John Saxon

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John Saxon
John Saxon 1975.jpg
Saxon in 1975
Born Carmine Orrico
(1935-08-05) August 5, 1935 (age 83)
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 1954–present
Spouse(s) Mary Ann Saxon (1967-1979) (divorced) (1 child)
Elizabeth Saxon (1987-1992) (divorced)
Gloria Martel (2008-present)[1]
Children Antonio Saxon

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 as well as for his role as Roper in the 1973 film Enter the Dragon, in which he starred alongside Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly. He is well known for playing Lt. Donald Thompson in the 1984 slasher horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Early life[edit]

Saxon, an Italian American,[2] was born Carmine Orrico in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Anna (née Protettore) and Antonio Orrico,[3] a dock worker. 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,[4] 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,[5] and he was renamed John Saxon. He signed with Universal Studios in April 1954 at $150 a week.[6] John Saxon is proficient in Judo and Shotokan Karate.[7]


Saxon at the 2014 Fan Expo Canada

Saxon spent 18 months at Universal before they first used him in a film.[8] His first significant role was a juvenile delinquent in Running Wild (1955), co-starring Mamie Van Doren. He impressed with a role in The Unguarded Moment (Universal, 1956), playing a youth who seemingly stalks Esther Williams. In February 1956 Universal exercised their option on Saxon and he was paid $225 a week.[6]

He had the lead in a low budget teen film, Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) which became an unexpected hit and Saxon was a teen idol. Saxon reprised his role in a sequel, Summer Love (1957). At his peak he was getting 3,000 fan letters a week.[9]

Universal executives were pleased, and put Saxon 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.

Public response was enthusiastic enough for Universal to reunite Saxon and Dee in The Restless Years (1958), a teen melodrama.

Over at United Artists he was the lead in Cry Tough (1959), a film about juvenile delinquents. He had a support role in a big budget Biblical drama about Simon Peter, The Big Fisherman (1959) for director Frank Borzage.

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.

Saxon played a serial killer soldier War Hunt (1962), and had a small role in the comedy hit Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) then 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) 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 me 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."[10]

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."[11]

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).

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 violenta (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 the police chief 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.

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 the 1979, Oscar-nominated film The Electric Horseman.

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 violenta (1976). He also was the second incarnation of Dylan Hunt from the Gene Roddenberry shows called Planet Earth and Strange New World.

More recently, Saxon was a supporting player in horror films, such as Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974) as the relatively smart leader of a bunch of dumb cops; 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 Deaney; 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 L.A.[12]


Selected television appearances[edit]

  • 1966: Gunsmoke Season 12, Episode 8 "The Whispering Tree" as Virgil Stanley
  • 1967: The Time Tunnel Episode 26 "Attack of the Barbarians" as Marco Polo
  • 1967: The Virginian Season 5, Episode 19 "The Modoc Kid" as Del Stetler
  • 1967: Bonanza Season 8, Episode 19: "Black Friday" as Steve Friday
  • 1967: Bonanza Season 9, Episode 3: "The Conquistadors" as Blas
  • 1972: Kung Fu Episode: "The King of the Mountain" as the bounty hunter
  • 1973: The Streets of San Francisco Episode: "A Collection of Eagles" as Vincent Hagopian
  • 1973: Police Story Episode: "Death on Credit"
  • 1974: The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 5, Episode 8 "Menage-a-Phyllis" as Mike Tedesco
  • 1974: The Six Million Dollar Man Season 1 Episode 4 "Day of the Robot as Major Fred Sloan
  • 1975: Gunsmoke Season 20, Episode 14 "The Squaw" as Gristy Calhoun
  • 1976: Wonder Woman Season 1, Episode 5 "The Feminum Mystique Part 1" as Captain Radl
  • 1976: Wonder Woman Season 1, Episode 6 "The Feminum Mystique Part 2" as Captain Radl
  • 1976: The Rockford Files Season 2, Episode 16 "Portrait of Elizabeth" as Dave Delaroux
  • 1976: Once an Eagle (miniseries) as Captain Townshend
  • 1977: 79 Park Avenue (miniseries) as Harry Vito
  • 1977: Quincy, M.E. Season 2, Episode 11 "Sullied Be Thy Name" as Charles Desskasa
  • 1978: The Immigrants as Alan Brocker
  • 1979: Hawaii Five-O Season 11, Episode 16 "The Bark and the Bite" as Harry Clive
  • 1983: The A-Team Season 1, Episode 3 "Children of Jamestown" as Rev. Martin James [13]
  • 1984: Dynasty (Rashid Ahmed, recurring character 1982–1984)
  • 1984: Murder, She Wrote Episode: "Hooray for Homicide" as Jerry Lydecker
  • 1988: Murder, She Wrote Episode: "A Very Good Year For Murder" as son Marco Gambini
  • 1994: Murder, She Wrote Episode: "Proof in the Pudding" as Uncle Bernardo Bonelli


  1. ^ Albert L. Ortega. "Hollywood Show 2014". Getty Images. 
  2. ^ Hopper, Hedda (September 1, 1957). "John Saxon's The Brooklyn Italian Type". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  3. ^ "John Saxon Biography (1935-)". Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  4. ^ Hofler, Robert (2005). The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1607-X. 
  5. ^ King, Susan (October 21, 2012). "John Saxon, Hollywood cool guy, remembers his 'Dragon' days". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-01-23. 
  6. ^ a b "Contracts of Two Young Film Players Approved: Mutual Congratulations Mark Meeting of Rena Clark and John Saxon in Court". Los Angeles Times. 16 Feb 1956. p. A1. 
  7. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 August 1973). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2018 – via Google Books. 
  8. ^ Hopper, Hedda (1 Sep 1957). "Saxon Draws Diverse Roles: Diverse Characters Played by John Saxon". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. 
  9. ^ Beck, Joan (4 July 1960). "John Saxon, Handsome, Moody Teen-Age Idol". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. A1. 
  10. ^ King, Susan (21 October 2012). "John Saxon, Hollywood cool guy, remembers his 'Dragon' days". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 January 2018. 
  11. ^ Alpert, Don (27 Mar 1966). "John Saxon—Teen Dreamboat on Calmer Seas". Los Angeles Times. p. b4. 
  12. ^ "Creation Weekend of Horrors - Get Your Tickets Before They're All Gone!". DreadCentral. 
  13. ^

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