“Tough guy” actor John Saxon died on 7/25/20 from complications of pneumonia in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was 83.
Saxon began his Hollywood career in the 1950s. He was known for his rugged and handsome looks. Hollywood producers thought he could appeal to both men and women audiences. He often appeared shirtless in movies and TV shows to show off his physique. He grew up in Brooklyn in what he described as a “tough place to live where you had to lean how to fight to survive”.
He went from being a teen heartthrob in comedy and dramas to starring in gritty westerns, war movies, and horror from the 1960s through the 2000s.
In 1966, he starred in the campy sci-fi horror movie “Queen of Blood” with Judi Meredith and Dennis Hopper. It was produced by legendary B-movie producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and released by American International Pictures. The AIP movies were marketed to teenagers and the popularity of drive-ins.
In 1973, Saxon appeared with Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly in the classic martial arts film “Enter The Dragon”. He played Roper, a gambler in debt who hoped to win the secret island martial arts tournament to pay off everyone he owed. The movie was going to make Lee a huge action movie star but it would end up being his last. Lee died on 7/20/73 and the movie was released a month later.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Saxon became a horror movie regular with “The Bees”, “Beyond Evil”, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. He was the police officer father of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) in NOES and it’s sequels “Dream Warriors” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”. “Beyond Evil” was one of many rip-offs of “The Exorcist” from that era. It was filmed in the Philippines and co-starred Lynda Day George, as Saxon’s “possessed” wife, and former pro wrestler Mario Milano as a doctor trying to figure out what’s wrong with George.
He was part of two controversial movies which ended up getting banned or heavily edited down for being too graphic and gory: “Cannibal Apocalypse” in 1980 and Dario Argento’s “Tenebrae” in 1982. He didn’t have a major role in “Tenebrae” as it was another case of Argento just merely wanting a chance to work with an actor that he admired and found interesting. The movie was based on Argento’s own real life experiences of being stalked by a crazed fan as well as the movie critics he felt were too harsh on all of his movies.
Saxon had major guest starring roles in two popular night time soap operas of the 1980s to once again appeal to the female demographics of generation. In ABC’s “Dynasty”, he was the heel oil tycoon Rashid Ahmed who ended up getting killed off on the show. The character was supposed to be a rich sheik from the Middle East, but in reality Saxon was Italian. On CBS’ “Falcon Crest”, he played Tony, the father of Lorenzo Lamas’ character. He actually shared the character role with Robert Loggia back in the day when networks at times exchanged actors in roles hoping that viewers wouldn’t notice or care about the cast changes.
Saxon was a guest at various horror movie and comic con conventions up until the virus pandemic. He would usually be part of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” reunions and the nostalgia of “Enter The Dragon”. He was still in great shape, and he looked intimidating, but he was always very gracious and friendly to fans and the crew at shows.