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"In the Spotlight"


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In the Spotlight: JOHN HODIAK

 

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The ruggedly handsome actor was born on April 16, 1914 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Walter Hodiak and Anna Pogorzelec.

He was of Ukrainian and Polish descent. He grew up in Hamtramck, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

 

Hodiak had his first smell of show business at age eleven, acting in Ukrainian and Russian plays at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. From the moment he first appeared on the stage, he resolved to become an actor. He was not even swayed when as a third baseman on his local high school baseball team, he was offered a contract with a St. Louis Cardinals farm club, and turned the offer down.

 

When Hodiak first tried out for a radio acting job, he was turned down because of his accent. He became a caddy at a Detroit golf course, then worked at a Chevrolet automobile factory and practiced his diction. When he conquered the diction hurdle, he became a radio actor and moved to Chicago. There he created the role of the comic strip character Li'l Abner on radio.

 

After a short stint in the Army, he arrived in Hollywood in 1942 and signed a motion picture contract with MGM. He refused to change his name, saying, "I like my name. It sounds like I look." Good for him.

 

Hodiak was cast in a few small parts at his home studio including "Swing Shift Maisie", and "I Dood It" with Red Skelton .

He then caught the eye of director Alfred Hitchcock and, on loan-out to 20th Century Fox, emerged as a major movie star in "Lifeboat" (1944) opposite Tallulah Bankhead. More big roles followed, notably that of Maj. Joppolo in "A Bell For Adano" (1945) opposite Gene Tierney.

 

His other screen credits include, "Maisie Goes to Reno", "Sunday Dinner for a Soldier" with future wife Anne Baxter, "The Harvey Girls" a big hit with Judy Garland, "Somewhere in the Night", "The Arnelo Affair", "Desert Fury" with Lizabeth Scott, "Homecoming", "The Bribe" with Ava Gardner, "Battleground", "A Lady Without Passport" with Hedy Lamarr, etc.

 

In 1953, Hodiak went to New York and made his Broadway debut in "The Chase". The play was a failure, but its star received fantastic critical notices. He then originated the role of Lieutenant Maryk in Paul Gregory's production of the play "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" by Herman Wouk adapted from his novel "The Caine Mutiny". The play ran for two years and Hodiak's portrayal brought him nationwide acclaim. Van Johnson played Maryk in the movie version.

 

When the show closed after its U.S. tour, Hodiak began work on "Trial" with Glenn Ford at MGM, playing the prosecuting attorney. When it wrapped, he played Major Ward Thomas in "On The Threshold of Space" at 20th Century Fox.

 

He had one wife, actress Anne Baxter (married in 1946 - divorced in 1953). They had one daughter, actress Katrina Hodiak (born July 9, 1951).

In her memoir 'Intermission: A True Story', Baxter blamed the failure of her first marriage to Hodiak on herself.

Among the women Hodiak dated in Hollywood were Janis Paige, Tallulah Bankhead, Lana Turner and Elaine Stewart.

 

Sadly at the age of 41, Hodiak suffered a fatal heart attack in the bathroom of the Tarzana, California home he built for his parents. He was shaving and getting ready to go to the studio to complete his scenes in "On The Threshold of Space". He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, California in the main mausoleum.

 

John Hodiak has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in Radio.

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Hi Mongo the Magician: You keep coming up with these great suprises!!

 

John Hodiak died too soon! I am consoled by the fact that he got the recognition he

deserved on the stage. Van Johnson getting the role of Maryk in the movie, instead

of Hodiak,is a perfect example box office vs. talent.

 

Don't misunderstand. I enjoyed V. Johnson's performances in movies. He proved he

could handle drama as well as light fluffy fare.

 

Message was edited by: Bargar

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