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John Houseman

John Houseman

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 435-437. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Co-founded the Theatre Group at the University of California at Los Angeles, with Robert Ryan and Sidney Harmon in 1959.

During his teaching days at Julliard, one of his students was Robin Williams, whom Houseman admired. The actor later advised the future comedian that he should quit Julliard since he was wasting his talent, and strike out on his own as a comedian which Williams soon did.

Former acting teacher of Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve.

Formerly a close friend and collaborator of Orson Welles during their theater days, they had two fallings-out as Welles began his screen career. Welles originally planned to make his screen debut with an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, starring himself as Kurtz. Many production factors failed to fall into place by the start-of-shooting deadline that had been set by RKO Pictures, and RKO executives declared they would not pay the cast if no progress were made by December 31, 1941. Welles offered to pay the cast himself if that happened. Houseman told him during a studio dinner that their business did not have enough money to pay them all. Welles called him a bloodsucker and crook. Houseman began to leave, and Welles starting throwing dinnerware at him. The two later reconciled during the writing of Citizen Kane, when Welles asked Houseman to "babysit" Herman J. Mankiewicz, meaning to keep him from drinking too much. After Mankeweicz delivered his script, Welles made a few changes before going into production. Welles later publicly claimed to have substantially re-written the script. Houseman, based on having been with Mankeweicz during the writing, publicly disagreed, that most of the credit belonged to Mankeweicz, with



Had 2 sons with his second wife, Joan Houseman.

He and Orson Welles were the founders of the famous Mercury Theatre Players.

He died soon after filming The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) but before its theatrical release. Coincidentally, actress Ethel Merman's final film role was in another Zucker film, Airplane! (1980).

Houseman was a producer of unit 891, the government theatre project funded by the WPA. He was producer of the legendary "Cradle Will Rock" which sent shock waves of paranoia from New York to Washington D.C.

Is portrayed by Simeon Andrews in RKO 281 (1999) (TV), and by Cary Elwes in Cradle Will Rock (1999).

Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1962

Taught acting at Julliard School of Fine Arts for awhile.


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