John Vernon

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John Vernon
John Vernon.JPG
Vernon as the Mayor of San Francisco in Dirty Harry, 1971
Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz[1]

(1932-02-24)February 24, 1932
DiedFebruary 1, 2005(2005-02-01) (aged 72)
EducationBanff School of Fine Arts
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1956–2005
SpouseNancy West (divorced)
Children3, including Kate Vernon and Nan Vernon

John Keith Vernon (born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz; February 24, 1932 – February 1, 2005) was a Canadian actor. He made a career in Hollywood after achieving initial television stardom in Canada. He was best known for playing Dean Wormer in Animal House, the Mayor in Dirty Harry and Fletcher in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Personal life[edit]

Born as Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz in Zehner, Saskatchewan,[1] Vernon was one of two sons of Adolf Agopsowicz, a grocer, and his wife Eleonore Krückel (also spelled as Kriekle or Kriekel). Both his parents' families immigrated to the Edenwold district in the late 19th century from the Austrian crownland and duchy of Bukovina. The Agopsowicz family were part of the community of Armenians in Poland. Vernon was of Armenian, German, and Polish descent.[2][page needed]

From 1935 to 1953 he attended St. Joseph's School and Campion College in Regina, Saskatchewan, where his acting career began under the direction of the Rev. Arthur Nelson, S.J. and Mary Ellen Burgess at the Regina Little Theatre.[3] Vernon was educated at the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before becoming a live stage actor for CBC Television's dramatic programs. In 1974, he completed a season at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, playing Malvolio.

Vernon is the father of actress Kate Vernon, musician Nan Vernon, and actor Chris Vernon.[1]


Early roles[edit]

Vernon made his screen debut in 1956 as the voice of Big Brother in Michael Anderson's film version of George Orwell's 1984 starring Edmond O'Brien. He returned to Canada afterwards and gained film experience appearing on the TV series The Adventures of Tugboat Annie and The Last of the Mohicans.

He debuted on Broadway in 1964 as DeSoto opposite Christopher Plummer and David Carradine in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. During the Golden Age of CBC Drama in the 1960s, he co-starred in Edna O'Brien's A Cheap Bunch of Nice Flowers, opposite Colleen Dewhurst, and in Uncle Vanya, opposite William Hutt and Rita Gam. He appeared in the CBC series Wojeck in the late 1960s, playing a crime-fighting medical examiner. However, he decided to go to the United States to further his acting career.

In 1967, he appeared opposite Lee Marvin in Point Blank.

In 1969, he played Cuban revolutionary Rico Parra in Alfred Hitchcock's Cold War-era spy movie Topaz. He appeared on The High Chaparral as the leader of a group of striking Irish Miners (1969) in "No Irish Need Apply".

In 1970, he guest-starred in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Force Of Waves" as Cal Anderson, and he appeared in the two-part episode "The Banker" of The Silent Force in 1971. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he made four appearances over five years on the TV series Mission: Impossible as four different lead villains. In 1974, Vernon turned in a supporting performance in Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night.

In 1971, he played the by-the-book mayor of San Francisco, perpetually frustrated by Clint Eastwood, in the first Dirty Harry movie. He later parodied this role in the film One More Train to Rob and the premiere episode of Sledge Hammer!.

In 1974 he co-starred in the film The Black Windmill with Michael Caine and Donald Pleasence. Also in 1974, he appeared in The Questor Tapes.

In 1976, he played Fletcher in Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales.

In 1977, he played the husband in the Italian film, A Special Day, with Sophia Loren and Marcelo Mastroianni.[4]


In 1972, he appeared as a villain in the Fear Is the Key and in 1973, he appeared in Charley Varrick as mob boss Maynard Boyle.

In 1975, Vernon portrayed Chicago gangster Ben Larkin in the John Wayne movie Brannigan, which was set in London, England, starring alongside Wayne and Richard Attenborough.

Vernon played Dean Vernon Wormer of fictional Faber College in 1978's Animal House (a role that he would reprise in the short-lived television sequel Delta House). He also played Mr. Prindle in 1980's Herbie Goes Bananas, Ted Striker's psychiatrist Dr. Stone in 1982's Airplane II: The Sequel, and Sherman Krader in 1987's Ernest Goes to Camp.

In 1979, Vernon played villainous American bigot Jonathon Pritts in New Mexico who was trying to steal the land from Mexican landowners in the Louis L'Amour story of The Sacketts.

He also appeared in several cult exploitation and action films in the 1980s, most notably Chained Heat and Savage Streets, both starring Linda Blair, and Jungle Warriors, opposite Sybil Danning. He underplayed his villain image (playing a character called "Mr. Big") in the 1988 Blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka: a character thinks Vernon should be "above exploitation films" and Vernon replies that many famous actors have done exploitation films, listing Jamie Lee Curtis, Angie Dickinson, and Shelley Winters as examples.

Vernon played "Ted Jarrett" in the season two The A-Team episode "Labor Pains" (1983). Vernon also played "Cameron Zachary" in the season two Knight Rider episode "A Good Knight's Work" (1984). Vernon later played "John Bradford Horn" in the season three Airwolf episode "Discovery" (1986).

In 1986, he played the Principal in Fuzz Bucket. He played Sergeant Curt Mooney in Killer Klowns from Outer Space and was a lead in the short-lived 1990s series Acapulco H.E.A.T.

Vernon guest-starred as the grouchy principal Dinkler in "Brad to Worse", an episode of Duckman on USA Network.

Voice work[edit]

Vernon did extensive voice work. He voiced the Prosecutor on the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. He worked on animated TV series such as The Marvel Super Heroes portraying Tony Stark/Iron Man and Sub-Mariner among others, Batman: The Animated Series, The Incredible Hulk, Wildfire, Spider-Man, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Delgo.


Vernon died of complications following heart surgery on February 1, 2005, in Westwood, Los Angeles at the age of 72. He was cremated after a private funeral service.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]


List of voice performances in films
Year Title Role Notes
1981 Heavy Metal Prosecutor segment "Captain Sternn"
2003 Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman Rupert Thorne Direct-to-video
2008 Delgo Nohrin Judge Posthumous release (final film role)
List of voice performances in television
Year Title Role Notes
1966 The Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man/Tony Stark /[5]/

Sub-Mariner/Prince Namor,[5] /Major Glenn Talbot / Major Corey

1986 Wildfire Wildfire 13 Episodes
1992-1994 Batman: The Animated Series Rupert Thorne 9 Episodes
1993 SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron Rex Shard Episode: "Chaos in Crystal"
1994 Fantastic Four Doctor Doom Episodes: "The Mask of Doom: Part 1"
1995 Pinky and the Brain Admiral Episode: "Das Mouse"
1996 Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm Shao Kahn 3 Episodes
1996 Spider-Man Doctor Strange Episode: "Doctor Strange"
1994 Duckman Principal Dinkler Episode: "From Brad to Worse"
1996-1997 The Incredible Hulk General Ross 14 Episodes
1998 Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain Principal Episode: "Gee, Your Hair Spells Terrific"
2000 Pigs Next Door Grand Porcinus Uncredited, Episode: "Hog Island"
2003-2005 The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Dean Toadblatt 3 Episodes
List of voice performances in video games
Year Title Role Notes
1994 The Adventures of Batman & Robin Rupert Thorne
2000 Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 Tesla trooper
2000 Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn Goldander Blackenrock / Baron Ployer
2000 Star Trek: Klingon Academy Academy Communications Officer / Federation Commander 2
2001 Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge
2002 Earth & Beyond Proconsul Dionysius Kerr
2004 Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel Rhombus / Glowing Ghoul
2005 Area 51 Additional Voices


  1. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Adam (February 4, 2005). "Actor John Vernon, 72; 'Animal House' Dean". The Washington Post. p. B06. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  2. ^ Edenwold Anniversary Committee (1981). Where Aspens Whisper: Edenwold. Edenwold: Edenwold Anniversary Committee. ISBN 9780889252523. OCLC 15879980.
  3. ^ Cory Toth - Encyclopedia Of Saskatchewan. "The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan | Details". Archived from the original on 2017-10-17. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Adam (February 4, 2005). "Actor John Vernon, 72". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b Mallory, Michael (February 7, 2013). "Iron Man the First (and Cheapest)".

External links[edit]