James Stephenson

James Albert Stephenson (14 April 1889 – 29 July 1941) was a British actor who found success in Hollywood.

James Stephenson
in the trailer for
The Letter (1940)
James Albert Stephenson

(1889-04-14)14 April 1889
Died29 July 1941(1941-07-29) (aged 52)
Pacific Palisades, California, US
Years active1937–1941
Spouse(s)Lorna Anderson Stephenson

Early life

The son of chemist and druggist John G. Stephenson and his wife Emma, Stephenson grew up in the West Riding of Yorkshire and Burnley, Lancashire, with his brothers, Alan and Norman. He became a bank clerk and later had a career as a merchant. In the 1930s, he emigrated to the United States and took U.S. nationality in 1938.


British stage actor Stephenson made his film debut in 1937 at the age of 48 initially with parts in four films. Warner Bros. signed him the following year, and he began playing urbane villains and disgraced gentlemen.[2] His big break came when director William Wyler cast him, in spite of studio resistance, in The Letter (1940), opposite Bette Davis.[3]

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role.[4] Later that year, he played the title role in Calling Philo Vance.[5] In 1941 he was first-billed in Shining Victory, in which he played the character of Dr. Paul Venner.[6] Just as Stephenson's acting career was starting to rise, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52.[7]

He is interred at Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[8]

Partial filmography


  1. Before 1 April 1974 Selby was in the West Riding of Yorkshire
  2. "James Stephenson – Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  3. "Overview for James Stephenson". tcm.com. 2005. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  4. Bergman, Paul; Asimow, Michael (1 April 2006). "Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies". Andrews McMeel Publishing via Google Books.
  5. "Calling Philo Vance (1940)".
  6. "Shining Victory (1941) – Irving Rapper – Cast and Crew – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  7. Ellenberger, Allan R. (1 May 2001). "Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory". McFarland via Google Books.
  8. Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 71. ISBN 9780786450190. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
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