John Gavin

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For other people named John Gavin, see John Gavin (disambiguation).
John Gavin
Imitation of Life-John Gavin.JPG
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
June 5, 1981 – June 10, 1986
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Julian Nava
Succeeded by Charles J. Pilliod, Jr.
Personal details
Born John Anthony Golenor Gavin
(1931-04-08) 8 April 1931 (age 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Cecily Evans (m. 1957–1965; divorced); 2 children
Constance Towers (1974–present); 2 stepchildren by this marriage
Occupation Actor

John Gavin (born John Anthony Golenor; April 8, 1931) is an American film actor and a former United States Ambassador to Mexico. Gavin is of Mexican and Irish descent, and is fluent in Spanish.

Early life[edit]

Gavin's father (Herald Ray Golenor)'s family is of Irish origin, and were early landowners in California when it was still under Spanish rule. Gavin's mother (Delia Diana Pablos) hailed from the historically influential Pablos family of Sonora, Mexico.[1]

After attending St. John's Military Academy (Los Angeles) and Villanova Prep (Ojai, California), both Catholic schools, he earned a B.A. from Stanford University, where he did senior honors work in Latin American economic history and was a member of Stanford's Naval ROTC unit.[2] During the Korean War Gavin was commissioned in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Princeton offshore Korea where he served as an air intelligence officer from 1951 until the end of the war in 1953. Due to Gavin's fluency in both Spanish and Portuguese he was assigned as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Milton E. Miles until he completed his four-year tour of duty in 1955. Following his naval service he offered himself as a technical adviser to a film about the U.S. Navy, but was instead offered a screen test.[2]

Film and stage career[edit]

John Gavin as Destry

He was contracted by Universal Pictures where he was groomed as a virile, strapping, handsome leading man in the mold of Rock Hudson. Among his most famous roles are in A Time to Love and A Time To Die and Imitation of Life (1959) for director Douglas Sirk and producer Ross Hunter, both of whom had earlier helped make a star of Hudson. Gavin also appeared in the classic thriller Psycho (1960) for director Alfred Hitchcock, the epic Spartacus (1960) directed by Stanley Kubrick, and the 1920s-era Julie Andrews musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) for George Roy Hill, again for producer Ross Hunter. Each of those films was among the most successful box-office attractions of their year of release.[citation needed]

Gavin co-starred with such top leading ladies of the era as Lana Turner in Imitation of Life, Doris Day in the 1960 thriller Midnight Lace, Sophia Loren the same year in the comedic A Breath of Scandal and, in 1961, with Susan Hayward in the melodrama Back Street and in Romanoff and Juliet and Tammy Tell Me True, both with Sandra Dee.[citation needed]

James Bond[edit]

Gavin was signed for the role of James Bond in the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever after George Lazenby left the role. He never played Bond due to Sean Connery's expensive return to the "007" franchise, yet Gavin still had his contract honored in full. According to Roger Moore's James Bond Diary, Gavin also was slated to play Bond in 1973 in Live and Let Die, but Harry Saltzman insisted on an Englishman for the role (Roger Moore played the role instead). Gavin did play OSS 117, the French equivalent of 007, in Pas de Roses pour OSS 117 (No Roses For OSS 117, 1968) replacing Frederick Stafford, who was filming Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz.

Screen Actors Guild[edit]

Gavin was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1971 to 1973.

Live theater[edit]

Gavin made a successful foray into live theater in the 1970s, showcasing his baritone voice. He toured the summer stock circuit as El Gallo in a production of The Fantasticks and later replaced Ken Howard in the Broadway musical, Seesaw (1973) opposite Michele Lee. Gavin also toured the country in Seesaw with Lucie Arnaz. Both the Broadway and touring production were directed by Michael Bennett.[citation needed]


John Gavin with first ladies Paloma Cordero of Mexico (left) and Nancy Reagan of the United States (right) after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

A Republican, Gavin was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in June 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and served until June 12, 1986. During his tenure as ambassador, he was involved in an incident where he roughed up a local television cameraman. Since leaving government service, he has become a successful businessman and civic leader.[citation needed]


He married actress Cicely Evans in 1957. They had two children and divorced in 1965. He has been married to Constance Towers, a stage and television actress, since 1974. They had first met in 1957 at a party when his godfather, Jimmy McHugh, introduced them. Towers had two children from her previous marriage to Eugene McGrath. Gavin's elder daughter, Cristina, followed in his footsteps and became an actress. His younger daughter, Maria, also followed in Gavin's footsteps in her own right with a master's degree from Stanford, and has a successful career in television production.[3]

Select filmography[edit]




  1. ^ Stars in Blue, referenced below, page 265, states that Gavin's mother married Ray Gavin, who adopted John. The Internet Movie Data Base says that Herald Ray Golenor changed the family name to Gavin. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Wise, James E. & Rehill, Anne Collier. Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services Naval Institute Press, p. 265.
  3. ^ Profile in People Magazine

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Julian Nava
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
Succeeded by
Charles J. Pilliod, Jr.