Who was John Agar?
John George Agar Jr. was an American actor. In the early part of his career, he garnered fame for co-starring with John Wayne in films like ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’, ‘Fort Apache’, and ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’. He then found success as a star of B-movies like ‘Tarantula’, ‘The Mole People’, ‘The Brain from Planet Arous’, ‘Revenge of the Creature’, ‘Flesh and the Spur,’ and ‘Hand of Death’. A native of Chicago, Agar served in the United States Army Air Corps before becoming an actor. His first wife was actress Shirley Temple, and through her, he found his early gigs as an actor. When they divorced in 1950, Agar experienced a period of turbulence in his professional life. Eventually, with the help of John Wayne, he once more found his footing in the entertainment industry. In his later years, he became a prominent TV actor. In 1981, Agar was awarded the Life Career Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. A decade later, he received the Golden Boot Award.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on January 31, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois, John Agar was one of the four children of Lillian (née Rogers) and John George Agar Sr. He had a sister named Joyce.
Agar attended the Harvard School for Boys in Chicago and Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, and eventually graduated from Trinity-Pawling Preparatory School in Pawling, New York. Following the death of his father, Agar relocated to Los Angeles in 1942, along with his family.
During the final years of the World War II, Agar enlisted in the Navy Air Corps but later transferred to the United States Army Air Corps. By the time he retired from the AAF in 1946, he had risen through the ranks to become a sergeant.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
While John Agar was married to Temple, he met her boss, David O. Selznick, who hired him on a five-year contract and arranged acting lessons for him. He made his screen debut opposite Temple in the 1948 western film ‘Fort Apache’. He also worked with John Wayne and Henry Fonda for the first time in this film.
He shared screen space with Wayne and Fonda once more in ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ (1949). In 1950, he starred in the war film ‘Breakthrough’ which depended significantly on pre-existing war footage.
He played Billy Shear in the Kirk Douglas-starrer ‘Along the Great Divide’ in 1951. Agar portrayed the protagonist Bill Buchanan in Abner Biberman’s 1954 film ‘The Golden Mistress’.
In 1954, he entered into a seven-year contract with Universal and appeared in the 1955 film ‘Revenge of the Creature’, the first sequel to the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954). In 1955, he also starred in the cult classic ‘Tarantula’.
Although he stopped portraying main characters in mainstream films in the 1960s, he found success as a B-movie star. He did a row of small budget science fiction, horror and western films, including ‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ (1962), ‘Stage to Thunder Rock’ (1965), ‘Johnny Reno’ (1966), ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1967), and ‘Waco’ (1966).
In the 1970s, his friend Wayne garnered him roles in films like ‘Chisum’ (1970) and ‘Big Jake’ (1971).
Agar made his TV debut in an episode of ‘Hollywood Opening Night’ in 1952 and went to play various roles in shows like ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Rawhide’, ‘Bat Masterson’, ‘Branded’, ‘Hondo’, and ‘Highway to Heaven’. His last screen appearance was in the 2005 comedy horror film ‘The Naked Monster’.
John Agar worked with Wayne and Forrest Tucker in the 1949 war film ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’. He was cast as PFC Peter "Pete" Conway, an arrogant educated son of an officer, and earned rave reviews for his performance. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Family & Personal Life
John Agar had been married twice. He and Shirley Temple knew each other since they were both children as she was his sister’s schoolmate. They married on September 19, 1945, and had a daughter together, Linda Susan (born January 30, 1948).
Temple filed for divorce in 1949, citing mental cruelty as the reason. It was finalised on December 7, 1950. The dissolution of their marriage was credited to its constant exposure to the spotlight as well as to Agar’s drinking. In the subsequent years, he had little contact with Temple and his daughter.
His second wife was model Loretta Barnett Combs, whom he married on May 16, 1951. She gave birth to two sons, Martin Agar and John G. Agar III. They were married for 49 years prior to Combs’ death in 2000.
At the age of 81, Agar passed away on April 7, 2002, in Burbank, California, from complications from emphysema. He is interred in Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California, beside Combs.