Ralph Meeker (1920-88) began his career in musicals with Betty Hutton and Leslie Caron, but 50s'Hollywood had heavier work for this stage-trained tough guy, who wound up playing thugs, private dicks, cops, soldiers ... and not just soldiers, psychotic ex-soldiers. After college and Navy service, Meeker returned to his birth city of Chicago and made his professional stage debut in 1943 in the national company of “The Doughgirls.” He then moved to New York, and later Italy, doing plays. After the war Meeker returned to New York. One of his first breaks was a small but important role in the original 1947 production of “Mister Roberts” in which he replaced Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Hollywood was his next stop! He made his film debut in 1951 with a small role in MGM's TERESA, followed by a starring one in FOUR IN A JEEP. Meeker then signed an MGM contract and starred in good-but-minor films like SHADOW IN THE SKY, GLORY ALLEY, SOMEBODY LOVES ME and JEOPARDY. In 1953 he was featured in Anthony Mann's western classic THE NAKED SPUR. That same year Meeker returned to New York for his greatest stage success, starring in the original 1953 Broadway production of “Picnic," for which he earned the New York Critic's Circle Award in 1954. Returning to films after the termination of his MGM contract, Meeker starred as the hammer-fisted detective Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's KISS ME DEADLY. Barely noticed when first released in 1955, the film is now regarded as a film noir classic.