John Compton, Actor in 'Mildred Pierce' and 'The D.A.’s Man,' Dies at 91

Everett Collection
Compton (right) with Jack Webb on the set of the NBC series 'The D.A.’s Man.'

The Tennessee native appeared in films opposite John Garfield, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant and Clayton Moore.

John Compton, who appeared in the classic 1945 melodrama Mildred Pierce and then starred in a Jack Webb-produced TV crime series, The D.A.’s Man, has died. He was 91.

Compton died May 12 of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his niece, Susan Long, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Compton also had small roles in such prominent pictures as Pride of the Marines (1945), starring John Garfield; San Antonio (1945), with Errol Flynn; Night and Day (1946), starring Cary Grant; and The Ten Commandments (1956), directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

He appeared opposite Jane Wyman in the Western Cheyenne (1947) and in The Glass Menagerie (1950), the first film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play.

Compton also was seen in Jesse James Rides Again, a 13-chapter serial that played in theaters in 1947 and starred The Lone Ranger’s Clayton Moore as the (in this version, heroic) outlaw.

In Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce (1945), starring Joan Crawford, Compton played Ted Forrester; the devilish Veda (Ann Blyth) pretends that she’s pregnant with his child in order to cheat his wealthy family out of $10,000.

Later, Compton starred in the 1959 NBC series The D.A.’s Man as Shannon, a wily investigator who goes undercover to infiltrate the New York mob. The short-lived drama was produced by Mark VII Limited, the production company led by Dragnet legend Webb.

Born John Tolley in Lynchburg, Tenn., Compton headed to New York in his early 20s to pursue a career in acting and appeared on Broadway in the 1945 comedy The Ryan Girl opposite June Havoc.

He came to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and was signed to a contract by Warner Bros.

Compton’s résumé also includes such films as California Passage (1950) and the TV shows The Cisco Kid, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Highway Patrol, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Surfside 6 and The Real McCoys.

In the 1960s, Compton left acting to become a real estate developer in the Hollywood Hills and Laurel Canyon.

Survivors also include his wife of 51 years, Angela, and his sister June.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

6:35 p.m. May 18: The name of Ann Blyth's character in 'Mildred Pierce' was corrected.

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