Sir John Talbot was an astronomer and an aristocrat who lived in the village of Llanwelly in Wales. He was the patriarch of the Talbot family and the owner of the lavish Talbot Castle. Often referred to by his title, Sir John, Talbot was the father of two sons, an unnamed eldest son (possibly named John) and his younger son Larry. As was custom in the Talbot household, the elder son was considered in everything, often leaving the younger sibling jealous and embittered. In 1923, a family row drove a wedge between father and son and Larry Talbot left home. He was gone for nearly eighteen years and only returned home when he received news of his brother's death during a hunting accident. John Talbot reconciled with his son and the two promised that they would never again allow aristocratic arrogance to come between them. Sir John explained that Larry now stood to inherit the Talbot estate and encouraged him to ingratiate himself with the people of Llanwelly.
A short time later, Larry Talbot was attacked in a gypsy camp by a werewolf named Bela. Though he succeeded in killing the werewolf, he also received a bite across his chest, and thus, inherited the curse of the werewolf. Most of the villagers, including Sir John, believed that Larry was attacked by an ordinary wolf. Sir John kept vigil over Larry in their home and defended him against the inquiries of Chief Constable Paul Montford (an old friend of Sir John's).
Larry later had a private conversation with his father and asked him about werewolves. John showed him material from a book which illustrated a form of mental illness known as Lycanthropy, wherein a man believes that he can turn into a wolf. John confessed that he did not believe in werewolves, but admitted that all legends are somehow rooted in fact.
Though John didn't realize it at the time, Larry truly was a werewolf. He had transformed into the Wolf Man on two previous occasions, one of which, led to the murder of a gravedigger named Richardson. Most of the villagers believed that the attack was the result of a wild animal, but the gypsies knew the truth and warned everyone in their camp about the presence of a werewolf.
Larry later confided in Sir John and told him the truth about his condition. Sir John was both a man of faith and practicality. He didn't believe that his son was a werewolf, but he understood how the incident in the gypsy camp had traumatized him into believing he was a werewolf. At Larry's behest, Sir John agreed to tie Larry up and lock him in his bedroom for his own safety. He then told Larry that he had agreed to join the other villagers in hunting down the animal that had been stalking the local wilderness. Larry insisted that his father should bring with him Larry's silver-tipped wolf's head cane.
John Talbot went out into the moors and joined the hunt. While the other hunters were eager to capture their prey, John Talbot grew increasingly nervous about Larry. He then encountered the aging gypsy known as Maleva, the mother of Bela, the man responsible for turning Larry into a werewolf. Maleva took note that John carried Larry's cane and told him that the silver would protect him. In her own pointed fashion, Maleva suspected that John was beginning to believe that Larry was a werewolf. John glowered at her, accusing Maleva of taking advantage of Larry's gullability and filling his head with "witch's tales".
A shot rang out and John Talbot hurried to meet up with the other hunters. While searching through the marshes, he found the Wolf Man in the midst of attacking a girl named Gwen Conliffe. The Wolf Man dropped Gwen and attacked Sir John who fought back using the silver-handled walking stick. The two wrestled about on the ground, but ultimately John beat the Wolf Man to death with repeated blows from the cane. Maleva the gypsy approached and said a prayer over the Wolf Man's prone body. John looked on in horror as the Wolf Man transformed back into his son Larry.
The loss of two sons in such a short period of time proved too harrowing for John Talbot and he passed away from a broken heart not long after.
- In the 2010 remake of The Wolf Man, John Talbot is played by British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins.
- In addition to playing the role of John Talbot, Claude Rains also solidified his place in horror film history as being the first actor to play the title role in James Whale's The Invisible Man. In 1943, he played the part of Erique Claudin in Universal's remake of the The Phantom of the Opera.
- The film never states that John Talbot was a scientist, but it does indicate that he received the Beldon Prize for research. This, coupled with the fact that he had converted the attic of Talbot Castle into an observatory, suggests that he was an astronomer.
- The names of John Talbot's extended family members are revealed in the Talbot family crypt as seen in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Their relationship to John Talbot is unknown.
- Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man indicates that Sir John dies of a broken heart shortly after the events of The Wolf Man.
- The original shooting script for the Wolf Man, as well as other sources, indicate that Llanwelly is located in Wales, though this is never represented in the final cut of the film