Vintage Hunk: John Ericson
"Mr. Ericson gives a full view of a quiet, intense, disturbed young man...In appearance and even in his voice use, he resembles Marlon Brando." -New York Times review of Teresa.
John Ericson's career got off to a tremendous start with the lead role in Stalag 17 on Broadway (the role which later won William Holden (link) an Academy Award) and his first movie Teresa, co-starring Pier Angeli and directed by legendary Fred Zinnemann (From Here To Eternity). Ericson signed a contract with MGM and was rushed into a major features including Rhapsody with Elizabeth Taylor and Bad Day At Black Rock with Spencer Tracy. Ericson never became a star but he was one of the sexiest blond hunks of the 50s.
Born John Meibes in Germany in 1926 the actor came to the US with his family. He studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then got the lead in Stalag 17. Teresa - his first starring role - was a wonderful film introduction. This story of a young American soldier and his Italian bride was a box office hit. Director Zinnemann filmed the picture entirely on location in Italy and New York. The New York Times raved: "Played with magnificent simplicity by two new youngsters in the leading roles...highly commendable...It merits the rare appreciation of all who are interested in honest, mature films."
Unfortunately, John Ericson's follow up films including Rhapsody, The Student Prince, and Green Fire (a rare Grace Kelly misfire) all released in 1954 were rejected by critics and audiences.
Rhapsody, however, must be seen to be believed. It is truly one of the great bad films of all time. Elizabeth Taylor plays the bored rich girl who falls in love with music student Victoria Gassman - gets dumped - attempts suicide and marries poor sexy pianist John Ericson. The film is a total hoot with student musicians bursting into fiery music at the drop of a violin and poor Liz emotionally fighting for true love. John Ericson - blond and beautiful - was the final winner, but this was hardly the part for a male star in the making.
Bad Day At Black Rock was an excellent film in which Spencer Tracy comes to a small western town to investigate a death. The film - one of the first to explore post war racism - was excellent but John Ericson played one of the evil heavies who trys to kill Tracy. Ericson was pretty hot, but movie stars don't usually come out of such evil characters.
MGM was in free fall as were most studios in the mid 50s and almost every contract star was set adrift. John Ericson had one great movie role left as the sexily evil criminal Pretty Boy Floyd (1960). But this low budget feature did not make much of an impression even though it was excellently directed and acted. Ericson spent the rest of his career mostly in television. He co-starred with his Bad Day at Black Rock sister Anne Francis in her groundbreaking detective series Honey West and made numerous guest starring appearances on the popular shows of the day.
John Ericson is very much alive today. A TCM clip of him discussing Black Rock shows a still handsome older man with energy and charm to burn.
Ericson was married twice and had two children. His second marriage from 1974 is still going strong.
If you like sexy, well-built, blond hunks check out John Ericson in Teresa - his finest film. And if you want to wallow in incredible MGM trash, rent or buy Rhapsody. (This film could have invented the term camp.) Elizabeth Taylor and John Ericson are both at the height of their incredible beauty and the film entertains more than any number of the serious classics of the day.