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John Gavin
John Gavin Destry 1964.JPG
Gavin in Destry (1964)
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
June 5, 1981 – June 10, 1986
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Julian Nava
Succeeded by Charles J. Pilliod Jr.
17th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
Preceded by Charlton Heston
Succeeded by Dennis Weaver
Personal details
Juan Vincent Apablasa

(1931-04-08)April 8, 1931
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died February 9, 2018(2018-02-09) (aged 86)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Height 6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Cecily Evans
(m. 1957; div. 1965)

(m. 1974)
Children 2
Alma mater Stanford University
Occupation Actor, diplomat
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Navy
Years of service 1951–1955
Rank Lieutenant
Battles/wars Korean War

John Gavin (born Juan Vincent Apablasa; April 8, 1931 – February 9, 2018) was an American actor who was the president of the Screen Actors Guild (1971–73), and the United States Ambassador to Mexico (1981–86). Among the films he appeared in were A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), Imitation of Life (1959), Spartacus (1960), Psycho (1960), Midnight Lace (1960) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), playing leading roles for producer Ross Hunter.

Life and career

Early life

Gavin was born in Los Angeles as Juan Vincent Apablasa II. His father, Juan Vincent Apablasa Sr., was of Chilean descent and his mother, Delia Diana Pablos, was a Mexican-born aristocrat. When Juan was two, his parents divorced and his mother married Herald Ray Golenor, who adopted Juan and changed his name to John Anthony Golenor.

After attending Roman Catholic schools, St. John's Military Academy (Los Angeles), and Villanova Preparatory (Ojai, California), he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree and Latin American affairs from Stanford University, where he did senior honors work in Latin American economic history and was a member of Chi Psi fraternity and Navy ROTC.

Military service

During the Korean War, Gavin was commissioned in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Princeton off Korea where he served as an air intelligence officer from 1951 until the end of the war in 1953. Due to Gavin's fluency in both Spanish and Portuguese, he was assigned as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Milton E. Miles until he completed his four-year tour of duty in 1955. He received an award for his work in the Honduras floods of 1954.

In a 1960 interview, Gavin disputed rumors that he was born into wealth by revealing that he attended a preparatory school and Stanford University on scholarships.

Entry into acting

Following his naval service, Gavin offered himself as a technical adviser to family friend and film producer Bryan Foy, who was making a movie about the Princeton. Instead, Foy arranged a screen test for Gavin with Universal-International. Gavin initially refused the offer, but his father urged him to try it. The test was successful and Gavin signed with the studio. "They offered me so much money I couldn't resist", he said later.

Universal groomed Gavin as a leading man in the mold of Rock Hudson. He trained in Jess Kimmel's talent workshop under the name John Gilmore. His classmates included Grant Williams, Gia Scala and John Saxon. His first film was Raw Edge (1956) where he played the brother of Rory Calhoun and was billed as John Gilmore. His name was changed to John Gavin for the films Behind the High Wall (1956), Four Girls in Town (1957), and Quantez (also 1957). Gavin was meant to star in The Female Animal (1958) but was too busy on other projects and was replaced by George Nader.

Stardom: A Time to Love and a Time to Die

Gavin's break was the lead in A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), directed by Douglas Sirk from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. His casting drew comparisons with the casting of the similarly inexperienced Lew Ayres in Universal's film version of All Quiet on the Western Front (1931). Sirk cast Gavin for the young actor's inexperience, fresh looks, and earnest manner. The film was not a success when it was released, although Gavin received praise for his performance.

A series of classic films

Before A Time to Love and a Time to Die had been released, Gavin was cast by Douglas Sirk supporting Lana Turner in Imitation of Life (1959). Unlike A Time to Love and a Time to Die, this was a box-office success and Gavin was voted most promising male newcomer for his performance in the film by the Motion Picture Exhibitor.

Miles, Gavin & Leigh Psycho still
John Gavin (center) with actresses Janet Leigh (right) and Vera Miles (left) in a publicity photo for Psycho (1960)
1964 Destry John Gavin
Gavin in the 1964 TV series Destry

Gavin appeared as Julius Caesar in Universal's epic Spartacus (1960) directed by Stanley Kubrick. He was cast as Sam Loomis in the thriller Psycho (1960) for director Alfred Hitchcock. Both films were successful, critically and commercially.

Following the success of Imitation of Life, Gavin was often cast as the handsome opposite to leading ladies but as characters who were permitted little action. He co-starred against Doris Day in the thriller Midnight Lace, Sophia Loren in the comedic A Breath of Scandal (both 1960), Susan Hayward in the melodrama Back Street and with Sandra Dee in Romanoff and Juliet and Tammy Tell Me True (all 1961). Most of these films were produced by Ross Hunter. He appeared periodically on television in various anthology series. He was directed by a young William Friedkin in the episode 'Off Season', S3, Ep29 of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Gavin disliked comparisons to Rock Hudson and in a 1960 interview said he considered quitting acting to take up law. He left Universal in 1962. He signed to make several movies in Europe including The Assassins, The Challenge and Night Call. However, he pulled out of The Assassins (which became Assassins of Rome (1965)), Night Call and The Challenge were never made. In early 1964, he starred in the TV series Destry. The series was not a ratings success and was cancelled.

Return to Universal

In September 1964, Gavin signed a new contract with Universal which gave him the option to take work outside the studio. He appeared in the television series, Convoy, which was cancelled after a short run. He appeared in Mexican film Pedro Páramo (1967), based on the novel by Juan Rulfo. His next role was that of Mary Tyler Moore's character's stuffy boyfriend in Universal's 1920s-era musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Gavin saw the role as an opportunity to parody his performances in Ross Hunter films.

In June 1966, Gavin signed a five-year non-exclusive contract with Universal. He was cast in the lead in OSS 117 – Double Agent (1968), then titled No Roses for Robert, replacing Frederick Stafford who was filming Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz. He acted in supporting roles in The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969) and Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970), in which he parodied his own image.

James Bond

Gavin was signed for the role of James Bond in the film Diamonds Are Forever (1971) after George Lazenby left the role. However, David Picker, head of United Artists, wanted the box-office assurance of Sean Connery. Gavin's contract was honored despite losing the role to Connery. According to Roger Moore's James Bond Diary, Gavin was slated to play Bond in Live and Let Die (1973), but Harry Saltzman insisted on a British actor for the role and Moore was given the part.

Screen Actors Guild

Gavin was on the board of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 1965. He served a term as third vice president and two terms as president from 1971 to 1973. During his presidency Gavin testified before the Federal Trade Commission on phone talent rackets and met with President Richard Nixon to present the problem of excessive television reruns. He presented petitions to the federal government on the issues of prime-time access rules, legislative assistance for American motion pictures, and film production by the government using non-professional actors.

Gavin's presidency in the Screen Actors Guild came to an end when he was defeated by Dennis Weaver in 1973. Gavin was the first incumbent president to be defeated by an independent challenger.


Gavin made a foray into live theatre in the 1970s, showcasing his baritone voice. He toured the summer stock circuit as El Gallo in a production of The Fantasticks at the South Shore Music Circus twentieth anniversary summer season June 29-July 4, 1970 in Massachusetts.

In 1973, Gavin replaced Ken Howard in the Broadway musical Seesaw opposite Michele Lee. Gavin said he first turned down the musical because of his unhappiness with the quality of the book but reconsidered when Michael Bennett asked him to join the cast. He played the role for seven months and toured the United States in the role with Lucie Arnaz. Both the Broadway and touring production were directed by Michael Bennett.

Later TV work

In the early 1970s, Gavin played Akhenaten in the television movie Nefertiti y Aquenatos (1973) alongside Geraldine Chaplin and Salah Zulfikar. In the late 1970s, Gavin played Cary Grant in the television movie Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980).


Paloma Cordero Nancy Reagan Mexico City 1985 earthquake
John Gavin with first ladies Paloma Cordero of Mexico (left) and Nancy Reagan of the United States (right) after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

Gavin was cultural adviser to the Organization of American States from 1961 to 1965.

Ambassador to Mexico

A Republican, Gavin was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in June 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and served until June 1986.

Business career

In June 1986 following his work as ambassador to Mexico, Gavin became vice-president of Atlantic Richfield in federal and international relations. In 1987, he resigned to become president of Univisa Satellite Communications, a subsidiary of Univisa, the Spanish language broadcasting empire.

Gavin was president of Gamma Holdings, a global capital and consulting company which he helped found in 1968. He became chairman of Gamma Services International in January 1990. He served on the boards of Causeway Capital, the Hotchkis & Wiley Funds, the TCW Strategic Income Fund, Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., DII Industries, LLC, Claxson Interactive Group Inc., Anvita, Inc., the Latin America Strategy Board at HM Capital Partners LLC, Apex Mortgage Capital Inc., Krause's Furniture, Inc., Atlantic Richfield Co., International Wire Holdings Company and International Wire Group Holdings, Inc. Gavin served as senior counselor to Hicks Trans American Partners (a division of Hicks Holdings) and managing director and partner of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (Latin America) from 1994 to 2001. He was an independent trustee of Causeway International Value Fund.

Gavin served on various pro bono boards, including UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, Don Bosco Institute, the FEDCO Charitable Fund, the Hoover Institution, Loyola-Marymount University, the National Parks Foundation, Southwest Museum, the University of the Americas and Villanova Preparatory School.

Personal life

Gavin married actress Cicely Evans in 1957. They had two children and lived in Beverly Hills. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965. While making No Roses for Robert in Italy in 1967, Gavin dated co-star Luciana Paluzzi.

In 1974, Gavin married stage and television actress Constance Towers. The two were introduced at a party in 1957 by Gavin's godfather, Jimmy McHugh. Towers had two children from her previous marriage to Eugene McGrath. Gavin and Towers remained married until his death in 2018.

Gavin's daughter, Cristina, is an actress and his daughter, Maria, has a career in television production.


Gavin died of complications from pneumonia after a long battle with leukemia on February 9, 2018, at his home in Beverly Hills, California.



Year Title Role Notes
1956 Raw Edge Dan Kirby Credited as John Gilmore
1956 Behind the High Wall Johnny Hutchins Credited as John Golenor
1957 Four Girls in Town Tom Grant
1957 Quantez Teach
1958 A Time to Love and a Time to Die Ernst Graeber
1959 Imitation of Life Steve Archer
1960 A Breath of Scandal Charlie Foster
1960 Psycho Sam Loomis
1960 Spartacus Julius Caesar
1960 Midnight Lace Brian Younger
1961 Romanoff and Juliet Igor Romanoff
1961 Tammy Tell Me True Thomas "Tom" Freeman
1961 Back Street Paul Saxon
1967 Pedro Páramo Pedro Páramo
1967 Thoroughly Modern Millie Trevor Graydon
1968 OSS 117 – Double Agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath
1969 The Madwoman of Chaillot The Reverend
1970 Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You Charlie Harrison
1973 Keep It in the Family Roy McDonald
1976 House of Shadows Roland Stewart
1978 Jennifer Senator Tremayne
1981 History of the World, Part I Marche


Year Title Role Notes
1960 Insight The Priest Episode: "The Martyr"
1962 Alcoa Premiere William Fortnum Episode: "The Jail"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Dr. Don Reed Episode: "Run for Doom"
1964 Destry Harrison Destry Main role (13 episodes)
1964 The Virginian Charles Boulanger / Baker Episode: "Portrait of a Widow"
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Carlos Episode: "A Truce to Terror"
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Tom Threepersons Episode: "Threepersons"
1965 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Johnny Kendall Episode: "Off Season"
1965 Convoy Commander Dan Talbot Main role (13 episodes)
1970 Cutter's Trail Ben Cutter Television film
1971 The Doris Day Show Dr. Forbes Episode: "Skiing Anyone?"
1973 Nefertiti y Aquenatos Akhenaten Television Film
1973 Mannix Arthur Danford Episode: "The Danford File"
1974 ABC Wide World of Mystery Episode: "Hard Day at Blue Nose"
1975 The Lives of Jenny Dolan Officer Television film
1976 Medical Center Lt. Col. Halliday Episode: "Major Annie, MD"
1977 The Love Boat Dan Barton Episode: "Silent Night"
1978 Fantasy Island Harry Kellino Episode: "Family Reunion"
1978 Doctors' Private Lives Dr. Jeffrey Latimer Television film
1978 Flying High Senator James Sinclair Episode: "South by Southwest"
1978 The New Adventures of Heidi Dan Wyler Television film
1979 Doctors' Private Lives Dr. Jeffrey Latimer Television miniseries (4 episodes)
1980 Sophia Loren: Her Own Story Cary Grant Television film
1980 Hart to Hart Craig Abernathy Episode: "Murder, Murder on the Wall"
1981 Fantasy Island Jack Foster Episode: "Something Borrowed, Something Blue ..."

Theatre credits

  • The Fantastiks (1967) – Paper Mill Playhouse and The Cape Playhouse on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1970
  • Seesaw (1974) with Lucie Arnaz – Broadway and tour

Mr. Roberts (1968) - Papermill Playhouse

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: John Gavin para niños

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