In the course of preparing our daily blogs, we always like to feel responsive to reader suggestions. One recent one from “Jai” put it simply: I would love to see you guys talk about John Hodiak.
Well, Jai, talk and write we will.
Hodiak comes by his surname and Eastern European heritage honestly — he was born in Pittsburgh in 1914 of a Ukrainian father and Polish mother. He insisted on maintaining his last name despite importunings from the likes of Louis B. Mayer at MGM.
Hodiak could be considered the utility infielder of World War II Hollywood. His hypertension kept him out of the war and thus eligible for some fairly choice parts left by those bigger names in uniform — including Clark Gable, James Stewart and Robert Taylor.
Thus, Hodiak turned up in a broad range of films: musicals, war pictures, an occasional film noir and, perhaps most memorably, as Tallulah Bankhead’s main squeeze in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 shipwreck adventure, Lifeboat. (Yes, that’s the happy couple pictured above.)
When his movie career cooled a bit in the early Fifties, Hodiak skillfully turned to the stage and tv, the result of which was a resurgence of his big screen career.
Let’s see how much you know about this handsome, deep-voiced utility man turned marquee name almost by default. As usual questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: Hodiak’s Hollywood career, despite his high-marquee position, was by classic Hollywood standards remarkably short, less than 40 movies over 13 years. Why? a) The actor quit to join the Catholic priesthood; b) He much preferred acting on tv and the Broadway stage; c) He was blacklisted for his political views; or d) He dropped dead.
2) Question: Which of the following leading actresses did Hodiak NOT appear with? a) Gene Tierney; b) Hedy Lamarr; c) Judy Garland; or d) Ann Sheridan.
3) Question: Hodiak’s costar in 1944’s Sunday Dinner For A Soldier eventually became his one and only wife. Who is she? (Hint: She ‘s terrific in The Magnificent Ambersons.)
4) Question: Hodiak costarred with the following male stars — except for which one of the following? a) Clark Gable; b) Spencer Tracy; c) Walter Pidgeon; or d) Burt Lancaster.
5) Question: The movie version of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial proved to be perhaps Hodiak’s biggest career disappointment. Why?