John Weld was born in Birmingham, Ala. His father died six months later, and his mother moved the family to Atlanta, where she worked as a secretary. Weld’s mother remarried, and the family moved back to Birmingham when Weld was five. Although he wasn’t formally adopted, Weld used his stepfather’s name as a child. Weld and his stepfather didn’t get along, and Weld spent his high school years at military schools in North Carolina and Tennessee. He attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) for one year. At the end of that year, Weld moved to Kansas City and found a warehouse job. In his leisure time, he competed in local championship swimming races. He went to New York to attempt a career in vaudeville and worked briefly as a bellboy on an ocean liner. In 1923, Weld and three friends drove from Atlanta to Hollywood to look for work in the movie industry. His friends soon returned home, but Weld worked as a movie stuntman for several years. He wanted to write, however, and, in 1926, movie columnist Louella Parsons obtained a job for him at the New York American. The following year, Weld sold his first short story, quit his job, and sailed to Paris. There, he worked for several newspapers, including the Paris edition of the New York Herald-Tribune. He also integrated himself into the Parisian literary scene and wrote two novels, Stunt Man and Gun Girl, both published in 1932.
That same year, Weld went back to Hollywood to work as a scenario writer. He soon lost his job due to Depression cutbacks and returned to New York. Weld worked for the New York American and spent his free time doing research for a novel about the Donner Party. In 1935, he went to Berkeley, Calif., to continue that research. When his money ran out, Weld returned to Southern California and worked briefly as a press agent for the Warner Brothers studio. Actor Walter Huston hired Weld to be his personal assistant, allowing Weld to finish his Donner Party novel. Don’t You Cry for Me was published in 1940. Weld moved to Laguna Beach, Calif., where he continued to write, publishing three more novels in the next three years. During World War II, Weld edited the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation company newsletter and did public relations for the Ford Motor Company. After the war, Weld opened a Ford dealership in Laguna Beach and bought the Laguna Beach Post, which he and his wife published until the 1960s. In 1960, Weld decided to travel around the world on freight ships and make a film of the experience. Freightboat Around the World was the first of several travel documentaries Weld made between 1960 and 1972. In his seventies, Weld returned to writing and published five more books before his death at the age of ninety-eight.
John Weld’s writing reflects his colorful career. His fiction includes historical novels, three set in the American West, and a novel based on his work as a movie stuntman. His nonfiction includes two memoirs, a biography of his friend Walter Huston, and a collection of his newspaper columns from the Laguna Beach Post.
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Last updated on May 30, 2008.