Lex Barker with Karen Kondazian on his 54th birthday in May 1973, three days before his death
|Born||Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr.
May 8, 1919
Rye, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 11, 1973
New York City, New York, U.S.
|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)
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 and his American wife, the former Marion Thornton Beals. His father later worked as a stockbroker. Barker had an elder sister, Frederica Amelia (1917–1980). 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.
Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakepeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1938. 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. 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. 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 to songs in German language: "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.
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. 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.
- 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, although allegations of child abuse were habitually covered up during this era and no charges were filed against Barker, nor was it mentioned in the couple's separation proceedings
- 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.
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.
|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||Under the Tonto Rim||Joe, Deputy in Tonto|
|1947||Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome||Ambulance Driver||uncredited|
|1947||Unconquered||Royal American Officer||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|
|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||Return of Dr. Mabuse, TheThe 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||Blood Demon||Roger Mont Elise||Original (German) title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel
Also released as: Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism
|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|
- "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)
- Obituary Variety, May 16, 1973.
- Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme (2003). Lex Barker – Die Biografie. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-89602-444-2.
- "Miss Beals's Wedding", The New York Times, 20 April 1913
- "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).
- The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Internet Broadway Database
- Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles: A Biography, pp. 188–201
- 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
- "Mrs. Barker's Nuptials", The New York Times, 12 September 1952
- 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lex Barker.|
- Lex Barker at the Internet Movie Database
- Lex Barker at AllRovi
- Official site in English and German
- Lex Barker – Biography on (re)Search my Trash
- Fanpage in German
- Lex Barker at Brian's Drive-In Theater
- Tribute to Lex Barker Gallery
- Lex Barker at Find a Grave
|Actors to portray Tarzan