John Howard

Active - 1943 - 1977  |   Born - Apr 14, 1913   |   Died - Feb 19, 1995   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Action, Crime, Comedy

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An honor student in high school, American actor John Howard was also an accomplished pianist, and, in this capacity, won a position in the musical department at Cleveland radio station WHK. While appearing in a stage production at Case Western Reserve University, Howard was spotted by a Paramount talent scout and signed for films. Looking much older than his 26 years, the actor assumed the role of suave adventurer Bulldog Drummond in a series of seven B-movies beginning in 1937. The first actor to play Drummond in sound pictures was Ronald Colman, and it was with him whom Howard co-starred in his most famous film, Lost Horizon (1937). Howard played Colman's younger brother, whose recklessness led to the classic scene in which Margo, playing a woman spirited away from Shangri-La by Howard, aged 50 years before viewers' eyes. Modern day audiences watching the film aren't always very kind to the actor, laughing uproariously at his fevered histrionics; but he was the first to admit in latter-day interviews that he was overacting -- in fact, he was rougher on himself than any audience had been. Otherwise, Howard's film roles were played competently, if not colorfully, although he certainly deserved some credit for convincingly reacting to and making love with the Invisible Woman in the 1941 film comedy of the same name. Howard also became a pioneer of sorts when, in 1947, he starred in Public Prosecutor, the first filmed television series. Eight years later, the actor enjoyed a two-season run on the syndicated hospital drama Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal, in which all traces of the Lost Horizon ham were completely obliterated by his calm, persuasive performance. He starred in a third TV series filmed in 1958, Adventures of the Sea Hawk, but it wasn't aired until 1961 and turn out to be a flop. Howard was philosophical about his acting career, noting that he was always somewhat indifferent about stardom (although he did dearly covet the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind [1939], which ultimately went to Leslie Howard). The actor was, however, justifiably proud of his performance as Katharine Hepburn's wealthy, stuffed-shirt fiancé in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and his 1953 Broadway debut in Hazel Flagg. The next 30 years of his career were divided between mostly unremarkable movies and television productions. Completely out of the film business by the mid-'70s, Howard taught Drama and English at a private high school in Brentwood, CA, for the rest of his life. He died in 1995.

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