John Williams (actor)
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15 April 1903|
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
|Died||5 May 1983
La Jolla, California, U.S.
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Spouse(s)||Helen Williams (?-1983) (his death)|
John Williams (15 April 1903 – 5 May 1983)[Note 1] was an English stage, film and television actor. He is remembered for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, as the chauffeur in Sabrina, and as portraying the second "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair.
Life and work
Born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1903, Williams was educated at Lancing College. He began his acting career on the English stage in 1916, appearing in Peter Pan, The Ruined Lady, and The Fake. In 1924 he moved to New York, where he was cast in a series of successful Broadway productions. He would appear in over 30 Broadway plays over the next four decades, performing on stage with many notable performers, such as Claudette Colbert in A Kiss in the Taxi 1925, with Helen Hayes in Alice Sit by the Fire in 1946, and with Gertrude Lawrence in Pygmalion in 1946. In 1953, Williams won a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder on Broadway. Later, when Alfred Hitchcock adapted the play to film in 1954, he cast Williams in the same role.
With regard to Williams' earlier debut in motion pictures, Williams first Hollywood film was in 1930, in director Mack Sennett's The Chumps. Ultimately, he appeared in more than 40 films. Two other examples are Hitchcock's The Paradine Case starring Gregory Peck, in which Williams portrays a barrister, and To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, in which his character is an insurance company representative.
Williams made more than 40 guest appearances on television shows as well. He played in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents including "The Long Shot" (1955), "Back for Christmas" (1956), "Whodunit" (1956), "Wet Saturday" (1956), "The Rose Garden" (1956), the three-part episode "I Killed the Count" (1957), and "Banquo’s Chair" (1959). Three of these episodes, "Back for Christmas", "Wet Saturday", and "Banquo’s Chair", were directed by Hitchcock himself.
In 1963, Williams played William Shakespeare in The Twilight Zone episode "The Bard". That same year he also guest-starred on the sitcom My Three Sons, portraying a stuffy, very precise English butler; and in that role he was clean shaven, not sporting his customary mustache. Later he was part of the regular cast for the 1967 season of the family comedy Family Affair. He appeared as well on Night Gallery in the series' 1971 episode "The Doll". One of Williams' last performances was in 1979, playing alongside fellow actor Lorne Greene in a two-part episode of Battlestar Galactica titled "War of the Gods".
Williams gained fame too as the star of a frequently telecast commercial for 120 Music Masterpieces, a four-LP set of classical music excerpts from Columbia House. This became the longest-running nationally seen commercial in U.S. television history, for 13 years from 1971 to 1984. The commercial began with a brief selection of orchestral music being played. Williams then began the sales promotion with the following:
I'm sure you recognise this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise'. But did you know that the original theme is from the Polovetsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin? So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters—like these familiar themes...
Williams died at the age of 80 on 5 May 1983, in La Jolla, California. It was reported at the time of his death that he had been suffering from a heart condition. He was survived by his wife Helen, and his sister Joyce Hornsted, who lived in Devon, England. There was no funeral. Williams' body was cremated, and its ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean off the La Jolla coast.
- Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) – (uncredited) (?)
- The Big Blockade (1942) – Voice over (uncredited)
- The Next of Kin (1942) – General Cooper (uncredited)
- The Foreman Went to France (1942) – 'English' Army Captain
- The Goose Steps Out (1942) – Major Bishop
- The Paradine Case (1947) – Barrister Collins (uncredited)
- A Woman's Vengeance (1948) – Prosecuting Counsel
- Kind Lady (1951) – Mr. Foster
- Dick Turpin's Ride (1951) – Archbald Puffin
- Thunder in the East (1951) – General Sir Henry Harrison
- Dial M for Murder (1954) – Chief Inspector Hubbard
- The Student Prince (1954) – Lutz
- Sabrina (1954) – Thomas Fairchild
- To Catch a Thief (1955) – H. H. Hughson
- D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) – Brigadier Russell
- The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956) – John T. 'Jack' Blessington
- Island in the Sun (1957) – Colonel Whittingham
- Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) – Irving La Salle Jr.
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – Mr. Brogan-Moore, Sir Wilfrid's junior counsel in the trial
- The Young Philadelphians (1959) – Gilbert Dickinson
- Visit to a Small Planet (1960) – Delton
- Midnight Lace (1960) – Inspector Byrnes
- Dear Brigitte (1965) – Peregrine Upjohn
- Harlow (1965) – Jonathan Martin
- The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966) – J. Fredrick Duval
- Double Trouble (1967) – Gerald Waverly
- The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) – General Francis Mayhew
- A Flea in Her Ear (1968) – Dr. Finache
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972) – Arthur Frankland
- Lost in the Stars (1974) – Judge
- No Deposit, No Return (1976) – Jameson
- Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978) – Mansfield
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents (selected episodes)
- "The Long Shot" (1955)
- "Back for Christmas" (1956)
- "Whodunit" (1956)
- "Wet Saturday" (1956)
- "The Rose Garden" (1956)
- "I Killed the Count" (3-part episode, 1957)
- "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater" (1957)
- Family Affair, as Nigel "Niles" French. 9 episodes. Replaced Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French) while he was recovering from an injury to his wrist.
- The Twilight Zone, "The Bard" (1963)
- The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Bleak Island" (1969)
- Mission: Impossible, "Lover's Knot" (1970)
- Night Gallery, "The Doll" (1971), with Henry Silva, and "The Caterpillar" (1972)
- Columbo (TV series) "Dagger of the Mind" (1972)
- "Battlestar Galactica", "War of the Gods – Parts 1 & 2" Council Member
- Columbia House – 120 Music Masterpieces TV commercial for recordings of classical music
- Several primary sources suggest his birth name was Hugh Ernest Leo Williams.
- "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925–1957". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor". The New York Times. 8 May 1983. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor", New York Times, 8 May 1983. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
- Episode "Bub's Butler", My Three Sons, originally broadcast 4 April 1963. TV Guide, a subsidiary of CBS Interactive, Inc., New York, New York. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
- on YouTube
- Los Angeles Times (7 May 1983), p. A28
- Entry for John Williams in the Findagrave online database.