Born Derek Harris in Hollywood on August 12, 1926, actor/director John Derek was practically born into show business with a father who was a director and a mother who was a silent screen actress. With his matinee-idol looks, Derek was a natural for films and got his start in bit parts as a teenager. His first role came in the wartime tear-jerker Since You Went Away (1944), the film in which Guy Madison made his debut. After military service and a few years of small roles, Derek signed with Columbia Pictures in 1948. He was immediately cast in two Columbia film noir thrillers: Knock on Any Door (1949; with Humphrey Bogart) and All the King's Men (1949; with Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, and Joanne Dru). Columbia later used Derek in swashbucklers such as Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950) and Prince of Pirates (1953). Derek left Columbia in 1953 to freelance for other studios, including Republic, Allied Artists, and United Artists. By the late 1950s, with no studio to fall back on, Derek's acting career was stalling. In 1961, he took a role on the CBS television series Frontier Circus, but the network canceled the show in April 1962. By the mid 1960s, he stepped behind the camera as a director and cinematographer, leaving acting behind.

John DerekJohn DerekJohn Derek and Katy JuradoJohn Derek

LEFT and CENTER A: Beefcake poses from the 1950s. CENTER B: Derek with Katy Jurado. RIGHT: With fourth wife Bo Derek in 1984

In addition to his films, John Derek was also known for marrying some of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood. His four wives were actresses Pati Behrs, Ursula Andress, Linda Evans, and Bo Derek. In his later career as a director, Derek directed films starring three of his wives, including Once Before I Die (1965) with Ursula Andress; Childish Things (1969) with Linda Evans; and Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) with Bo Derek.

the films of john derek

Knock on Any Door (1949)

Susan Perry and John DerekJohn Derek and Humphrey Bogart

From Columbia's film noir Knock on Any Door. LEFT: With Susan Perry. RIGHT: With Humphrey Bogart

Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)

John DerekJohn Derek and Diana Lynn

From Rogues of Sherwood Forest, released in color by Columbia. LEFT: Derek as Robin, Earl of Huntington. RIGHT: With Diana Lynn as Lady Marianne

Mask of the Avenger (1951)

John DerekJohn Derek and Jody Lawrance

From the Columbia swashbuckler Mask of the Avenger. The right photo includes Jody Lawrance

Scandal Sheet (1952)

John Derek

From the Columbia film noir thriller Scandal Sheet

Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953)

Maria Elena Marques and John Derek

With Maria Elena Marques in Columbia's Ambush at Tomahawk Gap, the first of several westerns for John Derek

Prince of Pirates (1953)

John Derek and Barbara Rush

With Barbara Rush in the Columbia swashbuckler Prince of Pirates

The Outcast (1954)

Catherine McLeod and John Derek

From the Republic western The Outcast with Catherine McLeod

An Annapolis Story (1955)

Kevin McCarthy, Diana Lynn, and John Derek

From the Allied Artists drama An Annapolis Story with Kevin McCarthy and Diana Lynn

Run For Cover (1955)

James Cagney, Viveca Lindfors, and John Derek

With James Cagney and Viveca Lindfors in Nicholas Ray's Run For Cover, a western released by Paramount

The Leather Saint (1956)

John DerekJohn DerekJohn Derek, Jody Lawrance, and Cesar RomeroPaul Douglas, John Derek, and Richard Shannon

LEFT and CENTER A: Derek portrays Father Gil Allen, who boxes in order to raise money for a boys club, in Paramount's The Leather Saint. CENTER B: With Jody Lawrance and Cesar Romero. RIGHT: With Paul Douglas and Richard Shannon

The Ten Commandments (1956)

John Derek and Charlton Heston

With Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille's final film The Ten Commandments, released by Paramount (thanks to Tom)

The Flesh Is Weak (1957)

Joe Robinson and John Derek

With Joe Robinson in the prostitution expose The Flesh Is Weak

Fury at Showdown (1957)

Nick Adams and John Derek

With Nick Adams in the western Fury at Showdown

Omar Khayyam (1957)

Debra Paget and John Derek

With Debra Paget in Paramount's costume adventure Omar Khayyam

High Hell (1958)

Elaine Stewart and John Derek

Derek and Elaine Stewart portray an adulterous couple in the Paramount adventure High Hell

Exodus (1960)

John Derek

As Taha in Otto Preminger's historical drama Exodus

Nightmare in the Sun (1965)

John Derek

Derek stars in the crime drama Nightmare in the Sun, which was the first film he directed

later years

Following the release of Once Before I Die (1965), in which he produced, directed, and starred alongside his second wife, actress Ursula Andress, John Derek abandoned his acting career. He chose instead to serve as director, producer, writer, and cinematographer for a number of film projects. In the late 1960s he directed A Boy... a Girl (1969) and Childish Things (1969), the latter with his then-wife Linda Evans. His best-known effort is the adventure Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981; with Miles O'Keeffe and Bo Derek). With his health deteriorating, Derek stepped out of the business following the release of Ghosts Can't Do it (1990; with Bo Derek and Julie Newmar). After suffering with a heart ailment for more than a decade, he passed away on May 22, 1998, at the age of 71. He was survived by his fourth wife, Bo Derek, and son Russell and daughter Sean Catherine.

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Once Before I Die (1965) with Ursula Andress, Ron Ely, Richard Jaeckel, and Rod Lauren
Nightmare in the Sun (1965) with Ursula Andress, Richard Jaeckel, Chick Chandler, Keenan Wynn, and Aldo Ray
Exodus (1960) with Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Sal Mineo, Ralph Richardson, Peter Lawford, Lee J. Cobb, and George Maharis
Prisoner of the Volga (1958) with Dawn Addams, Elsa Martinelli, Gert Frobe, and Rik Battaglia
High Hell (1958) with Elaine Stewart
Pirate of the Half Moon (1957) with Gianna Maria Canale
The Flesh Is Weak (1957) with Joe Robinson
Omar Khayyam (1957) with Cornel Wilde, Debra Paget, Michael Rennie, Raymond Massey, and Sebastian Cabot
Fury at Showdown (1957) with Nick Adams, John Smith, and Carolyn Craig
Massacre at Sand Creek (1956) with William Schallert
The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, Mike Connors, Woody Strode, Vincent Price, and Anne Baxter
The Leather Saint (1956) with Paul Douglas and Cesar Romero
Run for Cover (1955) with James Cagney, Viveca Lindfors, Ernest Borgnine, and Grant Withers
An Annapolis Story (1955) with Kevin McCarthy, Diana Lynn, Alvy Moore, and L.Q. Jones
Prince of Players (1955) with Richard Burton and Raymond Massey
The Adventures of Hajji Baba (1954) with Elaine Stewart, Amanda Blake, and Peter Mamakos
The Outcast (1954) with Joan Evans, Jim Davis, and Nicolas Coster
Sea of Lost Ships (1954) with Richard Jaeckel, Wanda Hendrix, Steve Brodie, and Walter Brennan
Mission Over Korea (1953) with John Hodiak, Rex Reason, Harvey Lembeck, and Maureen O'Sullivan
The Last Posse (1953) with Broderick Crawford and Wanda Hendrix
Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953) with John Hodiak and David Brian
Prince of Pirates (1953) with Barbara Rush
Thunderbirds (1952) with John Drew Barrymore, Ward Bond, and Mona Freeman
Scandal Sheet (1952) with Broderick Crawford, Rosemary DeCamp, and Harry Morgan
The Family Secret (1951) with Lee J. Cobb, Peggy Converse, and Jody Lawrance
Saturday's Hero (1951) with Donna Reed, Aldo Ray, and Sidney Blackmer
Mask of the Avenger (1951) with Anthony Quinn and Jody Lawrance
Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950) with Diana Lynn, Alan Hale, and George Macready
All the King's Men (1949) with Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru, and Mercedes McCambridge
Knock on Any Door (1949) with Humphrey Bogart and George Macready
A Double Life (1947) with Ronald Colman, Shelley Winters, and Edmund O'Brien
I'll Be Seeing You (1944) with Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, and Spring Byington

Frontier Circus, 1961-1962 CBS TV series. Derek portrayed Ben Travis

Zane Grey Theater, episode Storm Over Eden, originally aired May 4, 1961
Zane Grey Theater, episode There Were Four, originally aired March 15, 1957
Playhouse 90, episode Massacre at Sand Creek, originally aired December 27, 1956
The Ford Television Theatre, episode Black Jim Hawk, originally aired October 31, 1956
Lux Video Theatre, episode A Place in the Sun, originally aired January 28, 1954
The Ford Television Theatre, episode Tomorrow's Men, originally aired October 29, 1953

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Watch John Derek's 1952 noir thriller Scandal Sheet

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This page premiered August 26, 2003.
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