John Mahoney

Active - 1961 - 2015  |   Born - Jun 20, 1940 in Blackpool, Lancashire, England  |   Died - Feb 4, 2018   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama, Thriller, Romance

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Though he most frequently plays American character roles on stage and television and in feature films, silver-haired John Mahoney was born and raised in England until he emigrated to the U.S. at age 19 in the 1950s and joined the Army. One of the first things he worked on was losing his British accent, something he succeeded at doing. Once out of the service, Mahoney earned a B.A. from Quincy College and then graduated from Western Illinois University with a master's in English. For the next decade and a half, Mahoney worked at different careers including college professor and medical journal editor in Chicago. Though he had appeared on-stage in his teens, Mahoney did not again become interested in acting until he was 37 and decided to enroll in classes at the St. Nicholas Theater, a Chicago institution co-founded by playwright/screenwriter David Mamet. After performing in one of Mamet's plays, Mahoney quit his latest job. Later, at the invitation of distinguished actor and classmate John Malkovich, Mahoney joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, where he appeared in about 30 productions. He also appeared on and off-Broadway, winning a Tony (among other awards) for his work in House of Blue Leaves and a Theater World Award for his performance in an off-Broadway production of Orphans. He entered films, both feature-length and television movies in the mid-'80s. Some of his better early film roles can be found in Tin Men, Moonstruck (both 1987), Say Anything (1989), and Primal Fear (1996). Some of his notable television movies include Dinner at Eight (1989) and David Mamet's The Water Engine (1992). In 1993, Mahoney was cast in the role in which he may be best recognized, that of retired policeman Martin Crane, the bane of existence for pompous radio shrink Kelsey Grammar on the successful Fraiser (1993- 2004). Mahoney would continue to act for years to come, memorably appearing on In Treatment, and in movies like Dan in Real Life and Flipped.

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  • Born in Blackpool, England, because his family was evacuated during the bombing of Manchester, which is his hometown; they moved back as soon as they were permitted.
  • The seventh of eight children. 
  • Lost all traces of his English accent in the United States Army, which he joined in order to speed up his U.S. citizenship request.
  • Taught English Literature at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, where he had earlier earned a master's degree in English.
  • Participated in local youth theater as a child, but wasn't inspired to become an actor until he saw Albert Finney and Leo McKern in Uncle Vanya at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.
  • At age 37, enrolled in classes at Chicago's St. Nicholas Theatre, cofounded by David Mamet, where he performed opposite John Malkovich.
  • Member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.