John Agar

John Agar
John Agar

John Agar was born in 1921 in Chicago, Illinois.   He starred with John Wayne in six movies, “Sanda of Iwo Jima” and John Ford’s “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, “Big Jake”, “Chisum”, “Ford Apache with Shirley Temple to whom he was married for a time and “The Undefeated”.   He died in 2002 at the age of 81.

Ronald Bergan’s obituary in “The Guardian”:

The American film actor John Agar, who has died aged 81, was famous in different quarters for different things; his well-publicised marriage to Shirley Temple and his subsequent alcoholism; his appearance in two of John Ford’s best westerns – Fort Apache and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – and, later, as the star of dozens of cheesy but cultish science-fiction B-movies.

Agar was a tall, handsome, 24-year-old US Army Air Corps sergeant and physical education instructor, when, in early 1944, a friend arranged for him to escort the 16-year-old Temple to a Hollywood party given by her boss, David O Selznick. They married a few months later in front of gossip columnists from all over the world and thousands of screaming fans.

For the next few years, the glamorous couple – he was the scion of an old Chicago meat-packing family – were seldom out of the screen magazines, which included pictures of them posing blissfully with their baby daughter Linda Susan, born in January 1948. By the end of the following year, however, troubled by her husband’s excessive drinking – he had been arrested for drunken driving – and his philandering, Temple filed for divorce.

With his career on the skids, Agar joined Alcoholics Anonymous, remarried and tried to remake himself by keeping a straight face amid campy situations in films such as The Revenge Of The Creature, Tarantula (both 1955), The Mole People (1956), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) and The Attack Of The Puppet People (1958).

These enjoyably ridiculous low-budget pictures contrasted greatly with the films he made in the 1940s. Before Selznick signed him for a five-year contract at $150 a week, with acting lessons thrown in, Agar had made his screen debut opposite his young wife in Fort Apache (1948), in which Henry Fonda’s martinet colonel refuses to allow his daughter (Temple) to marry the non commissioned Lieutenant O’Rouke (Agar). Nonetheless, the on-screen love affair blossoms, reflecting what audiences wanted to believe was the pair’s true-life romance.

The following year, they co-starred in an anti-feminist comedy, Adventure In Baltimore. Agar then appeared as another naive but brave young officer in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), vying humorously with Harry Carey Jr for the hand of Joanne Dru, under the fatherly eye of John Wayne.

He was with Wayne again in The Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949), as a cocky recruit with an axe to grind; when Wayne dies, Agar grimly leads his men forward. Two decades later, Wayne gave him small roles in The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970) and Big Jake (1971).

Among Agar’s other westerns were Along The Great Divide (1951), giving good support to Kirk Douglas, and Star In The Dust (1956), in which he got top billing as a sheriff battling to convince the townsfolk of his methods. Many more movies followed until his last appearance, in Miracle Mile (1989). He then became a popular guest at US science-fiction conventions.

Agar is survived by his daughter, and the two sons of his second marriage, to former model Loretta Combs, who died in 2000.

John Agar, film actor, born January 31 1921; died April 7 2002

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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