Albert Dekker

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Albert Dekker
Albert Dekker in Gentleman's Agreement trailer cropped.jpg
From the trailer for Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 57th district
In office
1945–1947
Preceded by Franklin J. Potter
Succeeded by Charles J. Conrad
Personal details
Born (1905-12-20)December 20, 1905
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died May 5, 1968(1968-05-05) (aged 62)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Esther Guerini (m.1929-1964)
Children 3
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Occupation Actor, politician

Albert Dekker (December 20, 1905 – May 5, 1968) was an American character actor and politician best known for his roles in Dr. Cyclops, The Killers, Kiss Me Deadly, and The Wild Bunch. He is sometimes credited as Albert Van Dekker or Albert van Dekker.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born Thomas Albert Ecke Van Dekker in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Thomas and Grace Ecke Van Dekker. He attended Richmond Hill High School where he appeared in stage productions. He then attended Bowdoin College where he majored in pre-med with plans to become a doctor. On the advice of a friend, he decided to pursue acting as a career instead. He and made his professional acting debut with a Cincinnati stock company in 1927. Within a few months, Dekker was featured in the Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's play Marco Millions.[1]

Dekker as Dr. Alexander Thorkel in the 1940 film Dr. Cyclops

After a decade of theatrical appearances, Dekker transferred to Hollywood in 1937, and made his first film, 1937's The Great Garrick.[2] He spent most of the rest of his acting career in the cinema, but also returned to the stage from time to time.

He replaced Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman in the original production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and during a five-year stint back on Broadway in the early 1960s, he played the Duke of Norfolk in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons.

Dekker appeared in some seventy films from the 1930s to 1960s, but his four most famous screen roles were as a mad scientist in the 1940 horror film Dr. Cyclops, as a vicious hitman in The Killers, as a dangerous dealer in atomic fuel in the 1955 film noir Kiss Me Deadly, and as an unscrupulous railroad detective in Sam Peckinpah's Western The Wild Bunch. In 1959 he played a convincing Texas Ranger Captain Rucker in The Wonderful Country. He was rarely cast in romantic roles, but in the film Seven Sinners, featuring a romance between Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne, Dietrich sails off with Dekker's character at the end of the film. Dekker's role as Pat Harrigan in The Wild Bunch would be his last screen appearance.

Personal life[edit]

On April 4, 1929, Dekker married former actress Esther Guerini. The couple had two sons, John and Benjamin, and a daughter, Jan, before divorcing in 1964.[3][4]

In April 1957, Dekker's 16-year old son, John, shot himself with a .22 rifle at the family's Hastings-on-Hudson, New York home. He had reportedly been working on a silencer for the rifle for a year. His death was ruled accidental.[4]

Politics[edit]

Dekker's off-screen interest in politics led to his winning a seat in the California State Assembly for the 57th Assembly District in 1944. Dekker served as a Democratic member for the Assembly until 1946.[5]

During the McCarthy era he was an outspoken critic of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy's tactics. As a result, Dekker was blacklisted in Hollywood and spent most of the blacklist period working on Broadway rather than Hollywood.[6]

Death[edit]

On May 5, 1968 Dekker was found dead in his Hollywood home by his fiancée, Geraldine Saunders. He was naked, kneeling in the bathtub, with a noose tightly wrapped around his neck and looped around the shower curtain rod. He was blindfolded, his wrists were handcuffed, there was a ball gag in his mouth, and two hypodermic needles were inserted in one arm. His body was covered in explicit words and drawings in red lipstick.[7] Money and camera equipment were found missing, but there was no sign of forced entry. Though speculation ran rampant, the coroner found no evidence of foul play, and ruled his death accidental due to autoerotic asphyxiation.[6][8] Dekker was cremated, and his remains interred at the Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, New Jersey.[9]

Dekker has a star, in the motion picture category, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6620 Hollywood Boulevard.[10]

Selected filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1937 The Great Garrick M. LeBrun Credited as Albert Van Dekker
1938 Marie Antoinette Comte de Provence Credited as Albert Van Dekker
1939 Beau Geste Legionnaire Schwartz
1939 The Great Commandment Longinus
1940 Rangers of Fortune George Bird
1940 Strange Cargo Moll
1940 Seven Sinners Dr. Martin Alternative title: Cafe of the Seven Sinners
1941 Among the Living John Raden/Paul Raden
1942 In Old California Britt Dawson
1942 The Lady Has Plans Baron Von Kemp
1942 Wake Island Shad McClosky
1942 Once Upon a Honeymoon Gaston Le Blanc
1943 In Old Oklahoma Jim "Hunk" Gardner Alternative title: War of the Wildcats
1943 The Woman of the Town Bat Masterson With Claire Trevor as Dora Hand
1944 Experiment Perilous 'Clag' Claghorn
1945 Incendiary Blonde Joe Cadden
1943 Suspense Frank Leonard
1946 The Killers Big Jim Colfax Alternative title: A Man Alone
1947 Cass Timberlane Boone Havock
1947 Gentleman's Agreement John Minify
1948 Fury at Furnace Creek Edward Leverett
1948 Lulu Belle Mark Brady
1949 Search for Danger Kirk
1949 Bride of Vengeance Vanetti
1950 The Kid from Texas Alexander Kain
1950 Destination Murder Armitage
1950 The Furies Mr. Reynolds
1951 As Young as You Feel Louis McKinley
1952 Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie Lloyd Slocum
1954 The Silver Chalice Kester
1955 East of Eden Will Hamilton
1955 Illegal Frank Garland
1955 Kiss Me Deadly Dr. G.E. Soberin
1957 She Devil Dr. Richard Bach
1958 Machete Don Luis Montoya
1959 Suddenly, Last Summer Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader
1959 These Thousand Hills Marshal Conrad
1959 The Wonderful Country Texas Ranger Capt. Rucker
1959 The Sound and the Fury (film) Earl Snopes
1965 Once Upon a Tractor Colonel
1966 Gammera the Invincible Secretary of Defense
1967 Come Spy with Me Walter Ludeker
1969 The Wild Bunch Pat Harrigan
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1951 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse George Washington Episode: "Valley Forge"
1952 Studio One Billy Bones Episode: "Treasure Island"
1955 Goodyear Television Playhouse Episode: "The Chivington Raid"
1956 Climax! Brewster Episode: "Fear Is the Hunter"
1959 Decoy Otto Flagler Episode: "High Swing"
1960 The Witness Jimmy Hines Episode: "Jimmy Hines"
1961 Route 66 Frank Ivy Episode: "The Newborn"
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Karl Hesse Episode: "The World I Want"
1965 Seaway Captain Marland Episode: "The 34th Man"
1965 The Trials of O'Brien George Brewer Episode: "Bargain Day on the Street of Regret"
1966 Mission: Impossible Colonel Shtemenko Episode: "The Short Tail Spy"
1967 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Harry Beldon Episode: "The Summit-Five Affair"
1968 Run for Your Life Sir Harry Hiller Episode: "A Dangerous Proposal"
1968 Bonanza Barney Sturgess Episode: "The Bottle Fighter"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2003). Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. McFarland & Company. p. 192. ISBN 0-786-41484-7. 
  2. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 187. ISBN 1-55783-551-9. 
  3. ^ "Actor Divorced". Reading Eagle. February 19, 1964. p. 42. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "ACTOR'S SON SHOT DEAD; John Dekker, 16, Found Slain in Westchester Home". The New York Times. April 19, 1957. p. 15. 
  5. ^ "Autopsy Performed on Actor Albert Dekker". The Los Angeles Times. May 7, 1968. p. 19. 
  6. ^ a b Hare, William (2008). L.A. Noir: Nine Dark Visions of the City of Angels. McFarland. p. 143. ISBN 0-786-43740-5. 
  7. ^ Rutledge, Leigh W. (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. Alyson Publications, Inc. p. 110. 
  8. ^ Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols. Contemporary Books. p. 260. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2. 
  9. ^ "Dekker's Death Accidental, Tentative Ruling Declares". The New York Times. May 9, 1968. 
  10. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Albert Dekker". latimes.com. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Franklin J. Potter
California State Assemblyman, 57th District
1945 – 1947
Succeeded by
Charles J. Conrad