John Garfield - Died at just 39
One look at this man and you just know he was a film star of the highest magnitude. He has drama written all over his face. John Garfield was born on the lower East Side of New York City where he had a troubled youth and would spend his early school days in a special school for problem kids. There, he was introduced to boxing and drama and won a scholarship to a drama school.
He started, as most film stars did, on Broadway in Awake and Sing winning wide acclaim for his work. He would gain enormous praise, however, for his first film role as Mickey Borden in Four Daughters in 1938 in which he played a low keyed, cynical composer who had no faith in himself. He won an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor in this film that would also be nominated for Best Picture. He was joined in the film by Claude Rains and three of the Lane sisters.
It has always been quizzical to me that one year later he would make another film titled Daughters Courageous that contained almost the identical cast of Rains, Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane and Lola Lane along with others from the previous film and yet play a different character himself as Gabriel Lopez. But, again he would play the unsure, unpredictable typecast role that he would have trouble escaping throughout his career. He then re-created his role of Mickey Borden in yet another film, Four Wives in 1939 with basically the very same cast again.
Interesting note...the Lane sisters were actually four sisters. However, only three were in these three films along with Gale Page who filled in as the fourth sister.
He would co-star with some of the most beautiful and talented women in Hollywood. Ann Sheridan, Francis Farmer, Ida Lupino (one of my favorite actresses), Hedy Lamarr, Maureen O'Hara, Eleanor Parker, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jennifer Jones, Patricia Neal, Shelley Winters and in his most powerful film The Postman Always Rings Twice with Lana Turner in 1946.
I met Lana backstage in Dallas in the 70's following her performance in a dinner theater. She was still extremely glamorous.
Politically, Garfield was quite liberal and was active in social causes including this one pictured with Bette Davis. When the infamous list of supposed Communists started going around in the late 40's, he found himself right in the middle of it all and even though he testified before Congress that he was never a Communist, he started getting snubbed in the industry. Bette Davis helped him to get work later on.
While separated from his wife of 17 years, he suffered a heart attack and died in a friend's apartment in 1952. The very next day Clifford Odets a friend, actor and playwright testified before Congress that Garfield was indeed not a member of the Communist Party.
Garfield died at the very early age of 39. Thousands of fans mobbed the funeral. It was the largest attendance for an actor since Rudolph Valentino.