Lex Barker  

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Lex Barker (May 8, 1919 - May 11, 1973) was an American actor best known for playing Tarzan of the Apes and leading characters from Karl May's novels.


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 Twentieth Century Fox and offered a film contract in 1939, but could not convince 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. He rose to the rank of major during the war. He was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.

Back in the U.S., Barker recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in his first film, "Doll Face", released in 1945. A string of small roles followed, the best of which was as Emmett Dalton in the Western Return of the Bad Men in 1948. The next year, Barker found the role that would bring him fame.

In Tarzan's Magic Fountain, 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 sixteen 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, as he found it harder to find work in American films, Barker moved to Europe (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and some German), where he found popularity and starred in over forty European films, including two movies based on the novels by Italian author Emilio Salgari (1862-1911). In Italy he also had a short but compelling role as Anita Ekberg's fiancé in Federico Fellini's La dolce vita.

It was in Germany where he would have his greatest success. There he starred in two movies based on the Doctor Mabuse-stories (formerly filmed by Fritz Lang), in the movies Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius and Fruehstueck im Doppelbett, and in 13 movies based on novels by German author Karl May (1842-1912), playing such well-known May characters as Old Shatterhand, Kara Ben Nemsi, and Dr. Sternau.

In 1966 Barker was awarded the "Bambi Award" as "Best Foreign Actor" in Germany, where he was a major, very popular, star. He even recorded a single, in German, with Martin Böttcher, the composer of some of the soundtracks of the Karl May movies: Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu dir (I'll be on the way to you tomorrow) and Mädchen in Samt und Seide (Girl in silk and velvet). He returned to the U.S. 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.

Personal life

He married five times:

  1. Constanze Thurlow (1942 - 1950) (divorced)
  2. Arlene Dahl (1951 - 1952) (divorced)
  3. Lana Turner (September 8, 1953 - July 22, 1957) (divorced)
  4. Irene Labhardt (1957 - 1962) (marriage ended at her death)
  5. Maria del Carmen "Tita" Cervera (María del Carmen Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra) (1965 - 1972) (divorce not valid, marriage ended with his death), who later became the fifth and final wife of billionaire Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

From his first marriage, with Constanze Thurlow, he had two children, daughter Lynn (born 1943) and son Alexander, called Zan, (born 1947). With his fourth wife, Irene Labhardt, he had a son called Christopher (born 1960).

Barker's third wife was actress Lana Turner. According to detailed allegations in a book by her daughter Cheryl Crane, written fifteen 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 long period of time. Divorce followed quickly, though no charges were filed and the couple's 1957 divorce record does not allude to the allegation.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lex Barker" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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