American actor and martial artist John Saxon reportedly died in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 25, 2020. He was 83. According toThe Hollywood Reporter, his wife Gloria Saxon told them that John died of pneumonia.
Hailing from Brooklyn, he was born Carmine Orrico on August 5, 1935. He was primarily known for his role as Lt. Donald Thompson, Nancy Thompson’s father, in the popular horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and co-starring with martial arts legend Bruce Lee as Roper in Enter the Dragon (1973). He then reprised his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). After that Saxon occasionally appeared in other Wes Craven’s movies, playing both as Thompson and himself in New Nightmare (1994) and starring in From Dusk till Dawn (1996).
After graduating from Utrecht High School in 1953, Saxon studied acting with famous acting coach Stella Adler. Saxon finally got his big break when legendary Hollywood agent Henry Willson saw his picture on the cover of a detective magazine. After getting his parents’ permission, Willson contracted the then 17-year-old Orrico and he was renamed as John Saxon. He then studied dramatics for six months at Carnegie Hall and flew to Hollywood to be signed by Universal Studios.
By performing in a small teen movie Rock, Pretty Baby (1956), Saxon was established as a teen idol and was getting 3,000 fan letters a week. Later he also shows off his more manly side by acting in action movies such as Joe Kidd (1972) with Clint Eastwood, Mitchell (1975), The Swiss Conspiracy (1975), Raid on Entebbe (1977), portrayed a homicidal strangler in Starsky & Hutch, and many others.
Born as an Italian-American, Saxon played characters of various ethnicities throughout his acting careers, such as Chuy Medina, a Mexican bandit opposite of Marlon Brando in The Appaloosa (1966), and a Middle East tycoon named Rashid Ahmed, a recurring character in ABC’s Dynasty (1982–1984). He even appeared in Shalimar (1978), a Bollywood production.
John Saxon made his directorial debut in 1987 with the horror movie Zombie Death House. His last acting role was for the film The Extra (2015). Saxon married three times: to screenwriter Mary Ann Murphy, actress Elizabeth Saxon, and cosmetician Gloria Martel since 2008. Along with Gloria, he is also survived by sons Antonio and Lance, grandson Mitchell, great-grandson John, and his sister, Dolores.