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Joe Sawyer Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (24)

Overview (3)

Born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Died in Ashland, Oregon, USA  (liver cancer)
Birth NameJoseph Sauers

Mini Bio (1)

Joe Sawyer's familiar mug appeared everywhere during the 1930s and 1940s, particularly as a stock player for Warner Bros. in its more standard college musicals, comedies and crime yarns. He could play both sides of the fence, street cops and mob gunmen, with equal ease. He was born Joseph Sauers in Guelph, Canada, on August 29, 1906, and eventually moved to California to pursue a film career. Trained at the Pasadena Playhouse, he had a perfect "tough guy" look: sturdy build, jutting chin and beady eyes, made more distinctive by his shock of light hair and a slightly high-pitched voice. Sawyer made his film debut in 1931 under his real name, which, contrary to popular opinion, was German and not Irish, though he made a career out of playing Irishmen, and appeared mostly in strongarm bit parts in his early career until hitting his stride playing a variety of coaches, cops and sidekicks with imposing names like "Spud," "Slug" and "Whitey." He appeared in hundreds of films, in just about every genre, over a four-decade-long career, among them College Humor (1933), College Rhythm (1934), The Westerner (1934), The Informer (1935), in which his portrayal of an IRA gunman got him noticed by the public and critics alike, Pride of the Marines (1936), Black Legion (1937), The Petrified Forest (1936) (another "tough-guy" role that got him good reviews), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), Sergeant York (1941), Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943), Gilda (1946), It Came from Outer Space (1953), North to Alaska (1960) and How the West Was Won (1962). He also guest-starred on many TV series and was a regular on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954) as Sgt. Aloysius "Biff" O'Hara. His first wife was actress Jeane Wood, the daughter of Gone with the Wind (1939) uncredited director Sam Wood. His second wife, June, died in 1960. Sawyer died in Ashland, Oregon, on April 21, 1982 of liver cancer at the age of 75.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

June J. Golden (29 January 1937 - 26 June 1960) ( her death) ( 5 children)
Jeane Wood (22 December 1930 - 1933) ( divorced)

Trivia (24)

Former brother-in-law of actress K.T. Stevens and Hugh Marlowe.
Former son-in-law of director Sam Wood.
Although he looked Irish, often played Irish characters and had an "Irish" stage name, his real name was Joseph Sauers and his ancestry was German.
After an excellent showing in The Informer in 1935 and a term contract offer by Warner Brothers, he decided to sign it as Joseph Sawyer, a name he suggested for himself. He said he didn't mind when people called him Sowers, or even Sours, but when he was introduced as Joe Sewers he knew it was time to change his name.
In 1936 Joe Sawyer in the national press was referred to as the toughest-looking heavy in films. That was contrasted with his hobbies of being a painter and a musician.
Joseph Sawyer, screenland "bad man," wasn't afraid of starving if fans tired of him. Among other things he acquired in 1935-1936 were: Village Radio and Electric Shop in Westwood; Sawyer Acceptance Corp.; Jerry's Auto Shop and Garage in Los Angeles; a fishing trawler; half-interest in a cat and dog hospital; toy balloon factory; tortilla manufacturing plant; and a salted peanut shop.
During his retirement years Joe lived during summers in a mobile home in Ashland, Oregon, USA, on a hill overlooking the city. He always displayed the Stars and Stripes and the state flag of Oregon. Winters were spent in Palm Springs, California, USA.
In a film fight for Universal Pictures, Owen Merrill, played by leading man Kent Taylor, broke two ribs on Saturday, July 17, 1937, during the filming of The Lady Fights Back. It wasn't a lady but rather Swede Janssen, played by 200-pound Joe Sawyer, who inflicted the injury.
Joe Sauers was a graduate of Hollywood High School, where he became interested in drama. While a student at the University of Southern California in the 1920s, he continued acting in plays and was seen by Gilmore Brown of the Pasadena Playhouse. He had Joe read for the part of a cockney in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. That began an association that led to writing, directing, and appearing in over 100 Pasadena Playhouse productions. During those years Joe also worked in the building and loan business.
Following the advice of the Pasadena Playhouse's director, Gilmore Brown, Joe saved his money and moved to New York to see if he could make it in theater. He appeared in many Broadway plays at very low pay, but did meet and marry famous Hollywood director Sam Wood's daughter, Jeane Wood, in Manhattan on December 22, 1930. The marriage was short-lived and by 1932 he was back in Hollywood under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Joe Sauer's father, Joseph, was a butcher in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He died at the age of 24 in Saskatchewan, Canada. Joe went to school in Guelph, but every summer joined the family to work on his uncle's farm in Saskatchewan.
On June 20, 1937, Joe met and married the love of his life, June Golden, 10 years his junior. She was one of the young women hired every year by the MGM Studios, some of whom became starlets After June died of leukemia at the age of 44 in 1960, Joe had difficulty coping. He left their Glendale home and moved to a smaller home in Beverly Hills. He turned his back on the film business. Joe's longtime friend, Duke Wayne, invited him to "come on up to Alaska and make another picture, look around and forget some things." That led to a role as a road commissioner in the John Wayne film North to Alaska.
In 1949 Joe Sawyer received U. S. Air Force assurances of co-operation to produce Operation Haylift. The film was about the 1948 feeding of blizzard-bound cattle. The movie was shot in Nevada.
Joe had a passion for cigars, sailing, cars and shooting, and a nice home in Glendale, where he could host gatherings with such friends as John Wayne and Bela Lugosi. He loved his Corvette and had a penchant for using his basement shooting range at any hour.
Joe was talked into one final film appearance in 1962, a John Ford movie starring John Wayne. He played a riverboat officer in How the West Was Won. He then turned full time to property development, and was a key player in the construction of various projects in Southern California, including housing developments, shopping centers and a hospital.
Joe was a workaholic. Family members said that he couldn't count on having movie work five days a week, and he liked to have work five days a week. So, early on in his career, Joe took advantage of the booming housing market in California and did home construction on the side. He drove to the studio with a pickup truck loaded with lumber and then went straight to the construction site after work.
On Broadway in the early 1930s, Joe Sauers played many comic roles. He expressed surprise after signing his Warner Brothers contract that Hollywood assigned him gangster roles. In late 1936 he was given the role of Father Reed, a priest, in The Accusing Finger. He saw that as a ray of hope that other types of acting roles could be forthcoming. He felt his best work was as a comedian. It wasn't until he created the television role of Sgt. Biff O'Hara on the 1950s Rin Tin Tin series that he had a recurring comic role.
Joseph's parents, Joseph (October 3, 1984 - 1908) and Lavina Mary Bolton (August 17, 1885 - August 15, 1966), spelled their last name Sauer on their Guelph, Ontario, Canada, marriage certificate on November 23, 1904. Their son Joseph was known as Joseph Sauers. He chose to change his surname to Sawyer when he signed a Warner Brothers contract in 1935.
The only series in which Joe Sawyer appeared was Rin Tin Tin from 1954 to 1959. The 96 episodes in which he appeared as Sgt. Biff O'Hara were filmed at the Corriganville Movie Ranch forty miles northeast of Hollywood. A decade later he described the work schedule as shooting four episodes in a two-week period, then having two or three weeks off. During those five years he supervised the construction of thirty-five homes in a Los Angeles subdivision.
ABC first aired Rin Tin Tin in 1954. It immediately became its second most watched program with a 30 per cent market share, second only to the Walt Disney Show. Nine million of the thirty million television sets at the time viewed Rin Tin Tin. CBS had begun Lassie a month earlier, but its viewership always lagged millions behind Rin Tin Tin after ABC began that series.
A bit character with Joe in two films (The Coach and Maker of Men) was a then unknown John Wayne, who became a poker and fishing buddy. Joe Sawyer, 29, had a minor role, Barby Mulholland, in a John Ford-directed film. His role brought him critical attention and many subsequent John Ford-directed films. Still playing small parts, Joe appeared in 16 films released in 1934, 14 in 1935, and 17 in 1936. A 1936 release was The Petrified Forest. Joe played henchman to the star, Humphrey Bogart. Sawyer appeared in five other Bogart films.
When Joe died, the family reported receiving sympathy notes from Pickwick Books (in New York) and other book sellers because he was such an avid reader.
Joe's son, Riley, said that later in life, his father was able to indulge in his love of travel, saying he was equally at home on an ocean freighter or a passenger liner. His son was quoted as saying, "If he was going on a cruise ship, he would diet for three to four weeks before a trip, because he loved the food".
Became a member of the Screen Actors Guild in late 1935.

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