John Derek

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For other people named John Derek, see John Derek (disambiguation).
John Derek
John Derek - still.jpg
Born Derek Delevan Harris
(1926-08-12)August 12, 1926
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Died May 22, 1998(1998-05-22) (aged 71)
Santa Maria, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cardiovascular disease
Occupation Actor, director, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor, producer
Years active 1943–1990
Spouse(s) Pati Behrs
(1948-1955; divorced)
Ursula Andress
(1957-1966; divorced)
Linda Evans
(1968-1974; divorced)
Bo Derek
(1976-1998; his death)
Children Russell Derek (1950–1999)
Sean Catherine Derek (b. 1953)
Parent(s) Lawson Harris (father)

John Derek (August 12, 1926 – May 22, 1998) was an American actor, director and photographer.[1] He appeared in such films as Knock on Any Door, All the King's Men, and Rogues of Sherwood Forest. He was also known for marrying glamorous starlets and for launching the career of his last wife, Bo Derek.


Derek was born Derek Delevan Harris in Hollywood, California, the son of actor/director Lawson Harris and actress Dolores Johnson. His striking[citation needed] good looks were noticed, and he was being groomed for a movie career by both David O. Selznick and his agent Henry Willson (who gave him the temporary screen name of 'Dare Harris') when he was drafted in 1944 into the United States Army, and saw service in the Philippines during the last days of World War II.

Film career[edit]

After the war, Derek approached Humphrey Bogart, who renamed him John Derek and cast him as Nick (Pretty Boy) Romano, an unregenerate killer, in Knock on Any Door (1949), a socially conscious 1949 melodrama.[2]Derek was recognized as a talented newcomer, "plainly an idol for the girls," as Bosley Crowther put it in a review for The New York Times.[3]

Derek followed that picture with a supporting role as the son of Broderick Crawford in All the King's Men (1949), the Best Picture Oscar winner for its year. He played leads in Fury at Showdown, and as Robin Hood in Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950) with Alan Hale. He also appeared as Joshua in The Ten Commandments (1956). But he found himself featured increasingly as a hero or villain in a string of unimpressive B-movies—crime melodramas, westerns, pirate pictures and costume dramas.[3]

Unsatisfied with his career as an actor, Derek turned to film directing. He directed his second wife Ursula Andress in two films, and third wife Linda Evans in one. He also worked as a director of four films with fourth wife, Bo Derek.[4] Ghosts Can't Do It (1990) was his last in the director's chair.[5] An accomplished photographer, Derek photographed the last three of his four wives (at different times) for nude spreads in Playboy magazine.

Derek directed the music videos for Shania Twain's Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? and Any Man of Mine [6] [7] [8] [9]

Personal life[edit]

John Derek and Bo Derek with Chandran Rutnam.

Derek was married to Russian-born prima ballerina Pati Behrs from 1948 to 1955. They had two children: Russell (now deceased) and Sean Catherine.[4] He was married to Swiss-American actress Ursula Andress from 1957 to 1966 and to American actress Linda Evans from 1968 to 1974. His last marriage was to Bo Derek in 1976 and they remained together until he died in 1998.


John Derek died from cardiovascular disease in Santa Maria, California at the age of 71.[10] His remains were cremated.[11]


As actor[edit]


Short Subjects:

  • The Nest (1943)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards (1951)
  • Screen Snapshots: Meet Mr. Rhythm, Frankie Laine (1952)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Mr. Movies (1952)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Stars to Remember (1954)

As director[edit]




  • Donnelley, Paul. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. London: Omnibus Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  • Maltin, Leonard. "John Derek". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.

External links[edit]