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H Entries
  John Hamilton
  Earl Hamner, Jr.
  Tom Hanks
  Jonathan Harris
  George Harrison
  Ray Harryhausen
  Byron Haskin
  Howard Hawks
  Ben Hecht
  David Hedison
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  Sir Alfred Hitchcock
  Inoshiro Honda
  Ron Howard
  Rock Hudson
  Gale Anne Hurd
  Martha Hyer
 
HAMILTON, JOHN
(1887–1958). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (serial) (Ford BEEBE and Ray Taylor 1940); The Body Disappears (uncredited) (D. Ross Lederman 1941); Captain America (serial) (John English and Elmer Clifton 1944); The Mysterious Mr. M (serial) (uncredited) (Lewis D. Collins and Vernon Keays 1946); The Brute Man (uncredited) (Jean Yarbrough 1946); The Beginning or the End (Norman Taurog 1947); The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. MCLEOD 1947); "The Faithful Heart" (1950), episode of Lights Out; The Invisible Monster (uncredited) (serial) (Fred C. BRANNON 1950); Donovan's Brain (uncredited) (Felix Feist 1953); "Deadly Diamonds" (1954), episode of Captain Midnight; The Adventures of Superman (tv series) (1952-1958); Stamp Day for Superman (short) (Thomas CARR 1954).
 
Observing the increasingly dire reboots of the Superman franchise, one gains a new appreciation for the 1950s television series, which despite its obvious limitations got a remarkable number of things right, in sharp contrast to its successors. These include George REEVES's brilliant decision to make Clark Kent the authentic character and Superman his uneasy performance;  Jack LARSON's exuberantly inept but good-hearted Jimmy Olsen, a rendering of the character that has never been surpassed or even approached; and—to address the subject of this entry—John Hamilton's genuinely menacing Perry White. All later actors have portrayed the Daily Planet editor as a really, really nice guy who quirkily enjoys pretending to be gruff and irritable; Hamilton's White had a real temper and was visibly prepared to act upon it. Olsen, Kent, and Noel NEILL's Lois Lane had every reason to fear that he actually might fire them all at any instant, in response to some perceived failing on their part, adding energy and tension to their otherwise staid encounters in a cheaply made series that could not rely upon its special effects to hold an audience's attention.

On at least one occasion, though, a script forced Hamilton's Perry White out of his comfort zone and into a dull avuncularity, as "Peril by Sea" (1956) implausibly revealed that White enjoyed spending his spare time dabbling in scientific research and had managed to rediscover an ancient technique for extracting uranium from sea water. Here, he effectively reverted to the sort of unmemorable performances as pleasant old men that had characterized his long career before the part of Perry White liberated him to be irascible. He first came to films in his forties after experience as a Broadway actor, one of many imported to Hollywood to fill early sound films with capable speakers, but he was rarely given major roles. Indeed, his work was regularly uncredited, and despite his dogged efforts in over 300 films and television programs, he surely would have been long forgotten if he had not found his way in Reeves's television series.

In keeping with contemporary trends, he mostly appeared in crime dramas during the 1940s, and in westerns during the 1950s, but compelled to labor mostly in low-budget productions, he inevitably ventured into science fiction as well. The highlights of his pre-Superman career, such as they are, include a few scenes as Flash Gordon's father in the serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe; a brief role as the owner of a valued map in another serial, Captain America; an easily overlooked portrayal of scientist Harold Urey in the first film to describe the making of the atomic bomb, The Beginning or the End; and a more prominent part as a diamond merchant who seeks the help of Captain Midnight in one episode of that hero's series. His performance as an early victim of Rondo Hatton's The Brute Man was either extraordinarily brief, or cut entirely from the version I watched—I cannot recall seeing him—and nothing suggests that his other genre credits before Superman merit any attention.

Hamilton was rather elderly when he embraced the rigorous schedule of starring in a regular television series, which may have contributed some genuine grouchiness to his performances, and his increasingly frail health forced him to miss some episodes of Superman's final season, as evidenced by awkward scenes of Kent, Olsen, and Lane gathering in Kent's office to discuss matters usually handled by White. One cannot know whether, after his death from a heart attack in 1958, the planned additional season of Superman episodes, cancelled by Reeves's apparent suicide, would have eliminated his character or recast the role, yet as already indicated, subsequent versions of the Superman saga indicate that Hamilton would have been difficult to replace. Someday, perhaps, a new actor chosen to portray Perry White will look to Hamilton's performance as his model and again provide us with a Perry White that we can be afraid of.

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