John Berry

Director, Screenwriter, Producer
This New York-born son of a Polish immigrant began performing in public at the tender age of four. Before he hit his teen years, John Berry (ne Jak Szold) became a regular comic on the vaudeville circuit and at age 20 ... Read more »
Born: 09/05/1917 in Bronx, New York, USA

Filmography

Director (17)

Boesman and Lena 2000 (Movie)

(Director)

A Captive in the Land 1993 (Movie)

(Director)

Il y a maldonne 1988 (Movie)

(Director)

Le Voyage a Paimpol 1984 (Movie)

(Director)

Sister, Sister 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Director

Angel on My Shoulder 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Director

Sparrow 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Director

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan 1978 (Movie)

(Director)

Thieves 1977 (Movie)

(Director)

Claudine 1974 (Movie)

(Director)

Tamango 1959 (Movie)

(Director)

He Ran All the Way 1951 (Movie)

(Director)

Angel on My Shoulder (Movie)

(Director)

Casbah (Movie)

(Director)

From This Day Forward (Movie)

(Director)

Honeyboy (TV Show)

Director

Tension (Movie)

(Director)
Actor (10)

Elle et lui au 14eme etage 1999 (Movie)

(Actor)

Hantises 1996 (Movie)

Ernest (Actor)

Golden Eighties 1992 (Movie)

Eli (Actor)

Blancs Casses 1989 (Movie)

Bob (Actor)

A Man in Love 1987 (Movie)

Harry Steiner (Actor)

Round Midnight 1986 (Movie)

Ben (Actor)

F comme Fairbanks 1975 (Movie)

Fragman (Actor)

Double Indemnity 1944 (Movie)

(Actor)

Too Much Johnson 1937 (Movie)

(Actor)
Writer (5)

Boesman and Lena 2000 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Il y a maldonne 1988 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Le Voyage a Paimpol 1984 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Tamango 1959 (Movie)

adaptation (Writer (adaptation))

Tamango 1959 (Movie)

(Screenplay)
Production Management (1)

Double Indemnity 1944 (Movie)

(Assistant Director)
Producer (1)

A Captive in the Land 1993 (Movie)

(Producer)
Other (1)

Too Much Johnson 1937 (Movie)

(Production Assistant)

Biography

This New York-born son of a Polish immigrant began performing in public at the tender age of four. Before he hit his teen years, John Berry (ne Jak Szold) became a regular comic on the vaudeville circuit and at age 20 joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, acting in the troupe's productions of "Julius Caesar" (the now legendary modern-dress staging) and "Five Kings". He went on to serve as stage manager of the company and when Welles decamped to Hollywood, assumed the position of manager.

In 1944, Berry was brought to Hollywood by the head of Paramount and soon was apprenticing with Billy Wilder on the now classic "Double Indemnity". The following year, he made his feature directorial debut on "Miss Susie Slagel's", when former Mercury Theatre cohort John Houseman tapped him to replace Harold Clurman. Berry became noted for his ability to coax fine performances from his actors and earned a reputation as a visual stylist with such films as the shot-on-location romance "From This Day Forward" (1946), the Richard Basehart thriller "Tension" (1949), and John Garfield's last film, "He Ran All the Way" (1951).

Around the time of the latter, Berry was cited as a member of the Communist party by director Edward Dmytryk, who after having been blacklisted in 1948 and jailed on several occasions, admitted to his past membership and agreed to "name names". As a result, Berry fled Hollywood and settled in France, although by his own admission, he thought he would only be out of the USA for a few months. In fact, he and Garfield had planned to reteam on "The Man With the Golden Arm" but Garfield died in May 1952 and Berry remained in Europe for over a decade. During this period, the six films he made were of varying quality, the best of which may be the period comedy "Pantaloons/Don Juan" (1956) and 1957's underrated "Tamango" (released in the USA in 1959), co-written by Lee Gold, Tamara Hovey and Berry. A drama that graphically portrayed the horrors of slavery, "Tamango" was perhaps ahead of its time in its tackling such big themes. At its release, critics tended to harp on its depiction of miscegenation (Dorothy Dandridge played the mistress of slave ship captain Curt Jurgens) and overlooked the more salient points of the drama.

While the blacklist was slowly eroding in the early 1960s, Berry was concentrating on other outlets, like teaching acting at the Sorbonne (where his students included Sam Waterston) and directing plays in London. Beginning in 1962, he began an affiliation with South African playwright Athol Fugard by staging the latter's two character drama "The Blood Knot". After starring in and directing "The Secret of the World" in London, Berry returned to the USA in 1964 to direct the Off-Broadway premiere of "The Blood Knot", starring James Earl Jones. While in New York, he also directed episodes of the George C Scott TV series "East Side/West Side" (CBS). He and Jones would later reunite to work on another Fugard drama "Boesman and Lena" (1970).

By this time the full effects of the blacklist had lifted and Berry had resumed his US feature career with "Maya" (1966), a poorly received jungle adventure partly designed to capitalize on the popularity of its young stars (Jay North and Sajid Kahn). It would be eight years before Berry finally had some success in the US film market with "Claudine" (1974), the upbeat dramatic saga of a family on welfare that co-starred James Earl Jones and brought Diahann Carroll a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Subsequent output, like the film adaptation of Herb Gardner's comedy "Thieves" (1977) and "The Bad News Bears Go to Japan" (1978), were of less quality. Turning to the small screen, Berry helmed the unsold pilot "Sparrow" (CBS, 1978, credited as Jack Sold), and a trio of modest telefilms including "Sister, Sister" (lensed in 1979 but aired on NBC in 1982), a lively remake of "Angel on My Shoulder" (NBC, 1980, with Peter Strauss in a comic role) and "Honeyboy" (NBC, 1982).

Berry returned to France and wrote and directed the little seen "Le voyage a Paimpol" (1985), which featured his second wife, French actress Myriam Boyer. He also made his acting debut as a bartender in "'Round Midnight" (1986), Bertrand Tavernier's bittersweet ode to 1950s jazz. 1993 saw the long-delayed US release of his US-USSR co-production, "A Captive in the Land", a study of an American and a Soviet struggling to survive in the Arctic, written by fellow blacklist victim Lee Gold and featuring Berry's former student Sam Waterston. In his 80s, the director continued to work and realized another longheld dream of filming Fugard's "Boesman and Lena" (2000), with Danny Glover and Angela Bassett in the leads. At the time of his death, Berry was completing the editing of the film.

Relationships

Jan Berry

Daughter
mother, Gladys Cole

Arny Berry

Son
born c. 1984 mother, Miriam Boyer

Dennis Berry

Son
mother, Gladys Cole

Myriam Boyer

Wife
French

Gladys Cole

Wife
married in 1940 divorced

Milestones

2000

Final film, "Boesman and Lena", based on Fugard's play; screened at Cannes

1990

First film as producer, "A Captive in the Land", which he also directed; released theatrically in the USA in 1993; film starred Sam Waterston

1986

Film acting debut (as bartender) in "'Round Midnight"

1982

Last US TV-movie, "Honeyboy" (NBC), starring Erik Estrada

1979

Helmed the NBC TV-movie "Angel on My Shoulder"

1978

First telefilm, the unsold CBS pilot "Sparrow"

1974

Again returned to USA to direct film, "Claudine", featuring an Oscar-nominated lead performance by Diahann Carroll

1969

Staged a NYC production of Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena", starring James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee

1966

First US film in 15 years, "Maya"

1963

Starred in and directed the London stage play "The Secret of the World"

1951

Named a member of the Communist party by director Edward Dmytryk (blacklisted in 1948 and jailed on several occasions), who admitted to his past membership and agreed to "name names"

1951

Left Hollywood rather than accuse others; last Hollywood film for 15 years, "He Ran All the Way"; settled in Paris

1944

Film directing debut, "Miss Susie Slagle's"

1943

Was 3rd assistant director and extra in director Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity"

1938

First film work as general assistant and bit player in Orson Welles' no-longer-extant short "Too Much Johnson"

1927

Began vaudeville career at age 10 (date approximate)

1921

First performed in public at age four (date approximate)

Ran an acting workshop at the Sorbonne in Paris in the early 1960s; students included Sam Waterston

Started stage career as actor and assistant with the Mercury Theater in the late 1930s

As a teenager, competed as a prizefighter under the name Jackie Sold; won five fights

Returned to the USA in the 1960s; concentrated on stage work, especially staging the plays of South African playwright Athol Fugard ("Blood Knot", "Boesman and Lena")

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