Australian-born film director John Villiers Farrow began writing plays in the mid-1920s while he was a sailor; the most famous of these, A Registered Woman, was filmed in 1931 as A Woman of Experience. He later traversed the globe as a Marine researcher, spending several years in Tahiti, where he wrote a French-English Tahitian dictionary that served as a "standard" for decades. Hired by Hollywood to act as technical adviser for seafaring and naval films, Farrow turned to screenwriting in 1927. Extremely busy in this capacity in the 1930s, he managed to turn out two novels, The Laughter Ends (1934) and Damien the Leper (1937). While working on the screenplay of MGM's Tarzan Escapes, Farrow married the film's leading lady Maureen O'Sullivan. He was given his first opportunity to direct with the MGM Technicolor 2-reeler The Magic Spectacles (1936), stepping up to features in 1937. Though confined to "B" pictures at Warner Bros. and RKO, he garnered critical adulation for his innovative direction of such low-budgeters as The Saint Strikes Back (1939) and Five Came Back (1939).
When World War II broke out, Farrow volunteered to serve based upon his seafaring knowledge. He was appointed an acting lieutenant for the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, and served from 1940-1942. Upon returning to Hollywood in 1942, Farrow was immediately promoted to "A" productions at Paramount, winning an Academy Award nomination for his direction of Wake Island (1942). Converting to Catholicism, Farrow became one the most visible and fervent proponents of that faith, publishing several articles and books on the subject, including a biography of Thomas More and the 1947 tome Pageant of the Popes. During the postwar era, Farrow turned out some of his finest directorial efforts, including the stylish noir exercise The Big Clock (1948), the grim fantasy Alias Nick Beal (1949), the lampoonish adventure yarn His Kind of Woman (1951) and the excellent John Wayne western Hondo (released in 3-D in 1953). Though his screenwriting activities were largely confined to his own films in the postwar era, Farrow shared an Oscar with S. J. Perelman for the script of the mammoth Mike Todd production Around the World in 80 Days (1956) (curiously, Farrow is not mentioned in the film's souvenir program, which finds space to list every member of the cast, right down to the extra). John Farrow was the father of seven children, two of whom--Mia and Tisa Farrow--have enjoyed substantial acting careers.