Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jacob Julius Garfinkle (1913-1952)

I am about a week late, but I still wanted to commemorate the birthday of one of my favorite screen performers, John Garfield, known to his friends as Julie.  Born on March 4th as Jacob Julius Garfinkle, Garfield would have been 95 this year. One of the earliest practitioners of the Method in Hollywood, Garfield is the link between the "city boys," Cagney and Bogart, and the later Method boys, Clift, Brando, and Dean.  Often called Hollywood's "first rebel," Garfield remains sadly unknown by most people, even more serious cinephiles.  Of course, this is related to Garfield's untimely demise, brought on by the stress of the Blacklist and his being hounded by HUAC.  

One of the first actors to have his own production company, Garfield was coming into his own as an actor after getting out of a rather stifling contract with Warner Bros. when the Blacklist hit him.  A committed progressive, Garfield was always sympathetic to leftist causes, and though he was said not to be a Communist Party member, he was victimized by his associations.  In the end, it is believed that the Committee wanted him to turn in his own wife who was a Party member. He did not cave to the Committee, but the strain was too much for his career, marriage, and heart.  

Warner Home Video has promised that there is finally a John Garfield  box set (including 6 titles) coming to DVD this year.  Hopefully, it will include Pride of the Marines and The Breaking Point, neither of which have ever been available on home video, and which contain what I feel are his best performances.  In the meantime many of his most well-known films are already available on DVD.  These include Force of Evil, Body and Soul (Oscar Nomination for Best Actor), The Postman Always Rings Twice (a loan-out to MGM), and Humoresque.

Rest in peace, Julie.

Here's a link to a nice a tribute website as well as the most recent biography, Robert Nott's Her Ran All the Way published by Limelight Editions a few years back.

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