Aldo Ray (September 25, 1926 – March 27, 1991) was an American actor.
Ray was born Aldo Da Re in Pen Argyl in Northampton County in eastern Pennsylvania, to an Italian family of five brothers and one sister. His brother, Mario, lettered in football at USC in the years 1952 to 1954. In 1944, at age 18, he entered the Navy, serving as a frogman until 1946; he saw action at Okinawa with UDT-17.
Upon leaving the Navy, he entered the University of California at Berkeley, but his studies there were brief.
While serving as police constable of Crockett, Aldo drove his brother Guido to an audition for the film Saturday's Hero (1951). Director David Miller was more interested in Aldo than his brother, because, it is rumored, of his voice, and hired him for the small role of a cynical college football player opposite John Derek and Donna Reed. Columbia Pictures wasted no time in signing Ray to an exclusive contract, and despite having no acting experience, Aldo soon appeared in several films under his birthname, Aldo DaRe.
Ray's husky frame, thick neck, and raspy voice made him perfect for playing tough sexy roles. In his first film as Aldo Ray, he starred with Judy Holliday in The Marrying Kind (1952), directed by George Cukor. Cukor famously suggested that Ray go to ballet school because he walked too much like a football player. That same year, Ray appeared in Pat and Mike, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, again directed by Cukor. Ray's work in Pat and Mike led to his nomination, along with Richard Burton and Robert Wagner, for a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer. Burton won the award that year, but Ray’s career was launched. Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn liked Ray and wanted him for the role of Private Robert Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953) but Fred Zinnemann insisted Montgomery Clift be cast.
In 1953, he and first wife Shirley Green were divorced. He starred opposite Rita Hayworth in Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), a remake of the W. Somerset Maugham story Rain. This began the most productive period of Aldo's career, preceded by his marriage to actress Jeff Donnell (from 1954 to 1956), which also ended in divorce.
In 1955, Ray featured in starring roles in Battle Cry, Three Stripes in the Sun, and one of his best-loved films, We're No Angels (1955), in which he starred with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone, Leo G. Carroll, and Joan Bennett. In 1956, in between appearances in Three Stripes In The Sun and Men in War, Ray tried his hand at radio, working as a personality and announcer at Syracuse, New York hit music station WNDR. A photo of Ray with a colleague in the WNDR studios, taken as part of a station promotional package, survives and can be found on a WNDR tribute website, although it's not known if any aircheck tapes of his radio shows still exist. By 1957, in any event, he had left WNDR and the radio business and returned to Hollywood. He would appear in 11 films during the following 11 years (1957–68), the busiest period of his film career.
On January 31, 1957, Ray appeared on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. He and Tennessee Ernie Ford did a comedy skit from a foxhole.
Author Richard Matheson said that his best-known work, The Incredible Shrinking Man, was inspired by a scene in Aldo Ray's Let's Do It Again in which a character puts on someone else's hat and it sinks down past his ears; "I thought, what if a man put on his own hat and that happened?" he recounted in an interview for Stephen King's non fiction work Danse Macabre.
This period of Ray’s career would culminate with a starring role in God's Little Acre (1958), an adaptation of Erskine Caldwell's controversial novel, starring Robert Ryan and Tina Louise. Ray appeared in The Naked and the Dead, an adaptation of Norman Mailer's novel. He starred in 1959 in Four Desperate Men (The Siege of Pinchgut). The movie was filmed on location in Sydney Harbour, Australia. Pinchgut is actually Fort Denison. The film was the last produced by Ealing Studios, a small British Studio which lasted from 1939 to 1959. In 1959, Ray was cast as Hunk Farber in the episode, "Payment in Full" of the NBC western series, Riverboat. In the story line, Farber betrays his friend and employer to collect reward money, which he uses to court his girlfriend, Missy.