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Subject: Archive: Lex Barker, May 11, 1973


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Date Posted: Friday, May 11, 04:18:10pm

American leading man, best known for playing Tarzan. Born Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. in Rye, New York, he was the second child of a wealthy stockbroker and his wife Marion. Barker's family reportedly was in the direct lineage of Roger Williams, co-founder of the Rhode Island colony, and of Sir Henry Crichlow, governor general of Barbados.

The Barker household was extensive, with scores of servants, nurses, butlers, and chauffeurs. Young Barker attended the Fessenden School and graduated from the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy. He played oboe in the school orchestra and football on the playing field. He attended Princeton University for a time but dropped out to join a theatrical stock company, much to the chagrin of his family. Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakepeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in 1938. He also had a small role in 'Orson Welles'_'s disastrous "Five Kings," which met with so many problems in Boston and Philadelphia that it never made it into New York. Barker reportedly was spotted by scouts from 20th Century Fox and offered a film contract in 1939, but could not persuade his parents to sign it (he was underage).

Disowned by his family for his choice of an acting career, he worked in a steel mill and studied engineering at night. In February 1941, nearly a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the U.S. Army. The 6'3" 208-pound soldier rose to the rank of major during the war. He reportedly was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.

Back in the United States, Barker recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital. Upon his discharge from service, he traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in his first film, Doll Face (1945). A string of small roles followed, the best of which was as Emmett Dalton in the Western Return of the Bad Men (1948).

The next year, Barker found the role that would bring him fame. In Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), Barker became the tenth official Tarzan of the movies. His handsome and intelligent appearance, as well as his athletic, now 6'4" frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for 16 years. Barker made only five Tarzan films, but he remains one of the actors best known for the role. His stardom as Tarzan led him to a variety of heroic roles in other films, primarily Westerns, and one interesting (and quite non-heroic) part in a World War II film, Away All Boats (1956).

In 1957, finding it harder to get work in American films, Barker moved to Europe, where he found enormous popularity, starring in over 40 European films. In Italy he also had a short but compelling role as Anita Ekberg's fiancÚ, and in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960). It was in Germany where he would have his greatest success. There he starred in two movies based on the Doctor Mabuse-stories (previously filmed by Fritz Lang) and in 13 movies based on novels by German author Karl May.

In 1966 Barker was awarded the Bambi Award as Best Foreign Actor in Germany. He returned to the United States occasionally and made a handful of guest appearances on American television episodes. But Europe, and especially Germany, was his professional home for the remainder of his life.

Barker was married five times. His second wife was actress Arlene Dahl, who later married _Fernando Lamas_. His third wife was actress Lana Turner. According to detailed allegations in a book written by her daughter Cheryl Crane 15 years after Barker's death, Turner ordered Barker out of their home one night at gunpoint after Cheryl, 13, accused him of molesting her over a period of three years. Divorce followed quickly, though no charges were filed and the couple's 1957 divorce record does not allude to the allegation. However, Barker's Hollywood career largely ended after the divorce. On May 11, 1973, three days after his 54th birthday, Barker died of a heart attack while walking down a street in New York City on his way to meet his fiancÚe, actress Karen Kondazian.

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Tribute"Movie Legends"Friday, May 11, 04:28:12pm


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