Conversations by John Garfield in his films

"This place (Hollywood) is an anesthetic. Nothing has reality."
-John Garfield

John Garfield in New York (1940), photo by John Swope

John Garfield in one of his wardrobe tests in Hollywood

John Garfield showing his wife Roberta the guns he brought back from a war tour to entertain Allied troops in 1944.

John Garfield as Mickey Borden in "Four Daughters" (1938) directed by Michael Curtiz

Mickey Borden: I wouldn't win first prize if I were the only entry in the contest.

Ann Lemp (Priscilla Lane): Mathematically speaking, I think you'd stand a fine chance.

Mickey Borden: You think they'd let me win?

Ann Lemp: Who?

Mickey Borden: They.

Ann Lemp: Who?

Mickey Borden: The fates, the destinies, whoever they are that decide what we do or don't get.

Ann Lemp: What do you mean?

Mickey Borden: They've been at me now nearly a quarter of a century. No let-up. First they said, "Let him do without parents. He'll get along." Then they decided, "He doesn't need any education. That's for sissies." Then right at the beginning, they tossed a coin. "Heads he's poor, tails he's rich." So they tossed a coin... with two heads. Then, for a finale, they got together on talent. "Sure," they said, "let him have talent. Not enough to let him do anything on his own, anything good or great. Just enough to let him help other people. It's all he deserves." Well, you put all this together and you get Michael Bolgar.

Gloria Dickson as Peggy and John Garfield as Johnnie Bradfield in "They Made Me a Criminal" (1939) directed by Busby Berkeley

Johnnie Bradfield: If you're rootin' for me, I'll go in there and bang the ears off the biggest guy in the world.

"Four Daughters" was the break-through role which would catapult John Garfield to his stardom, and "They Made Me a Criminal" was his first starring role, getting extraordinarily positive reviews.

A writer in the New Yorker saw Garfield as reflecting the plight of those young men who had come of age knowing nothing but the Depression, “I thought there was some discretion and common sense in his toughness. There is nothing noisy, stagy or showy about him. One can find hundreds along Sixth Avenue, spelling out the signs in front of the employment agencies.” John Garfield had been an amateur boxer, and the fight scenes, photographed by James Wong Howe, have a gritty reality.

John Garfield as Tommy Gordon in "Castle on the Hudson" (1940) directed by Anatole Litvak

John Garfield as Johnny Blake and Frances Farmer as Linda Chalmers in "Flowing Gold" (1940)

Linda (Frances Farmer) has grown up into a very attractive woman. Johnny goes to work for Hap, but his arrogant attitude gets on Linda's nerves. She is particularly annoyed by his nickname for her, "freckle nose". The two are attracted to each other despite themselves, though Hap does not realize it.

They finally admit they love each other. Johnny tells her he killed a man in self-defense, and they plan to go to the Venezuela oil fields.

John Garfield as Wolf in "Destination Tokyo" (1943) directed by Delmer Daves

Sparks (John Forsythe): How come they picked you?
Wolf: I don't know. Strong arm, strong back, weak mind!

Lana Turner and John Garfield as Cora and Frank in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946) directed by Tay Garnett

Cora Smith: I want to make something of this place, I want to make it into an honest-to-goodness...

Frank Chambers: Well, aren't we ambitious.

"Then one day, stead of her going in alone, we both went in, and after she came out of the hospital, we cut for the beach. They gave her a yellow suit and a red cap, and when she came out I didn't know her at first. She looked like a little girl. It was the first time I ever really saw how young she was. We played in the sand, and then we went way out and let the swells rock us. I like my head to the waves, she liked her feet. We lay there, face to face, and held hands under water. I looked up at the sky. It was all you could see. I thought about God". -Frank Chambers in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" novel by James M. Cain

Lana Turner: "John Garfield was so ahead of any actor, including all of your greats, because he was of a new medium that women aren't accustomed to. And the fact that I was fortunate enough to do this film with him, because the chemistry was there, you'd do a scene and he'd bang it back to you. He was really vibrant, and so gentle, and terribly intelligent, a very shy man. I wish we had him back". -Interview Live at Town Hall (1975)

John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald as Nick and Gladys in "Nobody Lives Forever" (1946) directed by Jean Negulesco

Nick Blake: I don't wanna get rough with you unless I have to!

Nick Blake: People like me don't change.

John Garfield and Joan Crawford as Paul and Helen in "Humoresque" (1946) directed by Jean Negulesco

Paul Boray: All my life I wanted to do the right thing but it never worked out. I'm outside always looking in. Feeling all the time I'm far away from home and where home is I don't know. I can't get back to the simple happy kid I used to be.

John Garfield and Hazel Brooks as Charley and Alice in "Body and Soul" (1947) directed by Robert Rossen

Charley Davis: What are you gonna do? Kill me? Everybody dies.

John Garfield as Dave Goldman in "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947) directed by Elia Kazan

Phil Green (Gregory Peck): They're more than nasty little snobs, Kathy. Call them that, and you can dismiss them too easily. They're persistent traitors to everything this country stands for, and you have to fight them, not just for the Jews, but for everything this country stands for.

John Garfield & Celeste Holm as Dave and Anne in "Gentleman's Agreement", based on Laura Z. Hobson's novel (1947).

Dave Goldman: You're concentrating a lifetime into a few weeks. You're not changing the facts, you're just making them hurt more.

John Garfield as Joe Morse in "Force of Evil" (1948) directed by Abraham Polonsky

Joe Morse: If you need a broken man to love, break your husband. I'm not a nickel, I don't spend my life in a telephone! If that's what you want for love, you can't use me.

Joe Morse: You're tired, I'm tireder. What can happen to either one of us? You tell me the story of your life and maybe I can suggest a happy ending.

Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez): The money I made in this rotten business is no good for me, Joe. I don't want it back. And Tucker's money is no good either.

Joe Morse: The money has no moral opinions.

Joe Morse: I found my brother's body at the bottom there, where they had thrown it away on the rocks... by the river... like an old dirty rag nobody wants. He was dead - and I felt I had killed him. I turned back to give myself up to Hall; because if a man's life can be lived so long and come out this way - like rubbish - then something was horrible and had to be ended one way or another... and I decided to help.

In the mid-1940s, Garfield left Warners to start his own production company, but he returned to the studio for "The Breaking Point", a film that reunited the actor with director Michael Curtiz.

Garfield had previously worked with Curtiz in his movie debut, Four Daughters (1938) and the director's reputation for box office hits was confirmed by his work on Casablanca (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), and the holiday classic White Christmas (1954).

Garfield recalled, "Curtiz wanted to know my secret of being sexy. He decided it was time to get some honest sex into his pictures. I told him I learned everything from [stage and screen actor] Luther Adler, who was a master at making sure all the lights were turned out. I told Mike he should make Luther a technical adviser for all his pictures."

Patricia Neal as Leona Charles and John Garfield as Harry Morgan in "The Breaking Point" (1950) directed by Michael Curtiz

Upon the release of "The Breaking Point", Hemingway said this movie was the best film adaption of any of his books to date.

Garfield completed the picture, but his career took a downward turn after being investigated by the HUAC. Larry Swindell (author of the biography "Body and Soul: The Story of John Garfield") stated: "There was no more talk of a new contract offer from Warners, and ominously and suddenly, there were no offers at all. The telephone stopped ringing. Scripts stopped coming his way".

Patricia Neal plays Leona, a two-timing woman, an anything-goes sensationalist who gains respect for Harry as she sees what he's really made of.

John Garfield is amazing, a mass of virility, integrity, toughness and resentment, who also feels a strong love for his wife and kids.

Phyllis Thaxter projects concern without being a nag, and is shaken
only when she thinks that the predatory Leona might have made a claim on her man. Lucy does her best to steer Harry in the right direction by threatening to leave if he gets involved in any more criminal acts. We know that she will stick to Harry no matter what, but Harry believes her.

The Warner Archive Collection's DVD-R of The Breaking Point is a stunning B&W transfer of this unjustly-neglected winner, easily a top noir title for suspense and romantic intrigue.

To Have and Have Not may be the Hollywood classic but The Breaking Point is the better, more accomplished suspense thriller. Source:

John Garfield and Shelley Winters as Nick Robey and Peggy Dobbs in "He Ran All the Way" (1951) directed by John Berry

Mrs. Robey (Gladys George): If you were a man, you'd be out looking for a job.

Nick Robey: If you were a man, I'd kick your teeth in.

"Just walk slow and stick with the crowd" (He Ran All the Way)

"John Garfield's smile holds a sadness for the human race". His wife Robbe, in an article of Modern Screen magazine "Little Orphan" (1939) calls it 'Julie's orphan look' (The Germans have a word for it called 'weltschmerz', meaning 'world hurt') and it dates back to his childhood and accounts for his sense of pathos."