Monday, April 8, 2013

That Boy John

Three of our favorite films when we were growing up were Imitation of Life (1959), Back Street (1961), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) -- which, incidentally, explains a lot about us. There were several connecting threads to these movies: lavish Ross Hunter productions all, they also featured stunning Jean Louis costumes; more gay icons than you could shake a David Webb choker at; and all of them co-starred one of our first adolescent crushes, the impossibly handsome John Gavin.

With Lana Turner in Imitation of Life (Universal, 1959)
With Susan Hayward in Back Street (Universal, 1961)
With Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Universal, 1967)
 Although he never became a superstar, for a few short years, John Gavin was keeping some pretty impressive company: in 1960 alone, he appeared in two certified classics, Psycho and Spartacus. The common theme for these two, happily, was that our man Gavin spent a good deal of time shirtless in both.

With Janet Leigh in Psycho (Paramount, 1960)
With Laurence Olivier in Spartacus (Universal, 1960)

Often derided for being understated to the point of being wooden, Gavin could rise to the occasion when given proper direction and good material (surely, Hitchcock and Kubrick must have seen something in him, besides his flawless chest); and he proved that he had a healthy sense of humor about his square-jawed image, spoofing it with impressive comic timing in Millie. It's undeniable that he's not at his best in Imitation or Back Street; in all fairness, although he's ostensibly the male lead in both, they're really Enormous Star Vehicles for Lana Turner and Susan Hayward and their wardrobes -- you try to be 100% effective when sharing the screen with Susan Hayward's sable-trimmed cuffs, and see how well you make out. Personally, we think Gavin's best acting was in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour entitled "Run for Doom." Pitted against Britain's blowzy blonde bombshell, the splendiferously trashy Diana Dors, and playing against type as a naive cuckold, Gavin acquitted himself admirably with a tense, nervous performance.

So, here's to John Gavin: one of the handsomest men to ever grace the silver and small screens; former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico; a would-have-been James Bond; and an all around class act. We here at SSUWAT salute you!


April 8, 1931


  1. Thanks for sharing John's marvellous chest with us, in Spartacus one cannot take one's eyes off it in those sauna scenes with heavyweights Laughton & Olivier - who may have found it interesting too, given what we know of them.
    He is also terrific with Doris of course in Midnight Lace, another Ross Hunter from 1960 - and with Sophia in A Breath of Scandal. I love his Trevor Graydon in Millie too.

  2. i wonder who has the drawing
    that "rae smith" did of him?

  3. Thank you TJB for the Hitchcock ! I am a big fan of John since I saw him in "Psycho". I just bought "Spartacus" and I'm going to watch it next week ! I recently watched John in a French movie "Pas de roses pour OSS 117" where he's playing OSS 117; OSS 117 is spy very much like James Bond 007, and at the beginning of the movie John is naked in the bed of a beautiful woman !

    1. I have seen screen shots of John in that OSS film, and would love to see the actual movie! I hope you write about it on your blog. :)

  4. Hey TJB ! I posted 45 screen shots of John as OSS !! :

    and funny pictures of Vera Miles in Backstreet !!! :

    1. Merci! He looks so handsome - and I want those tab front khakis!