John Gavin, who had only one truly decent role as an actor and, when you get right down to it, only one really good line in his entire career, has left this mortal coil. He was 86. Until today I never knew (or cared to know) that the tall, handsome, dark-complexioned Gavin was born Juan Vincent Apablasa, and that he was of Mexican and Chilean descent, and was fluent in Spanish at an early age.
Gavin’s moment in the sun came when he played Fairvale hardware store owner Sam Loomis, the randy boyfriend of Janet Leigh‘s Marion Crane, in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho (’60).
His one great line happened when Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) visited Sam’s store in search of Lila. When Sam realized the conversation was becoming too personal and agitated, he told store clerk Bob (Frank Killmond) to “run out and get some lunch.” When Bob said, “Oh, that’s okay, Sam, I brought it with me,” Loomis said, “Run out and eat it.”
The Rock Hudson-esque Gavin was also pretty good in Douglas Sirk‘s Imitation of Life (’59) and as the young Julius Caesar in Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus, although he always brought a certain chiselled stiffness to whatever he played.
Gavin almost stepped in as the new post-George Lazenby 007 in Diamonds Are Forever (’71), but that went south when Sean Connery was lured back with a grand payday.
Gavin joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in ’65. He served a term as third vp, two terms as first vp and then as SAG president from 1971 to 1973. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from ’81 through ’86.
Pay special attention to Peter Ustinov‘s story about the first read-through of the Spartacus script, and particularly his observation about Gavin being “impervious to an atmosphere of general murmuring.” It starts around the 9:20 mark.