Lex Barker

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Lex Barker
Lex Barker Karen Kondazian May 1973.jpg
Lex Barker with Karen Kondazian on his 54th birthday in May 1973, three days before his death
Born Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr.
(1919-05-08)May 8, 1919
Rye, New York, U.S.
Died May 11, 1973(1973-05-11) (aged 54)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1945-1970
Spouse(s)

Constance Rhodes Thurlow (m. 1942–50)
Arlene Dahl (m. 1951–52)
Lana Turner (m. 1953–57)
Irene Labhart (m. 1957–62)

María del Carmen "Tita" Cervera (m. 1965–72)

Lex Barker (May 8, 1919 – May 11, 1973) was an American actor best known for playing Tarzan of the Apes and leading characters from Karl May's novels.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr. in Rye, New York, he was the second child of Alexander Crichlow Barker, Sr., a wealthy Canadian-born building contractor[2] and his American wife, the former Marion Thornton Beals.[3] His father later worked as a stockbroker. Barker had an elder sister, Frederica Amelia (1917–1980).[4] Barker was also a direct descendant of the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, and of Sir William Henry Crichlow, historical Governor General of Barbados.

Raised in New York City and Port Chester, New York, Barker attended the Fessenden School and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He played football as well as the oboe. He attended Princeton University, but dropped out in order to join a theatrical stock company, much to the chagrin of his family.

Career[edit]

Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakepeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1938.[5] He also had a small role in Orson Welles's disastrous Five Kings, which met with so many problems in Boston and Philadelphia that it never made it into New York.[6] Barker reportedly was spotted by scouts from Twentieth Century Fox and offered a film contract in 1939, but could not convince his parents to sign it (he was underage). Disowned by his family for his choice of an acting career, he worked in a steel mill and studied engineering at night.

In February 1941, ten months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the US Army. He rose to the rank of major during the war.[7] He was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.

Back in the United States, Barker recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in his first film, Doll Face (1945). A string of small roles followed, the best of which was as Emmett Dalton in the Western Return of the Bad Men (1948). Barker soon found the role that would bring him fame.

In Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), Barker became the tenth official Tarzan of the movies. His blond, handsome, and intelligent appearance, as well as his athletic, now 6'4" frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for sixteen years. Barker made only five Tarzan films, but he remains one of the actors best known for the role.

His stardom as Tarzan led him to a variety of heroic roles in other films, primarily Westerns, and one interesting (and quite non-heroic) part in a World War II film, Away All Boats (1956).

In 1957, as he found it harder to find work in American films, Barker moved to Europe (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and some German), where he found popularity and starred in over forty European films, including two movies based on the novels by Italian author Emilio Salgari (1862–1911). In Italy, he also had a short but compelling role as Anita Ekberg's fiancé in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960).

In Germany, he had his greatest success. There he starred in two movies based on the "Doctor Mabuse" stories (formerly filmed by Fritz Lang), in the movies Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius and Frühstück im Doppelbett, and in 13 movies based on novels by German author Karl May (1842–1912), playing such well-known May characters as Old Shatterhand, Kara Ben Nemsi, and Dr. Sternau.

In 1966, Barker was awarded the "Bambi Award" as "Best Foreign Actor" in Germany, where he was a major, very popular, star. He even recorded two songs in German: "Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu dir" ("I'll be on the way to you tomorrow", composed by Martin Böttcher, the composer of some of the soundtracks of the Karl May movies) and "Mädchen in Samt und Seide" ("Girl in Silk and Velvet", composed by Werner Scharfenberger). He returned to the United States occasionally and made a handful of guest appearances on American television episodes. But Europe, and especially Germany, was his professional home for the remainder of his life.

Personal life[edit]

Barker was married five times:

  • Constance Rhodes Thurlow (married 27 June 1942, divorced 1950). She was a daughter of Leon Rhodes Thurlow, a vice president of the Decorated Metal Manufacturing Company.[8] They had one daughter, Lynn Thurlow Barker (11 April 1943 – 2010) and a son, Alexander "Zan" Crichlow Barker III (25 March 1947 – 2 October 2012). In 1952 Constance Barker married, as her second husband, John Lawrence Adams, a descendant of John Quincy Adams.[8]
  • Actress Arlene Dahl (married 1951, divorced 1952)
  • Actress Lana Turner (married September 8, 1953, divorced July 22, 1957). According to a book by her daughter, Cheryl Crane, Turner ordered Barker out of their home one night at gunpoint after Cheryl, aged 13, announced that he had molested her for years. The two quickly filed for divorce and no charges were filed against Barker, nor was it mentioned in the couple's separation proceedings[9]
  • Irene Labhardt (married 1957, suicide in 1962), a Swiss actress. They had one son, Christopher (born 1960), who became an actor and singer.
  • María del Carmen "Tita" Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra (married 1965, divorced 1972, though divorce not deemed legally valid). Voted Miss Spain in 1962, Tita Barker later became the wife of movie producer Espartaco Santoni in 1975 (the marriage turned out to be bigamous) and later still, in 1985, the fifth and final wife of billionaire art collector Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.[1]

Death[edit]

Barker died three days after his 54th birthday, in 1973, of a heart attack while walking down a street in New York City on his way to meet his fiancée, actress Karen Kondazian. The funeral was in New York. He was cremated and the ashes were taken by his last wife to Spain.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1945 Doll Face Jack, Coast Guardsman uncredited
1946 Do You Love Me Party Guest uncredited
1946 Two Guys From Milwaukee Fred, the Usher uncredited
1947 Farmer's Daughter, TheThe Farmer's Daughter Olaf Holstrom
1947 Crossfire Harry
1947 Under the Tonto Rim Joe, Deputy in Tonto
1947 Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Ambulance Driver uncredited
1947 Unconquered Royal American Officer uncredited
1948 Berlin Express Soldier uncredited
1948 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Carpenter Foreman
1948 Velvet Touch, TheThe Velvet Touch Paul Banton
1948 Return of the Badmen Emmett Dalton
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain Tarzan
1950 Tarzan and the Slave Girl Tarzan
1951 Tarzan's Peril Tarzan
1952 Tarzan's Savage Fury Tarzan
1952 Thunder Over the Plains Captain Bill Hodges
1952 Battles of Chief Pontiac Kent McIntire
1953 Tarzan and the She-Devil Tarzan
1954 Mystery of The Black Jungle, TheThe Mystery of The Black Jungle Tremal Naik Original (Italian) title: I misteri della giungla nera
1954 Yellow Mountain, TheThe Yellow Mountain Andy Martin
1955 Man from Bitter Ridge, TheThe Man from Bitter Ridge Jeff Carr
1955 Duel on the Mississippi André Tulane
1955 Black Devils of Kali Tremal Naik Original (Italian) title: La vendetta dei Tughs
1956 The Price of Fear Dave Barrett
1956 Away All Boats Commander Quigley
1957 War Drums Mangas Coloradas
1957 Girl in The Kremlin, TheThe Girl in The Kremlin Steve Anderson
1957 Jungle Heat Dr. Jim Ransom
1957 Deerslayer, TheThe Deerslayer Deerslayer
1957 Girl in Black Stockings, TheThe Girl in Black Stockings David Hewson
1958 Strange Awakening Peter Chance
1958 Captain Falcon Pietro Original (Italian) title: Capitan Fuoco
1959 Mission in Morocco Bruce Reynolds
1959 Son of the Red Corsair Enrico di Ventimiglia Original (Italian) title: Il figlio del corsaro rosso
1959 Pirate and the Slave Girl, TheThe Pirate and the Slave Girl Drakut Original (Italian) title: La scimitarra del Saraceno
1960 Terror of the Red Mask Marco Original (Italian) title: Terrore della maschera rossa
1960 La Dolce Vita Robert Italian film
1960 Knight of 100 Faces Riccardo D'Arce Original (Italian) title: Il cavaliere dai cento volti
1960 Pirates of the Coast Captain Luis Monterey Original (Italian) title: I pirati della costa
1960 Robin Hood and the Pirates Robin Hood Original (Italian) title: Robin Hood e i pirati
1961 Secret of the Black Falcon, TheThe Secret of the Black Falcon Captain Don Carlos de Herrera Original (Italian) title: Il segreto dello sparviero nero
1961 El secreto de los hombres azules Fred Spanish/French film
1961 The Return of Dr. Mabuse Joe Como Original (German) title: Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse
1962 Invisible Dr. Mabuse, TheThe Invisible Dr. Mabuse Joe Como Original (German) title: Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse
1962 Dr. Sibelius Dr. Georg Sibelius Original (German) title: Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius
1962 Treasure of Silver Lake Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Der Schatz im Silbersee
1963 Executioner of Venice, TheThe Executioner of Venice Sandrigo Bembo Original (Italian) title: Il boia di Venezia
1963 Breakfast in Bed Victor H. Armstrong Original (German) title: Frühstück im Doppelbett
1963 Storm Over Ceylon Larry Stone Original (Italian) title: Tempesta su Ceylon
1963 Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance Major Ford Original (Italian) title: Kali Yug, la dea della vendetta
1963 Il mistero del tempio indiano Major Ford Italian film
1963 Apache Gold Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou I
1964 Apaches Last Battle Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Old Shatterhand
1964 Victim Five Steve Martin UK film, US title: Code 7, Victim 5
1964 Yellow Devil Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Der Schut
1964 Last of the Renegades Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou II
1965 Treasure of the Aztecs, TheThe Treasure of the Aztecs Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Der Schatz der Azteken
1965 Pyramid of the Sun God Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes
1965 Twenty-Four Hours to Kill Captain Jamie Faulkner UK film
1965 Place Called Glory, AA Place Called Glory Clint Brenner Original (German) title: Die Hölle von Manitoba
1965 Wild Men of Kurdistan, TheThe Wild Men of Kurdistan Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Durchs wilde Kurdistan
1965 Desperado Trail, TheThe Desperado Trail Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou III
1965 Fury of the Sabers Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen
1966 Who Killed Johnny R.? Sam Dobie Original (German) title: Wer kennt Johnny R.?
1966 Killer's Carnival Glenn Cassidy Original (French) title: Le carnaval des barbouzes
1966 Half-Breed Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi
1967 Woman Times Seven Rik
1967 Die Slowly, You'll Enjoy It More Bob Urban Original (German) title: Mister Dynamit – Morgen küßt Euch der Tod
1967 Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism Roger Mont Elise Original (German) title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel
Also released as: Blood Demon
1968 Winnetou and Shatterhand in the Valley of Death Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten
1970 Wenn du bei mir bist Kapitän Hannes Schneider German film
1970 Aoom Ristol Spanish film

Discography[edit]

  • "Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu dir" / "Mädchen in Samt und Seide" 1965, Single, Decca D 19 725
  • Winnetou du warst mein Freund 1996, CD, Bear Family Records

(contains both tracks from the 1965 Decca single and songs sung by Barker's frequent co-star Pierre Brice)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, May 16, 1973.
  2. ^ Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme (2003). Lex Barker – Die Biografie. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-89602-444-2. 
  3. ^ "Miss Beals's Wedding", The New York Times, 20 April 1913
  4. ^ "Frederica Barker To Be Wed Saturday", The New York Times, 18 January 1944. Known as Freddie, she was married to artist Frederic Clifton Soldwedel, Richard Neuhaufer, and Robert Henry Schlesinger (the only son of society figure Mona von Bismarck).
  5. ^ The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. ^ Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles: A Biography, pp. 188–201
  7. ^ Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938–1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64
  8. ^ a b "Mrs. Barker's Nuptials", The New York Times, 12 September 1952
  9. ^ Crane, Cheryl. Detour (1988), pp. 182–187
  • Manfred Christ: Von Tarzan bis Old Shatterhand – Lex Barker und seine Filme, Günter Albert Ulmer Verlag, Tuningen, Germany, 1994, 288 pages – ISBN 3-924191-81-6

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Glenn Morris
Actors to portray Tarzan
1949–1953
Succeeded by
Gordon Scott