Jack Holt was an American motion picture actor. He was a leading man of silent and sound films, and was known for his many roles in Westerns.
Holt was born Charles John Holt in New York City. He grew up in Winchester, Virginia, and he often said he was born there. Back in Manhattan, Holt attended Trinity School. He then enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute, but his misbehavior got him expelled. He stopped trying to become a lawyer and went on the road, taking odd jobs. North of San Francisco in 1914, he volunteered to tumble down a very steep embankment into the Russian River in a stunt for a film crew shooting a scene for Salomy Jane. In gratitude, the director gave him a bit part in the film.
Holt went to Hollywood and picked up some stunt and bit part assignments in serials. At Universal Pictures, Holt’s on-screen performances caught the attention of Francis Ford and his brother John Ford, and Grace Cunard. Holt worked as a supporting player for them at Universal Pictures, and starred in serials.
Holt, with his dapper mustache, prominent jaw, and quick-with-his-fists manner, personified rugged masculinity. Holt became Columbia Pictures’ most reliable leading man, and scored personal successes in three Frank Capra action dramas, Submarine, Flight, and Dirigible, Holt’s no-nonsense characterizations were eclipsed by those of younger, tough-talking actors like James Cagney and Chester Morris, but Holt continued to work in low-budget action features, almost always for Columbia, through 1940. Holt’s long tenure at Columbia came to an end when he had an argument with studio chief Harry Cohn. Cohn, anxious to teach the actor a lesson in humility, gave him a low-prestige assignment: the starring role in a 15-chapter serial. Holt made the serial?Holt of the Secret Service ?and it turned out well enough for Columbia to promote it vigorously, introducing this veteran action star to serial audiences. But that was the last straw for the proud Holt, who left Columbia for other studios.