John Derek Biography

John Derek was an American actor, director and producer who helped his fourth wife Bo Derek jumpstart an illustrious acting career in Hollywood. Read this biography to learn about his childhood, achievements, family life and fun facts about him.

John Derek
Quick Facts

Birthday: August 12, 1926

Nationality: American

Famous: Actors American Men

Died At Age: 71

Sun Sign: Leo

Also Known As: Derek Delevan Harris

Born in: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Famous as: Actor

Height: 6'1" (185 cm), 6'1" Males

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Bo Derek (m. 1976 – div. 1998), Linda Evans (m. 1968 – div. 1974), Pati Behrs (m. 1948 – div. 1956), Ursula Andress (m. 1957 – div. 1966)

father: Lawson Harris

mother: Dolores Johnson

children: Russell Derek, Sean Catherine Derek

Died on: May 22, 1998

place of death: Santa Maria, California

U.S. State: California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

City: Los Angeles

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John Derek, who was born as Derek Delevan Harris, was an American actor, director, producer and photographer. He was the favourite film star of teenagers in the 1950s for his strikingly handsome and hot-eyed looks. He is recognized for his work in 'Rogues of Sherwood Forest', 'Knock on Any Door', 'The Ten Commandments', 'Ghosts Can't Do It', '10' and 'Bolero'. In his youth, his dictum was "Live fast, die young and make a good-looking corpse". After appearing in dozens of films, he lost interest in acting and turned to direction and production of movies. He also explored still photography to some extent. Besides work, he made headlines for marrying four glamorous starlets in his lifetime. His fourth marriage to Bo Derek lasted the longest, from 1976 until his last breath in 1998. He was also known as Bo Derek’s Svengali after launching her meteoric career under 'Svengali Productions', which was their joint company. He died at the age of 71 due to heart failure. He was living in a ranch in Santa Ynez Valley with Bo and claimed to have very few friends and no acquaintances.

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John Derek
Childhood & Early Life
  • John Derek was born on August 12, 1926 in Hollywood, California to Lawson Harris, a writer-director, and Dolores Johnson, a beautiful actress. He was their only child and naturally, he was very pampered.
  • He faced a bit of distress when his parents divorced, and he had to shuttle between their homes. Later, he spent most of his young life in a military school.
  • He was encouraged to have a movie career by Henry Willson and David O. Selznick, while he also got extreme support from Jock Mahoney and his wife. David cast him in small roles in 'Since You Went Away' (1944) and 'I'll Be Seeing You' (1944), the Selznick Pictures productions.
  • Derek joined the United States Army to serve in the Philippines in 1944 during World War II.
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Career As Actor
  • Post war, John Derek did a small role in 'A Double Life' in 1947. He signed a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures in April, next year.
  • His big break came in 1949 through Nicholas Ray's 'Knock on Any Door', a socially conscious melodrama released by Colombia Pictures, in which he portrayed Nick Romano. This role was offered to him by Humphrey Bogart who changed his name to 'John Derek', which was legalised in 1950.
  • From 1949 to 1951, he worked for Columbia Pictures in Robert Rossen's 'All the King's Men', 'Rogues of Sherwood Forest' as Robin Hood, Phil Karlson's 'Mask of the Avenger', David Miller's 'Saturday's Hero' and Henry Levin's film noir 'The Family Secret'.
  • In 1952, Derek was cast as Steve McCleary in Phil Karlson's film noir 'Scandal Sheet'. The film was based on Samuel Fuller's novel 'The Dark Page'. In the same year, he acted in a war film 'Thunderbirds' with Republic Pictures, followed by 'Sea of Lost Ships', which released next year.
  • Before leaving Columbia in 1953, he worked for them in Sam Katzman's 'Prince of Pirates', Fred Sears' 'Mission Over Korea' and two westerns; 'The Last Posse' and 'Ambush at Tomahawk Gap'.
  • From 1954 to 1955, he played the roles of Jet Cosgravein in William Witney's 'The Outcast', Hajji Baba in Walter Wanger's 'The Adventures of Hajji Baba', John Wilkes Booth in 'Prince of Players' and Anthony Scott in Don Siegel's 'An Annapolis Story', a drama produced at Allied Artists.
  • In the same period, he signed a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures Corporation. He appeared in the following movies for the studio: Nicholas Ray's 'Run for Cover', Alvin Ganzer's 'The Leather Saint', Cecil B. DeMille's epic religious drama 'The Ten Commandments'.
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  • From 1957 to 1960, he starred in 'Pirate of the Half Moon', 'Fury at Show', 'The Flesh Is Weak', 'High Hell', 'Omar Khayyam', 'Prisoner of the Volga' and 'Exodus'. He also worked in Revue Production's TV series 'Frontier Circus', which aired on CBS.
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Career As Producer & Director
  • John Derek co-produced 'Nightmare in the Sun' in 1965, which was directed by Marc Lawrence. He also appeared in the movie with his second wife Ursula Andress.
  • He directed another Andress-starrer war film called 'Once Before I Die' in 1966. Three years later, Derek directed 'A Boy... a Girl' starring Dean Paul Martin and 'Childish Things', in which his third wife Linda Evans played the lead.
  • He worked with his fourth wife, Bo Derek, to produce the following movies: 'Love You' and '10' (1979), 'Tarzan, the Ape Man', 'Fantasies', 'Eve and That Damned Apple' (1981), 'Bolero' (1984) and 'Ghosts Can't Do It' (1990). Together, they formed Svengali Productions.
  • He also directed Shania Twain's music videos 'Any Man of Mine' and 'Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?'
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Achievements
  • John Derek was welcomed as a talented newcomer after the release of his first two movies. In no time, he became a teen heartthrob and was called 'plainly an idol for the girls' by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times in 1949.
  • He is credited for launching the successful Hollywood career of his fourth wife Bo Derek.
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Family & Personal Life
  • Derek married four times. His first three spouses were Pati Behrs (October 9, 1948 - April 3, 1956; divorced), Ursula Andress (February 2, 1957 - April 25, 1966; divorced) and Linda Evans (1968 – 1975; divorced).
  • On June 10, 1976, he married Bo Derek (birth name: Mary Cathleen Collins), and they lived together in Santa Ynez Valley until his death. He had first met her in 1973 on the sets of the film 'And Once Upon a Time' (later released as 'Fantasies') on the Greek island of Mykonos.
  • Derek had two children with Pati Behrs: Russell Andre and Sean Catherine Derek. His granddaughter’s name is Alyce Derek, who is the daughter of Russell and Lynette Berry. In 1996, he became a great-grandfather.
  • He suffered a mild heart attack in 1986, from which he had recovered. He died on May 22, 1998 in Santa Maria, California due to heart failure.
  • His daughter Sean wrote a biography titled 'Cast of Characters' (1942), in which she shared her experiences of living in a dysfunctional family and having a father like John Derek along with three beautiful step-mothers. She and her step-mother Linda have been best friends for the last 50 years, and they even stay nearby in the Washington state.
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Trivia
  • John Derek photographed his wives Ursula, Linda and Bo Derek for Playboy magazine.
  • He made regular visits to Ralph Helfer's Exotic Animal Ranch in California to contribute in the chores and to play with the animals.
  • He always spelt his middle name as Dullivan, whereas his birth certificate says Delevan.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- John Derek Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/john-derek-43834.php
Last Updated
- February 27, 2019

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