John Houseman, 86, Dies; Won ‘Paper Chase’ Oscar

John Houseman, the suave dramatic entrepreneur who won an Oscar for his role as a crusty law school professor in the movie “The Paper Chase” and the accolades of millions for his efforts on behalf of the theater, died early today.

He was 86 and died at his Malibu home of cancer.

Houseman produced Mercury Theatre’s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast that terrorized the country 50 years ago. In the last few years he was best known as the voice of the Smith Barney investment company, which he said makes money ". . . the old-fashioned way. They e-a-r-r-r-n it.”

Born Jean Haussman in Bucharest, Romania, the veteran actor, director and producer launched his career in 1937 with Orson Welles at the old Mercury Theatre, and he was instrumental in putting together Welles’ classic film, “Citizen Kane,” in 1941.


During a tribute in Los Angeles to him in 1987, Houseman said: “The only important thing when you’ve lived as long as I have is what you’ve accomplished--a body of work. . . . We all tend to talk about our successes. At least as important are our failures.”

Houseman played small roles in the 1938 film “Too Much Johnson” and the 1964 film “Seven Days in May.” He then emerged as a compelling actor in “The Paper Chase.”

He starred in the CBS television series based on the movie “The Paper Chase,” and after its cancellation, he stayed with the series for several years on Showtime pay television.