John Williams (actor)

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John Williams
Dial M for Murder (1954) trailer 4.jpg
A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's film Dial M for Murder (1954). Pictured from left: Ray Milland, Robert Cummings and John Williams.
Born (1903-04-15)15 April 1903
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Died 5 May 1983(1983-05-05) (aged 80)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1924–79
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Spouse(s) Helen Williams (?-1983) (his death)

John Williams (15 April 1903 – 5 May 1983)[Note 1] was an English stage, film and television actor.[2] He is remembered for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, as the chauffeur in Sabrina, and as portraying the second "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, England, he was educated at Lancing College and began acting on the Broadway stage in 1924. He then went on to appear in thirty Broadway plays over the next four decades, he first acted in Hollywood films in 1930, debuting in director Mack Sennett's The Chumps. In his career he appeared in more than forty films and also made more than forty guest appearances on television shows, he was part of the regular cast for the 1967 season of the family comedy Family Affair.

Williams gained fame as the star of a television commercial for 120 Music Masterpieces, a four-LP set of classical music excerpts from Columbia House,[3] this became the longest-running nationally seen commercial in U.S. television history, for 13 years from 1971 to 1984. It began, "I'm sure you recognise this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise', but did you know that the original theme is from the Polovetsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin? So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters—like these familiar themes..."

Williams reprised his Broadway role in Dial M for Murder for a 1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame television presentation. Also pictured are Maurice Evans and Rosemary Harris.

In 1953, Williams won a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Chief Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder on Broadway. When Alfred Hitchcock adapted the play to film in 1954, he cast Williams in the same role, he also appeared in Hitchcock's The Paradine Case with Gregory Peck as a barrister, and as an insurance company representative in To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

Williams played in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents including "The Long Shot" (1955), "Back for Christmas" (1956),[4] "Whodunit" (1956), "Wet Saturday" (1956), "The Rose Garden" (1956), the 3-part episode "I Killed the Count" (1957), and "Banquo’s Chair" (1959). Three of these episodes, "Back for Christmas", "Wet Saturday", and "Banquo’s Chair", were directed by Hitchcock himself.

In 1963, Williams played William Shakespeare in the The Twilight Zone episode "The Bard".

Williams also appeared in the TV series Night Gallery, notably in the episode titled "The Doll".

One of his last appearances was in Battlestar Galactica: War of the Gods (1979) alongside Lorne Greene.


Williams died on Thursday, 5 May 1983, in La Jolla, California, at the age of 80, it was reported that at the time of his death that he had been suffering from a heart condition.[5]

Williams was survived by his wife Helen, and his sister Joyce Hornsted, who lived in Devon, England. There was no funeral,[5] his body was cremated, and its ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean off the La Jolla coast.[6]



  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (selected episodes)
    • "The Long Shot" (1955)
    • "Back for Christmas" (1956)
    • "Whodunit" (1956)
    • "Wet Saturday" (1956)
    • "The Rose Garden" (1956)
    • "I Killed the Count" (3-part episode, 1957)
    • "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater" (1957)
  • Family Affair, as Nigel "Niles" French. 9 episodes. Replaced Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French) while he was recovering from an injury to his wrist.
  • The Twilight Zone, "The Bard" (1963)
  • The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Bleak Island" (1969)
  • Mission: Impossible, "Lover's Knot" (1970)
  • Night Gallery, "The Doll" (1971), with Henry Silva, and "The Caterpillar" (1972)
  • Columbo (TV series) "Dagger of the Mind" (1972)
  • "Battlestar Galactica", "War of the Gods – Parts 1 & 2" Council Member
  • Columbia House – 120 Music Masterpieces TV commercial for recordings of classical music


  1. ^ Several primary sources suggest his birth name was Hugh Ernest Leo Williams.[1]


  1. ^ "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925–1957". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  2. ^ "John Williams Is Dead at 80; Stage, Screen and TV Actor". The New York Times. 8 May 1983. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "120 Music Masterpieces" on YouTube
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Los Angeles Times (7 May 1983), p. A28
  6. ^ Entry for John Williams in the Findagrave online database.

External links[edit]