In John first appeared in silent movies, playing a Tibetan monk in Die Fremde (The Foreigner), and Death in Hilde Warren und der Tod (Hilde Warren and Death). These roles were typical of the kinds of parts he would become known for, even if, at first, he was more often seen as a father, husband or dignitary. Beginning in the 1920s, John appeared in the films of notable German filmmakers, where he often played bizarre, gnome-like figures, such as the beggar in Fritz Lang's Der müde Tod (Tired Death, , released in English as Destiny), and the blind balloon seller who recognizes the murderer due to a whistled song in 's M. For F.W. Murnau he played a night watchman in Der Letzte Mann (The Last Man, , released in English as The Last Laugh).
John died in 1934.