John Houseman





9/22/1902 , Bucharest, Romania



Birth Name

Jacques Haussmann




Born illegitimately to a Franco-Rumanian father and an Anglo-Welsh mother, John Houseman went to an English public school, gaining the aristocratic manner which never left him, and then to America. He got involved in the theatre, and then in radio; in these spheres, he met the much younger Orson Welles, an encounter he later called "the most important event of my life". In 1936, he and Welles formed the Mercury Theatre company, which, very quickly, transformed the theatre in America with a series of extraordinary artistic successes which were also hugely popular. Similarly, radio drama was transformed by "The Mercury Theatre On The Air" and its successor, the "Campbell Playhouse". But Welles rightly got most of the credit for these triumphs, being the artist of the company - Houseman was the business brain, the fixer. This was likely the chief cause of a rift between the two men which lasted the rest of their lives. After they went their separate ways in 1941, Houseman became a top Hollywood producer ("The Blue Dahlia", "The Bad And The Beautiful", "Lust For Life"), directed on Broadway, produced for television ("The Great Adventure", the final season of "Playhouse 90"), taught at the Juilliard School (his pupils included Kevin Kline, Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams) and, in his 70s, became a busy actor, winning an Oscar and starring in two TV series. It's worth noting that his 1953 film production of "Julius Caesar" prevented Welles from realising his own plans to film Shakespeare's play, and that, as an actor, he often played parts that one can imagine the more-highly-paid Welles doing; he also did a great many voice-overs for TV commercials, possibly robbing Welles of further work thereby. He outlived Welles, but, even in death, could not escape his shadow - he died on the fiftieth anniversary of "The War Of The Worlds", the most famous of Welles's radio productions.