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
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