This is just a short review of Lex' life which had ups and downs
like his career. Who wants to know more should read these great biographies
written by Arild Rafalzik
and Reiner Boller. At
the time they are available only in German. Maybe one day there are enough
demands for English versions ... Additionally I recommend Manfred Christ's filmography
- Lex Barker is born on 8th May as Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. in Rye, New York, USA. He is a
direct descendant of the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, and of Sir
'William Henry Crichlow', historical governor-general of Barbados. He excells
in football and track at Fessenden School and Phillips-Exeter Academy. He
attends Princeton but leaves to become an actor.
- Lex has a small part in an Off Broadway production of "The Merry Wives of
Windsor". The same year he meets his first wife, Constance Thurlow. He tries
small roles in theatre without success followed by one further theatre part in
"The Five Kings" directed by Orson Welles. A contract offered by 20th Century
Fox failes because Lex isn't yet of age. He returns home.
- He studies at evening school to become an engineer and works part time in
a steel factory. He finally graduates as an engineer.
- Aged 23 he marries Constance Thurlow on 21st January. The same year he is
called into the military service in North Africa.
- His daughter Lynne is born. While on assignment for the military in Sicily
he's heavily injured and is transferred with a headwound to the infirmary.
- Promotion to major. Another injury, this time to the leg sends him to the
army hospital in Arkansas (May - August). Later that year he signs his first
film contract "Doll Face" and gets $ 500 Dollars a week for his part.
- Signs with RKO
- Birth of his first son Alexander on 25th March. Small roles in successfull
movies, among them "The Farmer's Daughter" and "Crossfire".
- Lex takes over the role of Tarzan from Johnny Weissmuller and becomes a
star. Unfortunately his marriage with Constance Thurlow has come to an end.
- Divorce from Constance Thurlow on 2nd November, but Lex and Constance
remain good friends
- Marries Arlene Dahl on 16th April, but it's a pretty short marriage
- divorce in October. Lex quits his role as Tarzan, too, because is wants to
get better roles. At a party he meets Lana Turner, one of the greatest stars
in Hollywood at that time.
- Marries Lana Turner, they honeymoon in Sorrent and Capri. The same year
his first wife Constance Thurlow remarries as well and Lex takes over the kids
Alexander and Lynne. He starts filming in Italy.
- Returns to Hollywood and gets a new agent: Paul Kohner. The following
years he has mayor roles in some western, but still doesn't get better roles
in big productions because of his tarzan image.
- For new found company Bel Air Productions Lex does three movies: " War Drums",
" The Girl in Black Stockings" and " Jungle Heat".
His private life is much less lucky: Lana Turner suffers a miscarriage (a
girl). Depressions and alcohol problems ensue.
- Divorce from Lana Turner on 22nd June. Disappointed in the American film
industry, he turns his back on Hollywood and starts filming in Europe. His
first movie here is " The Strange Awakening", shot in England. where
he goes into other adventure films. The he moves to Italy with its blooming
film town "Cinecitta" where there are good occasions for actors. He meets
Irene Labhardt, a Swiss acting student.
- Does numerous adventure movies in Rome. Most important film of his time in
Italy will be in
- "La Dolce Vita" which causes controversery discussions but
means a highlight of his career to Lex. Marries Irene Labhardt on March 14th.
Irene gives up her job, the couple settles Rome where in
- their son Christopher is born.
- At a party in Rome Lex meets German producer Artur Brauner who engages Lex
as "Joe Como" in two movies about Dr. Mabuse (see " Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse"
and " Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse").
- Producer Horst Wendtlandt starts shooting the western books by Karl May,
first of them to be " Treasure of Silver Lake". Wendlandt who saw Lex
in " The Deerslayer", wants him to play the role of "Old
Shatterhand", a German who comes to America and befriends Winnetou, chief of
the Apaches. Lex is reluctant because he is afraid of becoming typecast again,
but Irene is able to convince him knowing the popularity of Karl May in
Germany and Europe in general. Lex becomes a star in Germany but his private
luck is over: Irene dies of Leukemia on October 23rd.
- The next years many Karl May movies are shot. Lex now gets DM 250.000 per
film. Christopher grows up with his grandparents in Switzerland.
- Engagement to Tita, who Lex first met in a plain on route to Switzerland.
- Marries Tita on March 6th and buys the luxury yacht "Peter Pan"
- At the German Bambi Awards he gets voted "Most Popular Foreign Actor"
- The time of the Karl May movies is over, but Lex has difficulties in
getting new roles. Exhibiton in a Hollywood gallery of some of his paintings
- Separation from Tita. Divorce is not valid. Lex makes a living with tennis
- On May 11th , three days after his 54th birthday, Lex Barker suffers a
fatal heart attack in the middle of Manhattan between 61st Street and
Lexington. He dies instantly. His dream of celebrating a comeback in his
native country dissolves in the anonymity of New Yorks streets.
Lex Barker was generally known as a an extremely gentle, noble and open
hearted man to the people close to him. Apart from his stunning good looks, he
was also highly intelligent (he spoke French, Spanish, Italian and a little
German). People admired him, looked up to him, worshipped him. A man who had it
all, you might think. Well, not exactly. Lex Barkers life was a constant
rollercoaster ride. Success followed by failure followed by success followed by
failure.... But no matter how deep the valley of sorrow, somehow his
determination, his will to succeed always got him out of the abyss. But the
strength it took to build bridges across those gaps in the end took their toll
A member of an extremely prominent family in New York society, Barker was
effectively disowned by his family upon his decision to become an actor. But he
ventured on. He became the tenth Tarzan and somewhat of a star. But it wasn't
enough for Lex. He wanted more. He became a superstar in Germany playing "Old
Shatterhand" or "Kara Ben Nemsi" and other adventurers in Westerns. Lex loved
playing these roles. In fact he did most of the fencing, fighting and riding
himself and had a blast. But after the fashion of making these films passed, so
did the job offers and the popularity.
Lex loved people. He once said, that "being alone was like being dead". Call
it a sick twist of fate that Barker died, alone on a crowded street in the "Big
Apple" without any of the people who loved him or he loved.
We here at ITD cannot make his dream come true. But we can keep his dream
alive. And we thank all of you people out there who surf in on these pages, and
remember the greatness and elegance of a man who died way too young.