Albert Dekker

Albert Dekker


Also Known As
Albert Van Dekker
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
December 20, 1905
May 05, 1968
Cause of Death
Accidental Death By Autoerotic Asphyxiation


A hard-working character actor, Albert Dekker had few opportunities to play the lead in a career that spanned four decades and amassed over 70 motion pictures. After spending a decade on stage in New York, Dekker made his way to Hollywood where he landed supporting parts in "The Great Commandment" (1939), "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1939) and "Strange Cargo" (1940). But it was his turn a...


A hard-working character actor, Albert Dekker had few opportunities to play the lead in a career that spanned four decades and amassed over 70 motion pictures. After spending a decade on stage in New York, Dekker made his way to Hollywood where he landed supporting parts in "The Great Commandment" (1939), "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1939) and "Strange Cargo" (1940). But it was his turn as the mad scientist in the camp classic "Dr. Cyclops" (1940) that brought him wider recognition, leading to larger roles in "Once Upon a Honeymoon" (1942), "In Old California" (1942) and "Wake Island" (1942). Following a brief stint in politics where he represented the 57th district in the California State Assembly, Dekker delivered his most memorable character turns in "The Killers" (1946), "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), "East of Eden" (1955) and "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955). By the end of the 1950s, his film career began to wane, leading to a necessary switch to the small screen. Dekker found new life as a guest star on shows like "Mission: Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973), "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC, 1964-68) and "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973). He returned to features with a small, but crucial supporting role in "The Wild Bunch" (1969), only to become the victim of a horrific accident when he was found in his bathtub following his death from autoerotic asphyxiation. His sordid death sparked rumors of foul play, though in the end it simply put an abrupt end to a productive but unremarkable career.

Born on Dec. 20, 1905 in Brooklyn, NY, Dekker attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, and found his way to Cincinnati, OH, where he began acting in a stock company in 1927. Rather quickly, he made his Broadway debut in a production of Eugene O'Neill's "Marco Millions," which launched a decade-long career on the stage. In 1937, Dekker found his way to Hollywood and made his feature debut with a bit part in the 18th century-set romantic comedy "The Great Garrick" (1937), starring Brian Aherne and Olivia de Havilland. After playing the Comte de Provence in "Marie Antoinette" (1938), which featured Norma Shearer in the title role, Dekker stepped up to play more significant supporting roles in William Wellman's action epic "Beau Geste" (1939) and in the biblical drama "The Great Commandment" (1939), where he played Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus with a lance as he hung on the cross. Following roles in James Whale's "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1939) and the rather tepid Bob Hope comedy "Never Say Die" (1939), Dekker was a prison convict who masterminds a breakout from a French penal colony in "Strange Cargo" (1940), starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford.

Following a character turn opposite Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne in the romantic adventure, "Seven Sinners" (1940), Dekker was second billed alongside Fred MacMurray and Gilbert Roland in the Western "Rangers of Fortune" (1940), in which they played a trio of misfits who roam the West in search of adventure. He next found himself in a rare leading role in "Dr. Cyclops" (1940), a campy B-movie classic where he played a diabolical scientist who shrinks a group of humans down to miniature size in his jungle laboratory. He went on to play the lead again, this time as twin brothers in the suspense thriller "Among the Living" (1941), before joining Wayne in a supporting capacity for the Western "In Old California" (1942). After a turn in the Academy Award-nominated war drama "Wake Island" (1942), he delivered another finely turned character performance in the romantic comedy "Once Upon a Honeymoon" (1942), starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, and rejoined Wayne for the glorified Western "In Old Oklahoma" (1943).

In 1944, Dekker indulged his political aspirations by winning a seat in the California State Assembly, representing the 57th Assembly District as a member of the Democratic Party for one term. Though his output slowed down, he continued making appearances in films like "Incendiary Blonde" (1945). Following his two years in Sacramento, Dekker returned to motion pictures full-time and delivered one of his most recognized performances, playing Big Jim Colfax in the classic film noir, "The Killers" (1946), starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. In "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), he was a magazine publisher who tasks a widowed journalist (Gregory Peck) to pose as a Jewish man to uncover anti-Semitism in an affluent community, which he followed with character turns in the B-pictures like "Fury at Furnace Creek" (1948) and "Tarzan's Magic Fountain" (1949). Returning to the stage, Dekker took over as Willy Loman from departing actor, Lee J. Cobb, during the original Broadway run of "Death of a Salesman" (1949), and segued into television for appearances on anthology series like "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse" (ABC, 1950-52) and "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958). Meanwhile, during the McCarthy Era, Dekker became an outspoken critic of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and his unrelenting pursuit of alleged Communists in the federal government. Because of this, he spent a great part of his career at this point performing on stage in New York out of fear of being blacklisted.

But Dekker did continue to make movies, delivering brief turns in the religious epic "The Silver Chalice" (1954) and James Dean's first film, "East of Eden" (1955), before making his mark as a traitorous scientist in another classic film noir, "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955). After a return to television for the anthology series "Climax!" (CBS, 1954-58), Dekker had minor supporting roles in "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959) and "These Thousand Hills" (1959), before focusing almost exclusively on the small screen. Dekker spent most of the 1960s on television, appearing on "Route 66" (CBS, 1960-64), "Mission: Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973), "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC, 1964-68) and "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973). He made a return to features as an unscrupulous railroad detective in Sam Peckinpah's revisionist Western, "The Wild Bunch" (1969). But before he was able to see the finished product, Dekker was found dead on May 5, 1968 in his Hollywood home after two days of numerous unanswered phone calls. He was found kneeling in his bathtub naked with a noose around his neck and looped over the shower curtain rod, hands cuffed, blindfolded and with explicit words written on his back in red lipstick. Though the corner ruled the death accidental by autoerotic asphyxiation, speculation persisted that there was foul play. He was 62 years old and ended his productive, but rather unremarkable career on a sordid note.

By Shawn Dwyer



Cast (Feature Film)

The Wild Bunch (1969)
Pat Harrigan
Come Spy With Me (1967)
Walter Ludeker
Gammera the Invincible (1966)
Secretary of defense
These Thousand Hills (1959)
The Wonderful Country (1959)
Captain Rucker
The Sound and the Fury (1959)
Earl Scopes
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Dr. Hockstader
Middle of the Night (1959)
[Walter] Lockman
Machete (1958)
Don Luis Montoya
She Devil (1957)
Dr. Richard Bach
The Silver Chalice (1955)
East of Eden (1955)
Will Hamilton
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Dr. G. E. Soberin
Illegal (1955)
Frank Garland
Leonardo da Vinci (1953)
Narrated by
Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952)
Lloyd Slocum
As Young As You Feel (1951)
Louis McKinley
The Furies (1950)
Mr. Reynolds
The Kid from Texas (1950)
Alexander Kain
Destination Murder (1950)
Search for Danger (1949)
Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949)
Bride of Vengeance (1949)
Gentleman's Agreement (1948)
John Minify
Cass Timberlane (1948)
Boone Havock
Lulu Belle (1948)
Mark Brady
Fury at Furnace Creek (1948)
The Pretender (1947)
Kenneth Holden
Slave Girl (1947)
The Fabulous Texan (1947)
Gen. Gibson Hart
Wyoming (1947)
Duke Lassiter
California (1947)
Mr. Pike
Two Years Before the Mast (1946)
The French Key (1946)
Johnny Fletcher
The Killers (1946)
"Big Jim" Colfax
Suspense (1946)
Frank Leonard
Hold That Blonde (1945)
Inspector Callahan
Incendiary Blonde (1945)
[Joe] Cadden
Salome, Where She Danced (1945)
Count Erik Von Bohlen
The Hitler Gang (1944)
Experiment Perilous (1944)
Clag [Claghorn]
The Woman of the Town (1943)
[William Barclay] "Bat" Masterson
In Old Oklahoma (1943)
James E. Gardner
The Kansan (1943)
Steve Barat
Buckskin Frontier (1943)
Gideon Skene
Wake Island (1942)
Shad McCloskey
Yokel Boy (1942)
Bugsie Malone
In Old California (1942)
Britt Dawson
Night in New Orleans (1942)
Lieutenant William Richards
The Lady Has Plans (1942)
Baron Von Kemp
The Forest Rangers (1942)
Twig Dawson
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Le Blanc
Honky Tonk (1941)
Brazos Hearn
Among the Living (1941)
John Raden/Paul Raden
Buy Me That Town (1941)
Louie Lanzer
Blonde Inspiration (1941)
Phil Hendricks
You're the One (1941)
Luke Laramie
The Great Commandment (1941)
Reaching for the Sun (1941)
Strange Cargo (1940)
Rangers of Fortune (1940)
George Bird
Dr. Cyclops (1940)
Dr. [Alexander] Thorkel
Seven Sinners (1940)
Dr. Martin
Paris Honeymoon (1939)
Drunken peasant
The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)
Louis XIII
The Last Warning (1939)
Hotel Imperial (1939)
Beau Geste (1939)
Extortion (1938)
Jeffrey Thompson
The Lone Wolf in Paris (1938)
Marquis [Albert] de Meyervon
Marie Antoinette (1938)
Comte de Provence
She Married an Artist (1937)
Whitney Holton
The Great Garrick (1937)

Life Events


Stage acting debut


Screen acting debut


Movie Clip

Wild Bunch, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Shall We Gather At The River Part of Sam Peckinpah's preposterous opening, in which the prayer meeting enters the incipient shootout, Crazy Lee (Bo Hopkins) abuses hostages, and rivals Thornton (Robert Ryan) and Pike (William Holden) miss shots at each other, in The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Wild Bunch, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) You're My Judas Goat After the disastrous failed bank-heist ambush, bounty broker Harrigan (Albert Dekker), working for the railroad, chews out the goofy crew (Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones as Coffer and C.T.) and threatens to send their angered leader Thornton (Robert Ryan), the former partner of the hunted Pike, back to prison, in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Strange Cargo (1940) -- (Movie Clip) You Didn't See That Saloon girl Julie (Joan Crawford), kicked off the prison island, again rejects "Pig" (Peter Lorre) but not Marfeu (Bernard Nedell), as Moll (Albert Dekker) clobbers Verne (Clark Gable) and threatens Cambreau (Ian Hunter), staging the big escape, in Frank Borzage's Strange Cargo, 1940.
Wonderful Country, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) They Don't Stay Very Pretty Forthright Texas Ranger captain Rucker (Albert Dekker) speaks to hired gun Brady (Robert Mitchum) about Ellen (Julie London), the center of attention at a party hosted by her husband Major Colton (Gary Merrill), with whom he soon initiates a difficult conversation, in The Wonderful Country, 1959.
East Of Eden (1955) -- (Movie Clip) They Dug Up A Mastodon Teen Cal (James Dean) returns to Salinas, California after an unauthorized visit to coastal Monterey, where director Elia Kazan introduces his brother Aron (Richard Davalos), and girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris), and their father Adam (Raymond Massey) in East Of Eden, 1955, from John Steinbeck’s novel.
Illegal (1955) -- (Movie Clip) Am I To Believe You Have Scruples? High-roller racketeer Garland (Albert Dekker) dismisses Hugh Marlowe, ex-assistant to the D-A turned defense lawyer Scott (Edward G. Robinson), summoned because he swindled $10,000 from an underling, Jayne Mansfield introduced, with paintings from Robinson’s own collection, in Illegal, 1955.
Man in the Iron Mask, The (1939) -- (Movie Clip) Opening, A Boy! Opening titles leading into King Louis XIII (Albert Dekker) enjoying the birth of his son, while Fouquet (Joseph Schildkraut) connives with Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel de Brulier) in James Whale's The Man in the Iron Mask, 1939.
Gentleman's Agreement (1948) -- (Movie Clip) I'm Always Stealing Ideas Widower and magazine writer Phil (Gregory Peck) new in New York dining with his boss (Albert Dekker), introduced to the wife (Kathleen Lockhart) and niece Kathy (Dorothy McGuire), who came up with the idea for his proposed first assignment, in Elia Kazan's Gentleman's Agreement, 1948.
Honky Tonk (1941) -- (Movie Clip) Best Beef In Town Elizabeth (Lana Turner) back in Nevada from college back east, met by her father Judge Cotton (Frank Morgan), pursued by con men Candy (Clark Gable) and Sniper (Chill Wills) who introduced themselves on the train, early in Honky Tonk, 1941.
Beau Geste (1939) -- (Movie Clip) I Don't Think You'll Shoot Helping French Foreign Legion commander Markoff (Brian Donlevy) thwart a mutiny, John (Ray Milland) and especially brother Beau (Gary Cooper) are unwilling to execute the guilty, a point of honor in Beau Geste, 1939, from the Christopher Wren novel.


East Of Eden - (Original Trailer) James Dean had his first starring role in Elia Kazan's movie version of John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden (1955).
Wild Bunch, The - (Original Trailer) A group of aging cowboys look for one last score in a corrupt border town in director Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969).
Great Garrick, The - (Original Trailer) Director James Whale (The Bride Of Frankenstein) brings his quirky view to this portrait of 18th Century Britain's most famous actor.
Experiment Perilous - (Original Trailer) A small-town doctor (George Brent) tries to help a beautiful woman (Hedy Lamarr) with a deranged husband (Paul Lukas).
Gentleman's Agreement - (Academy Award trailer) Three Academy Awards went to Gentleman's Agreement (1947) an exposé of American anti-semitism starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield, directed by Elia Kazan.
Cass Timberlane - (Original Trailer) An aging judge creates a scandal when he marries a younger woman from the wrong side of the tracks in Cass Timberlane (1947) starring Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner.
Blonde Inspiration - (Original Trailer) A pulp-fiction writer hires a curvaceous blonde to be his muse in Blonde Inspiration (1941) directed by Busby Berkeley.
Wake Island - (Original Trailer) Sailors stationed in the Pacific fight off the Japanese during World War II. Released nine months after the actual battle.
Wyoming - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery and Majorie Main make great comic foils in the very good MGM western Wyoming (1940).
Strange Cargo - (Original Trailer) Devil's Island prisoners are changed forever by a prisoner who thinks he's Jesus in Strange Cargo (1940) starring Clark Gable & Joan Crawford.
Marie Antoinette - (Wide Release Trailer) Norma Shearer stars in Marie Antoinette (1938), a lavish film biography of the French queen whose rule alienated the citizens of France.
Illegal (1955) - (Original Trailer) A DA (Edward G. Robinson) falls apart when his machinations send an innocent man to the chair in Illegal (1955).