Sunday, February 11, 2018

John Gavin R.I.P.

John Gavin, who appeared in such films as Spartacus (1960) and Psycho (1960) and starred on such TV shows as Destry and Convoy, died on February 9 2018 at the age of 86. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

John Gavin was born Juan Vincent Apablasa Jr. on April 8 1931 in Los Angeles, California. He attended St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles and Villanova Prep in Ojai, California. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at Stanford University in California. During the Korean War he served in the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. Princeton. He was an air intelligence officer and late in his service served as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Milton E. Miles.

It was following his service that he offered to work as technical advisor for producer Bryan Foy on the film Battle Stations (1958), which was set on a U.S. Navy ship during World War II. Bryan Foy told him that he should try acting instead and took him to Hollywood agent Henry Wilson. Henry Wilson got him a screen test with Universal-International and he was signed to the studio.

John Gavin made his film debut in 1955 in Raw Edge, using the screen name John Gilmore. For his next film, Behind the High Wall (1956), he was billed as John Golenor. It was with Four Girls in Town (1957) that he was first billed as John Gavin. He played his first lead role in the film A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958).  For the remainder of the Fifties he would appear in some very high profile films, including Imitation of Life (1959), Pscyho (1960), and Spartacus (1960). He made his television debut in 1960 in an episode of Insight.

John Gavin began the Sixties appearing in such films as Romanoff and Juliet (1961), Tammy Tell Me True (1961), and Back Street (1961). In 1962 he left Universal to go freelance. After various films to which he was signed did not come to fruition, in 1964 he signed again with Universal Pictures, with an option to do work outside of Universal. He starred in the short lived TV series Destry.  In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows The Virginian, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He starred on the short-lived show Convoy. John Gavin appeared in the films Pedro Páramo (1967), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Niente rose per OSS 117 (1967), The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), and Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970).

After George Lazenby left the James Bond franchise, John Gavin very nearly became the next 007. He was signed for the movie Diamonds Are Forever.  Unfortunately for Mr. Gavin, the head of United Artists, David Picker, wanted Sean Connery back for the role and offered the actor enough money that he could not refuse. While John Gavin did not get to play James Bond, he was paid quite nicely by the producers. He would again be up for the part of James Bond following Sean Connery's departure after Diamonds Are Forever. He was considered for Live and Let Die, but Harry Saltzman of Eon Productions wanted Sir Roger Moore for the role (Eon Productions had long wanted Mr. Moore for the part).

In the Seventies John Gavin appeared in the movies Keep It in the Family (1973), La casa de las sombras (1976), and Jennifer (1978).  He guest starred on such shows as The Doris Day Show, Mannix, Medical Centre, The Love Boat, Flying High, Hart to Hart, and Fantasy Island.

Following his acting career Mr. Gavin was involved in various business interests. He served as the United States Ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1986.

John Gavin was probably better known simply as a handsome leading man rather than as an actor. In fact, there were critics who accused him of being wooden. That having been said, he could be effective. He made for a convincing Julius Caesar in Spartacus, and was convincing as Millie's self-absorbed love interest Trevor in Thoroughly Modern Millie. He could even play not very nice guys from time to time, as in the case of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "Off-Season." Much of John Gavin's work had more depth than many would have given him credit for.

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