Tommy Udo's black shirt and suit foretold of villainy in "Kiss of Death" and Widmark made the most of it, smiling and chuckling all the way as he left a path of death and destruction. Pushing a wheelchair-bound old woman down the stairs? Brutal.
After doing some research I discovered that Richard Widmark was a big fan of the Batman comics and was actually inspired by the Joker for his role as Tommy Udo.
With the release of "The Dark Knight" and Ledger's great performance in it as the Joker, I would not be surprised if Widmark's performance was examined in the development of Ledger's performance as the Joker.
Watch these two clips from "Kiss of Death" and you will see the similarities between the characters of Tommy Udo and the Joker.
So, did Widmark's Joker-inspired portrayal of Tommy Udo help inspire Ledger's Joker? I like to think so.
Richard Widmark was ahead of his time and probably would have made an excellent Joker today, similar to Ledger's portrayal I would think. Both are great movies and make for interesting character studies.