John Agar

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John Agar
John Agar still.jpg
circa 1960
Born
John George Agar Jr.

(1921-01-31)January 31, 1921
DiedApril 7, 2002(2002-04-07) (aged 81)
Resting placeRiverside National Cemetery
OccupationActor
Years active1948–2001
Spouse(s)
(m. 1945; div. 1950)

Loretta Combs
(m. 1951; died 2000)
Children3

John George Agar Jr. (January 31, 1921 – April 7, 2002) was an American film and television actor. He is best known for starring alongside John Wayne in the films Sands of Iwo Jima, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In his later career he was the star of B movies, such as Tarantula!, The Mole People, The Brain from Planet Arous, Revenge of the Creature, Flesh and the Spur and Hand of Death. He was the first husband of Shirley Temple.

Agar's career suffered in the wake of his divorce, but he developed a niche playing leading men in low-budget science fiction, Western, and horror movies in the 1950s and 1960s. John Wayne gave him several supporting roles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In later years he worked extensively in television.

Early life and military service[edit]

Agar was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lillian (née Rogers) and John George Agar, a meat packer.[1] His great aunt was Edna Gladney.[2] He was educated at the Harvard School for Boys in Chicago [3] and Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. He graduated from Trinity-Pawling Preparatory School in Pawling, New York, but did not attend college. He and his family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1942, after his father's death.[4]

In 1941, Agar joined the Navy Air Corps, had basic training in Texas, and instructed in physical training at March Field in Riverside, California. He was medically discharged from the Navy in 1943 due to an ear infection that affected his balance.[5] He then enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps.[4] He was a sergeant and a physical training instructor[6] at the time he left the AAF in 1946.[7]

Career[edit]

Agar met Shirley Temple in 1943 when he was asked to escort her to a Hollywood party.[8]

After his marriage with Temple in 1945, her boss at the time, David O. Selznick, signed Agar to a five-year acting contract starting at $150 a week, including acting lessons.[9][10][11] Agar made his film debut as Temple's love interest in Fort Apache (1948),[12] a John Ford western for RKO starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda. It was a financial and critical success.[13]

Agar was reunited with Temple for his second film, a suffragette drama Adventure in Baltimore (1949), also for RKO, which was a huge flop.[13]

RKO used him in The Woman on Pier 13 (1950), an anti-communist drama that was a pet project of Howard Hughes. It was Agar's first movie without Temple, and he was billed after Robert Ryan and Laraine Day. It was another flop.

More successful was a reunion with Wayne and Ford, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), in which Agar played the romantic lead. It was a sizeable hit and has come to be regarded as a classic.[13] Even more popular was the World War II film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) where Agar supported John Wayne. Made by Republic Pictures, it was a sizeable hit, earning Wayne an Oscar nomination and getting Agar some good reviews. Toward the end of his life, Agar blamed John Wayne for getting him hooked on cigarettes and alcohol, two addictive habits that would later ruin his life.[7]

Warner Bros put Agar in a war film, Breakthrough (1950) which relied extensively on pre-existing war footage. It was a reasonable success at the box office.[14]

Warner Bros used him in Along the Great Divide (1951), supporting Kirk Douglas. He made a low budget Arabian Knights film for Sam Katzman with Lucille Ball, The Magic Carpet (1951).

In 1952 Agar was fired by Selznick for driving under the influence of alcohol, which affected his career with the large studios in Hollywood.[15]

Agar was third billed in Woman of the North Country (1952), a Western for Republic, and also starred in Man of Conflict (1953), an independent drama with Edward Arnold.

Agar had support roles in Bait (1954), a Hugo Haas drama with Cleo Moore; The Rocket Man (1954), a Charles Coburn comedy co-written by Lenny Bruce; and Shield for Murder (1954), a film noir starring and co-directed by Edmond O'Brien.

Agar returned to leading roles in The Golden Mistress (1954), an adventure film directed by Abner Biberman.

In 1954 Agar signed a seven-year contract with Universal. He began the association with Revenge of the Creature (1955), the popular first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); it was produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold. He was borrowed by Lippert Pictures for The Lonesome Trail (1955), then, at Universal, made a second film for Haas with Cleo Moore, Hold Back Tomorrow (1955).

Agar made another science fiction film, Tarantula! (1955), made by Alland and Arnold, which was popular and became a cult favorite.

Universal starred him in a Western, Star in the Dust (1956) with Mamie Van Doren and Richard Boone and produced by Albert Zugsmith. A new company, American International Pictures, borrowed Agar for a Western, Flesh and the Spur (1956) with Marla English and Mike Connors (billed as "Touch Connors"). Then he went back to Universal for The Mole People (1956), produced by Alland.

Agar's contract with Universal ended when he complained that he was tired of only doing science fiction roles.[16] His final film with the studio was supporting Universal's Western star Audie Murphy in a comedy Joe Butterfly (1957).

Agar remained in demand for low budget science fiction, horror and Western films. He starred in The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) for Edgar G. Ulmer at Allied Artists, then made The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) for Howco International.

Agar starred in some low budget Westerns for Lippert's low budget Regal Films at Fox, Ride a Violent Mile (1958) and Frontier Gun (1958). He went to the Philippines to make Cavalry Command (1958) and did two for AIP, Jet Attack (1958) and Attack of the Puppet People (1958). He shot a television pilot in 1958 that was released as a feature film Destination Space (1959).

Agar did Invisible Invaders (1958) for director Edward L. Cahn who had made Jet Attack.

Agar could be seen in Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) and Of Love and Desire (1963). He joined he ensemble casts in several low budget films for producer A.C. Lyles that were released by Paramount Pictures; The Young and The Brave (1963) with Rory Calhoun, Law of the Lawless (1963) starring Dale Robertson and William Bendix, Stage to Thunder Rock (1965) with Barry Sullivan and Marilyn Maxwell, Young Fury (1965) with Rory Calhoun and Lon Chaney Jr., Johnny Reno (1966) with Dana Andrews and Jane Russell, and Waco (1966) with Howard Keel, Jane Russell and Brian Donlevy.

Agar made some films for Larry Buchanan at AIP that were originally meant as made-for-television-movies, Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966), Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966) and Hell Raiders (1968). He had the lead in Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) and Night Fright (1967).

Agar had small parts in some studio films like The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards Jr. and Ralph Meeker, and three more pictures in a row with John Wayne: The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), and Big Jake (1971).

Agar's last prominent roles were small parts in King Kong (1976), Miracle Mile (1988) and Nightbreed (1990).

Personal life[edit]

Marriages[edit]

Agar's sister was a schoolmate of Shirley Temple. In 1944 Agar escorted Temple to a party held by her boss at the time, David O. Selznick. The two were married in 1945.[9][11] Agar and Temple had a daughter together, Linda Susan Agar, born 1948 (who was later known as Susan Black, taking the surname of her stepfather, Charles Alden Black). However, the marriage foundered, in part because of Agar's drinking (he had been arrested for drunk driving) and in part because of pressures of their high public profile. Temple sued for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1949.[9][17][18] The two were divorced on December 7, 1950.[19] After the divorce, Agar had little contact with his daughter or with Temple.[20]

Agar remarried in 1951 to model Loretta Barnett Combs (1922–2000). They tried to elope but officials refused to marry them for an hour because Agar had been drinking.[21] They remained married for 49 years until her death in 2000. They had two sons, Martin Agar and John G. Agar, III.[22]

Legal issues[edit]

In 1950 Agar was fined for reckless driving.[23][24] In 1951 he was sentenced to five months in jail for drunk driving, and released on probation after 60 days.[25] In 1953 Agar was again arrested for drunk driving, and sentenced to 120 days in prison.[26] In 1960 he was again arrested for drunk driving.[27]

Political views[edit]

Agar supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.[28]

Death[edit]

Agar died on April 7, 2002, in Burbank, California from severe complications from emphysema. He was 81. He spent his last weeks confined to an iron lung.[12] He was buried beside his wife at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.[29]

Legacy[edit]

As for being associated with science fiction B movies, Agar said, "I don't resent being identified with B science fiction movies at all", Agar later said. "Why should I? Even though they were not considered top-of-the-line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I'm doing my job, and that's what counts."[7]

The Seattle band The Young Fresh Fellows recorded the songs "The New John Agar" and "Agar's Revenge" on the Topsy Turvy album in 1985.[30]

The television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 has made fun of several of Agar's films, including The Mole People, Women of the Prehistoric Planet and Revenge of the Creature.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1948 Fort Apache 2nd Lt. Michael Shannon O'Rourke
1949 Adventure in Baltimore Tom Wade
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Lt. Flint Cohill
The Woman on Pier 13 Don Lowry
Sands of Iwo Jima Professor Peter Conway
1950 Breakthrough Lt. Joe Mallory
1951 Along the Great Divide Billy Shear
The Magic Carpet Abdullah al Husan / Dr. Ramoth / The Scarlet Falcon
1952 Woman of the North Country David Powell
1953 Man of Conflict Ray Compton
1954 Bait Ray Brighton
The Rocket Man Tom Baxter
Shield for Murder Mark Brewster
The Golden Mistress Bill Buchanan
1955 Revenge of the Creature Professor Clete Ferguson
The Lonesome Trail Johnny Rush
Tarantula! Dr. Matt Hastings
Hold Back Tomorrow Joe Cardos
1956 Star in the Dust Sheriff Bill Jorden
Flesh and the Spur Luke Random / Matt Random
The Mole People Dr. Roger Bentley
1957 Joe Butterfly Sergeant Dick Mason
The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll George Hastings
The Brain from Planet Arous Steve March
Ride a Violent Mile Jeff Donner
1958 The Day of the Trumpet Sgt. Judd Norcutt
Jet Attack Capt. Tom Arnett
Attack of the Puppet People Bob Westley
Frontier Gun Sheriff Jim Crayle
1959 Invisible Invaders Maj. Bruce Jay
1960 Raymie Ike
1961 Fall Girl Joe McElroy
1962 Journey to the Seventh Planet Capt. Don Graham
Hand of Death Alex Marsh
1963 The Young and the Brave Intelligence Captain
Of Love and Desire Gus Cole
1964 Law of the Lawless Pete Stone
Stage to Thunder Rock Dan Carrouthers
Young Fury Dawson
1966 Johnny Reno Ed Tomkins
Women of the Prehistoric Planet Dr. Farrell
Waco George Gates
1967 The St. Valentine's Day Massacre Dion O'Bannion
Night Fright Sheriff Clint Crawford
1969 The Undefeated Christian
1970 Chisum Amos Patton
1971 Big Jake Bert Ryan
How's Your Love Life? Police Lt. Rafferty
1976 King Kong City Official
1978 Mr. No Legs Police Capt. Hathaway
1982 Divided We Fall Yankee Officer Short Film
1988 Perfect Victims Neighbor Walking His Dog
Miracle Mile Ivan Peters
1990 Nightbreed Decker's Victim
Fear Leonard Scott Levy
1992 Invasion of Privacy Old Convict Direct-to-video
2001 The Vampire Hunters Club Reggie Direct-to-video short film
2005 The Naked Monster Dr. Clete Ferguson Final film role

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1952 Hollywood Opening Night Episode: "Delaying Action"
The Unexpected Alan Liveright Episode: "Desert Honeymoon"
1952–1954 Fireside Theatre John Cushing 2 episodes
1953 The Ford Television Theatre Episode: "The Old Man's Bride"
The Loretta Young Show Lloyd Episode: "Earthquake"
1954 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Otis Tack Episode: "Little War at San Dede"
1954–1957 General Electric Theater Marvin Potter 2 episodes
1955 Climax! Larry Dorrant Episode: "The First and the Last"
1958 The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna Lt. Arnold Van Dyke Episode: "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"
Flight Episode: "Vertijet"
1959 Perry Mason Kenneth Baxter Episode: "The Case of the Caretaker's Cat"; credited as John G. Agar
Destination Space Col. Matthews TV Movie
1959–1960 Rawhide Mike Anderson / Lon Grant 2 episodes
1960 Whirlybirds Danny Flynn Episode: "Four Little Indians"
1961 The Best of the Post Lt. Larry Bronsford Episode: "Band of Brothers"
Bat Masterson Sam Phelps Episode: "Farmer with a Badge"
Ripcord Warrant Officer Frank Pierson Episode: "Chuting Stars"
1962 Lawman Jim Martin Episode: "The Witness"
1963 Death Valley Days Dr. Charles Edwards Episode: "Pioneer Doctor"
1964–1968 The Virginian Joe Williams / Tom Anders 2 episodes
1965 Branded The Sheriff Episode: "$10,000 for Durango"
1966 Combat! Capt. Thorpe Episode: "The Mockingbird"
1967 Family Affair Gabe Episode: "What Did You Do in the West, Uncle?"
Hondo Frank James Episode: "Hondo and the Judas"
Zontar: The Thing from Venus Dr. Curt Taylor TV Movie
1968 Curse of the Swamp Creature Barry Rogers TV Movie
The Name of the Game Bert Walker Episode: "Nightmare"
1969 Hell Raiders Maj. Ronald Paxton TV Movie
1971 The Smith Family Jim Thorne Episode: "Taste of Fear"
1972 The Delphi Bureau Episode: "The Man Upstairs-The Man Downstairs Project"
1974 Chase Episode: "Remote Control"
1976 Police Story Hammack Episode: "The Long Ball"
Charlie's Angels Col. Blaylock Episode: "Target: Angels"
1984 Highway to Heaven Morton Clay Episode: "The Return of the Masked Rider"
1986 The Twilight Zone Pop Episode: "A Day in Beaumont"
1991 The Perfect Bride Gramps TV Movie
1993 Body Bags Dr. Lang TV Movie; in the section "Eye"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1996 The Pandora Directive Thomas Malloy

References[edit]

  1. ^ John George Agar in the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 Name: John George Agar [John G Agar] Gender: Male Race: White Birth Date: 31 Jan 1921 Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois Death Date: 7 Apr 2002 Father: John G Agar Mother: Lillian Rogers SSN: 322183716 Notes: Jun 1938: Name listed as JOHN GEORGE AGAR; 10 Apr 2002: Name listed as JOHN G AGAR
  2. ^ p. 14 Agar, John & Van Savage, L.C. On the Good Ship Hollywood BearManor Media; 1st Edition (July 11, 2007)
  3. ^ "Chicago Harvard School". www.illinoishsglorydays.com.
  4. ^ a b Edwards, Anne (2017). Shirley Temple: American Princess. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 163–164. ISBN 9781493026920. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. ^ p. 19 Agar, John & Van Savage, L.C. On the Good Ship Hollywood BearManor Media; 1st Edition (July 11, 2007)
  6. ^ "Obituary: John Agar". the Guardian. April 13, 2002.
  7. ^ a b c John Agar Biography at Monster Shack accessed January 19, 2014
  8. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Bergan, Ronald (12 April 2002). "John Agar". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on 19 July 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  10. ^ "SHIRLEY'S HUBBY BECOMES ACTOR WITHOUT HELP". Tweed Daily. Vol. XXXIII, no. 174. New South Wales, Australia. 22 July 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ a b "How John Agar wooed Shirley". The Sun. No. 2214. Sydney. 16 September 1945. p. 3 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNDAY SUN). Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ a b Willis, John (2004). Screen World 2003. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 355. ISBN 9781557835284. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Jewell, Richard; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House. p. 228. ISBN 978-0517546567.
  14. ^ Smith, Richard Harland. "Breakthrough". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  15. ^ p. 43 Agar, John & Van Savage, L.C. On the Good Ship Hollywood BearManor Media; 1st Edition (July 11, 2007)
  16. ^ p. 11 Weaver, Tom John Agar Interview in McFarland Publishing (October 1, 1999)
  17. ^ "Divorce for Shirley JOHN "FLIRTED, DRANK"". The Barrier Miner. Vol. LXII, no. 18.029. New South Wales, Australia. 8 December 1949. p. 13. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ Kristin McMurran, "Shirley Temple Black Taps Out a Telling Memoir of Child Stardom", People Magazine 28 November 1988 accessed 19 January 2014
  19. ^ "Divorces". Billboard. December 16, 1950. p. 50. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  20. ^ "The bitter ending of a fairy-tale". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 47, no. 39. 27 February 1980. p. 20. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ "JOHN AGAR WEDS AGAIN". Brisbane Telegraph. 17 May 1951. p. 7 (CITY FINAL). Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ Los Angeles Times obituary, April 9, 2002; accessed January 19, 2014
  23. ^ "John Agar Fined in Driving Case". Los Angeles Times. 21 April 1950. p. 2.
  24. ^ "JOHN AGAR CONVICTED". The Daily News. Vol. LXVIII, no. 23, 409. Western Australia. 22 April 1950. p. 5 (FIRST). Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ "John Agar Sentenced to Jail". New York Times. 28 August 1951. p. 21.
  26. ^ "John Agar Gets 120 Days for Violating Probation". Chicago Daily Tribune. 31 January 1953. p. a8.
  27. ^ "John Agar Fined for Drunk Driving". Los Angeles Times. 16 January 1960. p. B1.
  28. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. pp. 172, 191. ISBN 9781107650282.
  29. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6521308/john-agar?_gl=1*6l6ko*_ga*NjM1MTEwNjY1LjE1NzkwMjMxNDE.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY1NjUzMzYyMi42Ni4xLjE2NTY1NDUzNjQuNTk. Original Name John George Agar, Jr Birth 31 Jan 1921 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA Death 7 Apr 2002 (aged 81) Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, USA Burial Riverside National Cemetery Riverside, Riverside County, California, USA Show Map Plot Section 55A, Site 18 Memorial ID 6521308 · View Source
  30. ^ "Topsy Turvy - The Young Fresh Fellows | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic" – via www.allmusic.com.

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