From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Emmett Evan "Van" Heflin Jr. (December 13, 1908 – July 23, 1971) was an American theatre, radio and film actor. He played mostly character parts over the course of his film career, but during the 1940s had a string of roles as a leading man.
Craggy-faced, dependable star character actor Van Heflin never quite made the Hollywood "A" list, but made up for what he lacked in appearance with hard work, charisma and solid acting performances. He was born Emmett Evan Heflin in Oklahoma in December 1908, the son of Fanny Bleecker (Shippey) and Emmett Evan Heflin, a dental surgeon.
- Acting career
- Later career
- Later life
Craggy-faced, dependable star character actor Van Heflin never quite made the Hollywood \\"A\\" list, but made up for what he lacked in appearance with hard work, charisma and solid acting performances. He was born Emmett Evan Heflin in Oklahoma in December 1908, the son of Fanny Bleecker (Shippey) and Emmett Evan Heflin, a dental surgeon. When his parents separated his brother and sister stayed with his mother, while he was farmed out to his grandmother in California. He was never quite settled and his restless spirit led him to ship out on a tramp steamer after graduating from school. After a year at sea he studied for a law degree at the University of Oklahoma, but after two years he decided he had enough and went back to sailing the Pacific. When he returned he decided to try his hand at acting and enrolled at the prestigious Yale School of Drama. His first foray into theatre was the comedy \\"Mister Moneypenny\\" (1928) (credited as \\"Evan Heflin\\"). It was indifferently received and Van went back to sea, this time for three years. In 1934 he returned to the stage in the plays \\"The Bride of Torozko\\" and \\"The Night Remembers\\", both outright disasters. His big break came in 1936, when he landed a good leading role as a radical leftist at odds with the established elite in the S.N. Behrman comedy of manners, \\"End of Summer\\" at the Guild Theatre. Critic Brooks Atkinson, praising the play and the actors, commended the \\"sparkling dialogue\\" and \\"fluent and sunny performance\\" (New York Times, February 18 1936). Katharine Hepburn, who saw him on stage, then persuaded Van to take a swing at film acting and finagled a role for him alongside her in the Pandro S. Berman production A Woman Rebels (1936). Van spent a year at RKO in forgettable films, with roles ranging from a reverend in The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937) to a top-billed part as a burnt-out quarterback in Saturday's Heroes (1937). By 1939 Van was back on stage, rather more successfully, in \\"The Philadelphia Story\\" at the Shubert Theatre. The hit play, which also starred Vera Allen, Shirley Booth and Joseph Cotten, ran for 417 performances, closing in March 1940. That same year he appeared for Warner Brothers in the entertaining but historically inaccurate western Santa Fe Trail (1940), Bosley Crowther describing his performance, above other cast members, as containing \\"the sharpest punch\\" (New York Times, December 21 1940).
The prestigious--but not always accurate--historical drama Tennessee Johnson (1942) saw Van playing Andrew Johnson, the 17th US president. While the film was a critical success, it did less well at the box office. The New York Times commented on the \\"sincerity and strength\\" of his performance, adding \\"Mr. Heflin, in a full-bodied, carefully delineated portrait of a passionate man, gives decisive proof that his talents have thus far been haphazardly used\\" (January 13, 1943). In between wartime service and two musicals, Presenting Lily Mars (1943) and the Jerome Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), Van appeared in the excellent film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck (as the inevitable femme fatale) and Kirk Douglas (as an alcoholic district attorney). As the sympathetic gambler Sam who returns to his home town, ostensibly to expose the dirty secrets of the main protagonists, Van had more on-screen time than his illustrious co-stars and some good lines to boot. Van put his tough-guy screen persona to good use in enacting Raymond Chandler's wisecracking gumshoe Philip Marlowe on NBC radio from June 1947, with 19 real-life Los Angeles detectives among the live audience. During the next few years the versatile Heflin dealt capably with a wide variety of assignments. He appeared as a jilted lover in the expensively-produced costume drama Green Dolphin Street (1947); he was Athos, one of The Three Musketeers (1948) and an ex-GI on the trail of a psychopathic prison camp informer in Fred Zinnemann's Act of Violence (1949); poignant as the unloved Monsieur Bovary in Madame Bovary (1949); an ex-cop in love with a high-flying socialite in the melodrama East Side, West Side (1949); and a cop whose affair with a married woman leads to a plot to kill her husband in The Prowler (1951). The 1950s saw Van's progression from leading man to star character actor. Having left MGM in 1949, he was signed in this capacity to several short-term contracts by Universal (1951-54), 20th Century Fox (1954), Columbia (1957-59) and Paramount (1959-60). Apart from the big-business drama Patterns (1956), he is best remembered in this decade for his portrayal of western characters with integrity and singularity of purpose: as the struggling homesteader at the mercy of a ruthless cattle baron who befriends Shane (1953); the desperate, single-minded rancher trying to get a captured outlaw on the 3:10 to Yuma (1957); and the tough, uncompromisingly stern father forced to kill his errant son in Gunman's Walk (1958). With the possible exception of his sympathetic German captain of a World War II surface raider in the offbeat international co-production Under Ten Flags (1960) (aka \\"Under Ten Flags\\"), Heflin had few roles of note in the 1960s. He appeared in the calamitous flop The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and the equally disastrous Stagecoach (1966) remake. One of his last performances was as the deranged bomber in Airport (1970). His final curtain call on stage was as Robert Sloane in \\"A Case of Libel\\" (1963-64) on Broadway.
Unlike many of his peers, Van shunned the limelight and was never a part of the Hollywood glamour set. A well-liked, introspective and talented performer, he died of a heart attack in July 1971, aged just 62.
Jul 24, 1971 · HOLLYWOOD, July 23 (UPI) — van Heflin, one of Holly wood's most versatile actors, died at Cedars of Lebanon Hos pital today at the age of 60. Mr. Heflin, a husky outdoors man, avid fisherman and...
God smiled and danced on this date in 1908 when Van was born in Watters, Oklahoma. Heflin served in WW II in the Air Force as a combat cameraman. Appeared in first play in 1928 at age of 20 at the Yale School of Drama. Started with RKO then onto MGM.
- Early Life
- Personal Life
- Further Reading
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Heflin was born Emmett Evan Heflin Jr. in Walters, Oklahoma, the son of Fanny Bleecker (née Shippey) and Dr. Emmett Evan Heflin, a dentist. He was of Irish and French ancestry. Heflin's sister was Daytime Emmy-nominated actress Frances Heflin (who married composer Sol Kaplan). Heflin attended Classen High School in Oklahoma City (One source says Long Beach Polytechnic High School.) and the University of Oklahoma, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1932 and was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He earned a master's degree in theater at Yale University.
Heflin began his acting career on Broadway in the late 1920s. He appeared in Mr. Moneypenny (1928), The Bride of Torozko (1934), The Night Remembers (1934), Mid-West (1936), and End of Summer (1936). The latter had a decent run and led to him being signed to a film contract by RKO Radio Pictures.
Heflin made his film debut in A Woman Rebels (1936), opposite Katharine Hepburn. He followed it with The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937), billed third after Preston Foster and Jean Muir, and Flight from Glory (1937), a Chester Morrisprogrammer where Heflin played an alcoholic pilot. Heflin was in Annapolis Salute (1937), then was given his first lead role in Saturday's Heroes(1937), playing a star quarterback. Heflin returned to Broadway for Western Waters (1937–38) and C...
MGM initially cast Heflin in supporting roles in films such as The Feminine Touch (1941) and H.M. Pulham, Esq.(1941). He had an excellent part as Robert Taylor's doomed best friend in Johnny Eager (1942), which won Heflin an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and was a box office success.
After a six-month marriage to actress Eleanor Shaw (née Eleanor Scherr, died 2004), he married RKO contract player Frances Neal. They had two daughters, actresses Vana O'Brien and Cathleen (Kate) Heflin, and a son, Tracy. The couple divorced in 1967. Heflin was the grandfather of actor Ben O'Brien and actress Eleanor O'Brien. Heflin was the uncle of Marta Heflin and Mady Kaplan, both actresses, and director Jonathan Kaplan. During World War II, Heflin served as a combat cameraman in the Ninth Air Force in Europe.
On June 6, 1971, Heflin had a heart attack while swimming in a pool. Medics took him to a hospital, and though he lived for six weeks, he apparently never regained consciousness. Van Heflin died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on July 23, 1971, aged 62. He had left instructions forbidding a public funeral. Instead, his crematedremains were scattered in the ocean.
In 1960, Heflin was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for his contributions to motion pictures at 6311 Hollywood Boulevard, and for television at 6125 Hollywood Boulevard.He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1964. In February, 2016, a biography, Van Heflin A Life in Film, by Derek Sculthorpe, was published by McFarland& Co., Inc., of Jefferson, N.C.
Sculthorpe, Derek (2016). Van Heflin: A Life in Film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9686-0Van Heflin A Life in FilmVan Heflin on IMDbVan Heflin at the Internet Broadway Database
Van Heflin, longtime character actor who generally portrayed tough guys who were more sensitive and vulnerable than their snarling manner initially implied, died Friday in a Los Angeles hospital....
Top 15 Van Heflin Films. Menu. Movies. Release Calendar DVD & Blu-ray Releases Top Rated Movies Most Popular Movies Browse Movies by Genre Top Box Office Showtimes ...
A versatile craftsman, actor Van Heflin was never concerned with popularity or comfortable with stardom. Lauded by his peers, Heflin won over moviegoers with his portrayal of resolute homesteader Joe Starrett in George Stevens' classic Shane(1953). He impressed in all genres, convincingly portraying every type of character from heel to hero.
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