Roman Bohnen

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Roman Bohnen
BornRoman Aloys Bohnen
(1901-11-24)November 24, 1901
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedFebruary 24, 1949(1949-02-24) (aged 47)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Years active1937–1949
Spouse(s)Hildur Ouse (m. 1930–1941; her death) (1 child)[1]

Roman Aloys "Bud" Bohnen (November 24, 1901 – February 24, 1949) was an American stage and film actor.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bohnen attended the University of Minnesota, where he was a cheerleader. He was the son of a portrait painter, and the family was financially hard-pressed during his youth.[2]

After graduating in 1923 with a B.A., Roman served his acting apprenticeship in theater companies in St. Paul and Chicago, eventually spending five years with the Goodman Theatre. At the Goodman, he fell in love with fellow actor Hildur Ouse, who became his wife.

Career[edit]

Group Theatre[edit]

Roman Bohnen (left, beside Luther Adler) with members of the Group Theatre in 1938

The Bohnens moved to New York City, where he made his Broadway debut in 1931 in As Husbands Go. Bohnen, In the summer of 1932, at the behest of his friend from the Goodman Theatre Art Smith, he was invited to join the Group Theatre, which became his artistic home for the next nine years. As a member of the Group, he appeared in numerous plays and was active in all aspects of the company. In her book on the Group Theatre, author Wendy Smith observes that Bohnen "fit easily and naturally into the Group" and was appreciated for his sense of humor, generosity and hard work.[2]

On January 2, 1933, Bohnen took over a lead part in the Group's hit play, Success Story by John Howard Lawson. The very next day, Incubator, a play Bohnen had written with John Lyman, opened on Broadway (produced by another organization). Although Incubator received favorable reviews, it closed quickly. In the plays written by his friend, Clifford Odets, for the Group Theatre, he created the roles of Dr. Barnes in Waiting for Lefty, Schlosser in Awake and Sing!, Gus Michaels in Paradise Lost, Tom Moody in Golden Boy and Mr. Tucker in Night Music.

Bohnen summered at Pine Brook Country Club in Nichols, Connecticut. Pinebrook is best known for becoming the summer home of the Group Theatre. Some of the other artists who summered there were Elia Kazan, Harry Morgan, John Garfield, Lee J. Cobb, Will Geer, Clifford Odets, Howard Da Silva and Irwin Shaw.[3][4] The Group Theatre disbanded in 1941, the same year that Hildur died.

Films[edit]

After the failure of a play called Five Alarm Waltz in 1941, Bohnen and his daughter Marina moved to Hollywood. His first film was the Vogues of 1938 (1937). By 1941, he was working almost exclusively in film. Among his better-known roles are Candy in Of Mice and Men (1939) and Pat Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). He also played Durand Laxart, Joan's uncle, who takes her to see the Dauphin of France, in the Ingrid Bergman film, Joan of Arc (1948). He played the Old Man in Jules Dassin's short film The Tell-Tale Heart (1941)

Bohnen was cast as President Harry Truman in The Beginning or the End, an MGM docu-drama about the atomic bomb. After a private screening in late 1946, Truman let it be known that he disapproved of his portrayal regarding the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. On December 2, 1946, Bohnen wrote Truman that he should portray himself.[citation needed] On December 12, Truman responded to Bohnen's letter, but declined the chance to portray himself, and said that he was "sure you (Bohnen) will do the part creditably". Ultimately, the scenes were re-shot with actor Art Baker re-cast as Truman.

Actors' Laboratory[edit]

With other former Group Theatre actors, he was co-founder of the politically active Actors' Laboratory Theatre, serving on its executive board. The Actors' Laboratory was accused of Communist leanings, and in February 1948 Bohnen and other members of the group were subpoenaed to appear before a California Senate committee. He and the others refused to answer questions about whether or not they had ever been Communists. Subsequently, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service revoked the Actors' Laboratory's tax-exempt status. Bohnen worked hard to keep the group alive, and was recognized as the "driving force behind all of its activities.[2]

Personal life[edit]

The Bohnens had a daughter in 1936, Marina. Hildur died in 1941.[1]

He was working on the Actors' Lab production of A Distant Isle when he collapsed and died of a heart attack during a performance of the play in Hollywood, California in 1949. The stress of the Lab's difficulties, and his personal problems as a single parent, contributed to his death. The Lab closed in 1950.[2]

Complete filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Guide to the Roman Bohnen papers". archives.nypl.org. New York Public Library. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, Wendy (1990). Real life drama : the Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940 (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394574451.
  3. ^ Pinewood Lake website retrieved on 2010-09-10 Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997, p. 123

External links[edit]