John Saxon

John Saxon


Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
August 05, 1935


One of the most dependable and recognizable character actors of the 20th century, John Saxon played intense men of action on both sides of the law in a wide range of films, including "The Appaloosa" (1966), "Enter the Dragon" (1973) and "The Electric Horsemen" (1979). A teen idol in the 1950s, his darkly handsome looks allowed him to tackle a wide variety of ethnic types, from Arab princ...


One of the most dependable and recognizable character actors of the 20th century, John Saxon played intense men of action on both sides of the law in a wide range of films, including "The Appaloosa" (1966), "Enter the Dragon" (1973) and "The Electric Horsemen" (1979). A teen idol in the 1950s, his darkly handsome looks allowed him to tackle a wide variety of ethnic types, from Arab princes in "The Big Fisherman" (1959) to Mexican bandits in Joe Kidd (1972) and Italian mobsters and cops in a long list of gangster films from that country. His team-up with Bruce Lee in "Enter the Dragon" and the proto-slasher "Black Christmas" (1974) gave him cult cache, which led to a second career as a horror star from the 1970s onward, most notably in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984). Still active in his seventies, Saxon remained an audience favorite for tough guys, bad men and those who generally meant business.

Born Carmine Orrico in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 5, 1936, he was the first child of dockworker, Antonio Orrico, and his wife, Anna Protettore. He developed an interest in acting while a student at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, and soon divided his time between his basic studies and drama training under the famed Stella Adler in Manhattan. He also modeled on occasion for magazine covers; one such photograph allegedly caught the attention of Hollywood agent Henry Willson, who represented Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, among other movie heartthrobs. According to some reports, Willson brought the teenager to Hollywood, where he landed him a contract with Universal. He also provided a new moniker for his client - John Saxon - which he would use throughout his long career.

Uncredited bits in the Judy Garland/James Mason incarnation of "A Star is Born" (1954) preceded his screen debut as a naïve teen in the youth-oriented crime picture, "Running Wild" (1955). With his dark complexion and brooding demeanor, he quickly became a non-threatening crush object for teen girls in tame rock and roll pictures like "Rock, Pretty Baby" (1956) and its sequel, "Summer Love" (1958), as well as family films like "The Reluctant Debutante" (1958) with Rex Harrison and Angela Lansbury. The latter was one of three films to pair him with ingénue Sandra Dee; the others were the nostalgic romance "The Restless Years" (1958) and producer Ross Hunter's glossy murder mystery, "Portrait in Black" (1960).

Like many of his fellow matinee idols, Saxon longed to be taken seriously as an actor, and sought out more dramatic roles that would serve as a better showcase for his talents. The first of these was "The Unguarded Moment" (1956), a pulpy psychodrama with Saxon as an unbalanced student obsessed with his teacher (swimming star Esther Williams). But over time, Saxon slowly moved out of the teeny-bopper fare, though traces still lingered, like his romantic Arab prince in the Biblical epic "The Big Fisherman" (1959). The drama "Cry Tough" (1959) gave him a rare shot at a lead as a Puerto Rican ex-con trying to stay out of trouble, while John Huston's "The Unforgiven" (1960) cast him as a half-breed cowhand struggling with racial prejudice. Despite the capability with leading roles and ethic types that both films showcased, as well as a 1958 Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer -which he shared with James Garner and Patrick Wayne - Saxon's standing in Hollywood was in decline. None of the films save "The Big Fisherman" had done well at the box office, and by 1961, his contract with Universal had run out. He soon joined the growing line of American actors headed for Europe to make a go in its booming film industry.

For the next three decades, Saxon would split his time onscreen between the United States and Italy. In his home country, he would come to be known as a dependable character actor, while in Europe, he was a leading man whose Hollywood connection made him a viable commodity. His Italian efforts began with "Agostino" (1962), a highly stylized version of Oedipus, with Saxon as a playboy who entertains Ingrid Thulin while her son (Paolo Colombo) broods on the seashore. This was followed by the entertaining "Evil Eye" (1965) for suspense master Mario Bava, and the claustrophobic "Cavern" (1964) for low-budget auteur Edgar G. Ulmer. Back in the States, Saxon played character roles in a wide variety of films, from a psychopathic American GI in Korea in the suspenseful "War Hunt" (1962), to a boyfriend with a wandering eye in the Fred MacMurray family comedy "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" (1962), to a spaceman beset by an alien vampiress in Curtis Harrington's "Queen of Blood" (1966).

The hours and miles logged as a journeyman actor seemed to pay off in 1966 with "The Appaloosa," a gritty Western with Marlon Brando as a buffalo hunter who loses the title horse to Saxon's sadistic Mexican bandit. Reviews were effusive in their praise for his performance, and Saxon netted a Golden Globe nomination as well as a Bronze Wrangler from the Western Heritage Awards. The attention also brought him back to work in America; he was top-billed as a chief surgeon alongside E.G. Marshall and David Hartman in "The Bold Ones: The New Doctors" (NBC, 1969-1973), and co-starred with Clint Eastwood in "Joe Kidd" (1972), in addition to a wealth of TV guest appearances.

In 1973, Saxon was top-billed in Warner Bros.' "Enter the Dragon," the first American motion picture to star Hong Kong martial arts sensation Bruce Lee. Though entirely a vehicle for Lee's jaw-dropping skills and magnetic persona, Saxon held his own as a gambler who joins Lee and fellow kung fu champ Jim Kelly in a clandestine fighting competition on a mysterious island. The result was the first genuine blockbuster of Saxon's career, and assured him cult status for the remainder of his career. Post-"Dragon," Saxon spent much of the '70s criss-crossing the globe for roles; he appeared in two failed science fiction pilots for Gene Roddenberry called "Planet Earth" (NBC, 1974) and "Strange New World" (ABC, 1975), as well as dozens of TV episodes. In Canada, he was top-billed alongside Margot Kidder in Bob Clark's truly frightening psycho-thriller "Black Christmas" (1974). Saxon also continued to return to Italy to play tough guys on both sides of the law in pictures like "Blazing Magnum" (1976) and "Violent Naples" (1976). He even reteamed with his "Reluctant Debutante" co-star, Rex Harrison, for a heist movie shot in India called "Shalimar" (1978). Saxon closed out the decade as a cold-hearted industrialist in Sydney Pollack's "The Electric Horseman" (1979), which would be his last major motion picture for several years.

The 1980s marked a period of intense activity for Saxon, though mostly in low-budget horror films on both sides of the Atlantic. Highlights during the period were the Roger Corman-produced "Battle Beyond the Stars" (1980), with John Sayles' script providing him some moments of light humor and high theatrics as an intergalactic villain who requires constant replacement of his limbs. "Tenebre" (1982) was a gory thriller from Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, while Richard Brooks tapped Saxon twice for the low-wattage black comedy "Wrong is Right" (1982) with Sean Connery, and the gambling drama "Fever Pitch" (1985) with Ryan O'Neal. Low points from the decade were undoubtedly "Cannibal Apocalypse" (1980), a grisly Italian-made gorefest with Saxon as a Vietnam vet who develops a taste for human flesh after his stint as a POW, and "Death House" (1987), a low-budget horror film that should have marked Saxon's directorial debut, but he either abandoned or was fired from the project.

Along the way, there were recurring turns on "Dynasty" (ABC, 1981-89) as a scheming Arab businessman in bed, both literally and figuratively, with Joan Collins' Alexis Carrington, and "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) as Lorenzo Lamas' father, but the most successful of his projects from the decade was Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Saxon played a small town sheriff who decades earlier helped to kill a local child killer (Robert Englund) by burning him to death, and now finds his daughter (Heather Langenkamp) among the murderer's targets from beyond the grave. An exceptionally chilling entry in the '80s-era slasher craze, it was a massive hit on the horror circuit. The franchise also offered Saxon some choice opportunities to flex his acting talents. In "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987), his sheriff has been reduced to an alcoholic shell of a man over the carnage unleashed by his vigilante actions in the first film, while in "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994), he played both his sheriff role and himself on the set of the latest entry in the series.

Saxon continued to work steadily throughout the 1990s, mostly in low-budget genre pictures on both sides of the Atlantic. There were occasional returns to the mainstream, like a four-episode arc on "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99) as Daphne Zuniga's lawyer, and a counterfeiting ringleader in "Beverly Hills Cop III" (1994). His enduring status as a cult favorite earned him a choice cameo as an FBI agent in Robert Rodriguez's action-horror film "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), that film's author and co-star, Quentin Tarantino, would re-team with Saxon almost a decade later for the fifth season finale of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15). Tarantino gave Saxon a juicy role as a kidnapper who buries George Eads' crime scene investigator alive, forcing the team to race against the clock in order to save him.

As Saxon entered the fifth decade of his acting career, he showed no signs of slowing down. Cult filmmaker Monte Hellman directed him in a segment of the horror anthology "Trapped Ashes" (2006), while Dario Argento again tapped his talents for an exceptionally gory episode of "Masters of Horror" (Showtime, 2005-07). Saxon also claimed two late-inning honors from independent film festivals during this period; the indie drama "The Craving Heart" earned him a Best Supporting Actor trophy from the Action on Film International Festival, while "God's Ears" (2008), a boxing story about a fighter with autism, brought him honors from Method Fest. Saxon also received the rare chance to explore comedy as a retiree who becomes involved with the mob after mistakenly finding a shipment of drugs in "Old Dogs" (2009).



Director (Feature Film)

Death House (1989)

Cast (Feature Film)

War Wolves (2009)
Trapped Ashes (2006)
Outta Time (2002)
Jonas Darbont
Seduced by a Thief (2001)
Living in Fear (2001)
Lancelot: Guardian of Time (1999)
Gengis Khan (1998)
Joseph's Gift (1998)
The Party Crashers (1997)
Mr Foster
Bottom Feeders (1996)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The Last Samurai (1995)
No Escape No Return (1994)
James Mitchell
Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Jonathan of the Bears (1994)
Fred Goodwin
Killing Obsession (1994)
Dr Sachs
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
The Baby Doll Murders (1993)
Frame-Up II: The Cover-Up (1992)
Charles Searage
Maximum Force (1992)
Animal Instincts (1992)
Hell Master (1992)
Professor Saxon
Blackmail (1991)
Payoff (1991)
The Arrival (1991)
Blood Salvage (1990)
Welcome To Spring Break (1990)
The Final Alliance (1990)
Aftershock (1990)
Death House (1989)
Colonel Burgess
My Mom's a Werewolf (1989)
Criminal Act (1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Lt. Thompson
Hands of Steel (1986)
Francis Turner
Fever Pitch (1985)
Brothers-in-Law (1985)
Royal Cane
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Lt. Thompson
The Big Score (1983)
Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983)
Una di Troppo (1983)
Wrong Is Right (1982)
Sotto gli occhi dell'Assassino (1982)
Rooster (1982)
Blood Beach (1981)
Golden Gate (1981)
Cannibals in the Streets (1980)
Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Beyond Evil (1980)
The Electric Horseman (1979)
Fast Company (1979)
The Bees (1978)
Raid On Entebbe (1977)
Moonshine County Express (1977)
J B Johnson
Napoli violenta (1976)
The Glove (1976)
Sam Kellough
Cross Shot (1976)
Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (1976)
Sergeant Matthews
Mitchell (1975)
Crossfire (1975)
Dave Ambrose
Strange New World (1975)
Captain Anthony Vico
Black Christmas (1975)
The Swiss Conspiracy (1975)
Robert Hayes
Metralleta Stein (1974)
Mariano Beltran
Can Ellen Be Saved? (1974)
James Hallbeck
Planet Earth (1974)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Snatched (1973)
Paul Maxvill
Linda (1973)
Joe Kidd (1972)
Luis Chama
Company of Killers (1970)
Dave Poohler
Death of a Gunfighter (1969)
Lou Trinidad
For Singles Only (1968)
Bret Hendley
Queen of Blood (1966)
The Appaloosa (1966)
Chuy Medina
The Ravagers (1965)
Capt. Kermit Dowling
The Cavern (1965)
Pvt. Joe Kramer
Evil Eye (1964)
Dr. Marcello Bassi
The Cardinal (1963)
Benny Rampell
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)
War Hunt (1962)
Pvt. Raymond Endore
Posse From Hell (1961)
Seymour Kern
The Unforgiven (1960)
Johnny Portugal
The Plunderers (1960)
Portrait in Black (1960)
Blake Richards
Cry Tough (1959)
Miguel Estrada
The Big Fisherman (1959)
The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
David Parkson
The Restless Years (1958)
Will Henderson
Summer Love (1958)
Jimmy Daley
This Happy Feeling (1958)
Bill Tremaine
Rock, Pretty Baby (1957)
Jimmy Daley
The Unguarded Moment (1956)
Leonard Bennett
Running Wild (1955)
Vince Pomeroy

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Cast (Special)

Sandra Dee (2000)
Bruce Lee: The Immortal Dragon (1997)
Solomon Northrup's Odyssey (1984)
Savage: In the Orient (1983)
Nick Costa (Guest)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995)
Richard Brooks
The Immigrants (1978)
Harold Robbins' "79 Park Avenue" (1977)

Life Events


Screen debut "Running Wild"


Played first leading roles in features, "The Unguarded Moment" and "Rock, Pretty Baby"


First TV-movie, "The Doomsday Flight"


First non-US feature credit, "Metralleta Stein/Fight to the Death", a Spanish production


First TV miniseries, "Once an Eagle"


Directed a feature film, "Death House" (in which he also acted)


Played recurring role of Adam Waxman on the Fox-TV primetime serial drama, "Melrose Place"


Movie Clip

Queen Of Blood (1966) -- (Movie Clip) The Year 1990 Narration straight to the point, and John Saxon and Judi Meredith as (future, 1990) space scientists puzzling about momentous matters, leading to the early introduction of barely-narrative special effects footage, licensed by producer Roger Corman from a Soviet sci-fi feature, opening Queen Of Blood, 1966.
Reluctant Debutante, The (1958) -- (Movie Clip) You're A Gigolo Bored at the first London ball of the season, Lord Jimmy (Rex Harrison) meets unattached David (John Saxon), whom he introduces to his daughter Jane (Sandra Dee), as she chats with his wife Sheila (Kay Kendall, the real Mrs. Harrison), in Vincente Minnelli's The Reluctant Debutante, 1958.
War Hunt (1962) -- (Movie Clip) Leave That Kid Alone The captain (Charles Aidman) tries to calm sullen Endore (John Saxon) about his citation for bravery, then they interrupt Loomis (Robert Redford, in his first feature) and Charlie (Tommy Matsuda) playing catch, in War Hunt, 1962.
Unguarded Moment, The (1956) -- (Movie Clip) Idiot Over You Teacher Lois (Esther Williams) bravely showing up at the gym, invited in a creepy note from a disturbed student, who is Leonard (John Saxon), though she can't be sure, early in The Unguarded Moment, 1956.
Unguarded Moment, The (1956) -- (Movie Clip) Pep And Muscle Soda shop following initial introduction of characters, jock Leonard (John Saxon) and his dad (Edward Andrews), acting creepy toward new teacher Lois (Esther Williams, in her first post-MGM film), in The Unguarded Moment, 1956.
War Hunt (1962) -- (Movie Clip) We're Capitalists Future famous director Sydney Pollack (as "Van Horn") and the squad (Robert Redford as "Loomis," Gavin MacLeod as "Crotty," John Saxon as "Endore,") roll toward the front in the Korean war drama War Hunt, 1962.
Cry Tough -- (Movie Clip) Busted Out Re-introduced into Spanish Harlem tenement living, ex-con Miguel (John Saxon) expresses his frustration to his dad (Joseph Calleia) in Cry Tough, 1959.
Cry Tough -- (Movie Clip) Opening, Prologue Real life stills and a promising prologue in the opening credit sequence from director Paul Stanley's Puerto Rican crime drama Cry Tough, 1959, starring John Saxon and Linda Cristal.