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The John Garfield Story (2003)

TV Movie  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  3 February 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 167 users  
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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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Release Date:

3 February 2003 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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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 »


References Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

Informative but not illuminating...good glimpse from a few of his best films...
5 August 2011 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

JOHN GARFIELD was well used at Warner Bros. where he became a contract player in the late '30s, beginning with his much ballyhooed first film, FOUR DAUGHTERS ('38), sharing the screen with some of Warner's best contract players and stealing many a scene as the tough guy with a heart of gold.

But to listen to this documentary, his Warner contract allowed him to do too many prison films. Actually, his street smart, chip-on-the-shoulder type of personality was what the public expected to see rather than having him stretch to be someone who could do a variety of other roles.

After all, those tough guy prison films were what kept him so popular with the movie-going public during all those years at Warners. When he did "stretch," the accents proved too much for him to handle (as in TORTILLA FLAT and JUAREZ) and costume films were not his forte. The Brooklyn in his voice was always just beneath the surface, as was his tough guy attitude. It was the dangerous element in his personality that women loved. Aside from the prison dramas, he got to do a number of respectable war films (DESTINATION TOKYO, PRIDE OF THE MARINES) and films of social significance like GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT.

Garfield's biggest disappointment was not getting a chance to do Clifford Odet's GOLDEN BOY on public and repeating that performance on film. However, he made up for it ten years later by starring in a B'way version, just a little too ripe for the role at that point. We get to see a glimpse of a TV scene from the play opposite Kim Stanley which at least gives an indication of how good his performance in that role probably was.

As for the celebrities who talk about Garfield, that's the weakest part of the documentary. There's nothing particularly illuminating in any of the comments by Lee Grant, Joanne Woodward, Richard Dreyfuss, Norman Lloyd or any of the others who offer little insight into what made the man tick aside from his surface toughness as a result of a tough childhood in Brooklyn. Along the way he had help from someone at a school for troubled kids and developed an interest in the theater, soon a favorite with the Group Theater.

Garfield deserves a better bio than this, but it does offer some generous film clips from a few of his best films and should please fans who want to know more about his emergence as a star.

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