(May 31,1934 - Jun 2,1979 )
Hutton was expelled from five high schools and a boarding school due to behavior problems but had excellent grades and test scores. He earned money for school by digging ditches on weekends and delivering bananas at night. After starting his school newspaper's sports column, he earned a scholarship in journalism from Syracuse University. There he lost his position in the school of journalism (& scholarship) when after playing the part of Pontius Pilatus in a school theatre production he was bitten by the acting bug. He subsequently lost academic ambition and failed three classes as a freshman. He used his summers to train in summer stock. His intentions to continue academic pursuits soon came to an end. In college he stole Syracuse's bulldozer and plowed the blue tulip bed in front of the library (while drunk) the night before the moving up ceremony where he was one of the honorees as class vice-president and was immediately expelled, although argued that his co-conspirator was let off because he was captain of the football team. At Niagara College he claimed to have drained a pond as a prank and was expelled once again for dropping his pants during an awards dinner on a $12 bet, where he was being honored by the faculty as president of the Drama Society.
He went on to pursue his career as an actor in Greenwich Village where he lived for almost a year, but when out of money and unable to pay his rent or buy food he joined the United States Army. He was nearly demoted in rank for putting alum powder in his commanding officer's bowl of stew, among other pranks he pulled while in the military, almost all on higher-ups. He starred in over 40 Army training films before going to Berlin to serve in special service.
Hutton personally founded the American Community Theater by spearheading the renovation of theaters abandoned during World War II. He established the first English-speaking theater in Berlin with the GI production of the play "Harvey" (which he starred in). Receiving high praise from officers including official commendation, his superior officer agreed to assign Hutton to manage the theater as part of his official duties and he produced, directed, and acted in five productions over two years, receiving the European Theater Award for Best GI Theater. One of his productions, The Caine Mutiny (1954), received the attention of director Douglas Sirk who promptly cast him in 'A Time to Love and A Time to Die' (1958). Using his entire military leave to film for 22 days, Universal was so impressed they offered him a contract, but he still had 18 months of service. Within five days of his military discharge he had married and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career, but by then the offer was off the table from Universal. He eventually landed at MGM. In September 1959 his first daughter Heidi was born.
TV he starred in The Twilight Zone episode "And When the Sky Was Opened"
(11 Dec 1959) Three astronauts have returned from the
first space flight. Jim plays Major William Gart,
hospitalized with a broken leg, contacted by
Colonel Clegg Forbes (an excellent Rod Taylor) which seems the only one to
remember the existence of Colonel Ed Harrington.
At MGM he got a string of lighthearted comedies, the most popular being
'Where the Boys Are' (1960) for which he gained
recognition with the youth population for his role.
This despite already being a 30 years old married father of two when he
played 20 year old college student TV Thompson.
Perhaps MGM had plans to turn Hutton into the new Jimmy Stewart, for the studio insisted upon casting their young star in roles calling for ingenuous clumsiness. His quintessential role was perhaps as 'The Horizontal Lieutenant' (1962), in which his constant bumbling eventually transforms him into a war hero. Hutton was romantically paired with Paula Prentiss in 4 consecutive films: Where the Boys Are (1960), The Honeymoon Machine (1960), Bachelor in Paradise (1961) and The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962).
They worked so well together that
many fans assumed Hutton and Prentiss were married when in fact she was the
longtime wife to Richard Benjamin. According to Prentiss they were
paired because they were at the time Hollywood's tallest contract players
(he at 6' 5" and she at 5' 10").
In 1963 Hutton divorced his first wife: "He
told me his wife and family were standing in the way of his career."
Despite this, Hutton frequently stayed at her home when visiting the
He played opposite Hollywood greats
as Jane Fonda in George Roy Hill's 'Period Of Adjustment'
Burt Lancaster in 'The Hallelujah Trail' (1965) but the next big break
for Jim Hutton was the 1966 film 'Walk, Don't Run'. Cary Grant plays
matchmaker for Jim and Samantha Eggar during the 1966 Olympics in Tokyo.
Although Hutton was allowed a few non-comedy "outdoors" roles in 'Major
Dundee' (1965) and 'The Green Berets'
(1969), for the most
part he was locked into playing gangling young goofs. Jim Hutton starred in
nearly a dozen TV movies. However, when all three of his 1965 releases
flopped at the box-office his Hollywood stock took a major tumble,
particularly when Gene Kelly dropped him from the lead in of A Guide for
the Married Man (1967) one month before production started.
Film roles dried up and he was relegated to TV work, which coincided with what he called an eight year depression. He did marry Lynni M. Solomon in 1970, although they had a daughter Rebecca in 1971 the marriage would last only three years ending in divorce.
When finally, in the mid-1970s, he snagged the television for which his screen persona worked quite well: Ellery Queen. The 'definite' Ellery Queen due to his likeable impersonation in the NBC-TV series. The actor was charming and convincing as the self-effacing, deceptively preoccupied criminologist, especially when he turned to the camera 45 minutes into each Ellery Queen episode and invited the folks at home to help him solve the mystery.
According to producer William Link, Ellery Queen was created with Hutton in mind after NBC saw his performance in They Call It Murder. Link described him as the most dedicated actor he'd ever worked. He recalled that Hutton literally moved into his dressing room during the 7 month production, 7 days a week. He did this in order to study his script at morning and night, and avoid all distractions at home of women and alcohol. But crew noticed he drank heavily after production wrapped Friday throughout Saturday.
This success coincided with an upturn of theater work and reunion with Timothy Hutton (15). Father and son had gotten reacquainted in the summer of 1975, when, at Jim’s suggestion, Timothy spent the summer in his dad’s Laurel Canyon home while Jim was shooting a TV series. “Then he asked me, ‘Do you want to come down to Los Angeles and stay with me?'” Tim says, “The idea of actually living together hadn’t crossed my mind, but when he suggested it and we talked about it, the pieces all fit. The timing was perfect. When I suggested it to my mother, she thought it was a wonderful idea as well.” (3)
One of Hutton's memorable television appearances was appearing as a guest star in the 1977-1978 third season premiere of the Norman Lear sitcom One Day At A Time. The episode, entitled "The Older Man", was a four-part story arc in which Hutton portrayed Dr. Paul Curran, a forty-two year old veterinarian who falls in love with seventeen-year old Julie Cooper (played by Mackenzie Phillips). His last television role was in an unsold pilot called Butterflies based on the BBC2 sitcom. It was broadcast on NBC in August, 1979 several weeks after Hutton had died. (2)
According to Tim, his father loved his profession, and
that love was his legacy to his son. Father and son also shared passions for
horse racing, poker, jazz, and tennis. The day after one of their tennis
games, Jim Hutton visited his doctor for respiratory trouble and back pain,
he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which had spread to his lungs.
Timothy Hutton wore Jim Hutton's hat from Ellery Queen (1975-76) in both Ordinary People (1980), A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2000) and in the Leverage TV series in the episode 'The 10 Li'l Grifters Job' (July 7. 2011) where a Murder Mystery Masquerade offered the opportunity for a tribute. Youngest daughter Rebecca 'Punch' Hutton, from his second marriage, named her daughter Ellery.
“Friends” is always the word Tim uses to describe his
relationship with his father, and it is a word he insists not be taken
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Last updated July 27, 2016
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