Vintage Hunk: John Saxon

By: Mike McCrann

Born Carmine Orrico in Brooklyn in 1936, John Saxon was the son of a dock worker. After high school he studied acting with the legendary Stella Adler and broke into films when notorious agent Henry Willson (who discovered and named Rock, Rory, Tab,Troy and many others) saw his picture and brought him to Hollywood. The newly dubbed John Saxon had his first major role opposite Esther Williams and George Nader in The Unguarded Moment playing a sexually disturbed teen who stalks teacher Williams. This film was advertised by Universal as "Co-starring the exciting new personality JOHN SAXON". Today this film is totally weird as co-star George Nader (another Willson discovery) was thrown to the wolves as being gay when Confidential Magazine threatened to expose Rock Hudson. Universal was more than eager to sacrifice a smaller gay star in order to protect Hudson.

John Saxon's first classic film was The Reluctant Debutante directed by Vincent Minnelli. The film starred newlyweds Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall, but was sold to movie audiences as a Sandra Dee/John Saxon movie. And both of the young stars were first rate under Minnelli's gifted direction. They both would co-star again in the Lana Turner murder mystery Portrait in Black.

Sandra Dee's life would spiral out of control after her divorce from pop singer Bobby Darrin, but John Saxon sailed into steady film work for decades. His roles varied from Lt. Thompson in Wes Craven’s fantasy terror masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street and co-starring with Bruce Lee in the martial arts hit Enter The Dragon, to a Golden Globe nomination for his work opposite Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa.

My favorite John Saxon film is the cult horror film Black Christmaswhere a bunch of girls are being murdered in a sorority. Any film that has the deranged killer making phone calls starting with "Let me lick it!" has my attention.

John Saxon is very much alive and working to this day. He recently attended a screening of Enter The Dragon at the Los Angeles Cinematheque and was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times who stated: "And he's still pretty cool as he sits in the living room of his Brentwood hills home he shares with his wife, Gloria. At 76, he is fit, trim and brimming with machismo."

John Saxon was one of the sexy Italian hunks of mid-century American films. He came in the era of Sal Mineo, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and a bunch of others who quickly vanished. John Saxon stayed because he was more than a pretty face and body. He was and is a fine actor.