Vintage Hunk: John Agar

By: Mike McCrann

Most people remember John Agar today because he was the first husband of Shirley Temple, but Classic film buffs remember the actor from his two great John Ford westerns Fort Apace and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – while others love him for his trashy 50s films like The Mole People and The Brain from Planet Arous.

John George Agar was born in 1921 in Chicago. His parents were wealthy and he attended prestigious private schools. Following his father's death, John and his family moved to Los Angeles. He served in the Army Air Corps and made history in 1945 when he married 16-year-old cinema legend Shirley Temple in a whirlwind romance. John Agar never intended to be a movie star, but David O. Selznick thought he and Temple made a perfect cinematic couple. Agar and Temple were cast as the young lovers in John Ford's great 1948 classic Fort Apache starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda.

As in most of her grownup roles, Temple was pretty bland in this film, but handsome John Agar stole the show in his debut and reaped a number of positive reviews.

She Wore A Yellow Ribbonwas John Agar's second John Ford Western and showcased John Agar and Harry Carey Jr. as rivals for the beautiful Joanne Dru. Once again Agar received fantastic reviews and his career appeared to be taking off.

Unfortunately, John Agar's personal life and marriage were falling apart due to his heavy drinking and supposed marital infidelities. Agar and Temple had a baby girl, but Temple had full custody when she divorced him in 1950. Most of John Agar's future films were mediocre, but he did have two wonderful 1949 appearances. Agar had a wonderful part in the John Wayne war picture Sands of Iwo Jima, as well as a fun role in the now infamous Woman on Pier 13 – a film so preposterously bad it’s become a cult classic.

While he did co-star with Lucille Ball in The Magic Carper, John Agar’s remaining films for were low budget horror flicks such as Tarantula and The Mole People. Considered trashy B films at the time, they are now held in high esteem by horror fans who love the ridiculous plots and low budget sets. Another reason these films have continued to find an audience is the fact that John Agar played these parts straight and is a riot to behold – of course Mr. Agar’s sexy bathing suit scenes add to their entertainment value as well.

John Agar later remarried, had two sons, and appeared to be at peace with himself when he died in 2002 at the age of 81.

Though he was never a major star, John Agar was a sexy, talented actor who should have had a bigger career and is still a joy to watch.