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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.
Personal details
Juan Vincent Apablasa Jr.

(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
Cecily Evans
(m. 1957; div. 1965)

Constance Towers (m. 1974–2018)
(his death)
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 Jr.; April 8, 1931 – February 9, 2018) was an American actor who was the United States Ambassador to Mexico (1981–86) and the President of the Screen Actors Guild (1971–73). He was best known for his performances in the films Imitation of Life (1959), Spartacus (1960), Psycho (1960), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), playing leading roles in a series of films for producer Ross Hunter. He was originally to play James Bond in two movies, but was rejected because he was not British.

Early life

Born Juan Vincent Apablasa Jr., Gavin was of Mexican, Chilean and Spanish descent, and was fluent in Spanish. His father, Juan Vincent Apablasa Sr., was of Chilean origin, and his paternal ancestors, including Cayetano Apablasa, were early landowners in California when it was still under Spanish rule. Gavin's mother, Delia Diana Pablos, hailed from the historically influential Pablos family of the Mexican state of Sonora.

After attending St. John's Military Academy (Los Angeles) and Villanova Preparatory (Ojai, California), both of which were Roman Catholic schools, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics 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 offshore 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 due to his work in the Honduras floods of 1954.

Entry into acting

Following his naval service, Gavin offered himself as a technical adviser to family friend, film producer Bryan Foy, who was making a movie about the Princeton. Instead, Foy arranged a screen test with Universal-International. Gavin originally turned down the offer – he had never acted in college – 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 virile, strapping leading man in the mold of Rock Hudson. The studio was so excited about Gavin, and predicted that Gavin will "take the public by storm". He was dubbed "Universal's new hope".


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

A Republican, Gavin was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in June 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and served until June 12, 1986.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Gavin was an "activist envoy to Mexico" who "won praise in many circles for his handling of such issues as trade and illegal drug dealing as well as for speaking out against anti-American sentiment.

In 1991, Gavin was sounded out about running for the Senate for the Republican Party but decided not to.

Personal life and death

Gavin married actress Cicely Evans in 1957. They had two children and lived in Beverly Hills. Gavin's first marriage ended in divorce in 1965. He was married to Constance Towers, a stage and television actress, from 1974 until his death. Gavin died at his home in Beverly Hills, California on February 9, 2018 of complications from pneumonia. He was also reported to have been fighting leukemia for an undisclosed period of time. Gavin was 86.

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