John Hodiak (April 16, 1914 – October 19, 1955) was an American actor who worked in radio, stage and film.
Hodiak was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Walter Hodiak (October 25, 1888 – August 21, 1962) and Anna Pogorzelec (February 28, 1888 – October 17, 1971). He was of Ukrainian and Polish descent. Hodiak grew up in Hamtramck, Michigan.
Hodiak had his first theatrical experience at age 11, acting in Ukrainian and Russian plays at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. From the moment he first appeared on the stage, he resolved to become an actor. Hodiak was not even swayed when as a third baseman on his local high school baseball team, he was offered a contract with a St. Louis Cardinals farm club. He turned the offer down.
When Hodiak first tried out for a radio acting job, he was turned down because of his accent. He became a caddy at a Detroit golf course, then worked at a Chevrolet automobile factory – and practiced his diction. When he conquered the diction hurdle, he became a radio actor and moved to Chicago. There Hodiak created the role of the comic strip character Li'l Abner on radio. Hodiak also had the role of McCullough in the radio soap opera Girl Alone.
Hodiak arrived in Hollywood in 1942 and signed a motion picture contract with MGM. He refused to change his name, saying, "I like my name. It sounds like I look."
Hodiak was cast in a few small parts at MGM. He then caught the eye of director Alfred Hitchcock and, on loan-out to 20th Century Fox, emerged as a major movie star in Lifeboat (1944) opposite Tallulah Bankhead. More big roles followed, notably that of Major Joppolo in A Bell For Adano (1945) opposite Gene Tierney.
Despite his success, in 1949, a string of bad choices in film led to Hodiak being voted "box office poison" by exhibitors.
In 1953, he played the Apache chief Cochise in the film Conquest of Cochise, with Robert Stack, Rico Alaniz, and Carol Thurston.
In 1953, Hodiak went to New York and made his Broadway debut in The Chase. The play was a failure, but its star received fantastic critical notices. He then originated the role of Lieutenant Maryk in Paul Gregory's production of the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial by Herman Wouk adapted from his novel The Caine Mutiny. The play ran for two years and Hodiak's portrayal brought him nationwide acclaim.
When the show closed after its U.S. tour, Hodiak began work on Trial (1955) at MGM, playing the prosecuting attorney. When it wrapped, he played Major Ward Thomas in On the Threshold of Space (1956) at 20th Century Fox.
Hodiak and actress Anne Baxter married on July 7, 1946, but divorced on January 27, 1953. They had one daughter, Katrina Hodiak (born July 9, 1951), who became an actress. Hodiak was a frequent visitor to the famous King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. He and others were guests of Zachary Scott, whose sister had married into the ranch owner's family.
At the age of 41, Hodiak suffered a fatal heart attack in the bathroom of the Tarzana, California, home he had built for his parents. He was shaving and getting ready to go to the studio to complete his scenes in On the Threshold of Space. It was later decided his performance was far enough along to release the movie. He is interred in Block 303, Crypt D-1, of the main mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles.
Hodiak has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6101 Hollywood Boulevard, for his work in radio.
1. "Successor to Gable?". Big Springs Daily Herald. September 30, 1943. p. 4.
2. Maltin 1994, p. 491.
3. Fairfax, Arthur (December 28, 1940). "Mr. Fairfax Replies" (PDF). Movie Radio Guide 10 (12): 43.
4. "Mary Armitage's Film Close-ups." Sunday Mail (Adelaide) Sunday Magazine Supplement, January 29, 1949, p. 3.
5. "Actor John Hodiak Dies Of Heart Attack at 41" Schenectady Gazette, October 20, 1955, p. 29.
6. Kirby, Walter (November 30, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48.
7. Kirby, Walter (January 18, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40.
8. Kirby, Walter (March 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46.
Maltin, Leonard. "John Hodiak". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.