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The John Garfield Story (2003)

TV Movie  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  3 February 2003 (USA)
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This documentary, aired on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable network, looks at the life and career of John Garfield, whose career was cut short when he died at age 39. His difficult ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Julie Garfield ...
Narrator / Herself
Ellen Adler ...
Joseph Bernard ...
Himself (as Joe Bernard)
Phoebe Brand ...
Robert Sklar ...
Himself - Author / Film Historian


This documentary, aired on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable network, looks at the life and career of John Garfield, whose career was cut short when he died at age 39. His difficult childhood in the rough neighborhoods of New York City provided the perfect background for the tough-guy roles he would play on both stage and screen. Written by David Glagovsky <>

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3 February 2003 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Included in Warner Home Video's 2004 DVD release of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). See more »


In her opening narration of this documentary, Julie Garfield refers to "Senator Joseph McCarthy and his House Un-American Activities Committee". As a senator (and someone who had never been a member of the House of Representatives), McCarthy did not serve and could never have served on HUAC. Indeed, Ms. Garfield's very words make no sense, as senators cannot be members of House committees (or vice versa). Moreover, McCarthy had nothing whatsoever to do with the investigations into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood or the subsequent blacklist. McCarthy, in the Senate, concerned himself almost entirely with alleged subversives in government and related institutions, but he never got involved with Hollywood or the entertainment industry, which was the exclusive preserve of HUAC - 'though McCarthy certainly approved of what that committee was doing. See more »

Crazy Credits

As the credits roll on the right side of the screen, the left side shows unidentified film clips from Garfield's movies while the interviewees make additional comments. The final frame shows Garfield's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. See more »


Features Dust Be My Destiny (1939) See more »

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interesting documentary about a Hollywood legend
11 August 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The John Garfield Story" is a good look at an actor who died very young and under the cloud of the blacklist. The sections concerning the actor's personal life were most interesting to me, since I knew very little about it. Garfield's story is narrated by his daughter, the actress/teacher Julie Garfield. There was another daughter who died from a massive allergy attack as a child.

The documentary covers Garfield's early days as Jacob Garfinkle, whom his family called Julie and who later billed himself as Jules, and how at a school for problem kids his dramatic and boxing skills were honed with the help of the head of the school. It goes into his early theater work, and how he took a contract at Warners after losing out to Luther Adler as "Golden Boy," a play specifically written for him by Clifford Odets. He was evidently considered too green for the role by the Group Theater and actually didn't play the lead until 1952, when his Hollywood career was over.

Garfield's star rose quickly - he was a handsome tough guy who gave honest performances and was rewarded with some major films, including "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "Gentlemen's Agreement," and "Humoresque." And his star fell just as fast when the Communist witch hunt began. A liberal in his views, and one who consorted with writers, actors, and directors deemed questionable, his major sin was going to Yugoslavia during the war. He was unable to enlist because of a bad heart, and instead helped to entertain the troops. (Lee Grant ended up on the blacklist, by the way, because she attended the funeral of someone who was blacklisted.) When he was subpoenaed for the hearings and refused to name names, the last nail went into his coffin. His last film was a B picture, "He Ran All the Way."

I can't agree totally with one of the posters, who claims that Garfield would have been washed up anyway. Yes, it's true, the '50s were filled with costume dramas and musicals; they were also filled with angry young men for whom he was the prototype - James Dean, Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, and Paul Newman, to name a few - and surely Garfield could have successfully continued to work in and produce movies. The stage would have gotten him through the harder-to-cast middle-aged years until "The Godfather," and there's no doubt his later career as a character actor would have been very rich. But there's no use speculating.

If you don't know much about Garfield - and I didn't - you will find this a fascinating look at his career and life. But watch a little more closely, and you'll realize also that he was undoubtedly a lot more complicated than this documentary shows.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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