Edmund Anthony Cutlar Purdom was born on December 19, 1924 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England. Purdom was educated at St. Augustine's Abbey School, Ramsgate, Kent, then by the Jesuits at St. Ignatius Grammar School and Welwyn Garden City Grammar School. He began his acting career in 1946 by joining the Northampton Repertory Company, appearing in productions which included “Romeo and Juliet” and Molière's “The Imaginary Invalid”. Followed by two years of military service where he joined the Army Pool of Artists. He then joined the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.
In 1951–1952, Purdom appeared in small roles with the Laurence Olivier/Vivien Leigh company on Broadway in Shakespeare's “Antony and Cleopatra” and Shaw's “Caesar and Cleopatra” when his good looks brought him to the attention of Hollywood. 20th Century Fox tested him for a role in “My Cousin Rachel” and MGM offered him a small role in “Rhapsody” which he turned down to work at Warner Bros. But Warners lost interest in him.
His appearance in small roles in “Titanic” and “Julius Caesar” (both 1953) led to his being cast in the
leading role opposite Ann Blyth in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical “The Student Prince” in 1954, a part originally intended for Mario Lanza, whose disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over the way a certain song was to be sung had led to his dismissal by MGM. (The film was subsequently directed by Richard Thorpe.) Purdom lip-synched to Lanza's singing voice.
At this time, he acquired the nickname "the replacement star" because his other best-remembered role was taking over for Marlon Brando as the title character in “The Egyptian”, 20th Century-Fox's most lavish production of 1954. In the same year, he appeared in another MGM musical, “Athena”, opposite his future wife Linda Christian, Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds. He then played the title role in the biblical epic “The Prodigal”, MGM's most lavish production of 1955. He partnered with Ann Blyth again in “The King's Thief” (1955). After that, his career as a major film star ran out of steam, with the exception of some rare cameo appearances, such as “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” in 1964.
On television he starred as Marco del Monte in ‘Sword of Freedom’ (1958), a swashbuckler made for ITC Entertainment.
Purdom moved to Rome, Italy, where he first played parts in "sword and sandal" epics and lived there for the rest of his life. He continued to work extensively in Italian B-films, on television and as a voice dubbing actor for many years. In 1984, he directed his first and only film, “Don't Open 'Til Christmas”. Purdom appeared in five Euro-westerns: “The Last Ride to Santa Cruz” 1963 as Rex Kelly; “Charge of the 7th” (1964) as Sergeant Archibald Timothy ‘Sugar’ Patterson; “Shoot to Kill” (1964) as Captain Tom Jameson/Jim James, Father Andrew Jameson; “Gun Shy Piluk” (1968) as Sheriff Roger Terence Everett Brown and “A Wreath for the Bandits” (1968).
Purdom died from heart failure on January 1, 2009, in Rome.
Today we remember Edmund Purdom on what would have been his 90th birthday.
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