Sunday, March 4, 2012

Remembering John Garfield

March 4, 1913 – May 21, 1952

John Garfield is, and has been for many years, one of my most favorite actors - right up there with Cagney, Kirk, Burt, DeNiro and The Duke! If someone were to ask me, who's this guy John Garfield, whats he all about? I'd first show them the picture above because it so totally captures his onscreen persona...I wish I knew the name of the photographer!

A still from "Force of Evil" 1948, arguably John Garfield's greatest performance, but certainly one of them! This is one of those films that the more times you see it the more you get from it thanks to the incredible screenplay and direction from the then soon-to-be-blacklisted Abraham Polonsky, stunning cinematography by George barnes, a great score by David Raskin and stellar performaces from every cast member, but especially Garfield and Thomas Gomez! My interest in this film started with my interest in Martin Scorsese and he so often referred to this film in interviews and discussions and since I had already started being interested in Garfields work, well I just had to see it and have seen it many times since!

Garfield was perfectly cast as wanderer Frank Chambers in MGM's slick 1946 production of "The Postman Always Rings Twice". Lana Turner was also perfectly cast, I mean seriously, who WOULDNT kill Cecil Kellaway for her?

I have been collecting John Garfield memorablilia for many years now and probably have more material on him than almost anyone else. A vintage one-sheet poster for 1938's "Blackwells Island" hangs right near my TV. That was only his second film and WB threw that into production right after "Four Daughters" wrapped up, but after that film was released and Garfield caused such a sensation they went back and reshot many scenes trying to elevate it's B level production. The result is a fun and silly "tough guy" picture but certainly far beneath his abilities.

My vintage one-sheet poster for "Saturday's Children" 1940, a film Garfield very much wanted to do because it would give him a chance to stretch and play a wilbur milquetoast type guy. The film did mediocre box-office which was all WB needed to throw him right back into the same brooding tough guy roles he had been playing for 2 years non stop.

I thought my blinds looked boring so I hung a half sheet in each window, this one for WB 1946 production of "Nobody Lives Forever" directed by Jean Negulesco, one of my favorite post war directors. I also have several Lobby Cards and a One-Sheet from that film. I NEVER open those blinds....sunlight....BAD for artwork and old cheaply printed movie posters!

Hanging on the door to my art studio is a 1953 re-release insert style poster for Garfield's boxing noir "Body and Soul" 1947 - absolutely one of his greatest performances and just a great must-see film overall with an incredible cast, a beautifully written screenplay by Abraham Polonsky and solid direction from Robert Rossen. It was the only time John Garfield ever received an oscar nomination for best actor but he lost out to Ronald Coleman in "A Double Life".

On the wall of the stairway leading to the Art studio loft is a One-Sheet poster for "Humoresque" 1946, another absolute must-see John Garfield film and in my opinion Joan Crawford's finest hour. Jean Negulesco was director on this one too

Below are 4 Lobby Cards from "Castle on the Hudson" 1940 which was a remake of "20,000 Years in Sing Sing" which starred Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis. These are on that weird "linen" paper that WB sometimes used.

Below is a Lobby Card for "The Breaking Point" which was a remake of "To Have and Have Not" but apparently more faithful to the original Hemingway story. Co-star Patricia Neal was on TCM talking about this film...I guess Garfield was discussing her character with her and he says "You're a whore...know what I mean?" laughing she says "Yeah i knew what he meant!". Directed by Michael Curtiz and with a great supporting cast, I recommend this film highly!

Yet another great John Garfield performance can be seen in WB 1945 production of "Pride of the Marines", believe me, a far cry from the patriotic flag-waving war films of the previous few years! This was the 2nd of his films I ever saw (The first being "Gentleman's Agreement", which, no disrespect intended, he promptly stole from his co-stars with just a few scenes) and I was really impressed with his interpretation of real life Marine Al Schmidt, who was blinded in combat and trying to cope with life after he gets back home. Its heavy stuff with some of the most intense "battle scenes" (all experienced from a foxhole in Guadalcanal) ever. Co-star Dane Calrk gave his career best performance in that film.
"Get 'em in the eyes, get 'em RIGHT in the eyes!"
One of 2 vintage Lobby Cards I have for that film. I also have a One Sheet which gets my top prize for most misleading movie poster ever... it pictures John Garfield, Eleanor Parker and Dane Clark all smiling and holding hands and off to the side a close up of Garfield and Parker together, smiling and rosie cheeked - one would instantly think its a fun-filled musical like "Yankee Doodle Dandy"or silly war-time farce like "Pillow to Post"! HARDLY!

Lobby Card for "We Were Strangers" directed by John Huston. Very good film, with one of the best roles for the always excellent Gilbert Roland!

The prize of my John Garfield collection, a vintage (is there any other kind?) autograph matted up with a still photo. I found it many years ago at an antique paper show, poorly matted, so upon taking it apart I found on the reverse side, another peice of paper signed by WB actor Dane Clark who co-starred in 2 films with Garfield! That helped soften the sting of what I had to pay haha!

Another fave still photo of John Garfield taken by the great George Hurrell - who is he running from?....probably himself....

edit: I am linking this post to the John Garfield 100th birthday blogathon at "They Dont Make 'Em Like They Used To"


Patti said...

You have an awesome site! I definitely want to spend a bit of time looking around at all you have here.

Thank you for joining in the John Garfield blogathon. Your contributions will be perfect...and very welcome.

By the way, Pride of the Marines was the first Garfield film I ever saw. I was "blown away" by his acting and went on a quest to see more of his work. My regard for him grew and grew, and he soon became one of my 6 all-time favorite actors (William Holden, Robert Ryan, Gary Cooper, Monty Clift, and James Cagney being the others.)

As for The Breaking Point, I LOVE that one. It is my fave of his films!! And you know, I almost didn't watch it. I really don't like and could not get into the Bogey/Bacall film, so I was loathe to try The Breaking Point, but in the end, my love for Garfield won out, and I gave it a try. I am SO glad I did. (I even like the Audie Murphy version, The Gun Runners, more than the Bogey/Bacall version.)

Anyhow, sorry for the long-winded comment. I look forward to having you in the blogathon.

Artman2112 said...

no need to apologize for talking, its great to find like minded peoples out there! i need to look around your pages as well, and i will!
i enjoy To Have and Have Not very much but Breaking Point is first rate and much more straightforward and serious. you have an interesting list of a top 6, i admire them all and cagney is my #1 guy since i was a kid...Clift is the least fave of mine of your 6 but he has done some great work no doubt. Garfield is in my top 6 as well and has been for many years. i guess i better getr some good pics taken of my JG stuff now :D thanks for commenting!

Artman2112 said...

all i did was add a link to this post and blogger messed up all my text/pic spacing and i had to readjust the centering of every block of text. absolute shit software.

Patti said...

I love this post! Thank you so much for contributing it to the blogathon!! What a wonderful addition to the event!

Your collection is awesome! Wow!! I was going to ask what happened to the poster when you opened the blinds, but then you reported that you didn't open the blinds.

Your autographed photo is a real "green with envy" kind of piece. What Garfield fan wouldn't love that!!

Just have to say that I agree with you about "Gentleman's Agreement." I think Garfield stole the show from Gregory Peck!

You are like I deem several of his performances his career best! What can we say...the man was brilliant and always gave a terrific performance!

Thank you again for being part of this blogathon.

Jeff Flugel said...

This was a very fun, interesting post, Artman, and I loved getting a virtual tour of your pad with all those great Garfield posters and stills. I especially love that first photo of your really does distill the essence of the man.

Dawn Sample said...

What an amazing collection.. I love how you have them displayed..

FlickChick said...

Wow - now that's a tribute!! Your collection is awesome Thank you so much for sharing it with us. One of the treats of this blogathon is discovering new sites. Yours is wonderful and I will be following.

Victoria said...

Oh wow, that is an impressive collection you have there! I've seen quite a few John Garfield films but never really paid much attention to him as an actor. Patti's opened my eyes up to many of his films and how talented he truly was, the Blogathon is opening my eyes to even more!

Great collection!

Artman2112 said...

thank you all for commenting! i am slowly getting to all the great posts on the blogathon but it will probably take me the rest of this week to get to them all. I am happy i could contribute something and hope anyone who stopped by here enjoyed it!


Wow, it's an impressive collection! I'll look forward the movies you recommended with cheers. I specially loved the photos, and the final reflection that maybe John was running away from himself.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

Artman2112 said...

thank you for stopping by :D i am slowly going through the blogathon posts :D

Anonymous said...

What a great collection! Really enjoyed looking at all of these pictures. I also like Jean Negulesco and want to see more of his work. Wonderful stuff! Judy

Artman2112 said...

thank you judy! If you want to see more excellent Jean Negulesco films, be sure and check out Deep Valley, Three Strangers and Johnny Belinda if you havent already.