John Garfield (born Jacob Julius Garfinkle , March 4, 1913 – May 21, 1952) was an American actor who played brooding, rebellious, working-class characters. He grew up in poverty in Depression-era New York City. In the early 1930s, he became a member of the Group Theater. In 1937, he moved to Hollywood, eventually becoming one of Warner Bros.' stars. Called to testify before the U.S. Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), he denied communist affiliation and refused to "name names", effectively ending his film career. Some have alleged that the stress of this incident led to his premature death at 39 from a heart attack. Garfield is acknowledged as a predecessor of such Method actors as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean.
Garfield was born Jacob Julius Garfinkle in a small apartment on Rivington Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side, to David and Hannah Garfinkle, Russian Jewish immigrants, and grew up in the heart of the Yiddish Theater District. In early infancy, a middle name—Julius—was added, and for the rest of his life those who knew him well called him Julie. His father, a clothes presser and part-time cantor, struggled to make a living and to provide even marginal comfort for his small family. When Garfield was five, his brother Max was born. Their mother never fully recovered from what was described as a "difficult" pregnancy. She died two years later, and the young boys were sent to live with various relatives, all poor, scattered across the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. Several of these relatives lived in tenements in a section of East Brooklyn called Brownsville, and there, Garfield lived in one house and slept in another. At school, he was judged a poor reader and speller, deficits that were aggravated by irregular attendance. He would later say of his time on the streets there, that he learned "all the meanness, all the toughness it's possible for kids to acquire."