John Gavin, who acted in some of the biggest films of the 1960s, passed away at the age of 86 according to Variety. He was born Juan Vincent Apablasa, though his name was changed to John Anthony Galanor when he was two-years-old due to his parents getting divorced and his mother remarrying. Gavin graduated from Stanford, where he was in the Naval ROTC and earned his degree in Latin American Affairs and economics. Throughout his childhood and education, he never acted in a single play.
During the Korean War, Gavin served for the Navy, rising to the rank of Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Milton E. Miles after the war ended. This was largely due to Gavin’s ability to speak both Spanish and Portuguese. His introduction to the movie business was due to his experiences during the war – he served as technical advisor for a film about the ship he had served on, the U.S.S. Princeton. The film’s director was a family friend who arranged for Gavin to have a screen test at Universal Studios.
Universal began to try and shape Gavin into a leading man. After a few smaller roles in 1956 and 57, Gavin was given his first lead in A Time to Love and a Time to Die, quickly following with Imitation of Life. Both films brought Gavin into the public eye, though he felt Universal was not offering him proper training as an actor. His career took another leap forward in 1960, with large roles in Psycho and Spartacus. In Psycho, Gavin played Sam Loomis, boyfriend of Janet Leigh’s character Marion Crane and one of the movie’s heroes. And in Spartacus he played a young Julius Caesar.
Gavin began to appear in various television shows after these films, including two episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also appeared in several other movies, including the Julie Andrews-lead musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie in a role he considered to be a parody of many of the characters he had played before. He nearly played James Bond in Diamonds are Forever, but ultimately Sean Connery returned to the role instead. While working on his acting career, Gavin also served several positions with the Screen Actors Guild, ultimately becoming the union’s President from 1971 to 1973.
In the early 80s, Gavin left acting behind to follow another passion. As a lifelong Republican and being of Chilean and Mexican descent, Gavin became the Ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1986 under President Ronald Reagan. He later considered running for a Senate seat, but never did. For the rest of his life, Gavin worked as a businessman, serving on the board of numerous companies. He leaves behind a wife, two children, and two step-children. He will be greatly missed.
Rest in Peace John Gavin: April 8, 1931 – February 9, 2018
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