John Vernon

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John Vernon
John Vernon.JPG
Vernon as The Mayor of San Francisco in Dirty Harry, 1971
Born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz[1]
(1932-02-24)February 24, 1932
Zehner, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died February 1, 2005(2005-02-01) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death
Complications after
heart surgery
Residence Toluca Lake, California
Nationality Canadian
Education Banff School of Fine Arts
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active 1956–2005
Spouse(s) Nancy West (divorced)
Children Kate Vernon
Nan Vernon
Chris Vernon

John Keith Vernon (February 24, 1932 – February 1, 2005) was a Canadian actor. He made a career in Hollywood after achieving initial television stardom in Canada.

Early life[edit]

Vernon was born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz in Zehner, Saskatchewan,[1] and was baptised at the Sacred Heart Catholic parish in the nearby town of Arat. He was one of two sons of Adolf Agopsowicz, a grocer, and his wife Eleonore Krückel (also spelled as Eleanor Kriekle or Kriekel). Both parents' families emigrated to the Edenwold district in the late 19th century from the Austrian crownland and duchy of Bukovina. He was of Armenian, German, and Polish descent.[2][page needed]

Vernon was educated at the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before becoming a live stage actor for CBC Television's dramatic programs. In 1974, he completed a season at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, playing Malvolio.

Career[edit]

Early roles[edit]

He made his screen debut in 1956 as the voice of Big Brother in Michael Anderson's film version of George Orwell's 1984 starring Edmond O'Brien. He returned to Canada afterwards and gained film experience appearing on the TV series Tugboat Annie and The Last of the Mohicans. Vernon typically played a stern, authoritarian kind of character. He made his Broadway debut in 1964 as DeSoto opposite Christopher Plummer and David Carradine in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. During the Golden Age of CBC Drama in the 1960s he co-starred in Edna O'Brien's A Cheap Bunch of Nice Flowers opposite Colleen Dewhurst, and opposite William Hutt and Rita Gam in Uncle Vanya. These prestige productions led to his starring in the CBC series Wojeck in the late 1960s, playing a crime-fighting medical examiner (the series has been acknowledged as the inspiration for the later American series Quincy M.E., later starring as a gangster in the episode Requiem For The Living). He left the series in order to further his acting career in the United States. In 1967, he appeared opposite Lee Marvin in Point Blank.

In 1969, he played Cuban revolutionary Rico Parra in Alfred Hitchcock's Cold War era spy movie Topaz. In 1970, he guest-starred in the Hawaii Five-0 episode Force Of Waves, as Cal Anderson. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he made four appearances over five years on the TV series Mission: Impossible as four different lead villains. In 1974, Vernon turned in a strong supporting performance in the Golden Globe-nominated Susan Dey child abuse offering Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night.

In 1971, he became well known internationally for playing the by-the-book mayor of San Francisco, perpetually frustrated by Clint Eastwood, in the first Dirty Harry movie. He later parodied this role in the premiere episode of Sledge Hammer!. In 1973 he appeared with George Peppard and Diana Muldaur in One More Train to Rob, and played the banker with crime syndicate connections, Boyle, opposite Walter Matthau in Charley Varrick. In 1974, he played Geoffrey Darrow in The Questor Tapes, a television movie, conceived by and executive produced by Gene Roddenberry. In 1976, he played the sympathetic Fletcher in Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales, who betrayed his fellows to the enemy.

Villain[edit]

Vernon is probably best remembered for his role as the deadly serious Dean Vernon Wormer of mythical Faber College in 1978's enduring cult classic, Animal House (a role that he would reprise in the short-lived television sequel Delta House), as well as the equally evil Mr. Prindle in the Disney film Herbie Goes Bananas and Sherman Krader in Ernest Goes to Camp.

Many of his later roles were also as villains, such as the warden's role in the women's prison picture Chained Heat. He played "Ted Jarrett" in the season twoThe A-Team episode "Labor Pains" (1983). Vernon also played "Cameron Zachary" in the season two Knight Rider episode "A Good Knight's Work" (1984). Vernon later played "John Bradford Horn" in the season three Airwolf episode "Discovery" (1986). Vernon would make light of his villain image in the 1988 Blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka commenting that while he would seem to be "above playing an exploitation villain", many others (including Angie Dickinson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Shelley Winters) have appeared in similar roles. In 1986, he played the Principal in the Disney Sunday Movie Fuzz Bucket. Vernon played Sgt. Curt Mooney, a violent and short-tempered police officer serving as an antagonist to the main characters in Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Vernon was one of the leads for the short-lived 1990s series Acapulco H.E.A.T.

Voice work[edit]

Known for his distinctive deep and commanding voice, he also did extensive voice work. He voiced the Prosecutor on the animated film Heavy Metal. He worked on many animated TV series, including: The Marvel Super Heroes show in the 1960s, where he played Iron Man, the Sub-Mariner, and Major Glenn Talbot of The Incredible Hulk; Batman: The Animated Series, where he played Rupert Thorne; as General Thunderbolt Ross in UPN's The Incredible Hulk; Wildfire, where he played a horse; and Doctor Strange in an episode of the Fox Network's Spider-Man animated series in the 1990s. His final work was providing the voice of Dean Toadblatt in the TV series The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and the voice of Judge Tohrin in Delgo.

Personal life[edit]

With his wife, Nancy West, John Vernon was the father of actress Kate Vernon, Nan Vernon, and son Chris Vernon.

Death[edit]

Vernon died of complications following heart surgery on February 1, 2005, in Los Angeles, California. He was cremated after a private funeral service.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bernstein, Adam (February 4, 2005). "Actor John Vernon, 72; 'Animal House' Dean". The Washington Post. p. B06. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ Edenwold Anniversary Committee (1981). Where Aspens Whisper: Edenwold. Edenwold: Edenwold Anniversary Committee. ISBN 9780889252523. OCLC 15879980. 

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