Born in Pasadena, California, on November 5, 1905, famed western actor Joel McCrea began pursuing an acting career while still a child. By the time he was a teenager, McCrea was working as a stunt double and extra in silent films, a vocation he continued while he attended college at Pomona. After college, McCrea gained acting experience onstage and continued appearing in silent films, usually in bit parts. His breakthrough role came in the 1929 release The Jazz Age, a starring vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks Jr; this was followed by a meatier role in Cecil B. DeMille's Dynamite (1929). In 1930, he was put under contract by RKO Radio Pictures, and the studio cast him in a string of big-budget films. Later in his career, McCrea was under contract to Paramount and Universal-International.

McCrea met fellow RKO contract player Frances Dee when they appeared in The Silver Cord (1933), and the couple married not long after filming was completed. McCrea and Dee had three children, including actor Jody McCrea, who appeared in a number of films in the 1950s and 1960s, including Bikini Beach, Muscle Beach Party, and Pajama Party.

Although Joel McCrea is now best known for his many western pictures, early in his career he was usually cast as a leading man in comedies and dramas. In fact, he didn't star in a western until he left RKO and signed with Paramount; this studio released his first western, Wells Fargo (1937; with Frances Dee and Johnny Mack Brown).

the films of joel mccrea

The Common Law (1931)

Joel McCrea and Constance Bennett

With Constance Bennett in The Common Law

Bird of Paradise (1932)

Dolores del Rio and Joel McCreaDolores del Rio and Joel McCrea

With Dolores del Rio in Bird of Paradise. This film was remade in 1951 with Debra Paget

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Fay Wray and Joel McCrea

With Fay Wray in RKO's thriller The Most Dangerous Game

Banjo on My Knee (1936)

Katherine DeMille and Joel McCreaTony Martin, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joel McCrea

LEFT: With Katherine DeMille in Banjo on My Knee. RIGHT: With Tony Martin and frequent co-star Barbara Stanwyck

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Joel McCrea and George SandersJoel McCrea, Laraine Day, and George Sanders

LEFT: With George Sanders in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Foreign Correspondent. RIGHT: With Laraine Day and George Sanders

Sullivan's Travels (1942)

Veronica Lake, Joel McCrea, and Franklin PangbornVeronica Lake and Joel McCreaVeronica Lake and Joel McCrea

From Sullivan's Travels. LEFT: With Veronica Lake and Franklin Pangborn. CENTER and RIGHT: With Veronica Lake

Buffalo Bill (1944)

Joel McCrea

As William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody in Buffalo Bill

The Great Moment (1944)

William Demarest and Joel McCrea

In the period comedy The Great Moment, William Demarest tries to help dentist Joel McCrea in his quest convince the medical community to use ether as an anesthetic

Colorado Territory (1949)

James Mitchell, John Archer, and Joel McCreaJames Mitchell, John Archer, Joel McCrea, and Virginia Mayo

LEFT: With James Mitchell and John Archer in the Warner Bros. western Colorado Territory. RIGHT: With James Mitchell, John Archer, and Virginia Mayo

South of St. Louis (1949)

Joel McCrea and Zachary Scott

With Zachary Scott in the Warner Bros. western South of St. Louis

Cattle Drive (1951)

Dean Stockwell and Joel McCrea

With Dean Stockwell in the Universal-International release Cattle Drive

Lone Hand (1953)

Joel McCrea, Alex Nicol, and James ArnessJoel McCrea and Barbara HaleJoel McCrea and Barbara Hale

Images from Lone Hand. LEFT: With Alex Nicol and James Arness. CENTER and RIGHT: With Barbara Hale

Black Horse Canyon (1954)

Joel McCreaMari Blanchard and Joel McCreaMari Blanchard and Joel McCrea

Images from the Universal-International western Black Horse Canyon. LEFT: Promotional still. CENTER and RIGHT: With Mari Blanchard

Border River (1954)

Joel McCrea

From Border River

Wichita (1955)

Keith Larsen, Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, and Lloyd Bridges

With Keith Larsen, Vera Miles, and Lloyd Bridges in the Warner Bros. western Wichita

Fort Massacre (1958)

John Russell, Susan Cabot, Larry Chance, and Joel McCrea

With John Russell, Susan Cabot, and Larry Chance in Fort Massacre

later years

McCrea proved to be a good businessman with his investments and real estate holdings, which made him wealthy. He continued acting in films through the early 1960s, when he went into retirement. In 1959, McCrea and his son Jody McCrea starred in the half-hour NBC TV series Wichita Town, but the series got lost in the glut of westerns airing during the season and was canceled in 1960.

While Joel McCrea remained married to Frances Dee until his death, he filed for a divorce in April 1966, but the couple later reconciled. After Wichita Town left the air, McCrea made just a few more film appearances; his last film was Mustang Country in 1976. He passed away on October 20, 1990, at the age of 84. He was survived by his wife and three sons.

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Mustang Country (1976) with Patrick Wayne and Robert Fuller
Sioux Nation (1970)
Cry Blood, Apache (1970) with Jody McCrea and Don Henley
Ride the High Country (1962) with Randolph Scott and Mariette Hartley
The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959) with Julie Adams and Richard Anderson
Fort Massacre (1958) with Susan Cabot, John Russell, and Forrest Tucker
Cattle Empire (1958) with Gloria Talbott and Phyllis Coates
Gunsight Ridge (1957) with Mark Stevens, Jody McCrea, and Carolyn Craig
Trooper Hook (1957) with Barbara Stanwyck, Susan Kohner, and Earl Holliman
The Tall Stranger (1957) with Virginia Mayo, Michael Ansara, and Whit Bissell
The Oklahoman (1957) with Gloria Talbott and Barbara Hale
The First Texan (1956) with Jeff Morrow, Jody McCrea, and William Hopper
Wichita (1955) with Vera Miles, Peter Graves, Keith Larsen, and Lloyd Bridges
Stranger on Horseback (1955) with Kevin McCarthy and John Carradine
Black Horse Canyon (1954) with Mari Blanchard
Border River (1954) with Yvonne De Carlo
Rough Shoot (1953) with Laurence Naismith and Evelyn Keyes
Lone Hand (1953) with Alex Nicol, Barbara Hale, and James Arness
The San Francisco Story (1952) with Yvonne De Carlo
Cattle Drive (1951) with Dean Stockwell and Chill Wills
Hollywood Story (1951) with Julie Adams, Richard Egan, Jim Backus, Richard Conte, and Francis X. Bushman
Frenchie (1950) with Shelley Winters, Marie Windsor, John Russell, Paul Kelly, and Elsa Lanchester
The Outriders (1950) with Arlene Dahl, Ramon Novarro, and Barry Sullivan
Saddle Tramp (1950) with John Russell and Wanda Hendrix
Stars in My Crown (1950) with Ellen Drew, Amanda Blake, and Dean Stockwell
South of St. Louis (1949) with Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, and Dorothy Malone
Colorado Territory (1949) with Virginia Mayo, John Archer, James Mitchell, and Dorothy Malone
Four Faces West (1948) with Frances Dee, William Conrad, and Charles Bickford
Ramrod (1947) with Veronica Lake, Don DeFore, and Lloyd Bridges
The Virginian (1946) with Brian Donlevy, Fay Bainter, Sonny Tufts, and Barbara Britton
The Unseen (1945) with Gail Russell
Buffalo Bill (1944) with Maureen O'Hara, Linda Darnell, and Anthony Quinn
The Great Moment (1944) with Betty Field
The More the Merrier (1943) with Jean Arthur and Bruce Bennett
The Great Man's Lady (1942) with Barbara Stanwyck and Brian Donlevy
The Palm Beach Story (1942) with Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, and Rudy Vallee
Sullivan's Travels (1941) with Veronica Lake
Reaching for the Sun (1941) with Ellen Drew, Albert Dekker, and Eddie Bracken
Foreign Correspondent (1940) with Laraine Day and George Sanders
The Primrose Path (1940) with Ginger Rogers
He Married His Wife (1940) with Roland Young, Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Espionage Agent (1939) with Brenda Marshall
They Shall Have Music (1939) with Walter Brennan, Marjorie Main, and Andrea Leeds
Union Pacific (1939) with Barbara Stanwyck, Brian Donlevy, Robert Preston, Anthony Quinn, and Evelyn Keyes
Youth Takes a Fling (1938) with Virginia Grey and Andrea Leeds
Three Blind Mice (1938) with Loretta Young, David Niven, and Jane Darwell
Wells Fargo (1937) with Frances Dee, Robert Cummings, Johnny Mack Brown, and Lloyd Nolan
Internes Can't Take Money (1937) with Barbara Stanwyck and Lloyd Nolan
Dead End (1937) with Humphrey Bogart, Sylvia Sidney, Marjorie Main, Huntz Hall, and Leo Gorcey
Woman Chases Man (1937) with Miriam Hopkins
Banjo on My Knee (1936) with Barbara Stanwyck, Buddy Ebsen, and Walter Brennan
Come and Get It (1936) with Frances Farmer, Walter Brennan, and Andrea Leeds
Adventure in Manhattan (1936) with Jean Arthur
Two in a Crowd (1936) with Joan Bennett and Nat Pendleton
These Three (1936) with Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, and Bonita Granville
Splendor (1935) with Miriam Hopkins, David Niven, and Billie Burke
Barbary Coast (1935) with Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Donlevy, and Walter Brennan
Woman Wanted (1935) with Maureen O'Sullivan
Our Little Girl (1935) with Shirley Temple and Lyle Talbot
Private Worlds (1935) with Claudette Colbert, Joan Bennett, and Charles Boyer
The Richest Girl in the World (1934) with Miriam Hopkins and Fay Wray
Half a Sinner (1934) with Sally Blane and Mickey Rooney
Gambling Lady (1934) with Barbara Stanwyck
Chance at Heaven (1933) with Ginger Rogers
One Man's Journey (1933) with Lionel Barrymore and Frances Dee
Bed of Roses(1933) with Constance Bennett
The Silver Cord (1933) with Irene Dunne and Frances Dee
Rockabye (1932) with Constance Bennett
The Sport Parade (1932) with Marian Marsh
The Most Dangerous Game (1932) with Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong
Bird of Paradise (1932) with Dolores del Rio and Lon Chaney Jr.
Business and Pleasure (1932) with Will Rogers and Boris Karloff
The Lost Squadron (1932) with Mary Astor, Richard Dix, Robert Armstrong, and Erich von Stroheim
Girls About Town (1931) with Kay Francis
The Common Law (1931) with Constance Bennett and Hedda Hopper
Born to Love (1931) with Constance Bennett
Kept Husbands (1931)
Once a Sinner (1931)
Lightnin' (1930) with Will Rogers
The Silver Horde (1930) with Evelyn Brent and Jean Arthur
Dynamite (1929) with Conrad Nagel and Charles Bickford
The Jazz Age (1929) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
The Five O'Clock Girl (1928) with Marion Davies
Freedom of the Press (1928)
Dead Man's Curve (1928) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Sally Blane

Wichita Town, 1959-1960 TV series. McCrea portrayed Marshal Mike Dunbar. Also starring in this series was Jody McCrea

joel mccrea film now showing

Watch Joel McCrea's 1937 crime drama Dead End

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