John Dall

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John Dall
John Dall.jpg
Born John Dall Thompson
(1920-05-26)May 26, 1920[Note 1]
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 15, 1971(1971-01-15) (aged 50)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 1945-1965

John Dall (May 26, 1920 – January 15, 1971)[Note 1] was an American actor.

Primarily a stage actor, he is best remembered today for two film roles: the cool-minded intellectual killer in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948), and the trigger-happy lead in the 1950 noir Gun Crazy. He also had a substantial role in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960).

He first came to fame as the young prodigy who comes alive under the tutelage of Bette Davis in The Corn Is Green, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Warner Bros signed him to a contract to make the film but they let him go in 1946.[5]

In 1962, Dall made two guest appearances on TV's Perry Mason: "The Case of the Lonely Eloper", and the murder victim in "The Case of the Weary Watchdog". In 1963, he again portrayed the murder victim in "The Case of the Reluctant Model". He made his fourth and final appearance on the show in the 1965 episode, "The Case of the Laughing Lady".

Personal life[edit]

Dall's Social Security application (1937)

John Dall Thompson (he used his middle name for his acting career)[1] was born in New York City on 26 May 1920,[3] the younger son of Charles Jenner Thompson (1873-1929)[6] and his wife Henry (née Worthington).[7] (Sources which cite Dall's birth name as John Jenner Thompson and his birth year as 1918[8][9] appear to be in error.[Note 1]) His father was a civil engineer. His elder brother, Worthington Thompson, was later a decorated lieutenant in the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team.[10][11]

In the 1920s the Thompsons moved to Panama, where Charles worked on construction of the airport there.[8] He committed suicide in 1929,[12] and his widow returned to New York City with John the following year.[3][Note 2]

John attended Horace Mann School and briefly enrolled at Columbia University where he intended to follow in his father's footsteps by studying engineering. Deciding that acting was his true vocation, he left Columbia and studied at the Theodora Irvine School of Theater.[8][1]

Film historians William J. Mann and Karen Burroughs Hannsberry note that Dall was gay but claimed in media interviews[13] to have had a brief marriage in the early 1940s.[14][8] No marriage certificate has come to light, and his death certificate records him as "never married." According to music journalist Phil Milstein, at the time of his death Dall had lapsed into alcoholism and was living with his partner, actor Clement Brace (died 1996).[15][16]


Death certificate of John Dall.

Dall sustained a serious fall while visiting London in October 1970, and died of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills, California on January 15, 1971, aged 50.[1] His body was donated to medical science.[2][Note 3]


Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air Quiet Wedding[17]


Year Album Credits Label Notes
1949 This Is My Beloved Narrator Atlantic Records Walter Benton's poems set to music by Vernon Duke[18][19]


  1. ^ a b c While some sources cite Dall's year of birth as 1918, the date of 1920 is supported by the majority of sources, including published obituaries,[1][2] ship manifests,[3] and social security/death records.[4] Dall's name does not appear alongside his parents and elder brother in the United States Census conducted in January 1920, casting further doubt on a 1918 birthdate.
  2. ^ Dall later claimed in media interviews to have acted on stage in Panama as a teenager with his parents in the audience,[13] but sources indicate he had returned to the USA at the age of 10.
  3. ^ Online sources attributing Dall's death to a "punctured lung" may be a garbled reference to his accident in London.


  1. ^ a b c d "John Dall, 50, Oscar Nominee For 'Corn Is Green' Role, Dies". New York Times. January 18, 1971. Retrieved December 2, 2014. John Dall Thompson - he used the middle name for his career as an actor -...  (registration required)
  2. ^ a b "Actor, Brother of City Man, Is Dead". The Daily Times (Salisbury, Maryland). January 20, 1971. p. 7. Retrieved December 6, 2014. Worthington Thompson... is the only immediate survivor of John Dall... [who] died Friday in his Hollywood home of a heart attack. Mr. Thompson said today that his brother had never fully recovered from a fall last October in London. The 50-year-old actor was in Europe on business at the time... His grandfather was the late Dall Worthington of Baltimore County. (registration required)
  3. ^ a b c "New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957". FamilySearch. Retrieved December 3, 2014. John Dall Thompson ... Birth Year (Estimated): 1920 
  4. ^ "California Death Records". RootsWeb. Retrieved December 3, 2014. DALL, John ... Death Date 01/15/71 ... Age 50 yrs 
  5. ^ PARAMOUNT BUYS HARVESTING STORY: Studio Will Produce Houston Branch's 'The Big Haircut' -- Lead to Alan Ladd, Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y], May 11, 1946, p. 34.
  6. ^ "Charles Jenner Thompson (1873-1929)". American Battle Monuments Commission. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918". Family Search. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2003). Bad Boys: the Actors of Film Noir. McFarland. p. 176. ISBN 0786414847. 
  9. ^ "John Dall papers". Margaret Herrick Library. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 10, 2015. 
  10. ^ Astor, Gerald (2001). Battling Buzzards: The Odyssey of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team 1943-1945. New York: Random House. p. 108. ISBN 0440236932. Retrieved December 5, 2014. 
  11. ^ "MailCall No. 2210" (PDF). 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team. April 20, 2014. p. 11. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Report of the death of an American citizen (Charles Jenner Thompson)". American Consular Service. 3 September 1929. Retrieved 25 November 2015. Suicide. Pistol shot.  (registration required)
  13. ^ a b Cooke, Marion (August 1945). "Career Crasher". Motion Picture Magazine. 
  14. ^ Mann, William J. (2001). Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood. Viking. p. 263. ISBN 0670030171. 
  15. ^ Milstein, Phil. "The Nightmare World of Dion McGregor". American Song-Poem Music Archives. Archived from the original on February 4, 2015. Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  16. ^ Israel, Lee (2008). Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger. Simon & Schuster. p. 65. ISBN 9781416553779. Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  17. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved June 25, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  18. ^ Atlantic Records records Benton's Beloved. Billboard. March 26, 1949. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  19. ^ "David Edwards, René Wu, Patrice Eyries, Mike Callahan, and Randy Watts, ''Atlantic Album Discography, Part 1 100 & 400 Series (1949–1954)'' (Aug. 2010)". August 29, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 

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