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John Williams (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Williams
Williams in the 1954 film Dial M for Murder
Born(1903-04-15)15 April 1903
Died5 May 1983(1983-05-05) (aged 80)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Years active1924–1979
SpouseHelen Williams

John Williams (15 April 1903 – 5 May 1983)[a] was a British stage, film, and television actor.[2] He is remembered for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, as the chauffeur in Billy Wilder's Sabrina (both 1954), as Mr. Brogan-Moore in Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and as the second "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair in its first season (1967).

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • How Music Becomes an Actor in the Films of John Williams & Steven Spielberg
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  • Top 10 Unforgettable John Williams Scores
  • 2013 BMI Film/TV Awards Red Carpet Interview: John Williams


Life and work

Born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1903, Williams was educated at Lancing College. He began his acting career on the English stage in 1916, appearing in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, Frances Nordstrom's The Ruined Lady, and Frederick Lonsdale's The Fake.[2]

In 1924 Williams moved to New York, where he was cast in a series of successful Broadway productions. He would appear in over 30 Broadway plays over the next four decades, performing on stage with performers such as Claudette Colbert in Clifford Grey's A Kiss in the Taxi in 1925, Helen Hayes in J. M. Barrie's Alice Sit-by-the-Fire and Gertrude Lawrence in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion in 1946.[2] In 1953, Williams won a Tony Award for Actor, Supporting or Featured (Dramatic) for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Frederick Knott's Dial M for Murder on Broadway. Soon afterwards, when Alfred Hitchcock adapted the play to a film version released in 1954, he cast Williams in the same role.

Williams reprised his Broadway role in Dial M for Murder for a 1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame television presentation. Also pictured are Maurice Evans and Rosemary Harris.

Williams' first appearance in a Hollywood film was in director Mack Sennett's short The Chumps (1930). He ultimately appeared in more than 40 films, including two other Hitchcock films: The Paradine Case (1947) starring Gregory Peck, in which Williams held a minor role as a barrister, and To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, in which Williams portrayed a major character—a Lloyd's of London insurance representative. In the 1960 thriller Midnight Lace, starring Doris Day, Williams played a London police inspector much like his character in Dial M for Murder.

He also made more than 40 guest appearances on television shows. He played in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents including: "The Long Shot" (1955), "Back for Christmas" (1956),[3] "Whodunit" (1956), "Wet Saturday" (1956), "The Rose Garden" (1956), the three-part episode "I Killed the Count" (1957), "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater" (1957), and "Banquo’s Chair" (1959). Three of these episodes, "Back for Christmas", "Wet Saturday", and "Banquo’s Chair", were directed by Hitchcock himself.

Williams played William Shakespeare in The Twilight Zone episode "The Bard" (1963) and guest-starred on the sitcom My Three Sons (also 1963), portraying a stuffy, very precise English butler. In the latter role he was clean shaven, not sporting his customary mustache.[4] Later, he was briefly part of the regular cast of the family comedy Family Affair (1967). He appeared as well on Night Gallery in the series' episode "The Doll" (1971). One of Williams' last performances was in 1979, playing alongside fellow actor Lorne Greene in a two-part episode of Battlestar Galactica titled "War of the Gods".

Williams gained notice too as the star of a frequently telecast commercial for 120 Music Masterpieces, a four-LP set of classical music excerpts from Columbia House.[5] This became the longest-running nationally seen commercial in U.S. television history, for 13 years from 1971 to 1984. The commercial began with a brief selection of orchestral music being played. Williams then began the sales promotion with the following:

I'm sure you recognise this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise'. But did you know that the original theme is from the Polovtsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin? So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters—like these familiar themes...[5]

In addition to his longstanding association with Hitchcock, Williams appeared in three Billy Wilder films over the course of his career: Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). In Holmes, however, his scenes were among the 60 to 75 minutes cut by the studio prior to the film's release, when the studio decided not to release it in its intended roadshow format. Williams' scenes, along with the majority of the cut material, have not been recovered.


Williams died at the age of 80 on 5 May 1983, in La Jolla, San Diego, California. It was reported at the time of his death that he had been suffering from a heart condition. He was cremated, and there was no funeral.[6]

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Director Notes
1936 Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (uncredited) (?) Frank Capra
1942 The Big Blockade Voice over (uncredited) Charles Frend
1942 The Next of Kin General Cooper (uncredited) Thorold Dickinson
1942 The Foreman Went to France 'English' Army Captain Charles Frend
1942 The Goose Steps Out Major Bishop Basil Dearden
1947 The Paradine Case Barrister Collins (uncredited) Alfred Hitchcock
1948 A Woman's Vengeance Prosecuting Counsel Zoltan Korda
1951 Kind Lady Mr. Foster John Sturges
1951 Dick Turpin's Ride Archbald Puffin Ralph Murphy
1951 Thunder in the East General Sir Henry Harrison Charles Vidor
1954 Dial M for Murder Chief Inspector Hubbard Alfred Hitchcock
1954 The Student Prince Lutz Richard Thorpe
1954 Sabrina Thomas Fairchild Billy Wilder
1955 To Catch a Thief H. H. Hughson Alfred Hitchcock
1956 D-Day the Sixth of June Brigadier Russell Henry Koster
1956 The Solid Gold Cadillac John T. "Jack" Blessington Richard Quine
1957 Island in the Sun Colonel Whittingham Robert Rossen
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Irving La Salle Jr. Frank Tashlin
1957 Witness for the Prosecution Mr. Brogan-Moore, Sir Wilfrid's junior counsel in the trial Billy Wilder
1959 The Young Philadelphians Gilbert Dickinson Vincent Sherman
1960 Visit to a Small Planet Delton Norman Taurog
1960 Midnight Lace Inspector Byrnes David Miller
1965 Dear Brigitte Peregrine Upjohn Henry Koster
1965 Harlow Jonathan Martin Alex Segal
1966 The Last of the Secret Agents? J. Fredrick Duval Norman Abbott
1967 Double Trouble Gerald Waverly Norman Taurog
1968 The Secret War of Harry Frigg General Francis Mayhew Jack Smight
1968 A Flea in Her Ear Dr. Finache Jacques Charon
1972 The Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Frankland Barry Crane
1974 Lost in the Stars Judge Daniel Mann
1976 No Deposit, No Return Jameson Norman Tokar
1978 Hot Lead and Cold Feet Mansfield Robert Butler


Burt Reynolds and John Williams in "The Bard", a 1963 episode of
The Twilight Zone


  1. ^ Several primary sources suggest his birth name was Hugh Ernest Leo Williams.[1]


  1. ^ "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925–1957". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor". The New York Times. 8 May 1983. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  3. ^ "LI Members". Archived from the original on 30 October 2005. Retrieved 2 March 2005.
  4. ^ Episode "Bub's Butler". My Three Sons. originally broadcast 4 April 1963. TV Guide. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b "120 Music Masterpieces" on YouTube
  6. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (8 May 1983). "Gentlemanly Actor John Williams Dies". Los Angeles Times. p. B1, 5. Retrieved 21 February 2023.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 05:30
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