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Lex Barker

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Lex Barker
Lex Barker (1951)
Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr.

(1919-05-08)May 8, 1919
DiedMay 11, 1973(1973-05-11) (aged 54)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1945–1973
Constance Rhodes Thurlow
(m. 1942; div. 1950)
(m. 1951; div. 1952)
(m. 1953; div. 1957)
Irene Labhart
(m. 1959; died 1962)
(m. 1965; div. 1972)
Partner(s)Karen Kondazian
(engaged 1972–his death 1973)

Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. (May 8, 1919 – May 11, 1973), known as Lex Barker, was an American actor. He was known for playing Tarzan for RKO Pictures between 1949 and 1953, and portraying leading characters from Karl May's novels,[1] notably as Old Shatterhand in a film series by the West German studio Constantin Film. At the height of his fame, he was one of the most popular actors in German-speaking cinema, and received Bambi Award and Bravo Otto nominations for the honor.

Early life[edit]

Barker was born in Rye, New York, the second child of Alexander Crichlow Barker Sr., a wealthy Canadian-born building contractor and stockbroker,[2] and his American wife, the former Marion Thornton Beals.[3] He had an elder sister, Frederica Amelia "Freddie" Barlow (1917–1980). Of English and Spanish ancestry, Barker was a direct descendant of the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, and of Sir William Henry Crichlow, historical governor-general of Barbados.[4][5]

Raised in New York City and Port Chester, New York, he attended the Fessenden School and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He played American football and the oboe. He attended Princeton University, but dropped out to join a theatrical stock company, much to his family's chagrin.[6]



Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1938.[7] 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 City.[8]

World War II[edit]

In February 1941, 10 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He rose to the rank of major during the war.[9] He was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.[10] He was awarded the Purple Heart twice.

Early film roles[edit]

Back in the US, he recuperated at a military hospital in Arkansas, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in Doll Face (1945), his first film.[11]

A string of small roles followed, in films such as Two Guys from Milwaukee (1945) and Cloak and Dagger (1946).


Barker signed a contract at RKO. He had small roles in The Farmer's Daughter (1947), Crossfire (1947), and Under the Tonto Rim (1947).[11]

Barker went to Paramount for Unconquered (1947). Back at RKO he was in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Velvet Touch (1948), and Return of the Bad Men (1948), playing Emmett Dalton.[11]


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 6'4" frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for 16 years. His Jane was Brenda Joyce who had been in Weissmuller's last three films.[12]

Barker's second Tarzan was Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950), where Jane was played by Vanessa Brown. In Tarzan's Peril (1951), Barker's Jane was Virginia Huston, with African location footage. Dorothy Hart was Jane in Tarzan's Savage Fury (1952), directed by Cy Endfield.[13][14]

Barker got the chance to play a non-Tarzan role in Battles of Chief Pontiac (1952), a Western.[15] He returned to the role one last time in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953).[13][14]


Barker supported Randolph Scott in Thunder Over the Plains (1953).[16]

At Universal he starred in the Western The Yellow Mountain (1954) and The Man from Bitter Ridge (1955). He went to Columbia to make Duel on the Mississippi (1955).[11]

Barker had a rare non-Western role in The Price of Fear (1956), a film noir with Merle Oberon. He was in the war movie Away All Boats (1956)[11] and the thriller The Girl in the Kremlin (1957).[17]

Barker made two films for Howard W. Koch: War Drums (1957)[11] and Jungle Heat (1957),.[18] He went to 20th Century Fox for The Deerslayer (1957),[11] then did The Girl in Black Stockings (1957).[19]


In 1957, as he found it harder to find work in American films[why?], Barker moved to Europe (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and some German),[20] where he found popularity and starred in over 40 European films, including two movies based on the novels by Italian author Emilio Salgari (1862–1911).[21]

He started his European career with a British thriller The Strange Awakening (1958). He went to Italy to star in Captain Falcon (1959), Son of the Red Corsair (1959), The Pirate and the Slave Girl (1959), and Terror of the Red Mask (1960).[22]

Barker had a short but compelling role as Anita Ekberg's fiancé in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960).[23]

He went back to swashbucklers: Knight of 100 Faces (1960), Pirates of the Coast (1960), Robin Hood and the Pirates (1960), and The Secret of the Black Falcon (1961).[22]

West Germany[edit]

Barker had his greatest success in West Germany. There he starred in movies based on the "Doctor Mabuse" stories (formerly filmed by Fritz Lang), in the movies The Return of Doctor Mabuse (1961).[24] He was in Doctor Sibelius (1962).

Barker then played Old Shatterhand in an adaptation of the novel by popular German author Karl May (1842–1912), Treasure of the Silver Lake (1962).[25] It was a huge hit, and 11 movies adapting stories by Karl May followed until 1968.[26] Barker did the comedy Breakfast in Bed (1962), then the adventure movie Storm Over Ceylon (1963). He returned to Italy for The Executioner of Venice (1963)[27][28] and Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance (1963).[11]

Barker reprised his role as Old Shatterhand in Apache Gold (1964), Old Shatterhand (1964) and Last of the Renegades (1965).[11][18] He went to South Africa for Harry Alan Towers' West German-British international co-production Victim Five (1964),[18][29] then returned to West Germany for other adaptations of May books: The Treasure of the Aztecs (1965), The Pyramid of the Sun God (1965) .[30] 24 Hours to Kill (1965) was a British movie.[29] The Hell of Manitoba (1965) and The Desperado Trail (1966) were Westerns.[31]

Though Barker did speak German, he was almost always dubbed in his West German films. His go-to dubber was Gert Günther Hoffmann, whose distinctive voice contributed to Barker's success.

In 1966, Barker was awarded the "Bambi Award" as Best Foreign Actor in West Germany, where he was a very popular star.[32] He even recorded two songs in German: "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).[33]

Later films included Killer's Carnival (1966), and Winnetou and the Crossbreed (1967). In the same year, he starred in a Eurospy film Spy Today, Die Tomorrow, a horror film The Blood Demon, and appeared in the anthology film Woman Times Seven (1967).[18]

He returned to the United States occasionally and made a handful of guest appearances on American television episodes, but Europe, and especially West Germany, was his professional home for the remainder of his life.

Personal life[edit]

Barker with his fiancée Karen Kondazian in on May 1, 1973, a few days before Barker's death

Barker was married five times:

  • Constance Rhodes Thurlow (1918–1975) (married June 27, 1942–divorced 1950),[34] a daughter of Leon Rhodes Thurlow, a vice president of the Decorated Metal Manufacturing Company.[35] They had one daughter, Lynn Thurlow Barker (April 11, 1943 – 2010) and a son, Alexander "Zan" Crichlow Barker III (March 25, 1947 – October 2, 2012). In 1952 Constance Barker married her second husband, John Lawrence Adams, a descendant of John Quincy Adams.[35]
  • Actress Arlene Dahl (married 1951–divorced 1952)[34]
  • Actress Lana Turner (married September 8, 1953–divorced July 22, 1957).[34] Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane later accused Barker of having repeatedly raped her when she was between the ages of 10 ½ and 13.[36][37] and that this was the reason for the breakup of the marriage. According to Crane, to avoid public scandal, no charges were ever filed.
  • Irene Labhardt (married 1957–1962; her death from leukemia), a Swiss actress. They had one son, Christopher (born 1960), who became an actor and singer.[34]
  • Tita Cervera (married 1965–divorced 1972, although divorce not deemed legally valid), a Spanish beauty pageant winner. Voted Miss Spain in 1962, she 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.[38]


Barker died on May 11, 1973, of a heart attack, three days after his 54th birthday, while walking down Lexington Avenue on New York City's Upper East Side, to meet his fiancée, actress Karen Kondazian.[39] The funeral was held in New York. He was cremated and the ashes were taken by his estranged wife Tita to Spain.



Year Title Role Notes
1945 Doll Face Coast Guardsman Uncredited
1946 Do You Love Me Party Guest
Two Guys from Milwaukee Fred
Cloak and Dagger Rescued Man
1947 The Farmer's Daughter Olaf Holstrom
Crossfire Harry
Under the Tonto Rim Deputy Joe
Unconquered Royal American Officer Uncredited
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Ambulance Driver
1948 Berlin Express Soldier
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Carpenter Foreman
The Velvet Touch Paul Banton
Return of the Badmen Emmett Dalton
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain Tarzan
1950 Tarzan and the Slave Girl
1951 Tarzan's Peril
1952 Tarzan's Savage Fury
Battles of Chief Pontiac Lt. Kent McIntire
1953 Tarzan and the She-Devil Tarzan
Thunder Over the Plains Captain Bill Hodges
1954 The Mystery of The Black Jungle Tremal Naik Original (Italian) title: I misteri della giungla nera [it]
Black Devils of Kali [it] Original (Italian) title: La vendetta dei Tughs
The Yellow Mountain Andy Martin
1955 The Man from Bitter Ridge Jeff Carr
Duel on the Mississippi André Tulane
1956 The Price of Fear Dave Barrett
Away All Boats Commander Quigley
1957 War Drums Mangas Coloradas
The Girl in the Kremlin Steve Anderson
Jungle Heat Dr. Jim Ransom
The Deerslayer Deerslayer
The Girl in Black Stockings David Hewson
1958 The Strange Awakening Peter Chance
Captain Falcon Pietro Original (Italian) title: Capitan Fuoco
1959 Son of the Red Corsair Enrico di Ventimiglia Original (Italian) title: Il figlio del corsaro rosso
The Pirate and the Slave Girl Dragon Drakut Original (Italian) title: La scimitarra del Saraceno
Mission in Morocco Bruce Reynolds
1960 Terror of the Red Mask Marco Original (Italian) title: Terrore della maschera rossa
La Dolce Vita Robert Italian film
Knight of 100 Faces Riccardo D'Arce Original (Italian) title: Il cavaliere dai cento volti
Pirates of the Coast Captain Luis Monterey Original (Italian) title: I pirati della costa
Robin Hood and the Pirates Robin Hood Original (Italian) title: Robin Hood e i pirati
1961 The Secret of the Black Falcon Captain Don Carlos de Herrera Original (Italian) title: Il segreto dello sparviero nero
Le Trésor des hommes bleus [fr] Fred Spanish/French film
The Return of Dr. Mabuse FBI-Agent Joe Como Original (German) title: Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse
1962 The Invisible Dr. Mabuse [de] FBI-Agent Joe Como Original (German) title: Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse
Doctor Sibelius Dr. Georg Sibelius Original (German) title: Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius
Treasure of the Silver Lake Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Der Schatz im Silbersee
1963 Breakfast in Bed Victor H. Armstrong Original (German) title: Frühstück im Doppelbett
Storm Over Ceylon Larry Stone Original (German) title: Das Todesauge von Ceylon
The Executioner of Venice Sandrigo Bembo Original (Italian) title: Il boia di Venezia
Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance Major Ford Original (Italian) title: Kali Yug, la dea della vendetta
Il mistero del tempio indiano [fr] Major Ford Italian film
Apache Gold Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou I
1964 Apaches' Last Battle Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Old Shatterhand
Victim Five Steve Martin UK film, US title: Code 7, Victim 5
The Shoot Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Der Schut
Last of the Renegades Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou II
1965 The Treasure of the Aztecs Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Der Schatz der Azteken
The Pyramid of the Sun God Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes
Twenty-Four Hours to Kill Captain Jamie Faulkner UK/German co-production film
The Hell of Manitoba a.k.a. A Place Called Glory Clint Brenner Original (German) title: Die Hölle von Manitoba
The Wild Men of Kurdistan [de] Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Durchs wilde Kurdistan
The Desperado Trail Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou III
Fury of the Sabers [de] Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen
1966 Who Killed Johnny R.? [de] Sam Dobie Original (German) title: Wer kennt Johnny R.?
Killer's Carnival Glenn Cassidy Original (French) title: Le carnaval des barbouzes, (Rio segment)
Winnetou and the Crossbreed Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi
1967 Woman Times Seven Rik (segment "Super Simone")
Spy Today, Die Tomorrow Bob Urban Original (German) title: Mister Dynamit – Morgen küßt Euch der Tod
The Blood Demon Roger Mont Elise Original (German) title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel
1968 The Valley of Death Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten
1970 Aoom Ristol
When You're With Me Kapitän Hannes Schneider Original (German) title: Wenn du bei mir bist


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Kurt Episode: "Red Dust"
1956 Lux Video Theatre Stephen Dexter Episode: "Hired Wife"
1956–57 Studio 57 Brad / Robin Ridour 2 episodes
1960 Tales of the Vikings König Gordar Episode: "The Shield"
1963 Berlin-Melodie Television film
1969 It Takes a Thief Kurt 'Matt' Matson Episode: "The King of Thieves"
1971 The Name of the Game Will Cheyenne Episode: "The Man Who Killed a Ghost"
The F.B.I. Owen Stuart Episode: "Three-Way Split"
1972 Night Gallery Charlie McKinley Segment: "The Waiting Room"


  • "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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, May 16, 1973.
  2. ^ Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme (2003). Lex Barker – Die Biografie. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-89602-444-2.
  3. ^ "Miss Beals's Wedding", The New York Times, April 20, 1913.
  4. ^ "Lex Barker - Der unvergessene Tarzan und Old Shatterhand". lex-barker.eu. January 1, 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  5. ^ "Lex Barker - Biography". tribute-to-lex-barker.net. June 14, 2005. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  6. ^ "LEX BARKER DIES; TARZAN OF MOVIES". The New York Times. May 12, 1973. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  7. ^ "The Merry Wives of Windsor". IBDB.com. Internet Broadway Database.
  8. ^ Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles: A Biography, pp. 188–201
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Freese, Gene (2017). Classic Movie Fight Scenes: 75 Years of Bare Knuckle Brawls, 1914–1989. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-4766-6943-4.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rowan 2013, p. 40.
  12. ^ Vallance, Tom (August 15, 2009). "Brenda Joyce: Actress who played Jane to Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-06-14. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Schneider 2012, p. viii.
  14. ^ a b Drew 1986, section 742.
  15. ^ Österberg, Bertil O. (2000). Colonial America on Film and Television: A Filmography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7864-4242-3.
  16. ^ Nott, Robert (2004). The Films of Randolph Scott. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-7864-3759-7.
  17. ^ Rowan, Terry (2015). Motion Pictures From the Fabulous 1950's. Lulu.com. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-329-76077-6.
  18. ^ a b c d Monush 2003, p. 43.
  19. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2015). Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. New York: Penguin Random House. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.
  20. ^ Kalat 2005, p. 150.
  21. ^ Bergfelder 2005, p. 192.
  22. ^ a b Hughes 2011, p. 40.
  23. ^ Dyer, Richard (2018). La dolce vita. London: British Film Institute. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-8445-7392-9.
  24. ^ Kalat 2005, p. 298.
  25. ^ Goral, Pawel (2014). Cold War Rivalry and the Perception of the American West. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-137-36429-6.
  26. ^ Lentz III, Harris M. (2016). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2015. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7864-7667-1.
  27. ^ Hughes 2011, p. 42.
  28. ^ Prickette, James (2012). Actors of the Spaghetti Westerns. Xlibris Corporation. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-4691-4428-3.
  29. ^ a b Bergfelder 2005, p. 219.
  30. ^ Bergfelder 2005, p. 252.
  31. ^ Rowan 2013, p. 447.
  32. ^ Petzel, Michael (1998). Karl-May-Filmbuch: Stories und Bilder aus der deutschen Traumfabrik [Karl May film book: Stories and Pictures from the German dream factory] (in German). Radebeul, Germany: Karl-May-Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 978-3780201539.
  33. ^ "Music Capitals of the World". Billboard. New York. November 13, 1965.
  34. ^ a b c d Michael & Parish 1969, p. 52.
  35. ^ a b "Mrs. Barker's Nuptials", The New York Times, September 12, 1952
  36. ^ "Two Survivors: The Scandalous Saga of Lana Turner and Cheryl Crane". Vanity Fair. 2023-06-08. Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  37. ^ Archer, Greg (November 26, 2008). "The Kid Stays in the Picture". The Advocate. Archived from the original on January 5, 2013.
  38. ^ Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968–1980. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-7864-6976-5.
  39. ^ Boller, Reiner (November 2, 2009). "Karen Kondazian". Lex-Barker.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.


External links[edit]