The Autobiography of John
Written by John & Mary Bromfield
Appended by Frank Delaney
I was born on June 11th,1922, Farron McClain Bromfield, not far from the golden
dome of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Two years later we moved
into a home at the beach in Venice, Ca. I grew up enjoying the outdoors, running
the beaches, swimming, bodysurfing and playing beach football... When I wasn't
working my paper route. I graduated from Westminster Grammar School and entered
Venice High School, While there I played football and did well, I made (All
Western League) end, the weekly (All City) end, and the boxed for the Venice
Athletic Club. During Summer vacations, I worked on the local commercial fishing
boats, hauling in tuna and mackerel nets.
In 1940 I graduated from Venice High School, football offers came in from a few universities and after visiting several I choose St. Mary's College - Home of the Galloping Gaels, and St. Mary's became my home. The famous Slip Madigan was the head coach at that time. Those were the days, my sophomore year. I made first string. Left end was yours truly, "Faron Bromfield".
The following year found me playing Varsity Ball under head coach Norman (Red) Strader. Slip Madigan had retired and my end coach was Eddie Erdelatz, who later spent eight years coaching Navy and then the Oakland Raiders. Eddie was also the St. Mary's boxing team coach and, yes, you're right, I spent a few times flat on the canvas. Summer vacations were spent on tuna clippers on the deep Mexican waters out of San Diego. The work kept me in shape and the pay was no too bad!
Fall season, at St. Mary's with it's solid coaching staff, (Red Strader, Marty Kordick, Eddie Erdelatz and Joe Ruetz of Notre Dame) we had a killer schedule; California at Berkley, Fordham, Santa Clara, Loyola, Detroit, Duquesne, Gonazga, Nevada and others. We finished in good shape.
Spring found me boxing again, and this time I stayed off the mat, so I got the Silver Glove Boxing Award and was runner up in the Pacific Coast Division.
The summer came, I joined a fishing buddy in a shark fishing venture. We fished the banks off of Malibu, California, for soupfin sharks. According to Government chemists the soupfin shark liver was rich in Vitamin A. And after testing the livers they were sold at a high price. The carcasses, at that time , were sold for cat food, Today we dine on it in fine restaurants.
My last season at St. Mary's found the college with a new head coach from the University of Washington, Jimmy Phelan. We had a good year. Come spring, I won the Golden Glove Boxing Award.
I had a great time at St. Mary's; the brothers were strict, but always on one's side and ready to help. Brother Albert loved to hear about my fishing adventures. I cherish those memories. I continued fishing for shark awhile after leaving college, the money was good and the life at sea was for me.
1947, on the Santa Monica pier something happened to change my life and bring about a new career. One day, while sitting on a barrel mending shark nets, I was approached by three men who asked me about the nets and shark fishing. I told them as much as I knew, they listened and walked away. Sometime later they returned with an offer. Would I consider going to Alaska to harpoon whales with the Eskimos? They were making a documentary film in the Bering Straits, at Wales, Alaska. It would be a five month job with good money. The plan was to stay from May through October and photograph walrus, seals and whales in the Artic and the Pribllof Islands. I accepted their offer!
Yes, of course. May 20, 1947 our film company flew from Los Angeles to Seattle and on to Anchorage where a bush pilot picked us up and later rough landed us on the soft tundra in Wales. Eskimos from the village rushed out to meet us. All were wearing parkas gaudy colored print with fur fringe We lodged in the village school house, heated by oil stoves and began work.
Supplied with a harpoon, a barrel of line and a crew of six Eskimos I took my place in the bow of an oogra and with Eskimos paddling we set out to find some whales. We began pushing our way across the shore ice that ran about one half mile out from the beach. Humpy and Finback were plentiful but almost impossible to get near enough to hand harpoon. (The whale is like a sea going elephant, a very smart fellow who can sound and surface two hundred yards away). And that’s just what they did when it was time to strike. It took us nearly two weeks but I finally succeeded, and four days later I got another. One weighed seventy – one tons, the other eighty – four tons, almost enough meat to feed the village for a year.
Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the company leased a hundred and twenty foot ship and we headed into the Artic, twelve Eskimos and two oogras. Two weeks on the ice floors photographing and catching walrus, the catch, always, for the Eskimos. We traveled on to the Pribllof Islands for the mating of the seals and filming, then on to the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak Island, to photograph bear. A few more stops and we headed home. We had our film. The Eskimos had their food and I’d had one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I realize that today this is a touchy subject, harpooning whales and hunting bear, but I trust that all will understand that things were different in 1947. Keep in mind, that this was the Eskimos’ source of food and warmth.
Shortly after returning to California the studio put the documentary together and flew me to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to participate in a presentation dinner given in my honor. The New Bedford Port Society presented me with a lifetime membership in the whaling society; an honor given for having hand harpooned a whale. I remain, as recorded; the youngest man in the New Bedford Port Society to have hand harpooned a whale.
The documentary had paved the avenues of my future in the Motion Picture Industry. I signed a contract with a Hollywood agency and they sent me to the David Selznick Studio drama school. By the end of the year I was working in a full length feature. The film was very, The Furies, for Paramount Studios. The stars were Walter Huston, Barbara Stanwyck, Judith Anderson, Thomas Gomez, Katina Paxina, Wendell Corey and Gilbert Roland. I played the part of Walter Huston’s son. My next part was in the, Rope of Sand, starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Henried, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Sam Jaffe and yours truly. (A good part). These were followed by: Revenge of the Creature From The Black Lagoon: Curucu (Universal International), starring John Bromfield and Beverly Garland: Crime Against Joe (United Artists), starring John Bromfield and Julie London: Easy to Love (M.G.M.) with Esther Williams: Ring of Fear with Pat O’Brien, Mickey Spillane and Dolores Hart, Hold that Line (United Artists) in which I co-starred with Bowery Boys, Quincannon Frontier Scout (United Artists) co-starred with Toney Martin, The Black Dakodas (Columbia Pictures) John Bromfield, Wanda Hendrix and Gary Merrill. These were followed by fifteen others.
I entered the world of television in 1956, starred in several Fire Side Theater episodes, Schlitz Play House, House of Stars, NBC Playhouse, The Lucy Show, Boston Blackie, The Marie Wilson Show, the Ann Southern Show and others.
The year 1957, Desi Arnaz of Desilu Productions signed me to do a series called (The Sheriff of Cochise), a half hour modern day Western. A highly rated show it lasted through one hundred and eight episodes. The Sheriff series was followed by another production with Desilu Studios, Seventy-eight episodes of (The U.S. Marshall). Both series were filmed in part on location in Cochise County, Arizona, along the Mexican border and interior shots were filmed at Desilu Studios in Hollywood.
Many young actors in the cast later became well known stars: Charles Bronson played an Indian Deputy in six of my Sheriff episodes, and David Jansen, Peter Breck, Claude Aikins, Gavin McCloud, Stacy Keach, Michael Landon, Rod Cameron, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Lord, Ed Nelson, Myron Healy, Doug McClure, Mary Aster, Jim Davis, Ron Hagerthy, Ann Doran, Harold Stone, Robert Wilke, Ann Rutherford, Peter Leeds, Doug Fowley, Stanley Clements, Ross Martin, Mike Mazurki, Iron Eyes Cody, Rodd Redwing, Dael VanSickle, Robert Fuller, Ned Glass, Onslow Stevens, Virginia Grey, Don Gordon, Ruta Lee, Martin Milner, Maggie Mahoney, Frank Ferguson, Robert Middleton, Wally Cassell, Nancy Kulp, Lloyd Corrigan, Jay Novello, Tom Drake, Stacy Harris, Jan Shepard, Jack Elam, Penny Edwards, Sid Melton, Frank Maxwell, Hal Hopper, Mel Torme, John Lupton, Charles Aidmen, Neil Hamilton, Harry Carey, Jr., Whit Bissell, Jeremy Slate, Jerome Cowan, William Schallert, Jacqueline Scott, Leon Belasco, Kurt Kreuger, John Pickard, Paul Richards, Lisa Gaye, John Beradino, Robert Arthur, Andy Clyde, James Parnell, Walter Coy, Harry Lauter, Peter Coe, Primo Carnera, John Crawford, Simon Oakland, Rudolfo Acosta, Charles Winninger, John Doucette, Jack Kelly, Wallace Ford, James Gleason, Dick Foran, Gloria Talbott, Jane Nigh, Carl Betz, Joe De Santis, William Bouchey, Ed Platt, Elisha Cook, Clare Baxter, Doris Singleton, Diane Brewster, Lola Albright, Tom Greenway, Darryl Hickman, Frank Gorshim, Don Richards, Lennie Geer, Paul Wexler, Grant Richards, Ed Kemmer, Kathleen Mulquenn, Robert Bice, Ann Morrison, Michael Connors, Forrest Taylor, Bill Cassady, Virginia Arness, Janet Lord, Frankie Darro, Paul McGuire, Guinn Williams, Danny Cassabian, Quenten Sondergaard and others appeared in my shows. Also, of course, not to be forgotten, my two side kicks, James Griffith and Stan Jones.
Three months out of the year when we were not shooting. I traveled around the country appearing on television and radio publicizing the series of Desilu and the Anheuser Bush Company, our sponsor. At the same time, I did State Fairs, Rodeos, Three Bob Hope Shows (skits with Bob), The Cotton Festival in Memphis, two Rose Bowl Dinners and Tele-thons for many different causes.
1959, Tom Durant, president of the famous Chicago Sportsman and Vacation Show (the nation’s largest) asked me to join his parade of outdoor champions. He had heard of my interest in the great outdoors. Lured by the idea of getting back to my past love of outdoor sports, I accepted and appeared as the host of the show for twenty – four years.
In 1961, due to the popularity of my television series, a Japanese film studio signed me to do a color feature based on the exploits of The Sheriff of Cochise and the Tokyo Police. Quite an experience that, hearing myself speak Japanese! Their dubbing process was terrific. James Griffith, my side kick from U.S. Marshall, worked with me in the film. Paul Savage went as my script writer and story editor. We spent three months in Japan. The film was a great success at the Japanese box office.
Both the (Sheriff of Cochise) and (U.S. Marshall) series remained popular for years in Japan, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Egypt, Central America and Holland. All dubbed, of course.
In 1963, while touring the south, I met the prettiest and most talented little singer – dancer I could have ever wanted to know; a college of Pacific Music Major, named Mary Ellen Tillotson, born in Fresno, California. We were married in May that same year, scheduled our work so that we could be near each other and spent as much time together as possible. We traveled together, loved together, fished together and are still doing it.
Producer, Fenton McHugh of CBS signed me to a show in 1970, a one hour special called Fisherman’s World; it was done in different segments around the country. I narrated one film in the Bahamas and was camera host to Sam Snead, Gary Moore, baseball star Boog Powell, David Wayne and Play Boy writer Gene Shepard.
Following that, in 1980, Mary Ellen and I made a Fenton McHugh film for British Air that took us on a safari in Kenya, Africa. We fished the Indian Ocean off Mambasa and filmed our day’s catch, 300 pounds of fish, which we gave to the natives.
In 1982, we did a fishing film on Lake Powell, Utah for Frank and Dona Delaney. Since then I and Mary are, more or less, retired. I did some radio reports for John Case at WBBM, CBS, Chicago for several years but have also given that up for the love of life.
We have done a great deal of charity work with our, long time friend, a banjo player named Harry (Woo Woo) Stevens. Mary sings and I occasionally join her. We have done a lot of traveling and enjoying life!
2003, we have not quit the game…I’m 82 and Mary will soon be 76. I have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Not much fishing is done these days but we are happy - we have each other. We have had a wonderful life together and are not ready to quit.