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09 July 2013

John Loder

Tall and handsome John Loder (1898-1988) was best known for wearing tweeds and smoking a pipe in his roles. The British-American actor started his film career as an extra in the German silent cinema, and later worked as a leading man both in Great Britain and in Hollywood.

John Loder
British postcard by Real Photograph, no. B 21. Photo: Assoc. British Films.

John Loder
British postcard by Real Photograph, no. 158. Photo: Assoc. British Films.

Popular Heartthrob
John Loder was born William John Muir Lowe in London in 1898. His father was General W. H. M. Lowe, the British officer to whom Patrick Pearse, the lead rebel of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland, surrendered. John was educated at the prestigious Eton college and at the Royal Military College. He followed his father into the army, being commissioned into 15th Hussars as a second lieutenant in 1915, and then served in the Gallipoli Campaign. In France, he was engaged in the Battle of the Somme and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1918 and brought to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. After leaving the cavalry he established a pickle factory in Potsdam. Loder also began to develop an interest in acting. He appeared in bit-parts in a few silent German films at the Tempelhof Film Studios, employed by Alexander Korda. Examples are the comedy Der Tänzer meiner Frau/Dancing Mad (Alexander Korda, 1925) starring Victor Varconi and María Corda, and Madame wünscht keine Kinder/Madame Wants No Children (Alexander Korda, 1926) starring María Corda and Harry Liedtke. He had bigger roles in Die weiße Spinne/The White Spider (Carl Boese, 1927) with Maria Paudler, and the horror fantasy Alraune/Mandrake (Henrik Galeen, 1928) starring Brigitte Helm. Loder returned to England, where he played a big role in the silent drama The First Born (Miles Mander, 1928) starring Madeleine Carroll. It was made by Gainsborough Pictures at their Elstree Studios. Talkies had become the new rage and Loder tried his luck in Hollywood. He appeared in The Doctor's Secret (William C. De Mille, 1929), which was Paramount's first talking picture. He was also in Rin-Tin-Tin's first sound picture, in 1930. Gary Brumburgh at IMDb: “although the ‘veddy British’ actor seemed to show promise, his persona was a bit too cut and dried for American tastes. Gaining little ground as a leading man there, Loder eventually returned to England“. He played a supporting part in Hitchcock’s second sound film, Juno and the Paycock (Alfred Hitchcock, 1930) and another in the historical comedy The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 1933) starring Charles Laughton as Henry VIII, King of England. He became a popular heartthrob with such plush musicals as Love Life and Laughter (Maurice Elvey, 1934) with Gracie Fields. He co-starred with Sylvia Sidney and Oscar Homolka in Hitchcock’s thriller Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936), based on Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. Loder was also the male romantic interest in the original King Solomon's Mines (Robert Stevenson, 1937), the first film adaptation of the novel by Henry Rider Haggard.

John Loder
British postcard in the Film Weekly Series, London.

John Loder
British postcard by Real Photograph, London, no. 158 A. Photo: Gaumont-British.

A Career in B Movies
When World War II started, John Loder returned to America. In Hollywood he seamlessly coasted into a career in B movies, usually playing aristocrats. Occasionally he played supporting parts in major A films such as How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941), Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) with Bette Davis, and Passage to Marseille (Michael Curtiz, 1944) starring Humphrey Bogart. In Hollywood, Loder never attained the star status he had enjoyed in Britain during the 1930s. He was married five times. His first wife was Sophie Kabel, with whom he had a son. Two of his wives were actresses: French actress Micheline Cheirel (1936–1941), with whom he had a daughter, and Hollywood love goddess Hedy Lamarr (1943–1947). With Lamarr, he had two children, Denise (1945) and Anthony (1947), and adopted Lamarr's son James Markey from her previous marriage to screenwriter Gene Markey. He co-starred with her in the American crime drama Dishonored Lady (Robert Stevenson, 1947), which Lamarr produced. He also appeared on Broadway in 1947 and 1950. In 1947 he became an American citizen, and two years later, he married wife no. four, Evelyn Auff Mordt (1949-1955). Incidentally he appeared in films, like Gideon's Day (John Ford, 1958) featuring Jack Hawkins. In 1958, he also wed his final wife, Argentine heiress Alba Julia Lagomarsino, and Loder semi-retired. He lived on her 25,000 acre cattle ranch, and spent much time at the Jockey Club in Buenos Aires. In 1959 he became a naturalised citizen of the United Kingdom as he had been of ‘uncertain nationality’. His last screen appearance was in the British crime film The Firechasers (Sidney Hayers, 1971) starring Chad Everett. After divorcing his fifth wife in 1972, Loder returned to London and resided for some years in a house opposite Harrods. His general health deteriorated in his eighties and he was admitted in 1982 to the Distressed Gentlefolks Aid Association's Nursing Home in Kensington, where he was well looked after, venturing out by taxi once a week to his Club for luncheons. John Loder eventually died in London, aged 90 in 1988. His autobiography, Hollywood Hussar was published in 1977.

John Loder
British postcard by Real Photograph in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 419c. Photo: Gaumont-British.

John Loder
French postcard by Algazy, no. 634. Photo: Voinquel. Probably a card for Maurice Tourneur's period piece Katia (1938), in which the Russian Czar Alexander II (Loder) turns his mistress Katia (Danielle Darrieux) into a princess, which eventually leads to his assassination.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), C. Gerald Fraser (The New York Times), AllMovie, BritMovie, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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