John Saxon, character actor known for his roles in Westerns and horror films, died Saturday. His career spanned more than sixty years tallying more than 200 film credits. He co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon and starred in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. He was 83.
His wife stated he passed from pneumonia in his Murfreesboro, TN, in a statement to THR.
Saxon also served two three-year terms as on the Screen Actors Guild’s national board of directors; he was elected in 1985 and again in 2003. He joined SAG in 1954 and AFTRA in 1957.
Saxon was born as Carmine Orrico in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. After graduating high school he studied with famous acting coach Stella Adler. Soon after Universal Studios contracted him and requested he be renamed to John Saxon. He was also notably skilled in judo and karate.
The mid- to late-1950s saw Saxon work as a teen idol with credits in films Rock, Pretty Baby, Summer Love, The Reluctant Debutante, This Happy Feeling, and Cry Tough. He won a Golden Globe in 1958 as Most Promising Newcomer Male.
In 1960 Saxon worked with director John Huston in The Unforgiven. He played an Indian in support of Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn. He was nominated for the 1966 Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe opposite Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa.
Saxon said in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1960 that he “wanted to do all sorts of character parts.”
Among his major Hollywood feature roles was playing a martial artist alongside Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. He also starred in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 as the heroine’s father. He later reprised his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
He was married three times. He was married to Mary Ann Murphy from 1967 to 1979, Elizabeth Saxon from 1987 to 1992 and, since 2008, to Gloria Martel. Survivors also include his son, Antonio, and his sister, Dolores.