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John Saxon Biography
John Saxon (born Carmine Orrico; August 5, 1935) is an American actor and martial artist who has worked on more than 200 projects during a span of 60 years. Saxon is known for his work in westerns and horror films, often playing police officers and detectives.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Saxon studied acting with Stella Adler before beginning his career as a contract player for Universal Pictures, appearing in such films as Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) and Portrait in Black (1961). In the 1970s and 1980s, he would establish himself as a character actor, frequently portraying law enforcement officials in horror films such as Black Christmas (1974), Dario Argento’s Tenebrae (1982), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
In addition to his roles in horror films, Saxon co-starred with Bruce Lee in the martial arts film Enter the Dragon (1973), and has supporting roles in the westerns Death of a Gunfighter (1969) and Joe Kidd (1972), as well as the adventure thriller Raid on Entebbe (1977). In the 1990s, Saxon occasionally appeared in films, with small roles in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996).
John Saxon Age
Saxon was born on August 5, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S. He is 83 years old as of 2019.
John Saxon Education
He attended New Utrecht High School, graduating in 1953. He then studied acting with famous acting coach Stella Adler. He started making films in the mid-1950s, playing teenage roles. According to Robert Hofler’s 2005 biography The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson:
The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson, agent Willson saw Saxon’s picture on the cover of a detective magazine and immediately contacted the boy’s family in Brooklyn. With parents’ permission, the 17-year-old Orrico signed with Willson, and he was renamed, John Saxon. He signed with Universal Studios in April 1954 at $150 a week. John Saxon is proficient in Judo and Shotokan Karate.
John Saxon Career
Saxon (right) with Sal Mineo and Sue George publicity still for Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) Saxon spent 18 months at Universal before the studio first used him in a film. His first significant role was a juvenile delinquent in Running Wild (1955), co-starring Mamie Van Doren.
He was then given a good role in The Unguarded Moment (1956), playing a youth who seemingly stalks Esther Williams. In February 1956 Universal exercised its option on Saxon and he was paid $225 a week.
Saxon had the lead in a low budget teen film, Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) which became an unexpected hit and established Saxon as a teen idol. Universal executives were pleased, and Ross Hunter announced he would be in Teach Me How to Cry. First Saxon quickly reprised his Rock, Pretty Baby role in a sequel, Summer Love (1958). By now he was getting 3,000 fan letters a week. He then made Teach Me How to Cry with Sandra Dee which was retitled The Restless Years (1958).
Universal put him in an “A film”, This Happy Feeling (1958), directed by Blake Edwards, where Saxon romanced Debbie Reynolds in support of Curt Jurgens. MGM borrowed him to appear opposite Sandra Dee in The Reluctant Debutante (1958), for director Vincente Minnelli, which was widely seen. Saxon was billed third, beneath Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall.
He had a support role in a big budget Biblical drama about Simon Peter, The Big Fisherman (1959) for director Frank Borzage, starring Howard Keel. It was a box office disappointment. Over at United Artists Saxon was the lead in Cry Tough (1959), a film about juvenile delinquents. Saxon worked with another top director, John Huston, in the Western, The Unforgiven (1960), playing an Indian in support of Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn.
Back at Universal, he remained in a supporting role, but it was a good one: Portrait in Black (1960), reunited with Dee, with Lana Turner and Anthony Quinn. He was essentially a juvenile delinquent cowboy in The Plunderers (1960), tormenting Jeff Chandler. He stayed in Westerns in Posse from Hell (1961) with Audie Murphy and guest stars on shows like General Electric Theater and The Dick Powell Theatre.
“I want to do all sorts of character parts,” he said in 1960. Saxon played a serial killer soldier War Hunt (1962) and had a small role in the comedy hit Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962).
John Saxon Europe
Saxon traveled to Italy to make Agostino (1962).
In 1963 Saxon co-starred with Letícia Román in Mario Bava’s Italian Giallo film The Girl Who Knew Too Much. He returned to Hollywood to appear in Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal (1963) and an episode of Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre then was back to Europe for The Cavern (1964). The Ravagers (1965) was shot in the Philippines; Night Caller from Outer Space (1965) was a science fiction film shot in Britain.
In 1966, he starred in Curtis Harrington’s science fiction/horror classic Queen of Blood with Basil Rathbone and Dennis Hopper, then appeared opposite Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa (1966), winning a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of a Mexican bandit. Saxon recalls, “This was to be a terrific role and something I was ready for, but he [Brando] was despondent. He said he had lent a whole bunch of money to his father, and what he was saying to me was that his father ruined his life by losing all of his money. He was kind of bored in the picture.”
The Doomsday Flight (1966) was a made-for-TV movie. In an interview in 1966, he said “I never felt comfortable being a teenage dreamboat… I regard myself as a craftsman.”
He portrayed Marco Polo in episode 26 of The Time Tunnel (“Attack of the Barbarians”), originally airing March 10, 1967, and was a guest star on Bonanza in 1967 (“The Conquistadores”). In episode 19, season 5 of The Virginian (“The Modoc Kid”) Saxon appeared in the title role alongside a young up and coming actor, appearing in one of his first speaking roles, Harrison Ford. And in 1969 he appeared in (“My Friend, My Enemy”).
Saxon was in a sex comedy for Sam Katzman, For Singles Only (1968) and appeared in some Westerns, One Dollar Too Many (1968), Death of a Gunfighter (1969) and Joe Kidd (1972) (again playing a Mexican, this time a revolutionary named Luis Chama). I Kiss the Hand (1973) was a thriller made in Italy. He spent three years as Dr. Theodore Stuart on the series The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (1969–1972).
John Saxon Enter the Dragon
He appeared in 1973’s Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee’s first starring role in a Hollywood feature. He was in action films: Mitchell (1974), The Swiss Conspiracy (1975), Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (1976), Napoli violent (1976), Mark Strikes Again (1976), A Special Cop in Action (1976), Cross Shot (1976), The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (1977).
In 1974 he appeared as police Lieutenant Fuller in the Canadian production of Black Christmas; from 1974–76, he appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man, first as Major Frederick Sloan and then as Nedlick. This role also extended into The Bionic Woman. The actor’s likeness was later used for the Kenner action-figure doll called ‘Maskatron’ which was based on the series.
In 1976, Saxon portrayed a homicidal vampire-like strangler in the Season Two Starsky & Hutch episode, ‘Vampire.’ Raid on Entebbe (1977) was a prestige TV movie. Moonshine County Express was a big hit for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures; Saxon made another for that company, The Bees (1978). He appeared in a Bollywood movie, Shalimar (1978) then it was back to exploitation: Fast Company (1979), The Glove (1979).
Saxon played Hunt Sears, head of a breakfast cereal conglomerate, opposite Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in 1979, Oscar-nominated film The Electric Horseman.
John Saxon 1980s–present
He appeared in the 1982 TV movie Rooster, and appeared in the last week of the game show Whew! His extensive television credits include two years as Tony Cumson on Falcon Crest (1982, 1986–1988) as well as the recurring role of Rashid Ahmed on Dynasty (1982–1984).
He appeared twice, in different roles, in The A-Team in 1983 and 1985. He played the role of Captain Radl in the two-part Wonder Woman episode “The Feminine Mystique” in 1976.
Saxon has appeared in many Italian films, mainly in spaghetti western and police thriller genres. Titles from these genres include One Dollar Too Many (1968) and Napoli violent (1976). He also was the second incarnation of Dylan Hunt from the Gene Roddenberry shows called Planet Earth and Strange New World.
Saxon at the 2014 Fan Expo Canada
He then appeared in Dario Argento’s Tenebrae (1982) as the writer hero’s shifty agent; in Mitchell (1975) as the murderous union lawyer and prostitute provider Walter Delaney; in Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) as Sador; in Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) where he played a Vietnam veteran tormented because his worthless pal bit him and years later, he is starting to get the urge to do the same; in Prisoners of the Lost Universe as an alternate-universe warlord, and in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as the heroine’s (Nancy Thompson’s) father. He reprised his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) as he played himself in a dual role.
He also made his directorial debut in 1987 with the horror film Zombie Death House, which starred Dennis Cole and Anthony Franciosa. He starred in Maximum Force (1992) as Captain Fuller and also appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). In recent years, he has been in a number of independent films and has appeared in several television series, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the Showtime series Masters of Horror. He was a special guest on the Creation Entertainment – Weekend of Horrors 2010 on 21 May in Los Angeles.