John Joseph Williams (August 18, 1931 – July 28, 1985), known as Grant Williams, was an American film, theater and television actor. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in the science fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).
Born in New York City to a Scottish father and an Irish mother, Williams began acting in summer stock as a child. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving from 1948-52, before and during the Korean War.
He was discharged as an Air Force staff sergeant. It would seem that Williams attended one or more colleges after his Air Force stint, but the sources are deeply discordant about which. He had, in fact, enrolled in Queens College, Flushing, New York, but cut his attendance short when he enlisted. Among the universities cited by the various sources are: the University of Illinois, City College of New York, Columbia University, and New York University. According to Rual Askew of the Dallas Morning News, who interviewed Williams in March 1957 and published a profile of the actor, Williams earned a B.A. in Journalism from New York University. According to other press sources (such as a February 1959 syndicated article in the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah), Williams obtained a degree in journalism from a correspondence school.
After his Air-Force service, he enrolled at the Actors Studio in New York City under Lee Strasberg. Williams' early theatrical experience was intensive, but, contrary to what several Internet sources (and Williams himself) have stated, never included Broadway. His work in the theater was all "off-Broadway," at prestigious venues such as the Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia (1953), and the Blackfriars Theatre in New York (1953). Following small roles on television, Williams was spotted by a talent scout on Kraft Television Theater in 1954, and signed with Universal Pictures in March 1955. He made his film debut in Jack Arnold's Red Sundown in March of the following year, in the small but memorable bravura role of hired thug Chet Swann.
This film was followed by another picture directed by Arnold, the noir thriller Outside the Law (1956), by the western Showdown at Abilene (1956), by some small uncredited roles, and by the middling CinemaScope romantic comedy Four Girls in Town (1957).
In his most memorable role, Williams starred as Scott Carey in his seventh film, the Hugo Award-winning science fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), with Randy Stuart playing his wife, Louise. Despite good reviews and the success of the film, his career continued with only lackluster roles. Universal Pictures dropped his contract in 1959, and he signed in 1960 with Warner Brothers, where he had a continuing role as the private detective Greg McKenzie on Hawaiian Eye, co-starring Robert Conrad, Anthony Eisley, and Connie Stevens.
Several film and television roles followed, including playing Col. Geo. Custer on the show Yancy Derringer, and the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch's The Couch (1962), but fame still eluded him. He made two guest appearances on Perry Mason in 1964 as columnist and murderer Quincy Davis in "The Case of the Ruinous Road", and defendant Dr. Todd Meade in the 1965 episode "The Case of the Baffling Bug".
He starred as troubled military psychologist Major Douglas McKinnon in The Outer Limits episode "The Brain of Colonel Barham" along with former Hawaiian Eye co-star Anthony Eisley. Also in 1965, Williams played the title character (Albert "Patch" Saunders) in the Bonanza episode "Patchwork Man," as well as the 1960 episode "Escape to Ponderosa".
Williams attempted a comedic role on the radio airwaves in the anthology program Family Theater (September 11, 1957, the show's last episode), and there was some light-heartedness to his delightful role as Mike Carter in the half-hour episode "Millionaire Gilbert Burton" (April 29, 1959) of the series The Millionaire. As his acting career declined, he opened a dramatics school in West Hollywood. According to earlier versions of this article, he also wrote several books on acting, though his acting students never mention them in the extensive interviews included in Stampalia's biography, and there appears to be no trace of their publication. Williams continued to act occasionally in both movies and television, but without much conviction and in inferior products. His last released film appearance was in Doomsday Machine (1972); however, as it was actually shot in 1969, Brain of Blood (1972) was his last acting work for the screen. His last TV appearance was in 1983 on the game show Family Feud along with other former cast members from Hawaiian Eye.
Life and death
Williams died on July 28, 1985 of peritonitis at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles and was buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
Williams never married but was survived by a brother. He was a cousin, or rather great-nephew, of Scottish opera singer Mary Garden.
- Red Sundown (1956)
- Outside the Law (1956)
- Written on the Wind (1956)
- Four Girls in Town (1957)
- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
- The Monolith Monsters (1957)
- Lone Texan (1959)
- 13 Fighting Men (1960)
- The Leech Woman (1960)
- Susan Slade (1961)
- The Couch (1962) (screenplay by Robert Bloch)
- PT 109 (1963)
- Brain of Blood (1972)
- Doomsday Machine (shot in 1969, completed and released in 1972)