Dall, John

Dall, John
(May 26, 1918–January 15, 1971)
   Born John Dall Thompson, Dall appeared in stock productions all over the United States in the 1930s and ’40s, prior to his emergence as a leading man on Broadway and in Hollywood. A native of New York City and the son of an army civil engineer, Dall studied at the Horace Mann School and at Columbia University, where he too studied engineering. He abandoned that pursuit to devote himself to the stage. While attending Theodora Irvine’s Dramatic School for two years, Dall spent his summers at the Chase Barn Playhouse at Whitefield, New Hampshire, and the Lakewood Theater in Skowhegan, Michigan. He also studied at the Pasadena Playhouse and the Petit Theater in New Orleans. Dall subsequently joined Clare Tree Major’s Children’s Theater and toured the country for 10 months as Little John in Robin Hood. This stint involved 400 performances, spread out over 30,000 miles, which the troupe traversed in trucks. After six years of stock work, Dall took a stab at Broadway and played two roles simultaneously, in the revival of R. U. R. , at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, and in Janie (1943), at the Henry Miller Theater. Playbill reported, “Although the two theatres weren’t very far apart, he had to make three complete costume changes—one for each act—which meant literally dashing in and out of each house just in time to make his scene. ” Dall then landed the role of Quiz West in Eve of St. Mark, appearing in both the Broadway and Chicago companies. This part won him a contract with WARNER BROS. , where Dall’s first screen assignment was the leading male role, opposite Bette Davis, in The Corn is Green (1945). Bosley Crowther of the New York Times found the performance “a shade too theatric,” but it nonetheless won John Dall an Oscar nomination.
   Having seen Dall in The Corn is Green and onstage in Dear Ruth, which were running concurrently, Boston Post critic Prunella Hall noted the “considerable critical acclaim” which had been lavished upon the “tall, not too dark, not too handsome” actor. She went on to compare him to his future Rope (1948) costar, noting, “He looks a bit like Jimmy Stewart with a recalcitrant lock of hair. ” Despite a few major, promising roles, Dall’s film career never really ignited, possibly because some perceived him as cold and distant. Ironically, these qualities served Dall well as the calculating Glabrus in SPARTACUS, which turned out to be his last major screen part.
   Dall’s leading roles in motion pictures included Something in the Wind (1947), Another Part of the Forest (1948; opposite Frederic March), The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), and most notably, Gun Crazy (1950) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Some of Dall’s Broadway appearances were in Red Gloves (1949; with Charles Boyer), and the New York City Center revival of The Heiress. He toured in John Patrick’s play, The Hasty Heart, as the Scot. His last major stage appearance was in 1955 in Leslie Stevens’s Champagne Complex. Dall also lent his talents to radio, starring on Theater Guild on the Air in “Quiet Wedding,” with Dana Lynn and Jessie Royce Landis. On television, Dall appeared in such programs as Studio One (1948), Suspense, The Web, Broadway TV Theater, The Clock, and Lights Out.
   ■ “Actor John Dall, 50, Dies on Coast,”New York Post, January 18, 1971;
   ■ “John Dall, 50, Oscar Nominee for ‘Corn is Green’ Role, Dies,” New York Times, January 18, 1971;
   ■ Hall, Prunella,“Tall, Dark, Not Too Handsome,” Boston Post, December 10, 1944; “John Dall,” Playbill, Dear Ruth, December 13, 1944;
   ■ “John Dall” (obituary), Variety, January 20, 1971, 56;
   ■ Playbill, “Season of Choice,” April 13, 1959;
   ■ “Who’s Who,” Born Yesterday theater program, Astor Theatre (Syracuse, N. Y. ), September 29, 1953;
   ■ “Who’s Who,” The Moon is Blue theater program, Lewis Harmon’s Clinton (Connecticut) Playhouse, June 27, 1953.

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