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John Kelly (actor)

John Kelly
John Kelly in Lady Luck (1936).jpg
Kelly in Lady Luck (1936)
John F. Kelly

(1901-06-29)June 29, 1901
DiedDecember 9, 1947(1947-12-09) (aged 46)
Years active1928–1947

John F. Kelly (June 6, 1901 – December 9, 1947) was an American actor whose career spanned the very end of the silent film era through the 1940s. While most of his parts were smaller, often-uncredited roles, he was occasionally given a more substantial supporting or even featured role.

Life and career

John F. Kelly was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 29, 1901. He broke into the film industry in 1928 when he was cast as the chauffeur in the Fox silent film, Blindfold.[1] He would work in two more Fox films in 1928, both directed by Irving Cummings. The first was Dressed To Kill, starring Mary Astor, where he played the supporting role of Biff Simpson;[2] while the second was in the small role of a window-washer in Romance of the Underworld, again starring Astor.[3] In 1929 he appeared in only one film, in the role of O'Farrell in the Warner Bros. film, From Headquarters, starring Monte Blue.[4] Kelly's first appearance in a sound film, was in 1930's The Man Hunter, with its canine hero Rin Tin Tin.[5]

During the 1930s, Kelly would appear in numerous films mainly in small, uncredited roles. In 1933 he would have a small role in Morning Glory, for which Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar;[6] as well as having another small role in Raoul Walsh's The Bowery, which starred Wallace Beery, George Raft, and Jackie Cooper.[7] In 1934 he would have a featured role as Canvas Back in Shirley Temple's starring debut, Little Miss Marker.[8] He would follow this up the same year as one of Eddie Cantor's stepbrothers in Kid Millions,[9] and then appear in the featured role of Chuck in Lambert Hillyer's 1934 police drama, Men of the Night.[10] Kelly had a small part in the 1935 romantic comedy We're in the Money, starring Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell,[11] followed by another small role in Public Hero No. 1, a 1935 crime drama starring Lionel Barrymore and Jean Arthur.[12] In 1936 he would play the famous boxer, John L. Sullivan in a featured role in Irving Pichel's drama, The Gentleman from Louisiana (1936).[13] Later in 1936 he would reunite with Shirley Temple in the supporting role of Ferguson in 1936's Poor Little Rich Girl.[14] Later that year he would appear in the role of Harold in the 1936 detective comedy After the Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.[15] Kelly would finish out 1936 with two featured roles: that of Rusty in the comedy Polo Joe, starring Joe E. Brown,[16] and as Kid Couch in the 1936 drama Fugitive in the Sky.[17] 1937 saw Kelly in the featured role of Maxie in the comedy, Angel's Holiday,[18] followed by his featured role as Deuces in the 1937 crime film, The Big Shot, starring Guy Kibbee.[19] Kelly would close out the decade appearing in almost a dozen films. These would include the featured role of the simple-minded policeman Elmer in the screwball comedy classic, Bringing Up Baby (1938), starring Hepburn and Cary Grant,[20] as Butch in the 1939 comedy, Sudden Money, starring Charlie Ruggles,[21] and as John Cass in the first of the Dr. Christian films, Meet Dr. Christian, starring Jean Hersholt.[22]

He would start off the 1940s by playing Pete Hawks in the 1940 Universal movie serial The Green Hornet, which starred Gordon Jones in the title role. Also in 1940 he had a small role in the first of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" films, Road to Singapore.[23] The following year, Kelly played the feature role of Buffalo Bill Oxenstern in the Warner Bros. comedy, Three Sons o' Guns.[24] He also had a featured role, that of Knockout Riley, in the 1941 sports film, The Pittsburgh Kid.[25] In 1942 he was featured in the role of Snork in Jail House Blues, directed by Albert S. Rogell.[26] That same year he also appeared in Moontide, in the featured role of Mac. Moontide was directed by Archie Mayo and Fritz Lang, and starred Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino.[27] Kelly would reprise the role of John L. Sullivan, which he had earlier played in 1936, in the 20th Century Fox musical, My Gal Sal, starring Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature.[28] Over the next few years Kelly would only play smaller roles in such films as No Time for Love (1943), Coney Island (1943), Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943), Up in Arms (1944), Wing and a Prayer (1944), and Nob Hill. He would have his next featured role in the 1945 B-film, The Tiger Woman, in the role of Sylvester.[29] In 1946 he had the featured role of Sammy in Joe Palooka, Champ, the first film in the Joe Palooka series.[30] After small roles in Blue Skies (1946), The Mighty McGurk (1947), and Ladies' Man, Kelly played the role of the Sheriff in the 1947 British drama, Captain Boycott.[31] Kelly's final role would be in the featured role of Lt. Commander Stark in the espionage drama, Sofia, starring Gene Raymond. The film was released after Kelly's death.[32]

Kelly died on December 9, 1947, in Los Angeles, California.


(Per AFI database)[33]


  1. ^ "Additions to "Fog" Cast". The Film Daily. August 14, 1928. p. 9. Retrieved October 10, access
  2. ^ "Dressed To Kill: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  3. ^ "Romance of the Underworld: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  4. ^ "From Headquarters". The Film Daily. June 16, 1929. p. 9. Retrieved October 10, access
  5. ^ "The Man Hunter". The Film Daily. April 6, 1930. p. 40. Retrieved October 10, access
  6. ^ "Morning Glory: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  7. ^ "Showmen's Review: The Bowery". Motion Picture Herald. October 7, 1933. p. 35. Retrieved October 26, access
  8. ^ "Motion Picture Daily's Hollywood Preview: "Little Miss Marker"". Motion Picture Daily. April 30, 1934. p. 8. Retrieved October 26, access
  9. ^ "Showmen's Reviews: Kid Millions". Motion Picture Herald. October 27, 1934. p. 40. Retrieved October 26, access
  10. ^ "Men of the Night". Motion Picture Herald. December 8, 1934. p. 51. Retrieved October 26, access
  11. ^ "We're in the Money: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  12. ^ "Reviews of the New Films: "Public Hero Number One"". The Film Daily. May 16, 1935. p. 10. Retrieved October 27, access
  13. ^ "Motion Picture Daily's Hollywood Preview: "The Gentleman from Louisiana"". Motion Picture Daily. August 13, 1936. p. 11. Retrieved October 27, access
  14. ^ "Casts of Current Photoplays: "Poor Little Rich Girl"". Photoplay. July 1936. p. 116. Retrieved October 27, access
  15. ^ "The Hollywood Scene: Camera Cleanup". Motion Picture Herald. November 21, 1936. p. 45. Retrieved October 27, access
  16. ^ "Casts of Current Photoplays: "Polo Joe"". Photoplay. December 1936. pp. 115–16. Retrieved October 27, access
  17. ^ "Fugitive in the Sky: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  18. ^ "The Cutting Room: Angel's Holiday". Motion Picture Herald. April 3, 1937. p. 35. Retrieved October 27, access
  19. ^ "Reviews of the New Films: "The Big Shot"". The Film Daily. July 20, 1937. p. 11. Retrieved October 27, access
  20. ^ "Reviews of the New Films: "Bringing Up Baby"". The Film Daily. February 11, 1938. p. 12. Retrieved October 27, access
  21. ^ "Showmen's Reviews: Sudden Money". Motion Picture Herald. March 25, 1939. p. 44. Retrieved October 27, access
  22. ^ "Meet Dr. Christian: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  23. ^ "Road to Singapore: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  24. ^ "Three Sons o' Guns: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  25. ^ "The Pittsburgh Kid: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  26. ^ "Jail House Blues: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  27. ^ "Moontide: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  28. ^ "My Gal Sal: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  29. ^ "The Tiger Woman: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  30. ^ "Joe Palooka, Champ: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  31. ^ "Captain Boycott (1947)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  32. ^ "Sofia: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  33. ^ "John Kelly". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
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John Kelly (actor)
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