John Miljan

Active - 1924 - 1957  |   Born - Nov 9, 1892   |   Died - Jan 24, 1960   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Comedy, Romance, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

An actor since the age of 15, John Miljan entered films in 1923. Miljan was handsome enough for leading roles, but realized early on that he'd have a longer screen career as a villain, usually an oily "other man" type. The archetypal Miljan performance can be seen in 1927's The Yankee Clipper. In the course of that film, he (a) feigned an injury to avoid heavy work on board ship, (b) fomented a mutiny, then pretended to fight off the mutineers, and (c) hoarded water for himself while the rest of the crew was dying of thirst--and all the while he pledged undying love for the heroine, who stupidly swallowed his line until the last reel. He made his talkie debut in the promotional trailer for The Jazz Singer (1927), ingratiatingly inviting the audience to see the upcoming landmark production. While he continued playing bad guys in the sound era, he was just as often seen as military officers and police inspectors. His slender frame and authoritative air enabled him to play such roles as General Custer in DeMille's The Plainsman (1936) and a character based on General Wainwright in Back to Bataan (1945). John Miljan remained in harness until 1958, two years before his death.

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