Before there was James Dean and Marlon Brando, there was John Garfield, an actor who epitomized the tough guy/rebel/loner style that Hollywood brought to the screen in the years immediately following The Great Depression. He died way too early (age 39) after testifying before House Un-American Activities Committee and while not being labeled a Communist, was, along with a host of others, blacklisted.

Born Julius Garfinkle to Jewish immigrants in New York City’s Lower East Side on March 4, 1913, John Garfield’s acting style was probably a product of his upbringing. As a kid he often clashed with police and gangs that roamed the neighborhood. He was labeled a “juvenile delinquent and shipped off to a special school that was geared to helping so-called “problem children.” His skills were not limited to that of a physical nature and he won a debating contest sponsored by The New York Times. He used the proceeds to enroll in something called the Ouspenskaya Drama School.

The United States was in the throes of the Depression and Garfield spent the next couple of years traveling around the country working at odd jobs. He (along with thousands of others) spent countless hours riding the rails as a hobo in search of work. He eventually returned to New York City and joined an organization called Group Theatre. The group revolved its style around of Constantin Stanislavsky and “method acting”. Other noted luminaries in the group included the likes of Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg, Clifford Odets, Lee J. Cobb and Howard Da Silva.)

It wasn’t too long after Garfield had made a name for himself on Broadway (appearing in Clifford Odets, Golden Boy) that Hollywood beckoned. The studios felt that they hade another James Cagney in the making and the earlier roles that Garfield took certainly portrayed him as a somewhat disagreeable, albeit likeable urban thug. As the public came to admire his style and along with the advent of World War II, Garfield’s range of roles began to expand from that of inner city tough guy to soldier to disaffected loner.

Right after World War II America was entering that renowned period of history known as the Red Scare. Garfield, possibly because of his leftist leanings and willingness to speak out against discrimination (not too mention his past association with members of Group Theatre) was called to testify before HUAC. After being grilled about his political beliefs and asked to name names about his friends and associations (he refused, “Nobody rats on a friend”) he was dismissed. Although not labeled a Communist, his reputation was sufficiently tarnished so that he was blacklisted.

He returned to New York City and died of heart failure a mere year after testifying. When he died in 1952, his funeral was a thing to behold, drawing more spectators than any other celebrity funeral since that of Rudolph Valentino.


He Ran All the Way – 1951
Anni Difficili – 1950
The Breaking Point – 1950
Under My Skin1950
We Were Strangers – 1949
Force of Evil1948
Gentleman’s Agreement1947
Daisy Kenyon – 1947
Body and Soul1947
Nobody Lives Forever1946
The Postman Always Rings Twice1946
Humoresque – 1946
Pride of the Marines1945
Between Two Worlds – 1944
Hollywood Canteen – 1944
Thank Your Lucky Stars1943
The Fallen Sparrow – 1943
Air Force1943
Show Business at War1943
Destination Tokyo1943
Dangerously They Live - 1942
Tortilla Flat1942
The Sea Wolf1941
Out of the Fog - 1941
Flowing Gold1940
East of the River – 1940
Saturday’s Children1940
Castle on the Hudson1940
Four Wives – 1939
Dust Be My Destiny – 1939
Juarez – 1939
They Made Me a Criminal –1939
Blackwell’s Island – 1939
Four S –1939
Daughters Courageous – 1939
Four Daughters – 1938

Inspiration from Turner Classic Movies, as for the rest…

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