Howard Duff was born in Charleston, now part of Bremerton, Washington. He graduated in 1932 from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, where he began acting in school plays after he was cut from the school basketball team. Thereafter, he worked locally in the theater in Seattle until he entered the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. He was assigned to the United States Army Air Corps’s radio service. After the war his career improved, and he quickly procured his first film role as an inmate in Brute Force. His other film roles include The Naked City (1948), All My Sons (1948), Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949), Panic in the City (1968), In Search of America (1971), A Wedding (1978) and No Way Out (1987). Duff appeared in a number of films with his first wife, actress/director Ida Lupino. One of his later performances was as Dustin Hoffman’s character’s attorney in the Academy Award-winning Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Duff began working in radio while in the military during WW2. He announced re-broadcasts prepared for Armed Forces Radio Service AFRS. In this role, he served as the announcer for Suspense dated March 16, 1943. Duff’s greatest radio role was when he played Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade from 1946 to 1950, starring in The Adventures of Sam Spade on three different networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC. Lurene Tuttle starred as Effie Perrine, Spade’s attentive secretary. In 1951 Steve Dunne took over the role of Sam Spade. Duff also appeared on television, having been featured in a 1955 episode of Climax! entitled “Escape From Fear”. About this time, he was cast on the religion anthology series, Crossroads.
From January 1957 to September 1958, he appeared with his then-wife, Ida Lupino, in their CBS sitcom, Mr. Adams and Eve, which revolved around the private lives of two fictitious film stars named Howard Adams and Eve Drake. Appearing as themselves, he again worked with Ida in an episode of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, “Lucy’s Summer Vacation.” The hour special program aired on CBS on June 8, 1959. Howard and Ida were seen together again as guests on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show on January 10, 1960, in color, on NBC. Howard played the young Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in his early life in the West as a satirical and crusading journalist, in the TV series Bonanza (“Enter Mark Twain,” season 1, episode 5, 1959). In 1960, he played the male lead in The Twilight Zone episode “A World of Difference” as Arthur Curtis/Jerry Raigan. From October 1960 through April 1961, Duff played Willie Dante, owner of the fictional San Francisco nightclub, Dante’s Inferno, in the NBC adventure/drama series Dante.
In 1964, Duff guest-starred as Harold Baker in the episode Prodigy of NBC’s medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour, starring Jack Ging and Ralph Bellamy. He was then cast as Joe Stillman in the 1965 episode “Mountains to Climb” of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus. From September 1966 through January 1969, Duff portrayed Detective Sergeant Sam Stone in the ABC police drama Felony Squad with costar Dennis Cole. In 1968, he also appeared as Cabala in the Batman TV series episode “The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra”, guest-starring with wife Ida Lupino. In 1977, he guest-starred in the Rockford Files episode “There’s One in Every Port”. In 1980 he played private eye Harrigan in a fourth season episode of Charlie’s Angels. In 1984, he starred in the Murder She Wrote episode, “Deadly Lady”; and in 1990, The Golden Girls’s “The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present”. In the 1980s, he appeared on NBC’s Flamingo Road; and Knots Landing and Dallas, the latter both on CBS. He also appeared as ‘Capt.’ Thomas Magnum, II, the grandfather to the TV character Thomas Magnum, portrayed by Tom Selleck, on the TV series Magnum, P.I. Duff died at age seventy-six of a heart attack in 1990 in Santa Barbara, California. He was survived by his daughter, his nieces, his second wife, and his granddaughter. Duff had a tempestuous relationship with actress Ava Gardner in the late 1940s. In 1951, he married Ida Lupino. After he was listed in Red Channels as a communist subversive in 1950, he lost his radio work and might have forfeited his entire career had it not been for his marriage. They had a daughter, Bridget Duff (born April 23, 1952). They separated in 1966 and divorced in 1984. He subsequently married Judy Jenkinson. Duff was a staunch Democrat.
- November, 24, 1913
- Bremerton, Washington
- July, 08, 1990
- Santa Barbara, California
Cause of Death
- heart attack