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Movie star, ex-US envoy to Mexico John Gavin dies

News Desk

Agence France-Presse

Los Angeles, United States  /  Sun, February 11, 2018  /  11:42 am
Movie star, ex-US envoy to Mexico John Gavin dies

John Gavin in 'Midnight Lace' (1960). (Arwin Productions/File)

Actor John Gavin, whose handsome looks landed him roles in the 1960 films "Psycho" and "Spartacus" and was later US ambassador to Mexico, died in California, US media reported. He was 86.

Gavin died at his home in Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing Brad Burton Moss, manager of Gavin's actress wife Constance Towers. He gave no cause.

With his square jaw, dark good looks and 6-foot-4 (1.93 meter) frame, Gavin was twice nearly cast as James Bond.

Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper described him as handsome with "a silken sort of threat which gives women chills up and down the spine."

Gavin gained widespread attention as the lead of the 1958 World War II movie "A Time to Love and a Time to Die," based on an Erich Maria Remarque novel.

He then played opposite Lana Turner in "Imitation of Life" ( 1959 ), as Janet Leigh's divorced lover in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," and as Julius Caesar in "Spartacus."

Once considered "the next Rock Hudson" by Universal Studios, Gavin's career never quite took off, even though he was initially signed to play James Bond in "Diamonds are Forever" ( 1971 ) and "Live and Let Die" ( 1973 ), losing out to Sean Connery and Roger Moore respectively.

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Gavin however had many Hollywood friends, and in 1971 was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.

When actor friend Ronald Reagan became US president in 1981, he chose Gavin -- who was fluent in Spanish, and of Mexican, Spanish and Chilean ancestry -- as US ambassador to Mexico.

The Mexicans however chafed at having an actor sent to that important post.

Gavin's criticism of Mexican government corruption, as well as complaints about the northward flow of illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants, did not help.

The nadir was reached when Gavin made some indelicate comments after a deadly 1985 Mexico City earthquake. He resigned as ambassador the following year.

Gaven later had a successful career in business, including as president of Univisa Satellite Communications. 

The late actor and diplomat was married to actress Cicely Evans before divorcing and marrying Towers.