Born on Lower East Side of New York City to David and Hannah Garfinkle. Jules, as he was known, was raised by his father after
his mother's death in 1920. Sent to a special school for problem children, where he was introduced to boxing and drama. Won a scholarship to Maria Ouspenskaya's drama school. Joined the Civic Repertory Theatre in 1932,
changing his name to Jules Garfield and making his Broadway debut in that company's Counsellor- at-Law. Joined the Group Theatre company, winning acclaim for his role in Awake and Sing. Embittered over being passed over
for the lead in Golden Boy, which was written for him, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers, which changed his name to John Garfield. Won enormous praise for his role of the cynical Mickey Borden in Four Daughters.
Kept in similar roles throughout career despite his efforts to play varied parts. Children Katherine (1938-1945), 'David Patton' (1942-1995), Julie (1946-). Active in liberal political and social causes, and found
himself embroiled in Communist scare of the late 1940s. Though he testified before Congress that he was never a Communist, his ability to get work declined. While separated from his wife, he succumbed to long-term heart
problems, dying suddenly in the home of a woman friend at 39. His funeral was mobbed by thousands of fans, in the largest funeral attendance for an actor since Rudolph Valentino.
'Roberta Seidman' (1932 - 1952)
Father of actors David Garfield (I) and Julie Garfield.
Garfield appears to be an extra in a fleeting shot in Footlight Parade (1933), made 5 years before his official debut in Four
Daughters (1938). Whether it is actually Garfield has long been disputed.
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actor. (b. Mar. 4, 1913, New York City, as Julius Garfinkle; d. May 21, 1952.)
This short, dark-haired, broodingly handsome actor often played rebellious, tough urban characters-which didn't require much of a stretch. Born on New York City's Lower East Side to immigrant Jews, Garfield grew up in
the streets, frequently clashing with both the police and neighborhood gangs. Verbally as well as physically combative, he won a debating contest sponsored by "The New York Times" and used the scholarship
funds to enroll in the (Maria) Ouspenskaya Drama School. During the Depression years he took a few odd jobs and spent long periods riding the rails as a hobo. (Film buffs still debate whether that's him, as a sailor
with one quick closeup, in the "Shanghai Lil" number of 1933's Footlight Parade) He came back to New York and joined the politically progressive Group Theatre, making a name for himself as a charismatic
performer and eventually winding up on Broadway.
Hollywood beckoned in 1938. Warner Bros. saw in Garfield the same urbanspawned edginess, pugnaciousness, and cynicism that James Cagney had brought to the studio
years earlier. Although his screen characters were sometimes too surly to be wholly sympathetic, Garfield established a following after appearing in Four Daughters (1938, with a great showcase role as a fatalistic
musician, for which he snagged an Academy Award nomination), They Made Me a Criminal, Daughters Courageous, Blackwell's Island, Dust Be My Destiny, Four Wives, Juarez (all 1939), and Castle on the Hudson (1940). Several
of these were remakes of earlier Warners successes, and capitalized on Garfield's flinty personality and big-city background. But the studio eventually broadened his range of roles, just as it had done for Cagney.
Flowing Gold (1940), The Sea Wolf, Out of the Fog (both 1941), Dangerously They Live, Tortilla Flat (both 1942, on loan to MGM for the latter), Air Force, Thank Your Lucky Stars (both 1943), Destination Tokyo, Between
Two Worlds (both 1944), and Pride of the Marines (1945) took Garfield out of the urban milieu, although he was always at his best playing disaffected loners. (In 1944's Hollywood Canteen he played himself, as the
cofounder-with Bette Davis-of this haven for transient servicemen in L.A.)
Garfield was ideally suited to play the amoral drifter who seduces married woman Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946),
the somewhat glamorized, diluted adaptation of a toughas-nails James M. Cain novel that could have been written with Garfield in mind. He hit his peak in that post-WW2 period, portraying an ambitious musician in
Humoresque (1946), an unprincipled boxer in Body and Soul (1947, an Oscar-nominated performance), and a racketeer's lawyer in Force of Evil (1948), all of them characterizations he brought to life with great passion and
skill. He took a supporting role in Gentleman's Agreement (1947) because he believed so strongly in the film's purpose-to expose anti-Semitism in this country.
Garfield starred in We Were Strangers (1949), Under
My Skin (1950), The Breaking Point (also 1950, a remake of To Have and Have Not with Garfield in the Humphrey Bogart role), and He Ran All the Way (1951) before running afoul of the House Un-American Activities
Committee, which couldn't find enough evidence to accuse him of being a Communist but managed to taint him just enough to get him blacklisted. (His left-wing political sympathies, a holdover from his Group Theatre days,
were sufficiently suspicious for Hollywood executives.) He died of a heart attack a year later. Though he made many fine films, and never gave a bad performance, he has somehow escaped the latter-day fame and cult
heroism that have been bestowed on fellow urban hero Bogart. Like Bogie, Garfield deserves to be lionized, and rediscovered. Both his son, John Jr., and his daughter, Julie, went into acting.