At A Glance

Born: March 4 1913, NYC

Marriage: Roberta Seidman 1935-1952
Children: Katherine   b. 1938 - d. 1945
David   b. 1942 - d. 1995
Julie   b. 1946

Height: 5' 7"

Stage Experience: Civic Rep, NY
Group Theater, NY

Hollywood debut: Four Daughters, 1938

Nominated, Academy Awards:
Best Supporting Actor
"Four Daughters" (1938)
Best Actor
"Body and Soul" (1947)

Blacklisted by HUAC early 1950s

Final film: He Ran All the Way, 1951

Died: May 21 1952, coronary thrombosis

John Garfield was born Jacob Julius Garfinkle on March 4, 1913 into the poverty of New York City's Lower East Side. His parents were first-generation Americans of Ukranian peasant ancestry. His father, David, a clothes-presser by trade and by all acounts was a slow, plodding man, was immersed in the culture of the Old Country. Garfield was later to describe him as "an ignorant man, a religious fanatic."

Hannah, John's mother, was just the opposite - warm, outgoing and supportive of her young son. But hard life in the slums took its toll, and following a difficult pregnancy and the birth of John's brother Max, Hannah's health began to fail.   She died in 1920 when John was seven years old and his brother Max was two.

David moved his remaining family to a tenement in East Brooklyn and over the next several years would parcel out his sons to various relatives, unable, or unwilling, to take responsibility for them himself.

"Julie", as Garfield was known to friends and family all his life, was described as an outgoing child with endless energy, a great mop of thick hair and an engaging grin. Small for his age, he soon had to pick up survival tactics on the streets, learning "all the meanness, all the toughness it's possible for kids to acquire." But despite the squalor of his surroundings, Julie thrived on the adversity and relished his triumphs over formidible odds.

Just like a movie with the "Dead End" kids, Julie was a member of a street gang and gained a reputation for being a clown - everything Julie did he did better if he had an audience. He also was apparently adept at petty theft - with "quick hands and could run like hell."

This potentially bleak future took a turn for the better when Julie came under the wing of Angelo Patri at Public School 45. Patri was able to channel the boy's high spirits into performing on a stage, and a whole new world suddenly opened for young Julie. Previously a very poor student, his scholastic record improved solely because it was a requirement for being eligible to take part in plays. Garfield was later to say of Patri, " For reaching into the garbage pail and pulling me out, I owe him everything."   Patri was later instrumental in Julie's receiving a scholarship to the Heckscher Foundation where Julie learned the fundamentals of theater work.


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