John Garfield


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(1913–52), actor. The handsome if pug-faced performer was born in New York, where he was an amateur boxer and then later studied at the Heckscher Foundation and Maria Ouspenskaya drama schools. He made his debut in 1930 playing small parts with the Civic Repertory Theatre but called attention to himself only after he joined the Group Theatre. Among his notable roles there was the ambitious but embittered son Ralph Berger in Awake and Sing! (1935). After failing to win the title role in Golden Boy (1937), Garfield left the company, then showed a gift for comedy as the amorous law student Chick Kessler in Having Wonderful Time (1937). After playing the legendary hobo Overland Kid in Heavenly Express (1940), he spent several years in films before returning to portray the Dutch sea captain Joris Kuiper in Skipper Next to God (1948) and Hollywood star Charlie Castle in The Big Knife (1949). In 1951 he essayed Peer Gynt and the following year gave his last performance, somewhat ironically, as prizefighter Joe Bonaparte, the title role in a revival of Golden Boy. Garfield was a likable, realistic actor, best in parts requiring a streak of toughness. Biography: Body and Soul: The Story of John Garfield, Larry Swindell, 1975.

From The Oxford Companion to American Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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