john saxon dead

John Saxon, the actor best known for his roles in Enter the Dragon and the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, died on Saturday. He was 83.

Though Saxon was was best known for facing off against Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and hunting the dream-terrorizing serial killer in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street films, the Brooklyn-born Italian-American actor had a rich and varied career that spanned genres and continents.

Saxon died of pneumonia in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, his wife, Gloria, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Saxon got his start in the ’50s, first gaining notice for his performance as a disturbed high school star who taunts Esther Williams in The Unguarded Moment (1956). In the following years he would appear in supporting roles in films like Rock, Pretty Baby (1956) and Summer Love (1958), where he played young rock ‘n’ roll musicians, and star opposite Sandra Dee in The Reluctant Debutante (1958) and Debbie Reynolds in Blake Edwards’ This Happy Feeling (1958). He was also top-billed as a psychotic soldier in War Hunt (1962), where he acted opposite Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack.

His strong Italian features would often lead him to being cast as ethnic characters, like his young Puerto Rican-American character in the crime drama Cry Tough (1959). His role as a brutal Mexican bandit opposite Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa (1966) would earn him a Golden Globe, and he had a recurring role on ABC’s Dynasty as Rashid Ahmed, a powerful Middle East tycoon. On another 1980s primetime soap, CBS’ Falcon Crest, he played the father of Lorenzo Lamas’ character.

But it was his foray in Italian films in the late ’60s that makes his long and storied career so fascinating. Saxon used his minor star status in the ’50s and ’60s to jumpstart a career as a leading man in Italian movies, making films like Mario Bava’s Evil Eye (1963) or 1968’s spaghetti western One Dollar Too Many. He would make his way over to Hollywood Westerns too, co-starring with Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd (1972).

Saxon would famously star opposite Bruce Lee in 1973’s Enter the Dragon, Lee’s first and final mainstream Hollywood movie before his death at age 32. Saxon played Roper, a rakish gambler who participates in the martial arts tournament and becomes unexpected allies with Lee. His second most-famous role would come 11 years later with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, where Saxon played the cop Donald Thompson, reprising his role in two more films.

Saxon was married three times, to screenwriter Mary Ann Murphy, airline attendant turned actress Elizabeth Saxon and, since 2008, cosmetician Gloria Martel. He is survived by his last wife, Gloria, as well as his son, Antonio, and his sister, Dolores.

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