Biography: John Cullum






The proprietor of Cicely's only tavern, Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum), fed the locals a combination of home-cooked food, good advice, and insight. He and his lovely young wife, Shelly, managed The Brick and got along with each other seamlessly, despite their 41-year-age difference. Fans might eternally picture Holling serving up mooseburgers to Chris, Maggie, or Joel. However, for Tony Award-winning actor John Cullum, starring in a television series was a new experience. So, when Northern Exposure finished filming, he stepped from behind the bar and returned to the stage.

Cullum was born on March 2, 1930 in Knoxville, Tennessee. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Cullum also was a standout tennis player, winning the 1951 Southeastern Conference doubles championship with Bill Davis. In 1959, he married noted modern dancer/choreographer, playwright and novelist, Emily Frankel. They have a son, JD Cullum, who is also an actor.

Before Northern Exposure, Cullum's work includes theatre, film and TV. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in Camelot. He appeared in many TV series, including Quantum Leap (episode "Catch a Falling Star - May 21, 1979" in the second season). Fellow future NX alumna, Janine Turner, also appeared in this 1989 episode. He also directed an episode, "All-Americans".

After Northern Exposure went off the air, in 1996, Cullum came back to Broadway as Cap'n Andy in the Harold Prince revival of Show Boat. He also starred in the Roundabout Theater's 50th Anniversary revival of the Arthur Miller classic All My Sons (1997). In 1999, he toured Dallas, Atlanta, and Pasadena in South Pacific; and in 2000, he starred in Ancestral Voices in New Brunswick, New Jersey. That same year, Cullum made his London debut starring as Mr. Peters in Mr. Peter's Connections, a new play by Arthur Miller, which toured four cities in Great Britain. He appeared in Wendy Wasserstein's Old Money (2001) at Lincoln Center in New York City.

From 1997-2000, Cullum made guest TV appearances on Law & Order, Nothing Sacred, Roswell, All My Children, and Touched By An Angel, in which he appeared as Mark Twain in a touching Christmas episode, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Cullum was again catapulted into television stardom as a regular guest star on the hit series ER during the 1997 and 1999 seasons as Dr. Mark Greene's (Anthony Edwards) cancer-afflicted father. Since NX, Cullum's also begun to branch out into movies. In 1997, he wrote the screenplay for and starred as Algernon Pendleton in The Secret Life of Algernon, which won the First Place Jury Award at the 1998 Film Fest New Haven. He also played the judge mediating between Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott in Inherit the Wind (1999) and starred in Held Up with Barry Corbin (2000).

In 2001, Cullum appeared as the political boss of Urinetown!, an Off Off Broadway production. A hit at the 1999 New York International Fringe Festival, the play has amassed a cult following. Despite the title's implications, this absurdist play's subject matter is inoffensive: it's the story of a group of drought-plagued urbanites whose thirst becomes so intense that they are forced to look within themselves for water. In 2002, Cullum was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for the show by the Outer Critics Circle Awards (Broadway and off-broadway). He also received a 2002 Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by Leading Actor in a Musical (for Urintetown). He previously won in this lead category for his portrayal of Virginia farmer Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah (1975 Original Broadway Cast)">Shenandoah (1975). He also won a Tony in 1978 for On The Twentieth Century (1978 Original Broadway Cast)">On The 20th Century.

Pairing up again with Barry Corbin in 2003, the two appeared in an award-winning independent short film, Blackwater Elegy. Cullum and Corbin played aging fishing buddies facing their own mortality following the death of a friend. He has a semi-reoccurring role on Law & Order: SVU as attorney Barry Moredock, appearing in episodes in 2003 and 2004. On the stage, Cullum appeared in two less successful productions of Wilder, and the Neil Simon play, Rose's Dilemma. He returned to his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, to appear with his son, J.D.Cullum, in Ronald Harwood's The Dresser for the Clarence Brown Theatre Company.Cullum portrayed the work's vain British stage trouper to J.D.'s long-suffering dresser. He finished out 2004 as Cardinal Bernard Law in Michael Murphy's Sin: A Cardinal Deposed.

Cullum also has done a variety of voice work, including several audiobooks. For example he reads a Stephen King audiobook "The Man in the Black Suit: 4 Dark Tales" (released October 2002). To see additional audiobooks and recordings, see John Cullum's best recordings on Amazon. Cullum's voice appears in Ken Burns' Unforgiveable Blackness, along with fellow NoEx cast member Adam Arkin.The film premiered Jan. 17, 2005. After turning 75 on March 2, 2005, John Cullum showed no sign of slowing down. He also appeared in the NY City Opera's Candide (as both Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss), and a performance of New York City Center Encores! Purlie.

Cullum appeared as the father to Robin Williams' character in the film The Night Listener, debuted at Sundance 2006 and now available on DVD. Cullum portrayed Old Max in the broadway musical Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! – The Musical, a limited holiday engagement at the Hilton Theatre from Nov. 8, 2006 through Jan. 7, 2007. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! – The Musical, according to press notes, is narrated by Max the Dog (Cullum), who relates "the Grinch's fiendish plan to steal Christmas from the holiday-loving Whos. However, the Grinch soon discovers there's more to Christmas than he bargained for." The show will include the songs "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas," which are heard in the animated version of the Seuss classic, which is aired annually on television.

In the Spring of 2007, Cullum returned to the stage again as H.C. Curry in 110 Degrees in the Shade. For this role, he received a Tony nomination for Featured-Actor in a Musical. He also made a guest appearance on an episode of Mad Men. John Cullum appeared as the lead character of Cymbeline, a not-often-revived Shakespeare romance, in December through January. Cullum was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in January 2008. Eligible nominees for the Theater Hall of Fame must have a minimum of five major credits and 25 years in the Broadway theatre. In March 2008, Cullum stars in Conscientious Objector. Portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cullum was the first to be cast in the story of American wartime dissent by Michael Murphy. He also narrated Its Memory Alone Remains, a short film about The Battle of Fort Sanders (in the Civil War).

Current and Upcoming projects:
In early 2009, Cullum appear in August: Osage County. The darkly comic drama, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, concerns an Oklahoma family's reunion after the disappearance of the patriarch (played by Cullum). The show is at the Music Box Theatre, located at 239 West 45th Street.

Cullum will appear in Heroes, scheduled to begin previews at the Clurman Theatre on Feb. 24, 2009 and open on March 8, 2009; its limited run is to end on April 11. Tickets are available by calling (212) 279-4200 or by visiting The theatre is located in Manhattan at 410 West 42nd Street.

Total Exposure - Entertainment Weekly, 7/26/91
TV's a Different Kind of Exposure for John Cullum - Los Angeles Times, 11/29/93
Interview to Mr. Cullum (by fan "Nikita Fleischman") - 4/2/02
Twenty Questions (John Cullum) - American Theatre, 5/01/02
How I Got My Equity Card - Actors Equity website

Manager:  Jeff Berger
  address: 301 West 53rd Street, Suite 10J, New York, NY, 10019, USA

A reviewer once wrote:
Golden Boy
- Bijou Theater, Knoxville TN, Jan 23-24, 1952
"It's not often that I feel moved to put an actor first in a review, because I feel that the Plays the thing, even when the play is as old and widely known as Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy." But John Cullum did such a beautiful job in the UT [University of Tennessee] Theater's production of that play last night that he rates the best of whatever dubious honors I can bestow. I first saw Cullum in the UT production of "Journey's End." He did well in what I thought was a fatuous role. Each time I have seen him since, he has impressed me more favorably. I'm sure he reached a pinnacle of his college dramatic career last night as Joe Bonaparte. I suppose he will end up as an insurance salesman, newspaper hack or something worse (don't say it) after graduation, but it's nice to write about the forlorn possibility that he will fight the Herculean battle of show business to the top." - Norman Hoss, The Lively Arts, Knoxville Journal, 1/25/52


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© Copyright, 2009 • Northern Exposure is Copyright Universal City Studios. All Rights Reserved. • Created 12/22/01 • Updated 03/02/2009