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Discovered by Nicky Smith

Ohio Soldier, Playing Minor Army Role, Plumeted to Movie Stardom
Former School Teacher Has G.I. Part in New Film Released by British Picture Corporation

The Southeast Missourian - Feb 23, 1944
By: Tom Wolf

London, Feb. 24. - (NEA) - Like so many other Army stories, this one begins "... and so he was drafted." Unlike any other Army story, this one ends "... and now he's a movie star."

When Uncle Sam tagged John Sweet in September, 1941, he was just another American middle-western kid. He hails from Granville, O. Today he's Sgt. John Sweet, one of the four principals in "A Canterbury Tale," a new feature film soon to be released in Britain and then in the States. Eric Portman, one of Britain's best known actors, is another of the principals.

The Army caught John Sweet at a tough time. He was just starting to make good - as a school teacher. He'd come up the hard way, because the family money had run out just as he, youngest of six, was ready for college.

But John went to college anyway, doing odd jobs, living in a 25-cents-a-week room over a garage. He got his B.A. in education at Ohio State. But teaching jobs were scarce, and John went to work as a clerk in Cincinnati. It was there that he got his only theatrical experience, as a member of the Cincinnati Players - a group of office workers who put on semi-professional shows.

Gave to Charity
He was finally offered a teaching job. He met a girl and got married. Then Uncle Sam stepped in. He went to Fort Bragg, later was sent to Britain as a clerk.

Last Spring Sweet heard that a G.I. version of "Eve of St. Mark" was being cast here. He tried out for, and got the role of Pvt Francis Marion.

Now, as in all stories of this sort, it so happened that Michael Powel, one of Britain's top producers, was American sergeant in a new Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger production. The part called for a typical American G.I. He wasn't to be the hardboiled top-kick. He was to be a human, easy going casual guy - a guy whose girl hasn't written, who's lonely for his lumberjack pals in Oregon, who's shy and homesick.

The U.S. Army agreed to furlough Sweet for four months under the heading of what John describes as "international solidarity." They wouldn't let him make any money, so he gave his $2000 pay to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - "because it's one of the last charities people remember, and because it's just as important to the democratic idea as the charities everyone gives to."

"Sure, I liked making the movie," Sweet says simply, "I'm getting as big a kick out of it as any kid would. I still don't know whether I can act, because Mr. Powell just let me be natural in front of the cameras.

"I still have a feeling that I'd make a better school teacher than an actor. Anyway, I'm still a school teacher until proved otherwise."

John's something else, too. He's still Sgt. john Sweey, United States Army.

I should note that this is how it was printed. You can see it online.

Other P&P obituaries