John Williams (actor)

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John Williams
Dial M for Murder (1954) trailer 4.jpg
A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's
Dial M for Murder (1954). L-R: Ray Milland, Robert Cummings and John Williams.
Born(1903-04-15)15 April 1903
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Died5 May 1983(1983-05-05) (aged 80)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Years active1924–79
Height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Spouse(s)Helen Williams (?-1983) (his death)

John Williams (15 April 1903 – 5 May 1983) [Note 1] was an English stage, film and television actor. [2] He is remembered for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder , as the chauffeur in Sabrina , and as portraying the second "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair .

Alfred Hitchcock British filmmaker

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<i>Sabrina</i> (1954 film) 1954 film directed by Billy Wilder

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<i>Family Affair</i> American television series 1966-1971

Family Affair is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966, to March 4, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do engineer and bachelor Bill Davis as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis's traditional English gentleman's gentleman, Mr. Giles French, also had adjustments to make as he became saddled with the responsibility of caring for 15-year-old Cissy and the five-year-old twins, Jody and Buffy.


Life and work

Born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1903, Williams was educated at Lancing College. He began his acting career on the English stage in 1916, appearing in Peter Pan,The Ruined Lady, and The Fake. [3] In 1924 he moved to New York, where he was cast in a series of successful Broadway productions. [3] He would appear in over 30 Broadway plays over the next four decades, performing on stage with many notable performers, such as Claudette Colbert in A Kiss in the Taxi 1925, with Helen Hayes in Alice Sit by the Fire in 1946, and with Gertrude Lawrence in Pygmalion in 1946. [3] In 1953, Williams won a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder on Broadway. Later, when Alfred Hitchcock adapted the play to film in 1954, he cast Williams in the same role.

Chalfont St Giles town and civil parish in Buckinghamshire, England

Chalfont St Giles is a village and civil parish within the Chiltern district in south east Buckinghamshire, England, on the edge of the Chilterns, 20.9 miles (33.6 km) west-north-west of Charing Cross, central London, and near Seer Green, Jordans, Chalfont St Peter, Little Chalfont and Amersham.

Lancing College

Lancing College is an independent boarding and day school in southern England, UK. The school is located in West Sussex, east of Worthing near the village of Lancing, on the south coast of England. Lancing was founded in 1848 by Nathaniel Woodard and educates c. 550 pupils between the ages of 13 and 18; the co-educational ratio is c. 60:40 boys to girls. Girls were admitted in 1971.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Williams reprised his Broadway role in Dial M for Murder for a 1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame television presentation. Also pictured are Maurice Evans and Rosemary Harris. Dial M for Murder Hallmark Hall of Fame 1958.JPG
Williams reprised his Broadway role in Dial M for Murder for a 1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame television presentation. Also pictured are Maurice Evans and Rosemary Harris.

Williams first appearance in a Hollywood film was in director Mack Sennett's The Chumps in 1930, ultimately appearing in more than 40 films. Two other examples are Hitchcock's The Paradine Case starring Gregory Peck, in which Williams portrays a barrister, and To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, in which his character is an insurance company representative.

Mack Sennett Canadian-American actor and filmmaker

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<i>The Paradine Case</i> 1947 American courtroom drama film, set in England directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Paradine Case is a 1947 American film noir courtroom drama film, set in England, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by David O. Selznick. The screenplay was written by Selznick and an uncredited Ben Hecht, from an adaptation by Alma Reville and James Bridie of the novel by Robert Smythe Hichens. The film stars Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Alida Valli, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore and Louis Jourdan. It tells of an English barrister who falls in love with a woman who is accused of murder, and how it affects his relationship with his wife.

Gregory Peck American actor

Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor. He was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. Peck received five Academy Award for Best Actor nominations and won once for his performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 drama film To Kill a Mockingbird.

Williams made more than 40 guest appearances on television shows as well. He played in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents including "The Long Shot" (1955), "Back for Christmas" (1956), [4] "Whodunit" (1956), "Wet Saturday" (1956), "The Rose Garden" (1956), the three-part episode "I Killed the Count" (1957), "The Three Dreams of Mr.Findlater" (1957), and "Banquo’s Chair" (1959). Three of these episodes, "Back for Christmas", "Wet Saturday", and "Banquo’s Chair", were directed by Hitchcock himself.

<i>Alfred Hitchcock Presents</i> American television anthology series

Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series that was hosted and produced by Alfred Hitchcock; the program aired on CBS and NBC between 1955 and 1965. It featured dramas, thrillers, and mysteries. Between 1962 and 1965 it was renamed The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

In 1963, Williams played William Shakespeare in The Twilight Zone episode "The Bard". That same year he also guest-starred on the sitcom My Three Sons , portraying a stuffy, very precise English butler; and in that role he was clean shaven, not sporting his customary mustache. [5] Later he was part of the regular cast for the 1967 season of the family comedy Family Affair . He appeared as well on Night Gallery in the series' 1971 episode "The Doll". One of Williams' last performances was in 1979, playing alongside fellow actor Lorne Greene in a two-part episode of Battlestar Galactica titled "War of the Gods".

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

The Bard (<i>The Twilight Zone</i>) 18th episode of the fourth season of The Twilight Zone

"The Bard" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It was the final episode of The Twilight Zone to be one hour long. A direct satire of the American television industry, the episode concerns an inept screenwriter who, through the use of black magic, employs William Shakespeare as his ghostwriter.

<i>My Three Sons</i> American sitcom

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Williams gained notice too as the star of a frequently telecast commercial for 120 Music Masterpieces, a four-LP set of classical music excerpts from Columbia House. [6] This became the longest-running nationally seen commercial in U.S. television history, for 13 years from 1971 to 1984. The commercial began with a brief selection of orchestral music being played. Williams then began the sales promotion with the following:

Columbia House

The Columbia House brand was introduced in the early 1970s by the Columbia Records division of CBS, Inc. as an umbrella for its mail-order music clubs, the primary incarnation of which was the Columbia Record Club, established in 1955. It had a significant market presence in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 2005, longtime competitor BMG Direct Marketing, Inc. purchased Columbia House and consolidated operations. In 2008, the company was acquired by private investment group Najafi Companies, and its name was changed to Direct Brands, Inc.

I'm sure you recognise this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise'. But did you know that the original theme is from the Polovetsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin? So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters—like these familiar themes... [6]


Williams died at the age of 80 on 5 May 1983, in La Jolla, California. It was reported at the time of his death that he had been suffering from a heart condition. [7] He was cremated and there was no funeral. [7]

Selected filmography


Burt Reynolds and John Williams in "The Bard", a 1963 episode of
The Twilight Zone Burt Reynolds John Williams The Bard Twilight Zone 1963.jpg
Burt Reynolds and John Williams in "The Bard", a 1963 episode of
The Twilight Zone


  1. Several primary sources suggest his birth name was Hugh Ernest Leo Williams. [1]

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  1. "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925–1957". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  2. "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor". The New York Times . 8 May 1983. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor", New York Times, 8 May 1983. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 October 2005. Retrieved 2 March 2005.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. Episode "Bub's Butler", My Three Sons, originally broadcast 4 April 1963. TV Guide, a subsidiary of CBS Interactive, Inc., New York, New York. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  6. 1 2 "120 Music Masterpieces" on YouTube
  7. 1 2 Los Angeles Times (7 May 1983), p. A28