John Phillip Law, who played Sinbad in the 1974 film The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and the blind angel in Roger Vadim's Barbarella, passed at the age of 70 on Tuesday.
Law was born in Los Angeles, California on September 7, 1937. to Deputy John Law of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and actress Phyllis Sallee. As a child John Phillip Law appeared as an extra in the films The Magnificent Yankee and Show Boat (1951). He attended the University of Hawaii where he decided to become an actor after taking drama classes there. After attending college, Law moved to New York City where he worked with Elia Kazan at the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre. In 1964 he appeared in a bit part in the play Changeling on Broadway. In 1965 he appeared in another bit part in the play Tartuffe.
Law made his first credited screen appearance in the Italian film Smog in 1962. He would follow that up with appearances in two more foreign films (Tre notti d'amore and Alta infedelta before receiving his big break in the 1966 comedy The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! In the film he played Alexei Kolchin, the Russian with whom an American teenager falls in love. Law played a major role in Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown and the lead role in Mario Bava's Diabolik. It was in 1968 that he appeared as the blind angel Pygar in the movie Barbarella.
For the next several years Law was very much in demand, appearing in the films The Sergeant, The Red Baron (as Baron Von Richthofen himself), and The Love Machine. It was in 1974 that he appeared in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, for the film for which he is perhaps best known. Unfortunately, Law's career never again reached the pinnacle it had in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The rest of his career was spent in action-adventure films, often made on low budgets and often made in Italy. Among the more notable films in which Law appeared later in his career were The Cassandra Crossing, Tarzan the Ape Man, and Vic. He also appeared on television, guest starring on The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, and It's a Living. In 1998 he did a run on the soap opera The Young and the Restless.
I have always thought of John Phillip Law as a talented actor whose career just never quite caught fire. His performances in The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!, Barbarella, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad were impressive. In some respects, I have to wonder that had he been born twenty to thirty years earlier he might not have been a bigger star. It seems to me that he was born to play the role of the heroic swashbuckler and that he would have been well suited for the sorts of roles played by Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. Unfortunately, in the Sixties and Seventies, roles such as that were the exception rather than the rule. At any rate, it is sad to know that he is gone.