John Houseman

John Houseman

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John Houseman was born in Rumania in 1902. Educated in England, Houseman moved to New York where he directed Four Saints in Three Acts (1934). In 1937 Houseman worked with Orson Welles and Marc Blitzstein on The Cradle Will Rock, a musical about the tyranny of capitalism. Developed within the Federal Theatre Project, the original production, with Howard da Silva and Will Geer, was banned for political reasons.

Along with Orson Welles, Houseman was the founder of the Mercury Theatre. There most important success was a modern-dress version of Julius Caesar. Later Houseman directed The Devil and Daniel Webster (1939) and Liberty Jones(1941). He also produced the highly acclaimed Native Son(1941).

During the Second World War Houseman worked for the Office of War Information (OWI) and was involved in broadcasting radio programmes for Voice of America.

After the war Houseman directed Lute Song (1946), King Lear (1950), Coriolanus (1954). John Houseman, who wrote three volumes of memoirs, Run-Through (1972), Front and Center (1979) and Final Dress(1983), died in 1988.

Up till that time, the United States had no machinery for propaganda. They were perfectly happy to live by advertising, by huckstering. That changed in the summer of 1941, about six months before Pearl Harbor. William Donovan and Robert Sherwood exerted pressure on the President to set up some kind of machinery for expressing the views of the United States to the rest of the world.

Robert Sherwood made a speech to his fellow writers, telling them they could not live in an ivory tower, that it was important for them to participate in the affairs of the world. He had a theory that the Voice of America should be an extension of the voice of FDR.

I had been with OWI about three months when a split occurred. A strong difference of opinion. Donovan was interested in the use of the Voice of America as a weapon of war: covert operations, known as black radio. He was for putting secret stations inside Germany, a spying approach. The British were very strong with black radio. They had stations all over Norway and Sweden and inside Germany.

Sherwood didn't deny the usefulness of this, but he emphasized the straight news. This was important at the time because we had nothing but bad news. It was Sherwood's theory, on the assumption of our ultimate victory, that if we were honest in telling the facts, disagreeable though they might be, if we every day announced our defeats, our credibility would be much greater.

We didn't fill our broadcasts entirely with bad news. The thing we plugged day after day after day was that America was strong, and it's just a matter of time. We would repeat over and over and over again: this year, 50,000 planes, 40,000 tanks; next year, 100,000 planes. This was believed to be the most eloquent thing we could possibly say to the Germans. Japanese propaganda was conducted entirely from the West Coast. By none other than Owen Lattimore.

I was in charge of the broadcasts, not the news. Newsmen would prepare the newscasts, from all kinds of sources. The editorial comment was checked very carefully by the State Department so that it conformed with American policy at the time. How strongly should we support De Gaulle? The State Department was very anxious not to break our ties with Vichy at the time. This created all sorts of problems. We had a control desk that pretty much held us down: giving us complete freedom with news, but not with comment. We had to conform to what the State Department and the Chiefs of Staff told us.

John Houseman - History

Throughout its history, The Juilliard School has maintained a commitment to providing the highest caliber of artistic and educational experience to exceptionally talented young performing artists from around the world. Juilliard was founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art by Dr. Frank Damrosch, the godson of Franz Liszt and the head of music education for New York City’s public schools. Damrosch was convinced that American musicians should not have to go abroad for advanced study, and created the Institute as an American music academy that would provide an educational experience comparable to that of the established European conservatories. With the initial enrollment figures nearly five times what was expected, the Institute quickly outgrew its original home at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street (seen at left) and moved to new quarters near Columbia University in 1910.

Nine years later, a wealthy textile merchant named Augustus Juilliard died and left in his will the largest single bequest for the advancement of music at that time. The trustees of the bequest founded the Juilliard Graduate School in 1924 to help worthy music students complete their education. In 1926, the Graduate School and the Institute of Musical Art merged to become the Juilliard School of Music under one president, the distinguished Columbia University professor John Erskine. Erskine was succeeded in 1937 by renowned concert pianist and composer Ernest Hutcheson, who served in the position until 1945.

Succeeding Hutcheson in 1945, composer William Schuman expanded Juilliard’s identity as a conservatory devoted exclusively to music study with the establishment of the Dance Division, under the direction of Martha Hill, in 1951. He also established the Juilliard String Quartet as the school's quartet in residence, and the Literature and Materials of Music program, a groundbreaking music theory curriculum.

In 1968, during the tenure of Peter Mennin, a Drama Division was created, with John Houseman as its first director and Michel Saint-Denis as consultant. The school changed its name to The Juilliard School to reflect its broader artistic scope, and moved to its current home at Lincoln Center the following year. The first production of the Juilliard Opera Center, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, celebrated the opening of the Juilliard Theater (now the Peter Jay Sharp Theater) at Lincoln Center in 1970.

Following Mennin’s death, in 1983, Dr. Joseph W. Polisi became the school’s sixth president, beginning with the 1984-85 academic year. Major projects that have been realized during his administration include the completion of the Meredith Willson Residence Hall in 1990 significant additions to the curriculum with new programs in jazz studies and historical performance, the addition of an MFA program in Drama, and strengthening the School’s liberal arts program implementation of numerous educational and community engagement programs a major expansion and renovation of Juilliard’s facility, completed in fall 2009 and, in 2015, the announcement of the school's first branch campus outside of New York, The Tianjin Juilliard School in China, expected to open in 2019.

In 2016 it was announced that Polisi would step down as president at the end of the 2017-18 school year, and in 2017 Damian Woetzel was chosen to be his successor.

Producer, Director, Actor John Houseman Dies at 86

John Houseman, the dramatic arts’ suave, indefatigable man-for-all-seasons, died Monday morning at his home in Malibu at the age of 86.

The actor, producer and venerated teacher of things theatrical, who was awarded an Oscar for his portrayal of Prof. Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. in the film “The Paper Chase,” had been suffering from cancer for several months.

A memorial service is pending, said his longtime friend, Judi Davidson.

As versatile as he was tireless, the unflappable Houseman ranged across almost all levels of the entertainment world for more than half a century and he left his own unique imprint wherever he ventured. No matter whether he was in the public eye or far removed from it, as was often the case, Houseman’s creativity was boundless and his flair matchless.

He was a producer, a director, a writer and, finally--when he turned 70, at an age when most men’s juices have run dry--an actor. And not just an actor. But an actor acclaimed both by captivated fans and by peers who saluted his skill as a performer by awarding him the Academy Award in 1973.

He won his Oscar as the gruff, forbidding but eternally honest professor in a movie that inspired a subsequent television series with Houseman as the commanding centerpiece.

As an actor, he had a knack of capturing the spirit of the moment for film and television watchers with a subtle gesture, a blink of his pale blue eyes or a twitch of his aristocratic eyebrows. When he spoke, his deep, resonant voice transfixed audiences.

That voice and his mobile features also transformed him in recent years into one of television’s most sought-after and generously paid pitchmen, a circumstance that, friends said, he found not only ironic but depressingly amusing. He once alluded to this in an interview by saying:

“We are in an unbelievable slump of mediocrity, timidity and greed in business, in politics, in television, in film, in publishing--it’s the same everywhere. The preoccupation with profits is base, an appalling threat to our culture. Show business and the auto business are going down the same rat hole. . . . We are creating a populace that swarms mindlessly like bees.”

Despite that, he probably became best fixed in the public consciousness for a single utterance: “They make money the old-fashioned way. They earn it.” The word “earn” came out as an inimitable roar: “EAAARNN,” and it was contained in the last phrase of a television commercial he did for the investment counseling firm of Smith-Barney, Harris Upham & Co.

Houseman was born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest, Romania, two years after the turn of the century. His father was a Jewish-Alsatian grain speculator and his mother an English national of Welsh-Irish descent. The parents met in Paris, became lovers and moved to the Romanian capital because of the father’s business interests. They did not marry until after their only child’s fifth birthday, and the boy was reared speaking the French of his father, Georges, the English of his mother, May, the German of a governess and the Romanian of his fellow countrymen.

His childhood was a nomadic but culturally expansive one. Because of the whimsical nature of his father’s livelihood, he would recall, the family alternated from “riches to ruin and back again.” In one of the three autobiographies he completed in the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote that his parents lived one day in fancy hotel suites and the next in furnished rooms in various cities on the Continent, depending on the mercurial nature of Georges Haussmann’s bank account.

His formal education began at age 7 when his parents, by then in robust financial health, sent him to England to attend public schools. While he was at Clifton College, he developed the two great passions that would become the emblem of his success in later years, a love of writing and for the theater.

Upon graduation in 1918, he won a scholarship in modern languages to Trinity College, Cambridge University, but because of what he has described as “financial reverses and family problems,” he turned it down. Instead, at his mother’s insistence (his father had died when he was 15), he accepted an offer from a merchant friend of the family to travel to Argentina and learn the grain business. He stayed there 18 months before returning to England and signing on as an apprentice in an international wheat brokerage firm. Meanwhile, he wrote a series of short stories about his experiences in Argentina that were published in the New Statesman.

In 1924, North America beckoned and he heeded the call, accepting a job with a New York City grain firm before forming his own exporting company. He wheeled and dealed throughout the big grain markets, earned a then-princely income of $25,000 and met a Broadway actress, Zita Johann, who three years later became his wife.

Then came the crash of 1929, and Houseman’s career as a tycoon went bust and his first marriage soon would follow it down the tubes. For a time, he said, he was “a frightened and ruined young man.”

But years later, he would say of that time, “To my enormous gratification, I went bankrupt. After momentary embarrassment, I finally got to do what I’d always wanted, go into the arts.” Through his actress wife, he had met many prominent figures in New York’s vibrant theatrical fizz of the early 1930s. Even before that, while still a young business whiz, he had begun translating French and German plays into English as a hobby. A combination of these, and his own natural bent, led him first into collaborating on plays then into producing and directing in Manhattan.

He quickly acquired a reputation with a string of successes, his first substantial recognition coming as director of the Broadway production of the Gertrude Stein-Virgil Thomson opera “Four Saints in Three Acts” with an all-black cast.

Nevertheless, with typical candor he years later would say of his early days in the theater: “I went into directing when I didn’t know anything about anything. . . . I was directing mature actors I had no right to direct. . . . I have a theory that nobody should be allowed to direct who has not been an actor.”

In 1934, Houseman (who by then had had Anglicized his name) met Orson Welles. It was the beginning of a legendary partnership that stirred the American theater to its very roots during the pre-World War II years.

They founded the famed Mercury Theatre, which was responsible for some of the most innovative productions in the history of drama in this country, including the landmark modern-dress version of “Julius Caesar” in 1937 with Welles appearing as Brutus and Welles and Houseman producing.

Then came the Mercury Theatre on the Air and with it an episode generally considered the single most famous radio show ever broadcast, “The War of the Worlds,” based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 fantasy about invaders from Mars who landed in England. The scene of the Martian landing was changed from England to New Jersey and, despite a disclaimer before the broadcast began, listeners nationwide, thinking invaders from outer space actually had landed on earth, panicked. Houseman in later years would refer to the show as “The Men from Mars” and describe it as a “nefarious joke”.

(The last accolades he may have heard came hours before his death when several radio stations across the country rebroadcast the “nefarious joke” on its golden anniversary. In accompanying commentaries, many commentators chose to single out Houseman’s brilliant influence on the Mercury Theatre.)

The relationship between Welles and Houseman was a stormy one, punctuated by gargantuan quarrels. But they remained amicable long enough to develop a motion picture that is considered by many as the craft’s finest: “Citizen Kane.” Houseman collaborated with writer Herman Mankiewicz and acted as script editor and general adviser on the preproduction of the memorable 1941 film in which Welles played the starring role.

Shortly after, Houseman and Welles went their separate ways, the former joining David O. Selznick Productions as vice president, a job he held only briefly. Within days after Pearl Harbor, he joined the Office of War Information as chief of programming for overseas radio operation.

Upon returning to Hollywood in 1943, Houseman produced a series of movies during the next 20 years that set a standard for others in the film-making business to follow. They won 20 Academy Award nominations and seven Oscars and included such classics as:

“The Bad and the Beautiful,” which alone won five Oscars, Raymond Chandler’s “The Blue Dahlia,” “Lust for Life,” a biographical film about Vincent van Gogh, and “Julius Caesar,” which not only had an impressive cast headed by Marlon Brando, John Gielgud and James Mason but won widespread critical acclaim.

Between films, Houseman also achieved major successes in television. During the so-called “Golden Age” of TV he served as executive producer of the prestigious “Playhouse 90" series and conceived, prepared and produced the Sunday afternoon programs, “The Seven Lively Arts.”

From time to time, he also indulged his love of live theater by directing or producing stage shows both here and in New York. Among them: “The Lute Song” with Mary Martin and Yul Brynner, “Beggar’s Holiday” with a score by Duke Ellington and Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” with Charles Laughton in the title role.

During these fertile years, Houseman also acquired a deserved reputation as an all-conquering ladies’ man. The story goes that while having lunch in an expensive restaurant, Houseman complained to his companion: “I must leave. I’ve slept with six women (who are) in this room.”

“But there are only eight women in the room,” the friend observed.

“I know,” Houseman is said to have replied.

Neither Houseman nor actress Joan Fontaine ever disguised their lengthy and impassioned relationship. As a matter of fact, both wrote about their affair in separate memoirs.

“She was an adorable mistress,” said Houseman in the second of his autobiographies, “Front and Center,” adding: “Miss Fontaine has graciously testified that she found me a satisfying lover. I take this opportunity to return the compliment.”

But in time, Houseman, a distinguished-looking, 200-pound 6-footer and an earthy and witty conversationalist, met the stylish and beautiful Joan Courtney, the estranged wife of a French nobleman. They married in 1949 and remained happily wed until his death. The union produced two sons, John Michael, an anthropologist, and Charles Sebastian, an artist.

Houseman gradually began to redirect his enormous energy as he grew older, to the dismay of some of his friends. When he was 53, for instance, he quit Hollywood to work at a fraction of his normal salary as artistic director of the new American Shakespeare Festival Theater and Academy in Stratford, Conn., where he exercised his skill as an interpreter of the Bard, showcasing young actors in what he described as “bold, imaginative productions of unfamiliar, contrasting plays,” such as “King John” and “Measure for Measure.”

Here in Los Angeles, he served five years as artistic director in the early 1960s for the Theater Group of UCLA, which became the nucleus of a drama company at the Mark Taper Forum.

Then in 1967, Houseman, while keeping his hand in as a professional director, joined the Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York as head of its newly organized drama division, a post he held until 1976. While there, he undertook what he would proudly aver later was the capstone of his long career in the lively arts: He founded the Acting Company, a permanent repertory troupe staffed mostly by Juilliard drama graduates, in 1972. Beginning with limited seasons at the City Center in New York, the troupe soon progressed to national tours and its members included such formidable talents as Patti LuPone, Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams. Said Houseman of his creation: “It’s the closest thing we have to a national repertory theater.”

About the same time the Acting Company came into being, Houseman received a telephone call from James Bridges, who had worked with him more than a decade earlier at UCLA. Bridges said he was directing a movie and that James Mason, who had been scheduled to play the role of an irascible, imperious Harvard law professor, had to drop from the cast because of another commitment.

“Would you like to play a professor in ‘Paper Chase’?” Bridges asked.

“Don’t be a horse’s ass,” Houseman replied.

But within a month, Houseman--who had made a single fleeting film appearance once before as an admiral in the 1964 political thriller “Seven Days in May"--was in front of a camera instead of his customary role on the other side of one. He was an instant smash as a movie actor and he followed that with roles in such films as “Three Days of the Condor,” “St. Ives,” “Rollerball” and “The Cheap Detective.” His successes in the long-running TV “Chase,” a small-screen extension of his hit movie, and in the cleverly performed and off-beat television commercials, of course, were so much frosting on the cake.

As recently as last month, although his health had betrayed him, Houseman said that he had no plans to slow down from a career that included involvement in scores of stage, screen and broadcast productions. “I have tapered off a little, but I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I retired,” he said three days before his 86th birthday. “I still have something to offer, even though the roles these days are usually small.

“But I’m 85 years old. I am not going to be offered the role of Romeo anymore, or Juliet, for that matter. Yet the limited range I do play, I play well. My range is that of an old man, but what do you expect from someone who started acting at the age of 70?”

In the last of his three-part autobiography, Houseman wrote a final sentence which could stand as an epitaph, albeit an overly modest one, for the largely talented man who died Monday.

“Not everyone gets the chance to live his life twice over or has the good fortune to be born into a world of such violent motion as the one in which I have managed to survive for more than 80 years.”


from the other thread that was locked before it could be resurrected.

harvey, i didn't say houseman was a failure, this is what i said:
--houseman, who had an undynamic carreer compared to what he could have had had he worked better with welles--

after welles, houseman was a regular studio producer, of which there were many.

had houseman been able to put up with welles because welles was no day at the beach, and had houseman not been trying to romance welles, imagine where that ship could have sailed. the volcano would have exploded instead of imploded. both men would have been better of with each other than wthout. It's obvious from reading the books that welles had very little patience, and houseman was very effective as the buffer between welles and the money guys.

imagine if houseman would have been with welles instead of jack moss when they sodomised the ambersons. it would have been a different story.

i don't think houseman was a huge success, he was no selznik, he was no zanuk, he was no speigel. he wrote one movie, he directed one movie, produced a bunch of forgetable movies, and 4 good movies, not great, good. had it not been for houseman's association with welles and KANE, i don't think too many oeople would be talking about him today.

i never meant to give the impression that i thought houseman was a failure, he certainly had a more comfortable life than welles, but so did all the undynamic studio guys that lived driving distance from the studios.

Post by jaime marzol » Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:11 pm

Post by L French » Wed Jun 15, 2005 10:32 pm

So there are only four Houseman produced films that are worth looking at? I disagree completely.

Obviously, from Houseman's own point of view -- and the only aspect that would seem to matter to Hollywood, both then and now -- namely, box-office and the critical acclaim -- Mr. Houseman was always a major producer. In fact, he was far more successful as a producer at MGM and RKO than he ever was with Welles at the Mercury Theater. And despite the fact he had a very public falling out with Welles, this does not deny the fact that on his own Houseman was a producer of extraordinary talent, as a mere look as his credits will attest to:

They Live By Night, The Blue Dahlia, Letter From An Unknown Woman, Julius Caesar, Lust For Life, On Dangerous Ground, The Bad and The Beautiful, Moonfleet, The Cobweb, Two Weeks In Another Town.

And these are just a few of the films Houseman produced. He also had a very substantial career as a director on the stage. Galieo, King Lear, Merchant of Venice, etc. So while I don't agree with Houseman's bad-mouthing of Welles over his contributions to the Citizen Kane script, I do think he was a very good producer. he even tried to hire Bernard Herrmann for Julius Caesar (but was turned down by MGM) but did manage to get the very difficult Herrmann to score On Dangerous Ground at RKO, which on it's own is worth quite a lot, I think.

Post by jaime marzol » Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:58 pm

hands down houseman tickled the box office much more than welles. welles had the miserable life of an outsider making films that he got kicked around for and were appreciated only after his death. houseman made money, and lived well.

this is just my opinion, i'm not trying to nazi any one into thinking like me:

They Live By Night - i love nick ray, and this is a good movie not a great one, and you can't pin tis on houseman.

The Blue Dahlia - a decent noir, but it's no OUT OF THE PAST, and you can't blame houseman for that.

Letter From An Unknown Woman - never saw it

Julius Caesar - loved brando's performance, but the mank brother is not one of my fave directors. this movie has cardboard sets, and the acting does nothing to fuse the sets into the story. look at THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, it's such a great story and the acting is so great that you don't even care about the cardboard sets. and you can't blame that on houseman, he was just the producer.

Lust For Life - hard to sit through - and can't blame houseman for that

On Dangerous Ground - an ok film, and it's not houseman's fault

The Bad and The Beautiful - darn good, and how much credit does houseman get?

Two Weeks In Another Town - loved it.

i never said he's a bum, he just worked on a lot of stuff that you can't credit him for, or blame him for, so how do we judge him?

after making radio history, stage history, and film history with welles, he became just another guy in a bow tie. no college film classes make you study houseman. last time i looked the only books available on houseman were written by houseman. no one so far has wanted to spend 4 years writing a book about him. his only area of interest is the time he spent with welles, and he has recorded that quite well.

these are my thoughts on houseman, but as always, contact with intellegent people can shape opinions. maybe this thread will get me to re-evaluate houseman's contribution to the world, if we can figure out how to judge what he did!

Post by Orson&Jazz » Thu Jun 16, 2005 12:51 am

I find it kind of odd that there isn't as much discussion regarding Welles' radio work. This part of his life is amazing.

And I agree with the fact that Houseman and Welles were a formidable team in creating the most memorable radio and theatre shows. The Mercury Theatre, The Campbell Playhouse, Voodoo Macbeth, Julius Caeser, Cradle Will Rock, all from Welles and Houseman. These were groundbreaking shows. They were innovative. They were able to produce shows that were so much different from the mainstream.

Even though they had some what of a tumultuous relationship, they created masterpieces. It sort of proves the saying, not verbatim of course, "one must truly suffer to write.", something along those lines any way. They were able to shine even though they were butting heads. I have a feeling that some of the best scripts came out when they were at odds with each other!

And thank you Jaime for the image of Houseman trying to romance Welles. That was fantastic! I find it amusing that Houseman portrayed Welles as a petulant spoiled child, while Welles portrayed Houseman as a clingy and annoying closet homosexual.

Post by jaime marzol » Thu Jun 16, 2005 1:29 am

in the lilly collection there is a letter from houseman to welles - 'you big poopy head, you changed your number and didn't give me the new number.'

untill that 'poopy head' letter, i had some doubts about houseman romancing welles.

and yes, they did some great stuff, they made history in every medium they touched.

Post by Orson&Jazz » Fri Jun 17, 2005 12:02 am

For some reason I can just hear Orson groan and roll his eyes while reading that.

Post by Gus Moreno » Sat Jun 18, 2005 1:11 pm

But then, I remember years ago seeing a Houseman special on the Bravo cable channel (back in the days when Bravo was dedicated to genuine fine arts programming rather then "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" and "Celebrity Poker"), in which they showed a note Welles had scribbled to Houseman during their partnership. The note was a drawing showing two hearts connected with a single arrow.

The point being that, what we think we know about Welles's own sexuality in our "fanboyish enthusiasms" is not necessarily what we do know about him-

Post by jaime marzol » Sat Jun 18, 2005 4:13 pm

why in the world would houseman show the drawing of 2 hearts? was he trying to prove he and welles were lovers? doesn't sound like a very smart thing to do. only thing hollywood hates more than maverick homosexuals is 2 old queens. if the bravo show you refer to that has houseman showing the 2 hearts, is the south bank show, i have that show, and there is no note with 2 hearts.

the whole thing sounds pretty pathetic if you try to visualize it, decrepit old houseman showing love notes from welles? it just doesn't jive. i don't believe you.

far as i know, no one has gone on record saying he fired welles, or threw flaming dish warmers at welles because of welles' homosexual advances. though it happened to houseman.

the point of this thread was that welles wanted nothing to do with houseman, and both men suffered because of the separation. and though i didn't believe it at first the rumors about houseman, when i saw the 'poopy head' letter, i was swayed to believe the sordid rumors.

so welles acted with perkins in 4 movies. ford used the same guys in a bunch of movies, were they all homos also? ward bond, wayne and ford rolling in bed and skipping through wheat fields? i don't see it.

speculating on welles' sexuality without fact you will just anger a bunch of people that post here, and you might get this thread locked up.

Post by Harvey Chartrand » Sat Jun 18, 2005 5:09 pm

Post by etimh » Sun Jun 19, 2005 12:52 am

Does anyone else notice a very creepy homophobic undercurrent to these conversations about sexuality in regards to Welles? I'm not just referring to the lazy use of tired stereotypes and offensive slang in some of the posts (c'mon, everyone here should know better), but also to a more general air of heterocentric panic and defensiveness that seems to boil up when speculating on or about Welles' "true" desiring sexuality.

From whatever collection of historical artifacts and personal accounts, I’m sure we can make some relatively educated speculations about Welles' and Houseman's sexual lives and the very complicated relationship they shared. But as I’m sure most of us are aware, human sexuality is a notoriously difficult "thing" to account for--I mean historically, institutionally, psychologically, even biologically--because of various pressures, both public and private, enacted in dominant ideological society. Consider also some of the most recent theorizing about human sexual desire (ideas which complicate the old binary model of hetero/homo in favor of more fluid sexualities) and the ability to pin down people’s most interior and personal desires becomes difficult indeed. My point here is that regardless of the “evidence” accumulated on any side of this issue, we must acknowledge that the only persona we are able to construct for these guys may be far from the reality of their true selves.

So recognizing the obvious problems in ever really getting to the bottom (or top) of this question of whether our man Orson was gay or not (it really is SO boring, after all) why not examine the far more troubling fact of our own unacknowledged prejudice and bigotry as it manifests on this board. Now, of course, I am aware of the extremely varied factors that contribute to the indoctrination of homophobic attitudes in so many people. Twisted religious morality, battles over political capital, and straight out ignorance all have their hand in this process. But in the context of this board, something additional seems to be occurring. Within the generalized defensiveness about Welles and his character that dominates this entire community, the staunch guard against any questioning of his sexual orientation is the most anxious and determined. It seems like there is this almost desperate attempt to secure and protect Welles’ assumed heterosexuality as a matter of fact. This not only serves to deter the emasculating threat that such a revelation would be to the heroic fiction of the man himself, but also serves to maintain the wider ideology of dominant masculine privilege that the Welles’ myth plays into so effectively. Whether you support this kind of ideological hegemony through acknowledged consent or ignorant complacency, all it does is contribute to a further trivialization of the real critical relevancy of examining Welles’ life. And implicating him in the context of such a reactionary political philosophy denigrates not only the privacy and memory of the real man, but also the best and most appreciated parts of his spirit as artist, rebel, and provocateur. In his heart of hearts, Welles may have been clear in his heterosexual identification. But to adopt some contemporary political parlance, he was clearly “culturally queer,” openly sympathetic to the progressive ideals, politics, and communities that this identification today implies.

In the end, really, who cares if he was straight, gay, bisexual, or whatever? We can only hope that he was getting some from somebody on a regular basis. And on that account, I will give my historical imagination the benefit of the doubt and assume that he did, indeed, get his fair share.

John Houseman Romanian Actor

John Houseman was previously married to Zita Johann (1929) .

John Houseman was in a relationship with Joan Fontaine.


Romanian Actor John Houseman was born Jacques Haussmann on 22nd September, 1902 in Bucharest, Romania and passed away on 31st Oct 1988 Malibu, California, USA aged 86. He is most remembered for The Fog, The Paper Chase. His zodiac sign is Virgo.


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Relationship Statistics


First Name John
Last Name Houseman
Full Name at Birth Jacques Haussmann
Alternative Name John Houseman, Jacques Haussmann
Age 86 (age at death) years
Birthday 22nd September, 1902
Birthplace Bucharest, Romania
Died 31st October, 1988
Place of Death Malibu, California, USA
Buried Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea
Build Average
Eye Color Blue
Hair Color Grey
Zodiac Sign Virgo
Sexuality Straight
Ethnicity White
Nationality Romanian
Occupation Text Actor, Film Producer
Occupation Actor
Claim to Fame The Fog, The Paper Chase
Year(s) Active 1930�
Friend Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Howard Hawks

John Houseman (born Jacques Haussmann September 22, 1902 – October 31, 1988) was a Romanian-born British-American actor and producer of theatre, film, and television. He became known for his highly publicized collaboration with director Orson Welles from their days in the Federal Theatre Project through to the production of Citizen Kane and his collaboration, as producer of The Blue Dahlia, with writer Raymond Chandler on the screenplay. He is perhaps best known for his role as Professor Charles W. Kingsfield in the film The Paper Chase (1973), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He reprised his role as Kingsfield in the 1978 television series adaptation.

Film Production

Having achieved success in theatre, John Houseman moved to Hollywood as a film producer. He was instrumental in the production of Citizen Kane, 1941, starring Welles. He signed with Paramount Pictures for movie production and the first work for the studio was The Unseen, 1945. That same year, he produced Miss Susie Slagle&rsquos and followed it with The Blue Dahlia, 1946.

Houseman also worked with several other studios during which he produced works including, Letter from an Unknown Woman, 1948, They Live by Night (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Holiday Sinners, 1952, film adaptation of Julius Caesar (1953), and Lust for Life (1956). Houseman was a founding director of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, serving from 1968 to 1976.

Run-through: 1902-1941

John Houseman&aposs autobiography takes you from his birth to a British mother and Romanian grain merchant in Bucharest, Romania, in 1902 to his founding of the Drama Division at Juilliard in 1968.

Houseman is brutally honest, even painfully so, about his upbringing. He was born Jacques Haussmann, and raised nominally Jewish. Educated at home while his wealthy parents roved about Europe, he developed what he describes as an unhealth attachment to his mother and a woefully naïve attitude toward life. John Houseman's autobiography takes you from his birth to a British mother and Romanian grain merchant in Bucharest, Romania, in 1902 to his founding of the Drama Division at Juilliard in 1968.

Houseman is brutally honest, even painfully so, about his upbringing. He was born Jacques Haussmann, and raised nominally Jewish. Educated at home while his wealthy parents roved about Europe, he developed what he describes as an unhealth attachment to his mother and a woefully naïve attitude toward life. His father died when Jacques was 15, and World War I was raging in Europe. With his mother largely destitute (but continuing to live a life of luxury in France), Jacques was sent to school in England. Isolated, terrified by the real world, lacking social skills, and (by his own admission) incompetent at everything and completely lacking in self-esteem, Haussman became "John Houssman". Although in time he made a few very close (and life-long) friends, he remained pitifully lacking in self-confidence.

The next chapter in Houseman's life is just as intriguing. Although he wins a scholarship to attend Cambridge, Houseman's mother had arranged for him to spend several years in South America with a friend of the family who was a grain trader. His lack of self-esteem led Houseman to decline college and work in a remote area of the Argentine pampas for two years. Returning to London, he fell into the grain trade and was sent to the United States to learn more.

Houseman ended up establishing his own grain trading company, and was immensely successful at it -- earning millions of dollars and marrying the exotic actress Zita Johann.

And then the Great Depression ended it all. His company went bankrupt, and Houseman lost both his wife and his job.

Destitute, Houseman had no idea what to do for a living. But his administrative skills, his writing talent, and his numerous connections in the art and literary world got him jobs as a theatrical producer. His big break came in 1933, when Virgil Thomson asked Houseman to direct his new play/opera, Four Saints in Three Acts. The avant-garde play was a massive hit, and Houseman became famous overnight.

The following year, Houseman agreed to direct Archibald Macleigh's play Panic. The play was not in good shape, Macleish had long ago moved on to other work, and the play was so dated that it no longer resonated with audiences (even though it was only five years old). To boost the play's chances, Houseman asked a 19-year-old actor named Orson Welles to star in Panic. The play was not a hit, but Welles and Houseman became fast friends.

Over the next seven years, Houseman and Welles ignited the stage world with productions of Voodoo Macbeth, Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, and The Cradle Will Rock. When the Federal Theatre Project, for which they worked, collapsed, they formed the Mercury Theatre -- a theatrical and radio play company which astonished Broadway with their bare-bones fascist production of Julius Caesar. In 1938, they panicked America with their radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.

Houseman and Welles were like oil and vinegar. Push them together, and for a short time they can say there -- producing magnificent work. But after a while, they must separate. That pattern replicated itself after each production. They would have an intense, mutually agreeable collaboration, and then they'd separate for six months to a year until the next project coalesced.

In 1940, Welles was hard at work on Heart of Darkness for RKO Pictures. But he'd spent most of the production budget without filming a single scene. He told Houseman that the Mercury Theatre would pay for the remaining production costs. Houseman told him that the theater company had no money. Welles accused Houseman of fraud and larceny, and assaulted him by hurling dishes at him during a public banquet. It ended their professional collaboration.

Nonetheless, their friendship remained intact enough for Welles to ask Houseman to "baby-sit" an alcoholic Herman J. Mankiewicz while "Mank" worked on revisions to Welles' now film, Citizen Kane. Although Houseman contributed nothing creatively to the film, his autobiography contains eye-witness information about the film's genesis that proves Mankiewicz's significant contributions.

Houseman's post-Kane years are not as exciting. He directed and produced plays, produced a few films, became vice-president of David O. Selznick Productions, ran the overseas radio division of the Office of War Information, and worked for the Voice of America. In the post-war period, he produced another 18 films -- including Julius Caesar, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for "Best Picture".

Houseman's prose style is witty and a little lavish, and it's hard not to read the book without his classic Mid-Atlantic British accent intruding into your head.

At times, you think Houseman is name-dropping. He'll talk about a Sunday afternoon cocktail party at someone's home, and casually mention the names of 15 great architects, painters, composers, directors, actors, scenic directors, sculptors, or writers. He's not name-dropping: Those were his friends, people he knew and moved among, people he respected and who respected him. They were there, and important to the salons he attended.

I was deeply moved by Houseman's naked honesty in discussing his early life, especially those years just before his move to the United States. Houseman is extremely self-aware and introspective, and he has no qualms about telling you that his virginity (which he did not lose until he was 24) deeply bothered him, or that his complete lack of self-esteem led him to do some amazingly cruel and self-destructive things.

As Houseman ages in the autobiography, this naked emotion is reduced somewhat, as Houseman comes to be more descriptive of the people around him and the events which happen than interested in discussing John Houseman. But that's only to be expected, as Houseman himself matures and gains the self-confidence to stop worrying about himself so much.

The Casino Theatre's program cover shows the Moorish tower that loomed over Broadway for over 40 years.

(The images on this page are thumbnails – click on them to see larger versions.)

  • Candler
  • Casino
  • Center
  • Central
  • Central Park
  • Century
  • Circle
  • Charles Hopkins
  • Chatham Garden
  • Chatham Theatre
  • Cohan & Harris
  • Colonial
  • Comedy
  • Craig
  • Criterion
  • Daly's


226 West 42nd Street
Built: 1914
Later named: Cohan & Harris, Sam H. Harris
Seats: 1,050 or 1,200 (sources differ)
Architect: Thomas Lamb
Note: Originally named for the Candler family, whose Coca-Cola fortune built the surrounding office building. Renamed Cohan & Harris in 1916, it became The Harris 1921. A movie grind house from 1933 to 1988, it was in disuse through the 1990s. The interior was gutted to make way for Madame Tussaud's, and no exterior trace of the old theatre facade remains.
Noteworthy Musicals: Hitchy Koo of 1917, The Royal Vagabond (1919)

The Casino Theatre appears on this postcard postdated March 1905. The sender's inscription reads, "This building was just burned about a month ago." The Casino was soon restored and remained in use for another quarter century.


Broadway at 39th Street
Built: 1882
Demolished: 1930
Seats: 875, later increased to 1,458
Owners/Managers: Rudolph Aaronson (1882-1893), George Lederer (1893-1902), The Shuberts (1902-1930)
Architects: Kimball & Risedall
History: With a cafe, roof garden and and unusually ornate Moorish auditorium, this became a top rank venue for musicals, particularly operettas. After a fire in 1905, the Shuberts restored the interior and substantially increased the seating capacity. It remained in use for another quarter century, until it was demolished to make way for an office building.
Noteworthy Musicals: The Queen's Lace Handkerchief (1882), Erminie (1886) Floradora (1900), A Chinese Honeymoon (1902), The Vagabond King (1925), The Desert Song (1926)


Corner of Sixth Avenue and 48th Street
Also named: RKO Roxy
Built: 1932
Demolished: 1955
Seats: 3,509
Owners/Managers: The Rockefeller Family
Architect: Reinhart & Co.
History: After housing several spectacular operetta productions, this huge auditorium became home to a series of popular 1940s ice shows produced by Olympic ice skater and movie star Sonja Henie. It was also used as a radio and television studio -- Ethel Merman and Mary Martin broadcast their historic joint concert from here in 1953. Two years later, it was demolished to make room for The Radio City Parking Garage.
Noteworthy Musicals: The Great Waltz (1934), White Horse Inn (1936)


1567 Broadway at 47th Street
Built: 1918
Later named: Holiday, Odeon, Columbia, Forum 47th Street, Movieland
Demolished: 1999
History: Lacking hits, this house became part of Minsky's burlesque chain (1931-1934). After a brief return to legit use as the Holiday in the mid-1950s, it remained a movie house until the 1985. Used as a deli and a nightclub in the 1990s, the property was sold for $31 million and was demolished to make way for the high rise W Hotel.
Noteworthy Musicals: Always You (1920), As You Were (1920), Poor Little Ritz Girl (1920), Princess Virtue (1921), The Melody Man (1924)

Central Park

- see Jolson's 59th


Charles Hopkins

Chatham Garden

Chatman Street (now Park Row), between Duane & Pearl Streets
Built: 1822
Demolished: ??
History: This combination saloon, pleasure garden and theatre specialized in low-priced entertainment. Admission was a flat 25 cents. The building was converted into a Presbyterian chapel in 1832.

Chatham Theatre

East side of Chatham Street (now Park Row) between Roosevelt & James Streets.
Built: 1839
Demolished: 1862
History: Frank Chanfrau appeared here as "Mose" in a series of farces with songs. This house was renamed Purdy's National Theatre in 1850, and housed the first stage performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. It became a concert saloon in 1860, and was demolished two years later. Part of the structure became a furniture store and remained standing into the early 1900s.


1825 Broadway at 60th Street
Built: 1901
Demolished: 1954
Architect: Charles Cavanaugh renovated by Thomas Lamb (1906)
History: This small theatre on Columbus Circle was built to be a music hall, but was used for plays and some small, short-lived musicals.
Musicals: The Merry Go Round (1908), School Days (1908), The Queen of the Moulin Rouge (1908), In Hayti (1909)

Cohan and Harris


1887 Broadway (near 62nd Street)
Built: 1905
Later Named: New Colonial, Harkness
Demolished: 1977
Seats: 1,265
Architect: George Keister
History: Built by the owners of the Hippodrome, the Colonial aimed to be a British-style music hall – but quickly switched over to standard vaudeville. In 1912, it became part of the Keith circuit, and converted to Broadway use in the 1920s. It was a movie house in the 1940s and 50s, and a TV studio in the 1960s. Rebecca Harkness bought and renovated the theatre in 1971 for her ballet company, which went broke after one season. There were a few Broadway bookings in the mid-1970s, after which the building was sold off to a developer. This location is currently a condominium tower with a public atrium and rock climbing wall filling the space once used by the theatre.
Musicals: Runnin' Wild (1923), So Long 174th Street (1976), Ipi-Tombi (1977)


108 West 41st Street
Built: 1909
Later named: Mercury, Artef
Demolished: 1942
Seats: 623
Architect: D.G. Malcolm
Owners/Managers: The Shuberts
History: Too small to attract musical tenants, this theatre is sometimes remembered as the home of Orson Welles and John Houseman's Mercury Players (1937-1940).


152 West 54th Street
Built: 1928
Later names:
Adelphi, 54th St., George Abbott
Demolished: 1970
Seats: 1,434
Architects: R.E. Hall and Co.
Owners/Managers: The Shuberts (1944-1970)
History: It is unclear who this theatre was originally named for – one source suggests a developer named it after his attorney's son. Often dismissed as an unlucky house, the Craig was renamed Adelphi in 1934. It became a DuMont TV network studio in the 1950s – early episodes of The Honeymooners were broadcast from here. The theatre returned to legitimate use in 1957, became The 54th Street in 1958, and was renamed for director George Abbott in 1965. After housing a series of expensive flops, it was demolished to make way for a high rise Hilton Hotel.
Noteworthy Musicals: On The Town (1944), Street Scene (1947), Look Ma I'm Dancin' (1948), No Strings (1962), Darling of the Day (1968), Buck White (1969), Gantry (1970)



1221 Broadway at 30th Street
Other names: Banvard's Museum (1867), Wood's Museum (1868), Broadway (1876), Metropolitan
Built: 1867
Demolished: 1920
Seats: 2,265
Owners/Managers: John Banvard (1867), Henry Wood (1868), Augustin Daly (1879), The Shuberts
History: Initially a "museum" theatre, this house was renamed by each of its many owners. It housed two historic musical runs.
Noteworthy Musicals: Ixion (1868), The Geisha (1896)

John Houseman - History


Artistic Director Ian Belknap
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Associate Artistic Director Devin Brain
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Artistic Associate Joshua David Robinson
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General Manager Pamela Reichen
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Director of Development Caitlin White
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Development Associate Colin Parrinello
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Education Consultant Paul Fontana
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Voice and Text Consultant Elizabeth Smith

Devin Brain, Mark Bly, Jimonn Cole, Christian Conn, Leslie Geraci, Ian Gould, Gabriel Lawrence, Peter Macklin, Katherine Puma, Joshua David Robinson, Sid Solomon, William Sturdivant, Matt Steiner, Lois Walden

Certified Public Accountant

Legal Representation


Margot Harley co-founded The Acting Company with the late John Houseman in 1972. She co-produced the Broadway productions of The Robber Bridegroom and The Curse of an Aching Heart with Faye Dunaway. She produced John Houseman's celebrated revival of Marc Blitzstein's musical play The Cradle Will Rock in New York and at the Old Vic Theatre in London. Off-Broadway, she produced Ten by Tennessee, a two evening retrospective of Tennessee Williams' one-act plays directed by Michael Kahn at The Lucille Lortel Theater, and the New York premiere of Eric Overmyer's On the Verge, directed by Garland Wright at The John Houseman Theater. She was Administrator of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School for its first twelve years, from 1968 to 1980. Prior to that she appeared in numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions as an actress and dancer. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she attended LAMDA on a Fulbright Scholarship.

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