23 April, 2009
Roman Bohnen was a stage and film actor.
Born Roman Aloys Bohnen in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bohnen attended the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1923 with a B.A. He served his acting apprenticeship in theater companies in St. Paul and Chicago before making his Broadway debut in 1931 in As Husbands Go.
Between 1934 and 1940, he belonged to the Group Theatre and appeared in numerous plays. Incubator, which he co-wrote with John Lyman, was produced in 1932.
Bohnen's first film was the 1937 Vogues of 1938. By 1941, he was working almost exclusively in film. Among his better-known roles are Candy in Of Mice and Men (1939) and Pat Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).
In The Beginning or the End Bohnen was cast as President Harry Truman. The MGM film was a docu-drama about the atomic bomb. The film was publicly released in 1947. After a private screening in late 1946, President Truman let it be known that he disapproved his portrayal regarding the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. On December 2, 1946, Bohnen wrote Truman that he should portray himself. On December 12, 1946, Truman responded to Bohnen's letter, but declined the chance to portray himself, and said that he was "sure you (Bohnen) will do the part creditably". Ultimately the scenes were re-shot with actor Art Baker re-cast as President Truman.
A co-founder of the politically active Actors Laboratory Theatre, he was working on its production of A Distant Isle when he collapsed and died in Hollywood, California in 1949. He was blacklisted before his death, and afterwards his name was mentioned in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.