John Huston Biography

(Director of Classic Movies Like 'The Maltese Falcon', 'The Asphalt Jungle', 'The Misfits' and Many More)

Birthday: August 5, 1906 (Leo)

Born In: Nevada, Missouri, United States

John Huston was an Academy Award winning American film director, screenwriter and actor. He directed 37 feature films over a career spanning almost five decades and also wrote the screenplays for most of his films. He received 15 Academy Award nominations, winning two of them. Some of his most popular films are ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, ‘Key Largo’, ‘The Asphalt Jungle’, ‘The African Queen’, ‘Moulin Rouge’, and ‘The Misfits.’ The son of a prominent stage actor and an ambitious newspaper reporter, he grew up watching his father performing in vaudeville shows and was greatly inspired by him. As a teenager, he dropped out of school and worked as a professional boxer for some time. However, an injury forced him to abandon the profession. Soon, he became fascinated by the newly emerging medium of films and ventured into Hollywood as a scriptwriter. Within a few years he moved behind the camera and started directing films, beginning with Dashiell Hammett's detective thriller, ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ As a director, he focused greatly on the visual aspects of the film which made each of his movies a treat to the eyes. After gaining much fame as a director, he forayed into acting towards the end of his career and made appearances in films such as ‘The Cardinal’ and ‘Chinatown.’

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Marcellus Huston

Died At Age: 81


Spouse/Ex-: Celeste Shane (1972–1977; divorced), Dorothy Harvey (1925–1933; divorced), Enrica Soma (1950–1969; her death), Evelyn Keyes (1946–1950; divorced), Lesley Black (1937–1945; divorced)

father: Walter Huston

mother: Rhea Huston

children: Allegra, Anjelica, Danny, Pablo, Tony

Born Country: United States

Actors Directors

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males

Died on: August 28, 1987

place of death: Middletown, Rhode Island, United States

Ancestry: American Irish, Canadian American, British American

Notable Alumni: Art Students League Of New York

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

U.S. State: Missouri

More Facts

education: Art Students League Of New York

Childhood & Early Life
John Marcellus Huston was born on August 5, 1906, in Nevada, Missouri, US, the only child of Rhea (née Gore) and Walter Huston. His mother was a newspaper reporter while his father was a flamboyant character actor of the stage. John began performing on stage with his father at age three.
His parents divorced when John was seven. Following their separation, he divided his time between traveling around the vaudeville circuit with his father and the country with his mother on reporting excursions.
As a teenager, he grew restless for adventure and quit school to pursue a more exciting life. Strong and well-built, he became a boxer and eventually won the Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship of California, winning 22 of 25 bouts. A serious injury forced him to abandon boxing and he enrolled in Los Angeles' Smith School of Art to pursue painting.
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Writing was another one of the talented young man’s passions and he worked as a journalist for the ‘New York Daily Graphic’ for a while before venturing into Hollywood looking for a position as a screenwriter.
He was employed by the Universal Studios, where his father was by then a star. John wrote dialogues for number of films in 1932, including ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘A House Divided’, and ‘Law and Order.’ During this time he accidentally killed a female pedestrian when the car he was driving struck her. Even though he was not legally implicated, the incident shook him to the core and he aimlessly drifted through life for the next five years.
He resolved to rebuild his career as a writer in 1937 and found a job as scriptwriter with Warner Brothers Studio. Over the next four years he co-wrote scripts for major films like ‘Jezebel’, ‘The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse’, ‘Juarez’, ‘Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet.’
He turned director in 1941 with the Dashiell Hammett's detective thriller, ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ The film starred Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled detective. A huge hit, the film marked the beginning of Huston’s successful directorial career.
He served in the United States Army during World War II to make films for the Army Signal Corps. During his army career he directed and produced three films: ‘Report from the Aleutians’ (1943), ‘The Battle of San Pietro’ (1945), and ‘Let There Be Light’ (1946).
In 1951, he directed ‘The African Queen’, a story based on C. S. Forester's popular novel. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in a combination of romance, comedy and adventure, the film was a big hit and earned John Huston nominations for two Academy Awards—best director and best screenplay.
His career continued to flourish throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Over the duration of his long career he also had the privilege of directing his father, and later his daughter in some critically acclaimed films that earned them Academy Awards.
During the 1960s, he ventured into serious acting as well and appeared in films like ‘The Cardinal’ (1963), ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ (1973), ‘Chinatown’ (1974), and ‘The Wind and the Lion’ (1975). He directed his last film ‘The Dead’ in 1987 and it was released posthumously.
Major Works
His film, ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, a dramatic adventure western about two financially desperate Americans who prospect for gold in Mexico was a big commercial hit at the time of its release. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
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’Moulin Rouge,’ a drama film he directed, is counted among his most popular works. Set in Paris in the late 19th century, the film follows the life of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the city's bohemian sub-culture in and around the burlesque palace, the Moulin Rouge.
Awards & Achievements
John Huston won the Academy Award for Directing and Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay in 1948 for his work on ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.’
In 1960, Huston was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to motion pictures.
He received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America in 1965.
Personal Life & Legacy
John Huston was married five times, with four of his marriages ending in divorce. His first marriage to Dorothy Harvey lasted barely a year. His second and third marriages, to Lesley Black and Evelyn Louise Keyes, respectively, ended in divorce.
His fourth marriage was to Enrica Soma. This marriage also ran into trouble but the couple never divorced. Soma died in a car accident in 1969. His fifth and final marriage was to Celeste Shane which also ended in divorce like his first three marriages. He had several children from his marriages including daughter Anjelica Huston who grew up to be an actress and director.
He was a long term heavy smoker and suffered from emphysema. He died on August 28, 1987, at the age of 81.
This American director has the unique distinction of directing both his father and his daughter in Academy Award-winning performances.

John Huston Movies

1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

  (Western, Adventure, Drama)

2. Chinatown (1974)

  (Thriller, Mystery, Drama)

3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

  (Mystery, Film-Noir)

4. The African Queen (1951)

  (Adventure, War, Romance, Drama)

5. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)


6. Key Largo (1948)

  (Thriller, Film-Noir, Action, Crime, Drama)

7. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

  (Thriller, Crime, Film-Noir, Drama)

8. Sergeant York (1941)

  (History, Biography, Drama, Romance, War)

9. The Killers (1946)

  (Drama, Film-Noir, Crime, Mystery)

10. The Night of the Iguana (1964)



Academy Awards(Oscars)
1949 Best Director The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
1949 Best Writing, Screenplay The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Golden Globe Awards
1986 Best Director - Motion Picture Prizzi's Honor (1985)
1964 Best Supporting Actor The Cardinal (1963)
1949 Best Director The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
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