Before seeing “The Paper Chase” in 1973, I had never heard of John Houseman. Because of that film I would hear a lot more about him as he would win the Academy and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actor in that film.
But, it turns out, John Houseman had lived quite a life up to that point. Born in Romania in 1902 as Jacques Hauptmann, he worked as a speculator in international grain markets and performed in amateur theater. Thrown out of work after the 1929 Stock Market crash he managed to land successfully land some acting roles in Broadway productions and changed his name to John Houseman.
In the mid-thirties, Houseman turned to producing and met Orson Welles which led to a fruitful but stormy partnership in which Houseman said Welles “was the teacher, I, the apprentice.”
They would collaborate on “Mercury Theater on the Air” for CBS radio and co-produce the famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast on October 30, 1938. Later they would collaborate on Welles” famed “Citizen Kane”, still regarded as one of the best movies ever made.
Disagreements over credits for ‘Kane would lead to an estrangement between the two. Houseman would go on to become a successful director of plays, films and television and eventually would produce some twenty feature films.
In 1968 he became founding director of the Drama Division at The Julliard School in New York. His first graduating class included Patti Lupone and Kevin Kline. Subsequent classes under his direction graduated, Christopher Reeves, Robin Williams and Mandy Patinkin.
John Houseman passed away on October 31, 1988 and day after the fiftieth anniversary of the famed “War of the Worlds” broadcast.