Father, with actress Frances Dee, of actor Jody McCrea.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1969.
A big sight gag in Sullivan's Travels (1941) was the juxtaposition of the big McCrea with his leading lady, Veronica Lake, who apparently was 16 inches shorter. For some shots of the film, however, Lake had to stand on a box so their heads could be seen in the same shot.
He was infamously modest about his own acting abilities, often bordering on a soft-spoken contempt.
Attended high school with future director Jacques Tourneur who would later direct him in Stars in My Crown (1950) (one of McCrea's personal favorites) and a pair of 1955 releases, Wichita (1955) and Stranger on Horseback (1955).
Besides Jody McCrea, he and Frances Dee had two more sons: David and Peter.
Katharine Hepburn was a friend of McCrea's and McCrea's wife Frances Dee. Hepburn also felt that McCrea was one of the best actors she had ever worked with and was always disappointed that his career wasn't more successful (she thought he should have been ranking alongside Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart).
Very well-respected as a horseman, he was regarded as one of the two best riders in Western films along with Ben Johnson, who had been a real cowboy.
In 1930, he lived with his parents at 243 S. Rockingham Avenue, Los Angeles.
In 1920, he lived with his parents at 7755 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles.
His father, Thomas P. McCrea , was a secretary for the Los Angeles gas and electric company. His mother, Lou Whipple McCrea, was a professional Christian Science practitioner.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 574-575. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
The grandson of a western stagecoach driver who had fought against the Apaches, McCrea raised his own horses, was a passionate outdoors man and large-scale rancher, invested wisely in livestock and real estate, was a staunch Republican and frugal millionaire.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1719 Vine Street and for Radio at 6241 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Was a staunch conservative Republican.
Was briefly engaged to comedic supporting actress Joyce Compton in the late 1920s but she broke off the engagement.
Was a Boy Scout.
McCrea's first encounter with movie-making came on a Ruth Roland serial which unfortunately was saddled with a leading man who could not ride well McCrea, an outstanding horseman since he was nine, doubled for the actor at $2.50 a day and was given a job wrangling for the rest of the shoot.
Katherine DeMille and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., were classmates of McCrea,.
A very young Joel McCrea was advised by Will Rogers to put the money he made from acting into real estate, a venture that made the novice actor a millionaire.
Joel McCrea soon realized after losing the lead for "The Real Glory" to Gary Cooper that as long Samuel Goldwyn had both Cooper and him under contract, he would always come out second in the studio's choice roles. When he refused to resign with Goldwyn, the producer warned him that he'd "never work in this town again!" The Goldwyn always referred to the actor as "Joel McCreal." McCrea signed with Cecil B. DeMille for "Union Pacific" at Paramount,.
He died on his 57th wedding anniversary.
Among movies that McCrea turned down: "Spitfire" with Katharine Hepburn, "The Impatient Years," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "Intruder in the Dust," "The Will Rogers Story.".
McCrea met the real Wyatt Earp in Hollywood in 1928 and ended up playing the iconic lawman in 1955's "Wichita." He later played Bat Masterson in "The Gunfight at Dodge City" in 1959.
Bette Davis liked McCrea very much and pressed him to co-star with her in an adaptation of Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome." McCrea thought it too downbeat to be successful. A disappointed Davis called him "a cowboy psychiatrist" and referred to him as that from then on.
McCrea turned down the lead in "The Impatient Years," which would have reunited him with his "The More the Merrier" co-stars, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. He refused to play a serviceman of any type, telling a reporter, "If I'm too old to be called, I was too old for that kind of show.".
McCrea admitted late in life that he made much more money in real estate investments than he ever did in movies.
Joel is the grandfather of actor/producer Wyatt McCrea.
Stars in three Best Picture Oscar nominees: Dead End (1937), Foreign Correspondent (1940) and The More the Merrier (1943).
Many believe that starting with The Virginian (1946) Joel appeared exclusively in Westerns until the end of his career, but there is actually one exception. Shoot First (1953) is a spy thriller set in modern-day England, although its title makes it easy to mistake for a Western upon cursory examination of Joel's filmography..