R.I.P.: Psycho's John Gavin has passed away at 86

Psycho John Gavin Janet Leigh Alfred Hitchcock

Over the course of a career that lasted twenty-five years, actor John Gavin racked up credits on more than forty film and television projects, but there is one specific film that fans of the horror genre will know him from: he co-starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic PSYCHO as Sam Loomis, the boyfriend of Norman Bates's shower victim and the character John Carpenter named Donald Pleasence's Michael Myers-hunting doctor in honor of when he was making HALLOWEEN eighteen years later.

There was a down side to Gavin's association with PSYCHO - he was "terribly disturbed" by the content of the film, and probably wasn't too happy that Hitchcock would ridicule his acting and refer to him as "The Stiff" in interviews, but regardless, it's that film that secured his place in cinema history.

Gavin was born Juan Vincent Apablasa in Los Angeles, California on April 8, 1931, and got into acting after serving in the Navy during and after the Korean War. He wasn't looking to get in front of the camera, he was hoping to get a job as a technical advisor on a movie about an aircraft carrier, but the film's producer, who also happened to be a family friend, convinced him to do a screen test.

That screen test secured the good-looking, 6'4" Apablasa a contract at Universal, and he started acting as John Gavin.

In addition to PSYCHO, Gavin's credits include Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS, a short run as the star of a TV show called Destry, and appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. While acting, Gavin also spent twelve years serving as special adviser to the secretary general of the Organization of American States, did work for the Department of State and the Executive Office of the President, and spent some time as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

After retiring from acting in 1981, Gavin was named Ambassador to Mexico by President Ronald Reagan (who had the same agent). Being of Mexican, Chilean, and Spanish ancestry and a descendant of a family that was prominent in Mexico, Gavin was fluent in Spanish and had majored in Latin American economic history at Stanford. He also had business dealings in Mexico and Latin America, and would go on to even greater business success after his time as Ambassador ended.

Aside from PSYCHO and SPARTACUS, the most notable event in Gavin's acting career is the fact that he was cast (despite being a fifth generation Californian) to play British super spy James Bond in 1971's DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. Gavin lost the role when Sean Connery was convinced to return to the franchise for one more film. Although he didn't shoot one single scene as Bond, Gavin was still paid his full salary - quite a score, even though he was surely paid substantially less than Connery was for the same movie (the record-breaking sum of $1.2 million!).

Gavin passed away in Beverly Hills on February 9, succumbing to pneumonia that struck him in the midst of a battle with leukemia. He is survived by his wife Constance Towers and his daughters (with ex-wife Cicely Evans) Cristina and Maria, both of whom work in the entertainment industry.

He may not have had an incredible acting career, but he made his mark.

Extra Tidbit: Our condolences go out to Gavin's family, friends, and fans.



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