Richard Ney Dies; Actor, Investment Adviser
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2004; Page B05
Richard Ney, 87, who died of a heart ailment July 18 at his home in Pasadena, Calif., had a lackluster film career as a romantic lead but scored big as an investment adviser and Wall Street scold.
In such books as the best-selling "The Wall Street Jungle," he antagonized Wall Street specialists by saying their guile and "secret privileges" allowed them to manipulate the market and trick investors.
"Hidden behind the facade of pompous jargon and noble affections, there is more sheer larceny per square foot on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange than any place else in the world," he once said.
Although his investment career dominated the last four decades of his life, he first gained public attention in the popular World War II film "Mrs. Miniver" (1942). He played Vin Miniver, the over-earnest son of a resilient British family who romances the girl next door.
He trots off to war after receiving an intense kiss from his mother -- a telling moment because in 1943 he married his screen mother, Greer Garson, who was more than 10 years his senior. They divorced in 1947, largely, he claimed, because of the pressure of sharing a home with his mother-in-law.
Garson won an Academy Award for "Mrs. Miniver." Mr. Ney, who considered himself a lousy actor, went on to appear in a series of lesser films. Among them: "The Late George Apley" (1947), "Joan of Arc" (1948) and "Babes in Baghdad" (1952), the Edgar G. Ulmer comedy with Paulette Goddard and stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.
He considered "Babes" a favorite because Goddard had a habit of telling unflattering but funny stories about her former husband, Charlie Chaplin.
Richard Maximilian Ney was born in New York, where his father was a successful insurance salesman. After his parents' divorce, he grew up with his mother in humble circumstances.
In high school, he met his first wife, a substitute art teacher. Through her encouragement, he graduated with an economics and public finance degree from Columbia University.
Dismissed from a slogan-writing job at RCA -- "RCA all the way" did not wow his superiors -- he wandered on impulse into the Empire Theatre during rehearsals for "Life With Father." Without acting experience, he persuaded the director he could portray the young Clarence Day, on whose memoirs the comedy was based.
He played the road show version until one day, when he asked for more money, he was fired. He went to Hollywood, where a friend was working as a language coach. Casting officials spotted him and thought Mr. Ney would be an ideal Vin Miniver.
After Navy service during World War II and the fading of his film career, he happily settled into investment advising. Initially hired by a Beverly Hills firm hoping to lure clients with Mr. Ney's charm, the former actor gained instant credibility for his correct forecasting of a market downturn in 1962.
For six years, he wrote "The Ney Report," a stock market newsletter that counted oil magnate J. Paul Getty among its subscribers.
He received much attention for "The Wall Street Jungle" (1970) and "The Wall Street Gang" (1974), books that criticized market specialists on the stock exchange floor and what he considered a complacent regulatory body, the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also became an early advocate of electronic placement of "buy" and "sell" orders.
A popular public speaker, he also was fond of maintaining some Hollywood allure. One book jacket featured him sitting in a Rolls-Royce with what the writer Nicholas von Hoffman described as "the most deliciously expensive Afghan hound you've ever seen."
Mr. Ney enjoyed gardening and died while watering flowers in his yard.
His two early marriages and a later one to Pauline McMartin Ney ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife and business partner, Mei-Lee Ney, whom he married in 1987; and a stepdaughter.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company