MURFREESBORO, Tennessee (AP) — Actor John Saxon, a versatile actor with a lengthy and prolific career who starred with Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” and appeared in several “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, has died at his home in Tennessee, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was 83.
The entertainment news outlet quotes Saxon’s wife, Gloria, as confirming that the actor died of pneumonia on Saturday in Murfreesboro.
Saxon won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in 1966 for his role alongside Marlon Brando in “The Appaloosa.”
Born Carmine Orrico, the son of Italian-American parents, Saxon grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and began modeling while still a teenager. He then caught the eye of legendary talent agent Henry Willson, who spotted Saxon on the cover of a magazine and brought him to Hollywood. Willson was credited for representing and helping to develop the careers of male stars like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, the outlet said.
Then just 17, the aspiring actor signed with Willson, studied dramatics and then flew to Hollywood, where he was signed by Universal. His name was changed to John Saxon.
According to internet movie website IMDB, Saxon appeared in nearly 200 roles in the movies and on television in a career that stretched over seven decades since he made his big screen debut in 1954 in uncredited roles in “It Should Happen to You” and George Cukor’s “A Star Is Born.”
His striking, angular profile and dark eyes led to roles playing Mexicans, Native Americans and Mongols. Among other characters, Saxon portrayed an Indian chief on the popular TV Western series “Bonanza” and Marco Polo on the futuristic hit TV show “The Time Tunnel,” according to IMDB.
Actress Barbara Crampton wrote on Twitter that Saxon “had strength and charm, which was a great combination. His strong presence allowed him, with ease to command every role he portrayed.”
He had strength and charm, which was a great combination. His strong presence allowed him, with ease to command every role he portrayed. Black Christmas, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Tenebrae and countless more…Rip the great John Saxon pic.twitter.com/SbrRGBd4eR
— Barbara Crampton (@barbaracrampton) July 26, 2020
In 2017, the Tennessee retirement community where Saxon and his wife lived honored him with a film festival after residents requested screenings of his movies.
Speaking of the popularity of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise in a 1987 interview, Saxon said, “I am intrigued by horror and fantasy-type things because I think it is a way of magnifying some part of the human mind that is exhibited or projected in a highly distorted way.”