Friday, August 5, 2011

Remembering John Huston

John Marcellus Huston was born on August 5, 1906 in Nevada, Missouri. He was the only child of actor Walter Huston and his wife Reah. His parents divorced when John was six and he spent most of his childhood in boarding schools. He would spend the summers splitting time with his father and his mother. Watching his father perform on stage drew young Huston into the acting profession. John developed health problems (enlarged heart and kidney) so he moved in with his mother who was living in Los Angeles and there he recovered and attended Lincoln Heights High School. He dropped out of school after two years to become an amateur boxer. He became a ranked lightweight but after breaking his nose he turned his interests to the arts and literature. Spending time with his father he acted in a few stage roles before venturing to Mexico and becoming a member of the Mexican Cavalry. He then returned to Los Angeles and married his high school girlfriend Dorothy Harvey (his first of five marriages) but it lasted only a year. During his stay in Mexico he wrote a play "Frankie and Johnny" which he easily sold and decided to take up writing. He sold stories to American Mercury Magazine, Esquire, and Theatre Arts and the N.Y. Times. He then took a job as a script editor for M-G-M. He quit and went to work for Universal where his father was a star. One of his scripts was for "A House Divided" (1931) directed by William Wyler. The two became friends and Houston was taken under Wyler’s wing. After John was involved in a car accident in which a pedestrian was killed he moved to Paris and London. He returned in 1937 and became a writer at Warner Brothers. He received two Academy Award nominations for "Dr. Ehrlrich’s Magic Bullet" (1940) and "Sergeant York" (1941). Next he was assigned to write the screenplay for "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) with Humphrey Bogart for which he received great acclaim and was now able to direct films. During World War II he served as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps. and directed a number of military documentaries. After the war he directed Bogart and his father Walter in "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948). The film won Oscars for Best Director, Screenplay and his father was named Best Supporting Actor. He went on to director such blockbusters as "Key Largo" (1948), "The African Queen" (1951) "Moulin Rouge" (1952) "The Unforgiven" (1960), "The Misfits" (1961), "Night of the Iguana" (1964) and "The Bible: In the Beginning" (1966). Huston also appeared as an actor starting with "The Shakedown" (1929) until 1987's TV film "Mister Corbett’s Ghost". Among his five wives was actress Evelyn Keyes [1916-2008] (1946-1950). His son Tony Huston [1950- ] is a assistant director, screenwriter and actor and his daughter Angelica Huston [1951- ] is also a well-known producer, director and actress. Another son Danny Huston [1962- ] is also a director and actor. Huston appeared in two Euro-westerns "The Deserter" and "Man in the Wilderness" (both 1971). John died from emphysema on August 28, 1987 in Middletown, Rhode Island. Today we remember John Huston on what would have been his 105th birthday.


  1. How about 'Man in the Wilderness'... Does this count as a Euro Western? I was never sure myself, but it has a lot of British actors.

  2. Tom Betts said...
    Thanks Adrian, "Man in the Wilderness" shows on IMDb as an Adventure film but like you I've always counted it as a Euro-western. I've added it to the post.