Born John Anthony Golenor in Los Angeles on April 8, 1931 (some sources cite 1928 and 1932 as his year of birth), handsome John Gavin served a hitch in the Navy following college. He got into films at the tail-end of the studio system when he was signed by Universal-International in 1956. Gavin's first few films were B movies, including Raw Edge (1956; with Rory Calhoun and Yvonne De Carlo) and Four Girls in Town (1957; with George Nader and Julie Adams). His star rose quickly, and soon he was acting in such 'A' pictures as Imitation of Life (1959; with Lana Turner) and Psycho (1960; with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh). Also, he won a Golden Globe in 1959 for Most Promising Male Newcomer.

John Gavin

Handsome early Universal-International portrait

However, after several high-profile pictures, Gavin's acting career began to fade in the early 1960s with the end of his first Universal contract. He signed again with the studio in 1964 following his short-lived ABC western Destry (1964). Universal cast him in the lead role in the NBC war drama Convoy (1965) and in Universal's musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967; with Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore). As his contract with Universal was non-exclusive, Gavin was soon off to Europe to star in couple of low-budget French-Italian spy thrillers. His career was looking up in 1970 when Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, producers of the James Bond series, signed him to replace George Lazenby as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971; with Jill St. John and Lana Wood). However, at the last minute Broccoli and Saltzman offered Sean Connery a huge salary to return to the role, knocking Gavin out of the job but not a paycheck, as the producers had to pay off his contract. At about the time of the release of Diamonds Are Forever, he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, a post at which he served for two years. He was also considered for the lead role in Live and Let Die (1973), before Roger Moore was cast as James Bond.

the films of john gavin

Behind the High Wall (1956)

John GavinBetty Lynn and John GavinBetty Lynn and John Gavin

From Universal-International's film noir thriller Behind the High Wall. LEFT: As the wronged convict Johnny Hutchins. CENTER and RIGHT: With Betty Lynn

Four Girls in Town (1956)

Gia Scala and John Gavin

From Universal's Four Girls in Town with Gia Scala

Quantez (1957)

John GavinJohn Gavin and Dorothy Malone

From the Universal-International western Quantez. LEFT: Gavin as Teach. RIGHT: With Dorothy Malone

A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)

John Gavin and Lilo Pulver

From the Universal-International war drama A Time to Love and a Time to Die with Liselotte Pulver. This was Gavin's first starring role

Imitation of Life (1959)

John Gavin and Lana Turner

From Universal-International's drama Imitation of Life with Lana Turner

A Breath of Scandal (1960)

John Gavin and Sophia Loren

With Sophia Loren in Paramount's romance A Breath of Scandal

Psycho (1960)

John Gavin and Janet LeighVera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh

From Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, released by Universal. LEFT: With Janet Leigh. RIGHT: With Vera Miles and Janet Leigh

Back Street (1961)

John Gavin and Susan Hayward

From Universal-International's potboiler Back Street with Susan Hayward

Romanoff and Juliet (1961)

Sandra Dee and John Gavin

From Peter Ustinov's comedy Romanoff and Juliet with Sandra Dee

Tammy Tell Me True (1961)

Sandra Dee and John Gavin

With Sandra Dee in the Universal light comedy Tammy Tell Me True

Destry (1964 ABC TV series)

John Gavin

From Gavin's ABC western series Destry

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)

John Gavin and Julie AndrewsMary Tyler Moore and John Gavin

From Universal's musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie. LEFT: With Julie Andrews. RIGHT: With Mary Tyler Moore

Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970)

John Gavin

Gavin portrays Grant Granite in the campy United Artists comedy Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You

later years

After Gavin's film career slowed, he did quite a bit of stage work on Broadway and off in the 1970s, appearing in such plays as Seesaw. In 1981, he gave up his acting career to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico during the Reagan administration and became quite successful in business ventures. He had two daughters with first wife Cicely, to whom he was married from 1957 to 1965; he married actress Constance Towers in 1974. Sadly, John Gavin passed away after a bout with pneumonia. He had also battled leukemia for several years. He is survived by Towers, his two daughters, and two step-daughters.

john gavin dvds available from


Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980) with Sophia Loren and Edmund Purdom
The New Adventures of Heidi (1978) with Burl Ives
Jennifer (1978) with Bert Convy, Jeff Corey, and Nina Foch
Doctors' Private Lives (1978) with Donna Mills, Elinor Donahue, Leigh McCloskey, and John Lupton
House of Shadows (1976) with Yvonne De Carlo
The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975) with Shirley Jones, Stephen Boyd, James Darren, Dana Wynter, and Charles Drake
Keep It in the Family (1973)
Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970) with Ian McShane, Gaby Andre, and Veronica Carlson
Cutter's Trail (1970) with Beverly Garland and Joseph Cotten
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969) with Katharine Hepburn, Donald Pleasence, Yul Brynner, and Richard Chamberlain
OSS 117: Murder for Sale (1969) with Margaret Lee, Luciana Paluzzi, Rosalba Neri, and Raf Baldassarre
Pedro Paramo (1967) with Jorge Rivero
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) with Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Beatrice Lillie, James Fox, and Carol Channing
Back Street (1961) with Susan Hayward, Vera Miles, and Virginia Grey
Tammy Tell Me True (1961) with Sandra Dee, Virginia Grey, Charles Drake, Juanita Moore, and Julia Meade
Romanoff and Juliet (1961) with Peter Ustinov and Sandra Dee
A Breath of Scandal (1960) with Sophia Loren and Maurice Chevalier
Midnight Lace (1960) with Doris Day, Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, and Roddy McDowall
Spartacus (1960) with Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Woody Strode, John Ireland, and Peter Ustinov
Psycho (1960) with Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Vera Miles
Imitation of Life (1959) with Lana Turner, Sandra Dee, Juanita Moore, Susan Kohner, and Troy Donahue
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) with Jock Mahoney, Keenan Wynn, Klaus Kinski, and Don DeFore
Quantez (1957) with Fred MacMurray, Dorothy Malone, and John Larch
Four Girls in Town (1956) with George Nader, Julie Adams, and Grant Williams
Behind the High Wall (1956) with Betty Lynn, John Larch, Sylvia Sidney, and William Boyett
Raw Edge (1956) with Yvonne De Carlo, Rory Calhoun, Mara Corday, Rex Reason, and Ed Fury

Convoy, 1965 TV series produced by Universal. Gavin portrayed Commander Dan Talbot
Destry, 1964 TV series produced by Revue. Gavin portrayed Harrison Destry

Fantasy Island, episode Loving Strangers/Something Borrowed, Something Blue, originally aired February 14, 1981
Hart to Hart, episode Murder, Murder on the Wall, originally aired November 11, 1980
Flying High, episode South by Southwest, originally aired December 8, 1978
Fantasy Island, episode Family Reunion/Voodoo, originally aired February 18, 1978
The Love Boat, episode Lonely at the Top/Divorce Me, Please/Silent Night, originally aired December 10, 1977
Medical Center, episode Major Annie, MD, originally aired March 1, 1976
Wide World Mystery, episode Hard Day at Blue Nose, originally aired February 12, 1974
Mannix, episode The Danford File, originally aired March 11, 1973
The Doris Day Show, episode Skiing Anyone?, originally aired March 1, 1971
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, episode Off Season, originally aired May 10, 1965
Kraft Suspense Theatre, episode Threepersons, originally aired December 10, 1964
The Virginian, episode Portrait of a Widow, originally aired December 9, 1964
Kraft Suspense Theatre, episode A Truce to Terror, originally aired January 9, 1964
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, episode Run for Doom, originally aired May 17, 1963
Insight, episode The Martyr, originally aired January 1, 1963
Alcoa Premiere, episode The Jail, originally aired February 6, 1962

john gavin now showing

Watch a 1960 featurette about Gavin's film Psycho

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