From Silent Film Idol to Superman

The Life and Career of John Stuart


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About the Book

A popular romantic actor with a fan club rivalling that of Ivor Novello, John Stuart was frequently mobbed by his adoring fans. He starred in films by Alfred Hitchcock and G.W. Pabst, played opposite British stars such as Madeleine Carroll, Fay Compton, Gracie Fields, and German actor Conrad Veidt, and was also the first actor to ever speak on screen in Britain. Yet despite a film career lasting six decades and 172 films, his name and achievement are little known today.
With access to Stuart’s private archive, his surviving films, press cuttings, film reviews, interviews, profiles, features, and gossip columns, his son Jonathan Croall presents a detailed account of an actor who made a significant contribution to the British film industry of the 20th century.

About the Author(s)

Based in Putney in south-west London, Jonathan Croall is a journalist, theatre and film historian, and the author of 25 books. He was formerly an editor at Penguin and Oxford University Press, features editor of the Times Educational Supplement, editor of the National Theatre’s magazine StageWrite and program editor at the Old Vic theatre in London..

Bibliographic Details

Jonathan Croall
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 72 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8954-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4881-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 3
Part One: Silent Idol 5
1. Childhood, School, War 7
2. From Stage to Screen 11
3. An Emerging Star 19
4. Alfred Hitchcock and Maurice Elvey 36
5. Britain or Hollywood? 53
6. Fame and a Fan Club 64
Part Two: The Background 73
7. Working Lives 75
8. Writers, Screenplays, Titles 82
9. The Film Press and the Film Society 89
10. The Publicity Machine 97
11. The Coming of Sound 100
12. Winners and Losers 109
Part Three: Into the Talkies 117
13. Kitty 119
14. From Dupont’s Atlantic to Pabst’s L’Atlantide 128
15. With Gracie Fields and Conrad Veidt 145
16. Stage Matters 159
17. Fatherhood and War 163
18. Propaganda and Escapism 169
Part Four: Character Actor 177
19. On the Small Screen 179
20. Back to the Theater 182
21. Leading Roles and Cameos 185
22. From Quatermass to Superman 196
23. The Final Years 205
Epilogue 209
Film, Documentary, Theater, Television, and Miscellaneous Appearances 211
Bibliography 215
Index 217

Book Reviews & Awards

“Jonathan Croall [John Stuart ‘s son] is an outstanding biographer of actors… He has a way of bringing the protagonists of these books to life, clarifying their talents, their progress over the decades, and the changes that those decades can bring. He has a remarkable gift for establishing, or recreating, the media context in which these stars operate, and how this context operates in the world at large. … His wonderfully readable and extensively illustrated book grows from an amazing amount of research, involving masses of documents and letters left by his father, all of which have enabled him to create a moving study of the man as well as of the actor. A major bonus is the insight it offers into the wider British film culture, that bred the ‘silent film idol’ who stayed around for nearly six productive decades.”—Brian McFarlane, editor of The Encyclopedia of British Film