) (as Nora Marko)
The Stranger Wore a Gun (De Toth) (as Josie Sullivan)
The High and the Mighty (Wellman) (as May Hoist)
Man without a Star (King Vidor) (as Idonee); Lucy Gallant ( Oil Town ) (Parrish) (as Lady MacBeth)
The Mountain (Dmytryk) (as Marie)
Marjorie Morningstar (Rapper) (as Rose Morgenstern)
Two Weeks in Another Town (Minnelli) (as Clara Kruger)
The Stripper (Schaffner) (as Helen Baird)
How to Murder Your Wife (Quine) (as Edna)
Capetown Affair (Webb)
Kiss Me Goodbye (Mulligan) (as Charlotte Banning)
Breaking Home Ties (John Wilder—for TV) (as Grace)
"The Company Remembers Stagecoach ," in Action (Los Angeles), Ocotber 1971.
Interview with John Gallagher, in Films in Review (New York), November 1983.
Hagen, Ray, "Claire Trevor," in Films in Review (New York), November 1963.
Rainey, Buck, "Claire Trevor: A Provocative Femme Fatale," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), November 1989 and December 1989.
Pulleine, T., "Stardust Memories," in Films and Filming (London), January 1990.
Aronson, Steven M.L., "Claire Trevor: A Spacious New York Apartment for Key Largo's Best Supporting Actress," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1992.
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In the early 1930s, Claire Trevor was one of the "Broadway Imports" to the film colony in the rush to find actors who were capable of performing in talking pictures. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, worked briefly on Broadway, and appeared in Vitaphone shorts before being signed to a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox. Unfortunately, her stay there was not marked by any great distinction, and she found herself typecast as assorted bad girls in a slew of unmemorable B films. Her presence in Dead End (made on loan to Samuel Goldwyn), with Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, and the Dead End Kids, was the exception, rather than rule, of her early career.
Trevor was destined never to become a star. Indeed, in a 1983 Films in Review interview, she explained that she was unwilling to deal with the pressures that stardom demanded, and was content to acquit herself in subsidiary roles. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the quality of her films increased, and she was never better than when playing hard-bitten women on the periphery of society. Perhaps her two greatest roles are the no-nonsense yet understanding prostitute opposite John Wayne's Ringo Kid in John Ford's Stagecoach , and the tough mistress of Edward G. Robinson in John Huston's Key Largo . She also appeared with Wayne in Allegheny Uprising , Dark Command , and The High and the Mighty , and had showy roles in Street of Chance , Murder, My Sweet , and Hard, Fast, and Beautiful . Her career continued apace until the mid-1950s, at which point she semiretired.
From then on, Trevor only appeared sporadically on screen. Her last theatrical film, a Sally Field/James Caan vehicle called Kiss Me Goodbye , received bad reviews, yet she—ever so typically—won enthusiastic personal notices.
—Joseph Arkins, updated by Rob Edelman