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John Halliday Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Sep 4, 1880
  • Died: Oct 17, 1947

American actor John Halliday went the usual route of Brooklyn-born performers by hiding behind a stage British accent in his theatrical and film performances. Except for a few awkward early-talkie appearances where he's laying it on too thick ([[Feature~V105912~Perfect Understanding~perfectunderstanding]] [1933]), Halliday pulled off his artifice so well that at least one knowledgable historian has pigeonholed the actor as Scottish! In films since 1920 and on stage for at least a decade prior to that, Halliday was one of the best of the gentleman villains of the screen: He'd never get the girl, but he could ruin her boyfriend in business, destroy the lives of her family, or kill her off altogether. In the little-seen horror gem [[Feature~V112943~Terror Aboard~terroraboard]] (1933), it's fairly obvious throughout that Halliday is the hidden killer, but he performs his perfidy with such grisly aplomb that the audience is half hoping he'll get away with it. As a subtler conniver in the 1936 [[Performer~P14817~Gary Cooper~garycooper]]-[[Performer~P19148~Marlene Dietrich~marlenedietrich]] vehicle [[Feature~V119963~Desire~desire]], he is able to shift from suavity to menace so abruptly that it throws Dietrich's character momentarily off balance. Even when he was cast in the lead, as in [[Feature~V95439~Hollywood Boulevard~hollywoodboulevard]] (1936), his behavior as a Barrymore-like faded actor is caddish enough to get him murdered a reel before the fadeout. John Halliday was permitted a modicum of audience empathy in one of his last films: as Katharine Hepburn's gently philandering father in [[Feature~V38000~The Philadelphia Story~thephiladelphiastory]] (1940), he manages to invest humanity and a touch of wistfulness into a basically unsympathetic idle-rich stock character. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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