John Garfield was born Jacob Julius Garfinkle on the Lower East Side of New York City, to Hannah Basia (Margolis) and David Garfinkle, who were Jewish immigrants from Zhytomyr (now in Ukraine). Jules was raised by his father, a clothes presser and part-time cantor, after his mother’s death in 1920, when he was 7. He was sent to a special school for problem children, where he was introduced to boxing and drama. He won a scholarship to Maria Ouspenskaya’s drama school. He joined the Civic Repertory Theatre in 1932, changing his name to Jules Garfield and making his Broadway debut in that company’s Counsellor-at-Law. Joined the Group Theatre company, winning acclaim for his role in Awake and Sing. Embittered over being passed over for the lead in Golden Boy, which was written for him, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers, who changed his name to John Garfield. Won enormous praise for his role of the cynical Mickey Borden in Four Daughters (1938). Appeared in similar roles throughout his career despite his efforts to play varied parts. Children Katherine (1938-1945), David Garfield (1942-1995) and Julie Garfield (1946-). Active in liberal political and social causes, he found himself embroiled in Communist scare of the late 1940s. Though he testified before Congress that he was never a Communist, his ability to get work declined. While separated from his wife, he succumbed to long-term heart problems, dying suddenly in the home of a woman friend at 39. His funeral was mobbed by thousands of fans, in the largest funeral attendance for an actor since Rudolph Valentino.
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