John Hodiak (April 16, 1914 – October 19, 1955) was an American actor who worked in radio, stage and film.
Hodiak was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Walter Hodiak (October 25, 1888 – August 21, 1962) and Anna Pogorzelec (February 28, 1888 – October 17, 1971). He was of Ukrainian and Polish descent. Hodiak grew up in Hamtramck, Michigan.
Hodiak had his first theatrical experience at age 11, acting in Ukrainian and Russian plays at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. From the moment he first appeared on the stage, he resolved to become an actor. Hodiak was not even swayed when as a third basemanon his local high school baseball team, he was offered a contract with a St. Louis Cardinals farm club. He turned the offer down.
When Hodiak first tried out for a radio acting job, he was turned down because of his accent. He became a caddy at a Detroit golf course, then worked at a Chevrolet automobilefactory – and practiced his diction. When he conquered the diction hurdle, he became a radio actor and moved to Chicago. There Hodiak created the role of the comic strip character Li'l Abner on radio.
After a short stint in the Army, Hodiak arrived in Hollywood in 1942 and signed a motion picture contract with MGM. He refused to change his name, saying, "I like my name. It sounds like I look."
Hodiak was cast in a few small parts at MGM. He then caught the eye of director Alfred Hitchcock and, on loan-out to 20th Century Fox, emerged as a major movie star in Lifeboat(1944) opposite Tallulah Bankhead. More big roles followed, notably that of Maj. Joppolo in A Bell For Adano (1945) opposite Gene Tierney.
Despite his success, in 1949, after a string of bad choices in film led to Hodiak being voted "box office poison" by exhibitors.
In 1953, Hodiak went to New York and made his Broadway debut in The Chase. The play was a failure, but its star received fantastic critical notices. He then originated the role of Lieutenant Maryk in Paul Gregory's production of the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial by Herman Wouk adapted from his novel The Caine Mutiny. The play ran for two years and Hodiak's portrayal brought him nationwide acclaim.
When the show closed after its U.S. tour, Hodiak began work on Trial (1955) at MGM, playing the prosecuting attorney. When it wrapped, he played Major Ward Thomas in On the Threshold of Space (1956) at 20th Century Fox.
Hodiak was married to actress Anne Baxter (married July 7, 1946) but divorced on January 27, 1953. They had one daughter, Katrina Hodiak (born July 9, 1951), who became an actress.
At the age of 41, Hodiak suffered a fatal heart attack in the bathroom of the Tarzana, California, home he had built for his parents. He was shaving and getting ready to go to the studio to complete his scenes in On the Threshold of Space. It was later decided his performance was far enough along to release the movie. He is interred in Block 303, Crypt D-1, of the main mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles.