John Rawlins

Active - 1927 - 1957  |   Born - Jan 1, 1902   |   Died - May 20, 1997   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Action, Mystery, Adventure

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Biography by Bruce Eder

John Rawlins entered movies as a stuntman and actor in action films and serials during the '20s. He moved into comedy writing during the '30s, and joined the editing department at Columbia Pictures. Late in the decade he went to Universal as a director of many of the studio's better B-pictures and serials. Among the most notable examples of his work are programmers and serials, such as The Green Hornet Strikes Again (co-directed with Ford Beebe) -- which is now considered a lost film (no copies are known to exist) -- and Junior G-Men (also with Beebe), starring the Little Tough Guys (an off-shoot of the Dead End Kids, featuring Billy Halop and Huntz Hall), and Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga, starring Leon Errol and Lupe Velez, all made during 1940-41. Rawlins did achieve one reasonably notable stylistic triumph, however, with Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), the first of the updated Sherlock Holmes pictures starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, which put the Victorian detective into a World War II setting, battling Nazi saboteurs -- despite a somewhat hokey script and a low budget, the film has sections with very effective atmosphere, with a haunting conclusion drawn directly from the pages of Conan Doyle. Rawlins' later work included many of the Maria Montez Technicolor costume adventures, which he directed with efficient pacing (and with which he helped keep the teetering studio afloat in the mid '40s). During the late '40s, he went to RKO for lesser programmers such as Dick Tracy's Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (co-starring Boris Karloff), and made the rounds of the B-studios such as Eagle-Lion and Allied Artists, making nicely paced, popular, if unexceptional fare such as The Boy from Indiana (1950), along with one interesting post-Civil War drama, Fort Defiance (1951), starring Ben Johnson, Dane Clark, and Peter Graves, about a beleaguered garrison whose troops are torn by lingering conflicts growing out of the War Between the States. From the early '50s onward, Rawlins worked in television, specializing in dramas. He passed away on May 20, 1997 after contracting pneumonia. Rawlins was 94.

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