John Garfield was a handsome actor, a controversial artist, and a Communist fellow traveler who inspired “the talent” in Hollywood to produce themselves and become super-rich capitalists – like Oprah.
In May, 1952, more than 10,000 people massed outside New York’s Riverside Memorial Chapel for what many considered “the biggest celebrity funeral” since Rudolph Valentino’s in 1926. Devastated fans hailed Garfield’s sultry performances in Body and Soul and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Fellow liberals seethed that the Communist Witch-Hunt killed him. And gossips tittered because the married Garfield died as the Los Angeles Times headlined: “in N.Y. Home of Actress.”
As Broadway Method Actor, America’s first Jewish sex symbol, Blacklisted Liberal, and Hollywood’s pioneering independent producer, “Garfield was the star for the whole world, the romantic rebel himself,” the once-blacklisted screenwriter Abraham Polonsky recalled. Born Jacob Julius Garfinkle in 1913, he neutered his name Hollywood-style but not his staccato New Yawk-talk—or his politics. This pretty boy was a tough guy too.