James Stephenson's performance in William Wyler's The Letter is held in high critical esteem, yet the actor himself remains remarkably unknown. His is an extraordinary story of dedication and tenacity in achieving Hollywood stardom, only for his career and new-found success to be ended by an unexpected and tragic death. Drawing on the late actor's personal archive, and other primary source material, the book traces his early family background in Lancashire, England, uncovers his First World War army service records, and describes his business career during the 1920s and early 1930s. At the age of forty-three he was able to enter the acting profession on the strength of his experience in amateur stage work. He performed on the professional stage in Liverpool and London. In private letters he describes his journey to Hollywood and the ordeal of screen tests at the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios. During his Hollywood screen career he played opposite such charismatic performers as: Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and Kay Francis.
For the first time, this biography presents the extensive range of James Stephenson's acting career both in Britain and Hollywood. Throughout, his life is depicted against a detailed historical background.
David A. Redfern is a film historian and lives in England.
"It’s definitely a fine age for film buffs when James Stephenson, long-late-lamented member of the Warner Bros. Golden Age stock company, receives this splendidly researched, five-star biography."- Gregory William Mank, author