March 12, 2010

Film Noir Actor Robert Ryan's Uptown Chicago Connection

"I can't remember a time when there weren't some automobiles around, but in my earliest years they were very seldom seen. Almost all heavy hauling was done by horse and wagon, and the alley, which was the commercial thoroughfare, was full of various dobbins hauling ice, garbage, groceries, etc. In the hot summers the horses wore straw hats. The horses got to know the various stops and often would break in a new driver by showing him where to go. I remember my father taking me over to a nearby fire station and showing me the white horses that pulled the fire engines—the fire chief's name was Flavin. At that time, I am sure that every fireman, policeman, and prizefighter in Chicago had an Irish name."

A reminiscence from film noir icon Robert Ryan, newly unearthed by his daughter, sheds light on his Chicago childhood—and his family’s connection to a tragic chapter in the city’s history:

I was born on November 11, 1909, in Chicago, Illinois. We lived at 4822 Kenmore Avenue on the first floor in a six-apartment building. Chicago, then, as now, was the second largest city in America and the natives always speak of its three "sides"—north, south and west. There was no "east" side. The business and shopping center of Chicago is called the "Loop" because the elevated railway makes a complete circle around it.
The north side, where I was born, was the most newly settled of the three sides and our neighborhood could not have been very old. I suspect that it would have been called "nice" middle-class. Certainly not wealthy like the Lake Shore Drive section, nor poor like many parts of the west side. Kenmore Avenue was one block west of Sheridan Road which ran along the lake front—and—which was near the beaches of Lake Michigan where I spent so many of my boyhood summers...

Read full letter here: Robert Ryan's Letter
Read more about Robert Ryan here: Robert Ryan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was completely fascinated by his account of life in Uptown during the 20s and 30s. This pushed me to learn about his later life in Hollywood that brought him into some conflict with the paranoid Senator from Wisc Joe McCarthy.


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