John Ashley (actor)

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John Ashley
John Ashley 1962.JPG
Ashley in 1962
Born John Atchley
(1934-12-25)December 25, 1934
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Died October 3, 1997(1997-10-03) (aged 62)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Nationality American
Education Will Rogers High School
Alma mater Oklahoma State University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1957–1997
Spouse(s) Deborah Walley (m. 1964–66)
Nancy Moore (m.1966–?)
Jan Ashley (m.?–1997, his death)
Children Anthony Ashley, Cole Ashley

John Ashley (December 25, 1934 – October 3, 1997) was an American actor, producer and singer. He was best known for his work as an actor in films for American International Pictures, producing and acting in horror movies shot in the Philippines, and for producing various television series, including The A-Team.

Early life[edit]

Born John Atchley, he was reared in Oklahoma and attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he studied a BA in Economics. While a student, Ashley visited a friend in California and accompanied him to the set of The Conqueror (1956). He was seen by John Wayne who was impressed with the young man's good looks and guided him to a role on TV's Men of Annapolis.[1]



Ashley first broke into films when he accompanied a girlfriend to an audition at American International Pictures for a part in Dragstrip Girl (1957). Lou Rusoff asked him if he wanted to audition as well and he ended up getting the part.[2] AIP signed him to a four-picture non-exclusive contract expected to run for two years.[3]

Ashley was a particular favorite of the daughters of James H. Nicholson, one of the main figures at American International Pictures, who always hoped he would become a big star. Ashley unsuccessfully auditioned for the lead in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) but appeared in several of AIP's other movies.[1][4] His second role for the studio, Motorcycle Gang (1957), was almost identical to Dragstrip Girl. By this stage Ashley had been drafted and production was held up until he completed his basic training.[2]

AIP wanted Ashley to make a film called Hot Rod Girl. He was offered a part on the TV series Matinee Theatre and asked for the movie to be postponed so he could take it. However, Samuel Arkoff of AIP refused, and got an injunction preventing Ashley from appearing on TV. "I never really forgave him for that," said Ashley.[5]

Ashley was one of the few AIP lead actors who made the transition from juvenile delinquent movies to beach party films when he was cast as Frankie Avalon's best friend in a series of movies starting with Beach Party (1963) (which led to AIP signing him on another multi-picture contract[6]).

He also had a semi-recurring role as one of Ellie May's suitors on The Beverly Hillbillies.[7] and a strong part in Hud (1963), perhaps his most acclaimed film.

In 1959, Ashley was cast in the episode "Elkton Lake Feud" of the syndicated western television series, Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen. In the story line, two families for years quarrel over the ownership of the lake, and only three individuals remain when a judge hands down the critical decision.[8]

From 1961 to 1962, Ashley was cast in a co-starring role with the late Brian Kelly on the ABC adventure series, Straightaway, set about an automobile mechanic shop and often focusing on the sport of drag racing.


In addition to acting, Ashley also made a number of records in the late 1950s.[1][9][10]


In the late 1960s, Ashley received an offer to make a film in the Philippines. As his first marriage had just broken up, he was keen to get out of the country and accepted.[11] He made Brides of Blood for producer Eddie Romero, then returned to Oklahoma where he ran some theaters. A distributor friend of Ashley's found success screening Brides of Blood and suggested that Ashley return to the Philippines to make additional similar movies. Ashley agreed and returned there to film The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood as an actor and producer.[12] This began a long-running association with the Philippines and producer Eddie Romero. Ashley eventually started financing these movies, as well as acting as Philippines liaison for movies like The Big Doll House and Apocalypse Now. He then returned to the US in order to concentrate on his theater interests and move into American production work.

Ashley went on to produce such series as The A-Team, NBC's The Quest, and CBS's Walker, Texas Ranger. His voice can be heard as the narrator in the opening title sequence of The A-Team during the show's first four seasons.

Personal life[edit]

Ashley married actress Deborah Walley in 1962. They had one son, Anthony Ashley, before they divorced.[13] Ashley later married his second wife, Nancy Moore, and had a son, Cole Ashley. He later remarried to his third wife, Jan Ashley. The couple remained married until John's death.[14]


On October 3, 1997, Ashley died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 62. He had just left the set of the movie Scar City, and died in his car in the parking lot outside the studio.[15]

Selected filmography[edit]


Unmade projects[edit]

  • Thorns of Bonaparte (1967)[16]


  1. ^ a b c Tom Lisanti, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, McFarland 2005, p353-354
  2. ^ a b Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p134
  3. ^ 'Calypso Joe' Exploits New Craze; Cameron, Mary Murphy to Costar Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 Jan 1957: C7.
  4. ^ Herman Cohen, producer of Werewolf does say that Ashley never auditioned. See Tom Weaver, "Interview with Herman Cohen" accessed 17 December 2012
  5. ^ Gary A. Smith , American International Pictures: The Golden Years, Bear Manor Media, 2013 p 82
  6. ^ Grand Guignol Set at Vine St. Cabaret: Huston 'Sells' Kipling Yarn; Sinatra, AIP Think Young Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 July 1963: D11.
  7. ^ Obituary in Los Angeles Times 10 October 1997 accessed 17 December 2012
  8. ^ ""Elkton Lake Feud", May 16, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  9. ^ Billboard - 3 Nov 1958 "Dot's Randy Wood is recording four sides with singer-actor John Ashley to bring Wood's personal a.&r. tally to the 80-side level during the past two weeks. "
  10. ^ Billboard - 8 Dec 1958 - Page 36 "JOHN ASHLEY My Story DOT 15878— John Ashley sells this ballad about young love with fervor accompanied by a vocal group and real beat. A strong side by the lad that could step out. "
  11. ^ Weaver p41
  12. ^ Weaver p43
  13. ^ Scott, Vernon (April 25, 1968). "Divorcee Deborah Walley In No Hurry To Remarry". Hawkins County Post. p. 2. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  14. ^ Caitlyn Ashley, John Ashley's granddaughter
  15. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (1997). Obituaries in the Performing Arts. McFarland. p. 9. 
  16. ^ Senta to Play Secret Agent Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 Apr 1967: 19.


  • Weaver, Tom, "Interview with John Ashley", Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup, McFarland 1988

External links[edit]