Sunday, July 26, 2020

Godspeed John Saxon

John Saxon, who appeared in movies from Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) to Enter the Dragon (1973) to Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), made numerous guest appearances, and was a regular on the TV show The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, died yesterday, July 25 2020, at the age of 83. The cause was pneumonia.

John Saxon was born Carmine Orrico in Brooklyn, New York on August 5 1936. As a teenager he worked as a barker for a Coney Island archery concession. He soon became very skilled as an archer. It was while he was attending New Utrecht High School that he was discovered by an agent for male models. John Saxon then found himself appearing on the covers of such magazines as True Romance. One of his photo shoots attracted the attention of Hollywood agent Henry Wilson, the legendary Hollywood agent who had discovered Guy Madison, Tab Hunter, and Rock Hudson, among others.

John Saxon was only 17 years old when he signed with Henry Wilson. He studied acting under Betty Cashman at Carnegie Hall for six months before flying to Hollywood. There he was signed to Universal. He attended the studio's workshop for 18 months before receiving his first credited role in Running Wild (1955), starring Mamie Van Doren.

John Saxon was very busy in the Fifties. He appeared in The Unguarded Moment (1956) before receiving his breakout role in Rock, Pretty Baby! (1956). Although it was a low budget movie, Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) proved very successful. He reprised his role in the sequel, Summer Love (1957).  John Saxon was established as a teen idol, receiving around 3,000 fan letters a week. Mr. Saxon appeared in the films This Happy Feeling (1958), The Reluctant Debutante (1958), The Restless Years (1958), The Big Fisherman (1959), and Cry Tough (1959). In the late Fifties John Saxon found himself increasingly cast in Westerns and other genre films. He appeared in the Western The Unforgiven (1960), the thriller Portrait in Black (1960), and the Western The Plunderers (1960). During the Fifties, John Saxon also made his television debut in an episode of Medic in 1955.

In the Sixties, John Saxon had the recurring role of Dr. Theodore Stuart on The Bold Ones: The New Doctors. He guest starred on the TV shows General Electric Theatre, The Dick Powell Show, Another World, Burke's Law, Gunsmoke, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Dr. Kildare, The Time Tunnel, Cimarron Strip, Garrison's Gorillas, The Viriginian, It Takes a ThiefThe Name of the Game, Bonanza, and Ironside. He appeared in the TV movies Doomsday Flight, Winchester 73, and Istanbul Express. He appeared in the movies Posse from Hell (1961), War Hunt (1962), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), Agostino (1963), La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963),  The Cardinal (1963), Sette contro la morte (1964), The Ravagers (1965), The Night Caller (1965), Queen of Blood (1966), The Appaloosa (1966), For Singles Only (1968), I tre che sconvolsero il West (Vado, vedo e sparo) (1968), and Death of a Gunfighter (1969).

In the Seventies John Saxon continued to appear in The Bold Ones: The New Doctors. He also appeared in the mini-series Once an Eagle. He guest starred in the TV shows Kung Fu, Banyon, Norman Corwin Presents, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rookies, Police Story, Banacek, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gunsmoke, Petrocelli, The Rockford Files, The Six Million Dollar Man,. The Bionic Woman, Starsky and Hutch, Wonder Woman, Most Wanted, Quincy M.E., Hawaii Five-O, and Vega$. He appeared in the television pilots Planet Earth and Strange World. John Saxon appeared in some significant movies in the Seventies, including the classic Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon (1973), the early slasher movie Black Christmas (1974), The Electric Horseman (1979), and the cult sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He also appeared in such films as Mister Kingstreet's War (1971), House Made of Dawn (1972), Joe Kidd (1972), Mitchell (1975), The Swiss Conspiracy (1976), Moonshine County Express (1977), The Bees (1978), Shalimar (1978), Fast Company (1979), Beyond Evil (1980), Cannibal Apocalypse (1980), and Running Scared (1980).

In the Eighties John Saxon has recurring roles on the shows Dynasty and Falcon Crest. He guest starred on such shows as Hardcastle and McCormick, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Magnum P.I., Masquerade, Fantasy Island, Finder of Lost Loves, American Playhouse, The A-Team, Half Nelson, Glitter, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hotel, and The Ray Bradbury Theatre. He appeared in such movies as Wrong is Right (1982), Desire (1982), Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983), The Big Score (1983), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Fever Pitch (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Death House (1988), Criminal Act (1989), My Mom's a Werewolf  (1989), The Last Samurai (1990), and Crossing the Line (1990).

In the Nineties John Saxon had a recurring role on the TV show Melrose Place. He guest starred on such shows as Monsters; Matlock; In the Heat of the Night; Murder, She Wrote; Kung Fu: The Legends Continues; and California. He appeared in such movies as The Arrival (1991), Maximum Force (1992), Hellmaster (1992), The Baby Doll Murders (1993), No Escape No Return (1993), Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), The Killers Within (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), The Party Crashers (1998), and Criminal Minds (1998).

From the Naughts into the Teens, John Saxon appeared in the movies Night Class (2001), Outta Time (2002), The Road Home (2003), The Craving Heart (2006), Trapped Ashes (2006), God's Ears (2008), Old Dogs (2009), The Mercy Man (2009), Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen (2010), Genghis Khan: The Story of a Lifetime (2010), and The Extra (2017).  On television he guest starred on the shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Masters of Horror.

John Saxon was very much a part of my childhood. When I was growing up, he seemed to everywhere. If he wasn't guest starring on a then current television show, he was appearing in a movie aired by one of the local stations. John Saxon may not have numbered the biggest stars of the late 20th Century, but I would be surprised if every single member of Generation X does not know who he is.

If John Saxon was so prolific in his long career, it was because he was just so very good. He started his career as a teen idol, playing two musicians (Jimmy Daley in Rock, Pretty Baby and Summer Love and David Parkinson in The Reluctant Debutante) and a juvenile delinquent in Cry Tough. He matured into an action star, appearing in such films as The Plunderers and War Hunt. Over the years he played everything from medical doctors to police officers to journalists. He also appeared in a wide variety of movie genres, including comedies (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation), horror movies (La ragazza che sapeva troppo), science fiction movies (Battle Beyond the Stars), and dramas (The Cardinal). He played both heroes and villains. Ruggedly handsome, John Saxon appealed to men and women in equal measure. While he may be best known for his work in television and B movies, there can be no doubt that John Saxon will always be remembered.

No comments: