Lex Barker with his fiancée Karen Kondazian on May 1, 1973, 10 days before his death
Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr.
May 8, 1919
Rye, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 11, 1973 (aged 54)|
New York City, U.S.
Constance Rhodes Thurlow (m. 1942–1950)
Arlene Dahl (m. 1951–1952)
Lana Turner (m. 1953–1957)
Irene Labhart (m. 1959–1962)
Tita Cervera (m. 1965–1972)
|Partner(s)||Karen Kondazian (1972–1973)|
Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr. was born on May 8, 1919 in Rye, New York. He was the second child of Alexander Crichlow Barker, Sr., a wealthy Canadian-born building contractor, and his American wife, the former Marion Thornton Beals.
His father later worked as a stockbroker. Barker had an elder sister, Frederica Amelia "Freddie" Barlow (1917–1980). Raised in New York City and Port Chester, New York, Lex Barker attended the Fessenden School and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He played football as well as the oboe. He attended Princeton University, but dropped out to join a theatrical stock company, much to the chagrin of his family.
Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1938. 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.
World War Two
In February 1941, ten months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the US Army. He rose to the rank of major during the war. He was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.
Early film roles
Back in the US, he recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in his first film, Doll Face (1945).
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.
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, now 6'4" frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for sixteen years. His Jane was Brenda Joyce who had been in Weissmuller's last three films.
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.
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) and a thriller with Zsa Zsa Gabor, The Girl in the Kremlin (1957).
Barker made two films for Howard W. Koch: a Western for United Artists, War Drums (1957), playing Mangas Coloradas; and Jungle Heat (1957), an adventure film. He went to 20th Century Fox for The Deerslayer (1957), then did another for Koch, The Girl in Black Stockings (1957).
In 1957, as he found it harder to find work in American films, Barker moved to Europe (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and some German), 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).
He started his European career with a British thriller The Strange Awakening (1958). He went to Italy to star in some swashbucklers, Captain Falcon (1959), Son of the Red Corsair (1959), The Pirate and the Slave Girl (1959), and Terror of the Red Mask (1960).
In Germany, he had his greatest success. 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). He was in Doctor Sibelius (1962).
Barker then played Old Shatterhand in an adaptation of the novel by German author Karl May (1842–1912), Treasure of the Silver Lake (1962). It was a huge hit, 11 movies adapting stories by Karl May were following until 1968. Barker did a comedy, Breakfast in Bed (1962), then an adventure movie Storm Over Ceylon (1963). He returned to Italy for The Executioner of Venice (1963) and Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance (1963).
Barker reprised his role as Old Shatterhand in Apache Gold (1964), Old Shatterhand (1964) and Last of the Renegades (1965). He went to South Africa for Harry Alan Towers' German-British international co-production Victim Five (1964), then returned to Germany for other adaptations of May books: Der Schatz der Azteken (1965), Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes (1965). 24 Hours to Kill (1965) was a British movie. The Hell of Manitoba (1965) and The Desperado Trail (1966) were Westerns.
In 1966, Barker was awarded the "Bambi Award" as "Best Foreign Actor" in Germany, where he was a major, very popular, star. 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).
Later films included Killer's Carnival (1966), and Winnetou and the Crossbreed (1967). In the same year he stared in a Eurospy film Spy Today, Die Tomorrow, a horror film The Blood Demon, and appeared in the anthology film Woman Times Seven (1967).
He returned to the United States occasionally and made a handful of guest appearances on American television episodes, but Europe, and especially Germany, was his professional home for the remainder of his life.
Barker was married five times:
- Constance Rhodes Thurlow (1918-1975) (married June 27, 1942–divorced 1950), a daughter of Leon Rhodes Thurlow, a vice president of the Decorated Metal Manufacturing Company. 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.
- Actress Arlene Dahl (married 1951–divorced 1952)
- Actress Lana Turner (married September 8, 1953–divorced July 22, 1957). In Detour: A Hollywood Tragedy - My Life With Lana Turner, My Mother (1988), written by Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane, Crane claimed Barker repeatedly molested and raped her from the ages of 10 to 13, and that it was after she informed her mother of this that they divorced. According to Crane, Turner ordered him out of the house at gunpoint the morning after she learned of this.
- 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.
- 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.
Barker died three days after his 54th birthday, on May 11, 1973, of a heart attack while walking down a street in New York City on his way to meet his fiancée, actress Karen Kondazian. The funeral was in New York. He was cremated and the ashes were taken by his wife Tita to Spain.
|1945||Doll Face||Jack, Coast Guardsman||Uncredited|
|1946||Do You Love Me||Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1946||Two Guys from Milwaukee||Fred, the Usher||Uncredited|
|1946||Cloak and Dagger||Man Rescued at End||Uncredited|
|1947||The Farmer's Daughter||Olaf Holstrom|
|1947||Under the Tonto Rim||Joe, Deputy in Tonto|
|1947||Unconquered||Royal American Officer||Uncredited|
|1947||Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome||Ambulance Driver||Uncredited|
|1948||Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House||Carpenter Foreman|
|1948||The Velvet Touch||Paul Banton|
|1948||Return of the Badmen||Emmett Dalton|
|1949||Tarzan's Magic Fountain||Tarzan|
|1950||Tarzan and the Slave Girl||Tarzan|
|1952||Tarzan's Savage Fury||Tarzan|
|1952||Battles of Chief Pontiac||Lt. Kent McIntire|
|1953||Tarzan and the She-Devil||Tarzan|
|1953||Thunder Over the Plains||Captain Bill Hodges|
|1954||The Mystery of The Black Jungle||Tremal Naik||Original (Italian) title: I misteri della giungla nera|
|1954||Black Devils of Kali||Tramal Naik||Original (Italian) title: La vendetta dei Tughs|
|1954||The Yellow Mountain||Andy Martin|
|1955||The Man from Bitter Ridge||Jeff Carr|
|1955||Duel on the Mississippi||André Tulane|
|1956||The Price of Fear||Dave Barrett|
|1956||Away All Boats||Commander Quigley|
|1957||War Drums||Mangas Coloradas|
|1957||The Girl in the Kremlin||Steve Anderson|
|1957||Jungle Heat||Dr. Jim Ransom|
|1957||The Girl in Black Stockings||David Hewson|
|1958||The Strange Awakening||Peter Chance|
|1958||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|
|1959||The Pirate and the Slave Girl||Dragon Drakut||Original (Italian) title: La scimitarra del Saraceno|
|1959||Mission in Morocco||Bruce Reynolds|
|1960||Terror of the Red Mask||Marco||Original (Italian) title: Terrore della maschera rossa|
|1960||La Dolce Vita||Robert||Italian film|
|1960||Knight of 100 Faces||Riccardo D'Arce||Original (Italian) title: Il cavaliere dai cento volti|
|1960||Pirates of the Coast||Captain Luis Monterey||Original (Italian) title: I pirati della costa|
|1960||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|
|1961||Le Trésor des hommes bleus||Fred||Spanish/French film|
|1961||The Return of Dr. Mabuse||FBI-Agent Joe Como||Original (German) title: Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse|
|1962||The Invisible Dr. Mabuse||FBI-Agent Joe Como||Original (German) title: Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse|
|1962||Doctor Sibelius||Dr. Georg Sibelius||Original (German) title: Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius|
|1962||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|
|1963||Storm Over Ceylon||Larry Stone||Original (German) title: Das Todesauge von Ceylon|
|1963||The Executioner of Venice||Sandrigo Bembo||Original (Italian) title: Il boia di Venezia|
|1963||Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance||Major Ford||Original (Italian) title: Kali Yug, la dea della vendetta|
|1963||Il mistero del tempio indiano||Major Ford||Italian film|
|1963||Apache Gold||Old Shatterhand||Original (German) title: Winnetou I|
|1964||Apaches' Last Battle||Old Shatterhand||Original (German) title: Old Shatterhand|
|1964||Victim Five||Steve Martin||UK film, US title: Code 7, Victim 5|
|1964||Yellow Devil||Kara Ben Nemsi||Original (German) title: Der Schut|
|1964||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|
|1965||Pyramid of the Sun God||Dr. Karl Sternau||Original (German) title: Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes|
|1965||Twenty-Four Hours to Kill||Captain Jamie Faulkner||UK film|
|1965||The Hell of Manitoba a.k.a. A Place Called Glory||Clint Brenner||Original (German) title: Die Hölle von Manitoba|
|1965||The Wild Men of Kurdistan||Kara Ben Nemsi||Original (German) title: Durchs wilde Kurdistan|
|1965||The Desperado Trail||Old Shatterhand||Original (German) title: Winnetou III|
|1965||Fury of the Sabers||Kara Ben Nemsi||Original (German) title: Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen|
|1966||Who Killed Johnny R.?||Sam Dobie||Original (German) title: Wer kennt Johnny R.?|
|1966||Killer's Carnival||Glenn Cassidy||Original (French) title: Le carnaval des barbouzes, (Rio segment)|
|1966||Winnetou and the Crossbreed||Old Shatterhand||Original (German) title: Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi|
|1967||Woman Times Seven||Rik||(segment "Super Simone")|
|1967||Spy Today, Die Tomorrow||Bob Urban||Original (German) title: Mister Dynamit – Morgen küßt Euch der Tod|
|1967||The Blood Demon||Roger Mont Elise||Original (German) title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel |
Also released as: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism
|1968||The Valley of Death||Old Shatterhand||Original (German) title: Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten|
|1970||When You're With Me||Kapitän Hannes Schneider||Original (German) title: Wenn du bei mir bist|
|1952||Tales of Tomorrow||Kurt||Episode: "Red Dust"|
|1956||Lux Video Theatre||Stephen Dexter||Episode: "Hired Wife"|
|1956–1957||Studio 57||Brad / Robin Ridour||2 episodes|
|1960||Tales of the Vikings||König Gordar||Episode: "The Shield"|
|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"|
|1971||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
- Obituary Variety, May 16, 1973.
- Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme (2003). Lex Barker – Die Biografie. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-89602-444-2.
- "Miss Beals's Wedding", The New York Times, April 20, 1913.
- "LEX BARKER DIES; TARZAN OF MOVIES". The New York Times. May 12, 1973. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
- The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Internet Broadway Database
- Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles: A Biography, pp. 188–201
- 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
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- Schneider 2012, p. viii.
- Drew 1986, section 742.
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- 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.
- "Music Capitals of the World". Billboard. New York. November 13, 1965.
- Michael & Parish 1969, p. 52.
- "Mrs. Barker's Nuptials", The New York Times, September 12, 1952
- Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968–1980. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-7864-6976-5.
- Boller, Reiner (November 2, 2009). "Karen Kondazian". Lex-Barker.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Bergfelder, Tim (2005). International Adventures: German Popular Cinema and European Co-productions in the 1960s. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-538-4.
- Christ, Manfred (1994). Von Tarzan bis Old Shatterhand – Lex Barker und seine Filme [From Tarzan to Old Shatterhand - Lex Barker and his Films] (in German). Tuningen, Germany: Günter Albert Ulmer Verlag. ISBN 3-924191-81-6.
- Drew, Bernard A. (1986). Motion Picture Series and Sequels: A Reference Guide. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415726658.
- Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-607-3.
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