Roman Bohnen: A Forgotten Man “And Five Thousand Others!”

Roman Bohnen in the early 1940s

In the second of four weeks devoted to character actors in classic films, my blog this week looks at an actor who had the authenticity of a pair of old shoes, but whose versatility indicated a man with a strong commitment to his art:

I had to laugh a bit when I saw Of Mice and Men (1939) on TCM recently. My amusement was not because of the still tender spot that this very American story touched on in the course of the film. Themes of loneliness, the longing for new beginnings and a home of one’s own are evergreen, but few would have predicted that this seventy year old tale is still controversial. The film, based on the novella and play by John Steinbeck, was critically hailed when it first came to theaters, receiving four Academy Award nominations, including that of Best Picture in that celebrated movie year of 1939.

At the same time, in its day, the novel, play and film were all dismissed by one unnamed critic in the conservative publication, The Catholic World, who wrote that “The first few pages nauseated me [so much] that I couldn’t bear to keep it in my room over night.” In June, 1939, the Providence, Rhode Island’s police bureau refused to license the film for exhibition in that city, describing the story as “lowdown”. A Christmas Eve showing of the movie at Ft. McClellan in December, 1939 prompted an Army chaplain to condemn this story as “morbid and degenerate”.  February, 1940 saw Of Mice and Men banned from the entire continent of Australia. Even in the 21st century, Steinbeck’s story Of Mice and Men is still being banned periodically by some library system or school board. A high school in St. Louis recently discussed the removal of the book from their reading lists because the language in the book included words that we would describe as “politically incorrect” today.  I couldn’t help wondering how amused one of the actors in this film, Roman Bohnen, (seen at left) a veteran of one of the more politically controversial acting troupes in American history up to that time, might have been to see this fresh controversy. Swimming against the prevailing tide was all in a day’s work for Bohnen.

Roman Bohnen as the tormented father of Bernadette Lourdes with Jennifer Jones Lourdes in "Song of Bernadette"Hollywood has always seemed to have a surfeit of the blithe, the beautiful, and the burnished, preening and ready for their close-up.  Character actor Roman Bohnen (1901-1949) was none of these things, but he was a real, warm, untidy and contradictory human being on screen. Playing parts that are best described as “the little guy” was his bread and butter. The men he brought to life were used to having it tough, buffeted by a system that was seen as the cause of the Great Depression; they may have still harbored some small hope that they could find a place in the world, or at least be left in peace. Unafraid to play men who were all too aware of their vulnerabilities, Roman excelled in playing individuals nearly overwhelmed by their own fears, (Edge of Darkness as the frightened shopkeeper turned guerilla, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers as the ambitious father), bureaucrats paralyzed and unable to act decisively in the face of injustice, (Brute Force as the milquetoast liberal warden), and complex characters filled with regret about their past choices in life, yet tenderly sensitive to the pain of their children and susceptible to some self-pity, (Song of Bernadette as the hapless father of a saint, and The Best Years of Our Lives as an alcoholic father of a returning veteran).

Bohnen‘s physically unprepossessing presence and ability to look older than his years, (he played grandfathers while only in his thirties),  enabled the actor to effortlessly blend into the tapestry of a story, making a comment on the tale through his character’s pain, pomposity or quiet dignity, but rarely taking the spotlight from others. Even in the smallest, most unsympathetic roles, such as Ida Lupino’s troglodyte steel worker husband in The Hard Way, he could evoke a pang of  compassion and recognition in a viewer. One cannot see one of his portrayals without noting their humanity and individuality. Never a truly flamboyant actor, Bohnen gave self-effacing performances that sometimes were overlooked in everything from the madcap technicolor romp of Vogues of 1938 (1938-Irving Cummings) to his uncredited work in The Hard Way (1939-Vincent Sherman) to his deeply moving role as Dana Andrews’ caring but ineffectual father in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946-William Wyler).
Roman Bohnen with Gladys George as his wife in Best Years of Our Lives as he reads her his son Dana Andrews' citations
I was reminded of how good this actor could be when the rarely seen Of Mice and Men (1939-Lewis Milestone) finally reappeared. Not having seen this movie since I was a child nor having read the book since 7th grade, I did not expect to be so drawn into this story of dispossessed ranch hands, drifting from job to job during the Depression, largely friendless and alone, unknown to all but a few other lost souls. Thanks to the loving skill of the filmmakers and the ensemble of actors, I was particularly touched by Lon Chaney, Jr. as the simple-minded, inadvertently lethal Lennie, and Burgess Meredith‘s constantly worried George, eager to protect the physically hulking Lennie, whose blend of mental retardation is described as “on accounta he’d been kicked in the head by a horse.” It was Roman Bohnen as Candy, the aged, one-handed farm hand who is only able to earn his keep by “swabbing out the bunk house” who truly captured my heart. Garrulous and observant, Candy (Bohnen) relishes his brief moments of usefulness and authority. He acts as a tour guide in the lower depths, giving the new hands played by Meredith and Chaney some sense of the intricacy of the tangled relationships on the ranch where they have been hired. Candy gossips  about almost all the other characters in an empathetic yet funny way. He is eager to warn George and Lennie about the boss’s cruel son, and commenting with some remorse over the treatment of another outcast, as he mentions with a touch of envy that Crooks (Leigh Whipper) is the only ranch hand with a room of his own, but only because he is the only “colored man on the place”. This last phrase was changed, along with others in the screenplay to mollify the Production Code office.

The only true friend that Candy has in this harsh place full of men without a family or home, is a tired, blind, old, smelly dog. Pressured relentlessly by one particularly callous ranch worker to “put the dog out of his misery” with a bullet, Candy searches each of his bunkmate’s faces for one expression of support in his desire to keep his pet.  One of the most heart rending moments I’ve ever seen in a movie comes when Candy relents and finally allowed another ranch hand to commit the deed of exterminating the dog off camera. As the reality of this act sinks in, you can see a soul extinguished in Bohnen‘s face as his eyes grow empty and full of sorrow simultaneously. Candy (Bohnen) finds what privacy he can by climbing into his bunk and turning his face to the wall. Grief is mixed with the realization that there would come a day when he would no longer be regarded as worth keeping around either. The only flaw in this scene is the music, which is overly and unnecessarily emotional–a surprising quibble given Aaron Copland‘s otherwise beautiful and appropriately spare score in this film, which was given a nomination by the Academy Awards.

Candy begging to be part of the dream

As you can see in the sequence found here, George (Burgess Meredith) and Lennie (Lon Chaney, Jr.) are “different from the other bindle stiffs” among the rootless ranch hands because they have each other and a dream of finding a small homestead of their own where they hope to live off “the fatta the lan’. Their imaginary place, complete with animals and orchards, is away from the brutality of the harsh world they find themselves drifting through and one that they comfort themselves with, even though George often expresses exasperation with Lennie’s insistence on repeated descriptions of a place of their own. As he listens quietly to this yarn spinning, Candy’s eyes light up, and he is suddenly animated by a desire to join the pair in realizing this hope with his grubstake, consisting of $340 dollars in life savings, (with $250 of that given him by the ranch boss after losing his hand). With few other limbs likely to spare, all Candy asks in return is a place to go after “he gets canned soon”, a looming fact that is inescapable after his dog is gone. Candy says he’d will such a place to the other men, as long as they gave him a place where he could “hoe in the garden, even after I wasn’t no  good anymore.” George and Lennie’s dream is never closer to reality than it is in this moment, when Candy offers them a practical way to achieve their dream and a chance to expand their fraternity to include another person whose own ability to dream has been sparked again, giving the character and the film a lyrical tragic dimension amidst the realistic elements of the story.

Despite the still powerful dramatic effect of this movie, it is still somewhat unjustly obscure. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it was produced by Hal Roach‘s company, rather than one of the major studios, and failed to succeed as hoped at the box office.  This film, which will be rebroadcast on TCM on October 23nd at 3:30AM, and particularly the superb work of Bohnen in this role, deserve to be appreciated. I suspect that the release of the film in ’39 actually contributed to its unjust obscurity.

Short, nondescript, and already middle-aged when he arrived in the movie capitol at the height of the studio era, Roman Bohnen brought with him a wealth of acting experience forged in his years onstage in New York and in Chicago. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1901* to a distinguished artist and portraitist, Carl Bohnen and his wife, Lottie Johnston Bohnen, Roman Bohnen grew up in a lively if impecunious family, the middle child between an older brother, Arthur, and a younger sister, Charlotte, who was also became an artist. Interestingly, the family’s ties to their German roots remained strong. With the sponsorship of several wealthy art patrons, the American born Carl Bohnen and his family lived in Germany while the elder Bohnen furthered his art studies during the tumultuous war years of 1914-1918 and Roman studied at the Munich Business School. Returning to the United States, Roman Bohnen took up drama at the University of Minnesota where he was known as “the Rooter King” due to his vociferous cheerleading, an avocation that nearly cost him his speaking voice. His yelling was said to be the reason for the unique quality of his scratchy, distinctively high voice. Working in stock companies and in the theater troupe that would eventually become the Goodman Theatre Company in Chicago, Bohnen‘s apprenticeship as an actor led him to the Group Theatre in New York City by the early thirties, where he appeared in such landmark plays of dissent and discovery in the hard-pressed thirties as Awake and Sing, Waiting for Lefty, Paradise Lost, The Lady From the Sea, Men in White, Golden Boy and The Gentle People.

Group Theatre Members in the '30s: Roman Bohnen, Morris Carnovsky, Harold Clurman, Phoebe Brand, Elia Kazan, Luther Adler and Lee J. Cobb

Having appeared in the plays created by Clifford Odets, John Howard Lawson and Kurt Weill and others in New York with The Group Theatre, the actor was a key figure in this effort to forge an artistic alliance based on cooperation, rather than the star system in the theatrical world of the 1930s. In the driven atmosphere of the Group Theatre, Bohnen and his associates sought to apply the ideas of Stanislavski to contemporary American productions of classics and especially to new plays, reflecting the upheavals of society and the world coping with the Great Depression and the schisms still having a ripple effect throughout the world following World War I. As discussed last week in the profile of Maria Ouspenskaya, one of the Moscow Art Theater members whose teaching in the U.S. introduced this naturalistic “method” to actors in this country. As Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford worked to form this innovative theatrical project while the Depression deepened, the enormous efforts and their high seriousness sometimes created an overwhelmingly daunting atmosphere for “mere actors”, but Roman Bohnen was able to take it in stride, adding his own talent, enthusiasm and good natured insights to the heady air surrounding the development of the Group.

Known for being a genial, caring and conciliatory presence behind the scenes, Bohnen‘s kindness and warmth among the actors may have acted as a buffer between the company’s diverse members and the struggles for creative control by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg and  Cheryl Crawford as they all tried to shape the direction of that volatile and talented band. Bohnen and his fellow actors, among them Franchot Tone, Elia Kazan, Ruth Nelson, siblings Luther and Stella Adler, J. Edward Bromberg, Jules Garfinkle (later to change his name to John Garfield), and many other familiar names, brought issues of family, war, labor, class, disillusionment, and hope to the American theatre, adding thought provoking left-leaning approaches to their analyses of society’s problems as they experimented with realistic and expressionistic presentations on stage. Actors, directors and playwrights belonging to the Group lived in close quarters together for several years, often sharing summer lodgings while working on plays together, and even living in the same apartment building together on 23rd Street at times in New York. Inevitably, the tensions, love affairs, and clashes that occurred amongst the members in the emotionally and politically charged atmosphere that often surrounded their activities were fraught with drama off stage as well. In an effort to document their sometimes self-conscious days and nights and to alleviate the tension that resulted from communal life and little income, Roman Bohnen appears to have been a key figure in keeping things going, a kind of big brother to many of the members, even though he was married to Hildur Ouse, a fellow actor he’d met at the Goodman and the father of Marina, fondly called “Button”.

Bohnen relaxing on the set of Edge of Darkness with an unidentified womanAfter five years at the Goodman and eighteen months seeking work in New York during the early years of the Depression, Bohnen already had a keen social conscience when he joined the Group. Bohnen‘s experience also included a shot as a playwright, when he wrote a timely play about the corruption of a youth in a reformatory, called Incubator. He was committed to the goals of the Group, but was appears to have been less cowed by the force of personalities that he encountered there. His equilibrium helped others who were somewhat intimidated by the heady politically and artistically ambitious agenda of many members. Roman Bohnen‘s warm sense of humor and philosophical nature probably helped as well. His letters, which are available to the public through the New York Public Library, contain comments on the pressures and joys of his work and his friendships. Bohnen and his actors tried to buffer the sometimes destructive power struggles of individuals such as Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman for the theater company as a whole, striving to mitigate some of the more didactic tendencies of these individuals as they interpreted Stanislavski’s Method increasingly differently. With fellow actor Luther Adler, Roman helped to create a Group Theatre newsletter called “The Flying Grouse”, which poked gentle fun at members (with a particularly amusing imagined conversation, complete with malapropisms, with a young and eager Jules Garfinkle/John Garfield). By 1938, however, he felt the need to accept an offer from Hollywood for work that would enable him to care for his wife and child financially. As described by fellow actor Karl Malden in his memoir, the Group’s reaction to the news that Bohnen would be leaving New York for LA was greeted with hours of harangues by members accusing the actor of a betrayal of his artistic and political principles. Desperate to help his family and achieve some solvency, Bohnen made the emotionally wrenching decision to ignore the members’ rigid lack of compassion for his plight. Fortunately, according to a family member’s memory of visiting Roman Bohnen’s “big house in Hollywood for special occasions like Thanksgiving”, there were some prosperous years and the actor was able give his family some good times once he was able to have some steadier income from the movies.

Roman Bohnen in a brief appearance in So Ends Our Night as Glenn Ford's fatherEven while he was appearing in numerous studio movies, Bohnen was also trying to create a vibrant theater life similar to the one he’d known in New York a decade before. In the artistically arid Los Angeles, where only an occasional road show had appeared prior to the establishment of the Actors’ Laboratory Theatre by Bohnen and his fellow former Group Theatre colleagues in 1941, the some 250 members existed largely because of Bohnen‘s guiding spirit. In a 200 seat theater in a very small space, the Actor’s Lab presented classic and modern plays, sent out touring companies to entertain approximately a million soldiers around the world through the USO, and even offered training to students, including returning GIs. Politically progressive, the theater and its supporters were eventually stymied by the chill of the HUAC hearings in the late ’40s, implicating Roman and almost all of his colleagues, and even cutting off the funding of the G.I. Bill for training as an actor for returning veterans. Bohnen himself would die onstage of a heart attack during the second act of A Distant Isle on February 24, 1949. He was predeceased by his wife in 1941, leaving his daughter an orphan. Many attributed his death at age 47 at least in part to the stress caused by the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoena received the year before, signaling an inquiry into his alleged radical activities. As the political tumult of that time fades away, the quality of his acting work, especially in those films directed by Lewis Milestone, shines through with their humanity and skill.

Reading about Roman Bohnen, his desire to pass along his own experiences to others in his work in the theatre and the movies seems to have been a strong impetus all of his brief life. Uncharacteristically lamenting over the way that time and experiences slip away from all of us one time, the actor had predicted that experiences remained “all in the head–memories flash like northern lights–they keep us warm but they can’t be shared with the actor of tomorrow.”

Fortunately, they can also see the films of Roman Bohnen and his contemporaries to this day on DVD and on cable broadcasts. Below is a list of Roman Bohnen’s upcoming films on TCM (all times are Eastern Time):

Counter-Attack (1945-Zoltan Korda)
Oct 11, 4:45AM
Jan 21, 4:00AM

The Hoodlum Saint (1946-Norman Taurog)
Oct 16, 12:45PM

Of Mice and Men (1939-Lewis Milestone)
Oct 23, 3:30AM
Nov 04, 12:15AM

None but the Lonely Heart (1944-Clifford Odets)
Nov 12, 12:00PM

Song Of Love (1947-Clarence Brown)
Nov 12, 4:00PM

The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946-Lewis Milestone)
Nov 24, 4:00PM

Mr. Soft Touch (1949-Norman Taurog)
Jan 07, 11:45AM

Mission To Moscow (1943-Michael Curtiz)
Jan 20, 10:00PM

__________________________

*
Some online sources list Roman Bohnen‘s birth year as 1894, but, based on the genealogical research at the very thorough website created by Dennis Goodno about the Bohnen family, I think that the 1901 date is acccurate.

__________________________

Many thanks to Dennis Goodno, whose generosity and help via his website devoted to his family’s genealogical history was a great help to me in preparing this blog. A link to his website is below:

Dennis Goodno’s Bohnen Family Genealogy

Sources:

Humphries, Reynold, Hollywood’s Blacklists: a Political and Cultural History, Edinburgh Univ.Press, 2009.
Chinoy, Helen Krich, Reunion: A Self-Portrait of the Group Theatre, Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 28, No. 4, Dec., 1976.
Malden, Karl, Malden, Carla, When Do I Start?: A Memoir, Limelight Editions, 1998.
Nott, Robert, He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield, Hal Leonard Corp., 2003.
Smith, Wendy, Real Life Drama: the Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940, Grove Press, 1992.

25 Responses Roman Bohnen: A Forgotten Man “And Five Thousand Others!”
Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : October 9, 2009 8:07 am

A beautifully written piece on one of my favorite character actors. Thanks for giving him the attention he deserves. Such quiet power. I admire your meticulous research.

Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : October 9, 2009 8:07 am

A beautifully written piece on one of my favorite character actors. Thanks for giving him the attention he deserves. Such quiet power. I admire your meticulous research.

Posted By Andrew : October 9, 2009 9:51 am

Moira,
I really appreciate your drawing our attention to one of the best actors of his generation–even if he is one mostly known by sight rather than name. It would be great if both Maria Ouspenskaya and Roman Bohnen received a day devoted to their appearances in film.

I look forward to the next two posts on character actors. Hope this marks a trend.
Andrew

Posted By Andrew : October 9, 2009 9:51 am

Moira,
I really appreciate your drawing our attention to one of the best actors of his generation–even if he is one mostly known by sight rather than name. It would be great if both Maria Ouspenskaya and Roman Bohnen received a day devoted to their appearances in film.

I look forward to the next two posts on character actors. Hope this marks a trend.
Andrew

Posted By Medusa : October 9, 2009 10:29 am

Wonderful piece on Bohnen. I’ve always particularly loved him in “The Best Years…” and can’t wait to catch “Of Mice and Men” after many years of not seeing it.

Fascinating about his theatre background and the flack he took from colleagues about choosing to go to Hollywood.

He sounds like a truly decent man in addition to being such a fine actor. I loved reading this, though it was ultimately rather tragic. Quite a story.

Posted By Medusa : October 9, 2009 10:29 am

Wonderful piece on Bohnen. I’ve always particularly loved him in “The Best Years…” and can’t wait to catch “Of Mice and Men” after many years of not seeing it.

Fascinating about his theatre background and the flack he took from colleagues about choosing to go to Hollywood.

He sounds like a truly decent man in addition to being such a fine actor. I loved reading this, though it was ultimately rather tragic. Quite a story.

Posted By Nancy Kleeman : October 9, 2009 11:35 am

I’m so glad and excited to see a good article on our cousin, Roman and special thanks to my cousin Dennis, who has been so dilligent about the geneaology of our family. His website and contact with me have made my searches more fruitful, as we continue to find out more and more about our family.

Nancy Kleeman

Posted By Nancy Kleeman : October 9, 2009 11:35 am

I’m so glad and excited to see a good article on our cousin, Roman and special thanks to my cousin Dennis, who has been so dilligent about the geneaology of our family. His website and contact with me have made my searches more fruitful, as we continue to find out more and more about our family.

Nancy Kleeman

Posted By Jenni : October 9, 2009 12:55 pm

Great post! I watched Of Mice and Men this summer, when TCM ran it. Very powerful movie imho, and was moved much by Mr. Bohnen’s performance as Candy, and especially when his dog was shot, and the aftermath of that. Living in the St. Louis area, I hadn’t heard about a school talking about banning the book for un-pc language. My son read the book at his highschool last year, he really liked the story, but the movie he viewed in class was the remake with Gary Sinise as George, and John Malkovich as Lenny. I will tivo this version again, and have my son watch it. Since he knows Burgess Meredith from Rocky, and Lon Chaney Jr. from The Wolfman, I am sure he’ll enjoy this version of OM&M.
Sad about Mr. Bohnen’s daughter left an orphan. Who took her in I wonder? Relatives? Did you find out about that, Moira?

Posted By Jenni : October 9, 2009 12:55 pm

Great post! I watched Of Mice and Men this summer, when TCM ran it. Very powerful movie imho, and was moved much by Mr. Bohnen’s performance as Candy, and especially when his dog was shot, and the aftermath of that. Living in the St. Louis area, I hadn’t heard about a school talking about banning the book for un-pc language. My son read the book at his highschool last year, he really liked the story, but the movie he viewed in class was the remake with Gary Sinise as George, and John Malkovich as Lenny. I will tivo this version again, and have my son watch it. Since he knows Burgess Meredith from Rocky, and Lon Chaney Jr. from The Wolfman, I am sure he’ll enjoy this version of OM&M.
Sad about Mr. Bohnen’s daughter left an orphan. Who took her in I wonder? Relatives? Did you find out about that, Moira?

Posted By Patricia : October 9, 2009 4:56 pm

Thank you for the fascinating insights into the Group Theatre and Mr. Bohnen.

When my daughter was beginning high school they studied “Of Mice and Men” and she thanked me for sharing the 1939 version with her before they viewed one of the later movies in class.

Posted By Patricia : October 9, 2009 4:56 pm

Thank you for the fascinating insights into the Group Theatre and Mr. Bohnen.

When my daughter was beginning high school they studied “Of Mice and Men” and she thanked me for sharing the 1939 version with her before they viewed one of the later movies in class.

Posted By Suzi : October 9, 2009 8:50 pm

I love anything about the Group Theatre, so this was right up my alley. And, I knew nothing about Bohmen. Great post.

Posted By Suzi : October 9, 2009 8:50 pm

I love anything about the Group Theatre, so this was right up my alley. And, I knew nothing about Bohmen. Great post.

Posted By CineMaven : October 12, 2009 4:38 am

Bohnen broke my heart in “The Best Years Of Our Lives” and infuriated me in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.” And the detailed thoughtful research that Morlock writers put into their essays and articles are a wonder to behold.

Thank you!

Posted By CineMaven : October 12, 2009 4:38 am

Bohnen broke my heart in “The Best Years Of Our Lives” and infuriated me in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.” And the detailed thoughtful research that Morlock writers put into their essays and articles are a wonder to behold.

Thank you!

Posted By moirafinnie : October 12, 2009 11:23 am

Jenni asked about what happened to Roman and Hildur Bohnen‘s daughter after his death in 1949. After verifying the background information with the family archivist, Dennis Goodno, it appears that Marina Bohnen lived with Roman’s brother, Arthur and his family and later stayed with her maternal aunt, Signey Bremer and her husband Al. Ms. Bohnen is still living and I hope she derives some satisfaction from our collective appreciation of her father’s life work here.

It is very touching to read so many comments here about the effect of Roman Bohnen‘s work on viewers to this day. The scene when he reads aloud his son’s citations to his wife (the gifted Gladys George) in Best Years of Our Lives is beautifully done; not because of the words he reads, but the intense feeling he imbues every formal phrase with throughout that scene. I’m so glad that we have all had a recent chance to see Bohnen‘s exemplary work in Of Mice and Men again, thanks to TCM.

I share Suzidoll’s fascination with the Group Theatre and have always found myself drawn to the Group actors who emigrated to Hollywood, (many of them had moved to LA by 1942), even before knowing their connection to one another.

Thanks to each of you for taking the time to comment.

Posted By moirafinnie : October 12, 2009 11:23 am

Jenni asked about what happened to Roman and Hildur Bohnen‘s daughter after his death in 1949. After verifying the background information with the family archivist, Dennis Goodno, it appears that Marina Bohnen lived with Roman’s brother, Arthur and his family and later stayed with her maternal aunt, Signey Bremer and her husband Al. Ms. Bohnen is still living and I hope she derives some satisfaction from our collective appreciation of her father’s life work here.

It is very touching to read so many comments here about the effect of Roman Bohnen‘s work on viewers to this day. The scene when he reads aloud his son’s citations to his wife (the gifted Gladys George) in Best Years of Our Lives is beautifully done; not because of the words he reads, but the intense feeling he imbues every formal phrase with throughout that scene. I’m so glad that we have all had a recent chance to see Bohnen‘s exemplary work in Of Mice and Men again, thanks to TCM.

I share Suzidoll’s fascination with the Group Theatre and have always found myself drawn to the Group actors who emigrated to Hollywood, (many of them had moved to LA by 1942), even before knowing their connection to one another.

Thanks to each of you for taking the time to comment.

Posted By Corey Fischer : January 15, 2010 1:52 am

Thank you for your great research. I share multiple connections to this material. On a personal level: my father briefly worked for the Actors Lab in L.A. in the 1940s and maybe early 50′s (?) Much later, I studied with Jeff Corey, another legendary character actor who was hounded for years by the HUAC and the blacklist. The silver lining was that he became a brilliant teacher — not in the tyrannical ego-driven style of too many wannabe Strasbergs, but in his own rigorous yet gentle way, without dogma, always guiding the actor toward his or her own creativity and imagination in relationship to a role. He helped be recover from 4 years of really bad training in a university theatre department. Now, more than 40 years later, I’m writing a play based on the history of the Group for a theatre that I helped found in 1978, TJT. (http://www.tjt-sf.org/). Some of your references look like they might be helpful, so again, I thank you.

Posted By Corey Fischer : January 15, 2010 1:52 am

Thank you for your great research. I share multiple connections to this material. On a personal level: my father briefly worked for the Actors Lab in L.A. in the 1940s and maybe early 50′s (?) Much later, I studied with Jeff Corey, another legendary character actor who was hounded for years by the HUAC and the blacklist. The silver lining was that he became a brilliant teacher — not in the tyrannical ego-driven style of too many wannabe Strasbergs, but in his own rigorous yet gentle way, without dogma, always guiding the actor toward his or her own creativity and imagination in relationship to a role. He helped be recover from 4 years of really bad training in a university theatre department. Now, more than 40 years later, I’m writing a play based on the history of the Group for a theatre that I helped found in 1978, TJT. (http://www.tjt-sf.org/). Some of your references look like they might be helpful, so again, I thank you.

Posted By moirafinnie : January 15, 2010 11:22 am

Hi Corey,
I’m so glad that you enjoyed the blog on character actor Roman Bohnen. I’ve always been fascinated by the Group Theatre too and I love spotting your legendary teacher Jeff Corey in so many tiny, small and generous sized parts in older movies. Have you ever seen him in Canon City(1948-Crane Wilbur)? He is excellent and so memorable in each of his scenes.

I hope that you will post again when your play about the Group Theater is ready for production. It would be great to know more about that period of the American theater.

Posted By moirafinnie : January 15, 2010 11:22 am

Hi Corey,
I’m so glad that you enjoyed the blog on character actor Roman Bohnen. I’ve always been fascinated by the Group Theatre too and I love spotting your legendary teacher Jeff Corey in so many tiny, small and generous sized parts in older movies. Have you ever seen him in Canon City(1948-Crane Wilbur)? He is excellent and so memorable in each of his scenes.

I hope that you will post again when your play about the Group Theater is ready for production. It would be great to know more about that period of the American theater.

Posted By Donna Estes : January 28, 2011 4:19 pm

It brings me great joy to know that people have not forgotten my grandfather. I am Marina Bohnen’s daughter, Donna. Marina has 3 children –Edward, Donna, Dawn. We are currently working our way threw the material that Mom inherited. It is a vast and practically complete history of the Bohnen family travels. It is an extremely interesting story.
My mother lived this in this era with clear memories of the times. If you have any comments or want to add any information on this subject —please feel free to share it with Marina (Button Bohnen)at Marinapratt36@yahoo.com

Posted By Donna Estes : January 28, 2011 4:19 pm

It brings me great joy to know that people have not forgotten my grandfather. I am Marina Bohnen’s daughter, Donna. Marina has 3 children –Edward, Donna, Dawn. We are currently working our way threw the material that Mom inherited. It is a vast and practically complete history of the Bohnen family travels. It is an extremely interesting story.
My mother lived this in this era with clear memories of the times. If you have any comments or want to add any information on this subject —please feel free to share it with Marina (Button Bohnen)at Marinapratt36@yahoo.com

Posted By Anonymous : August 16, 2013 4:23 pm

Your grandfathers performance in TBYOOL always gets to me. His life story does the same!

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