Gavin John Obituary, Death – It must have been galling for the actor John Gavin, who has died aged 86, to have often been called “the poor man’s Rock Hudson”, but comparisons between the two actors were inevitable. Both of these potential love leads were tall, dark-haired, well-built, and gorgeous. Both were at the pinnacle of their careers during the 1950s and 1960s when they appeared in glitzy films produced by Ross Hunter. In addition, Douglas Sirk was a fan of both of these performers and cast them in some of their most illustrious roles throughout their careers. But Gavin could also claim to have worked with Alfred Hitchcock (in Psycho) and Stanley Kubrick (in Spartacus), which Hudson never did.
Both of these movies were released in 1960, which was the year that Gavin was at the pinnacle of his career. In the movie Spartacus, he portrayed Julius Caesar as a young, muscular man who was scared of conflict. In Psycho, he was Sam Loomis, boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), and in the film’s voyeuristic opening sequence was seen bare-chested with Leigh in her underwear on the bed in a cheap hotel room, in one of the sexiest scenes Gavin ever played. He later appears at the Bates motel, a virile character in vast contrast to Anthony Perkins’s twisted Norman Bates. Gavin is rumored to have been given the nickname “the stiff” by Hitchcock due to his relatively unruffled approach to the acting profession. Juan Vincent Apablasa was his given name at the time of his birth in Los Angeles.
His father, Juan Vincent Sr, was of Chilean descent and his mother, Delia Diana Pablos, 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. After attending Catholic schools in California, he studied at Stanford University, and then served in the US navy as an intelligence officer during the Korean war. With this experience, he was made an adviser on the second world war film Battle Stations (1955), and Bryan Foy, its producer, encouraged him to take a screen test, although he had never previously considered acting. He was given a contract by Universal, which already had Hudson and George Nader, similar types, on their roster of stars. In 1956, billed as John Gilmore, he appeared in a Rory Calhoun western, Raw Edge, then, under the name John Golenor, as a small-time criminal in the prison drama Behind the High Wall. He was tough and unshaven (a rare sight in his clean-cut career) as a trigger-happy gunman in the western Quantez (1957), by now credited as John Gavin.