Lex Barker

Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. (May 8, 1919 – May 11, 1973) was an American actor best known for playing Tarzan of the Apes and leading characters from Karl May's novels.[1]

Lex Barker
Lex Barker with his fiancée Karen Kondazian on May 1, 1973, 10 days before his death
Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr.

(1919-05-08)May 8, 1919
DiedMay 11, 1973(1973-05-11) (aged 54)
Years active1945–1972
Constance Rhodes Thurlow
(m. 1942; div. 1950)

Arlene Dahl
(m. 1951; div. 1952)

Lana Turner
(m. 1953; div. 1957)

Irene Labhart
(m. 1959; died 1962)

Tita Cervera
(m. 1965; div. 1972)
Partner(s)Karen Kondazian
(engaged 1972–his death 1973)

Early life

Alexander Crichlow Barker, Jr. was born on May 8, 1919 in Rye, New York. He was the second child of Alexander Crichlow Barker, Sr., a wealthy Canadian-born building contractor,[2] and his American wife, the former Marion Thornton Beals.[3]

His father later worked as a stockbroker. Barker had an elder sister, Frederica Amelia "Freddie" Barlow (1917–1980). Raised in New York City and Port Chester, New York, Lex Barker attended the Fessenden School and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He played American football as well as the oboe. He attended Princeton University, but dropped out to join a theatrical stock company, much to the chagrin of his family.[4]



Barker made it to Broadway once, in a small role in a short run of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1938.[5] He also had a small role in Orson Welles's disastrous Five Kings, which met with so many problems in Boston and Philadelphia that it never made it into New York City.[6]

World War Two

In February 1941, ten months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the United States Army. He rose to the rank of major during the war.[7] He was wounded in action (in the head and leg) fighting in Sicily.[8]He was awarded the Purple Heart twice.

Early film roles

Back in the US, he recuperated at a military hospital in Arkansas, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in Doll Face (1945), his first film.[9]

A string of small roles followed, in films such as Two Guys from Milwaukee (1945) and Cloak and Dagger (1946).


Barker signed a contract at RKO. He had small roles in The Farmer's Daughter (1947), Crossfire (1947), and Under the Tonto Rim (1947).[9]

Barker went to Paramount for Unconquered (1947). Back at RKO he was in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Velvet Touch (1948), and Return of the Bad Men (1948), playing Emmett Dalton.[9]


In Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), Barker became the tenth official Tarzan of the movies. His blond, handsome, and intelligent appearance, as well as his athletic, now 6'4" frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for 16 years. His Jane was Brenda Joyce who had been in Weissmuller's last three films.[10]

Barker's second Tarzan was Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950), where Jane was played by Vanessa Brown. In Tarzan's Peril (1951), Barker's Jane was Virginia Huston, with African location footage. Dorothy Hart was Jane in Tarzan's Savage Fury (1952), directed by Cy Endfield.[11][12]

Barker got the chance to play a non-Tarzan role in Battles of Chief Pontiac (1952), a Western.[13] He returned to the role one last time in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953).[11][12]


Barker supported Randolph Scott in Thunder Over the Plains (1953).[14]

At Universal he starred in the Western The Yellow Mountain (1954) and The Man from Bitter Ridge (1955). He went to Columbia to make Duel on the Mississippi (1955).[9]

Barker had a rare non-Western role in The Price of Fear (1956), a film noir with Merle Oberon. He was in the war movie Away All Boats (1956)[9] and the thriller The Girl in the Kremlin (1957).[15]

Barker made two films for Howard W. Koch: War Drums (1957)[9] and Jungle Heat (1957),[16]. He went to 20th Century Fox for The Deerslayer (1957),[9] then did The Girl in Black Stockings (1957).[17]


In 1957, as he found it harder to find work in American films, Barker moved to Europe (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and some German),[18] where he found popularity and starred in over 40 European films, including two movies based on the novels by Italian author Emilio Salgari (1862–1911).[19]

He started his European career with a British thriller The Strange Awakening (1958). He went to Italy to star in Captain Falcon (1959), Son of the Red Corsair (1959), The Pirate and the Slave Girl (1959), and Terror of the Red Mask (1960).[20]

Barker had a short but compelling role as Anita Ekberg's fiancé in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960).[21]

He went back to swashbucklers: Knight of 100 Faces (1960), Pirates of the Coast (1960), Robin Hood and the Pirates (1960), and The Secret of the Black Falcon (1961).[20]


In Germany, he had his greatest success. There he starred in movies based on the "Doctor Mabuse" stories (formerly filmed by Fritz Lang), in the movies The Return of Doctor Mabuse (1961).[22] He was in Doctor Sibelius (1962).

Barker then played Old Shatterhand in an adaptation of the novel by German author Karl May (1842–1912), Treasure of the Silver Lake (1962).[23] It was a huge hit, 11 movies adapting stories by Karl May were following until 1968.[24] Barker did the comedy Breakfast in Bed (1962), then the adventure movie Storm Over Ceylon (1963). He returned to Italy for The Executioner of Venice (1963)[25][26] and Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance (1963).[9]

Barker reprised his role as Old Shatterhand in Apache Gold (1964), Old Shatterhand (1964) and Last of the Renegades (1965).[9][16] He went to South Africa for Harry Alan Towers' German-British international co-production Victim Five (1964),[16][27] then returned to Germany for other adaptations of May books: The Treasure of the Aztecs (1965), The Pyramid of the Sun God (1965) .[28] 24 Hours to Kill (1965) was a British movie.[27] The Hell of Manitoba (1965) and The Desperado Trail (1966) were Westerns.[29]

In 1966, Barker was awarded the "Bambi Award" as Best Foreign Actor in Germany, where he was a very popular star.[30] He even recorded two songs in German: "Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu dir" ("I'll be on the way to you tomorrow", composed by Martin Böttcher, the composer of some of the soundtracks of the Karl May movies) and "Mädchen in Samt und Seide" ("Girl in Silk and Velvet", composed by Werner Scharfenberger).[31]

Later films included Killer's Carnival (1966), and Winnetou and the Crossbreed (1967). In the same year, he starred in a Eurospy film Spy Today, Die Tomorrow, a horror film The Blood Demon, and appeared in the anthology film Woman Times Seven (1967).[16]

He returned to the United States occasionally and made a handful of guest appearances on American television episodes, but Europe, and especially Germany, was his professional home for the remainder of his life.

Personal life

Barker was married five times:

  • Constance Rhodes Thurlow (1918-1975) (married June 27, 1942–divorced 1950),[32] a daughter of Leon Rhodes Thurlow, a vice president of the Decorated Metal Manufacturing Company.[33] They had one daughter, Lynn Thurlow Barker (April 11, 1943 – 2010) and a son, Alexander "Zan" Crichlow Barker III (March 25, 1947 – October 2, 2012). In 1952 Constance Barker married her second husband, John Lawrence Adams, a descendant of John Quincy Adams.[33]
  • Actress Arlene Dahl (married 1951–divorced 1952)[32]
  • Actress Lana Turner (married September 8, 1953–divorced July 22, 1957).[32] In Detour: A Hollywood Tragedy - My Life with Lana Turner, My Mother (1988), written by Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane, Crane claimed Barker repeatedly molested and raped her from the ages of 10 to 13, and that it was after she informed her mother of this that they divorced. According to Crane, Turner ordered him out of the house at gunpoint the morning after she learned of this.
  • Irene Labhardt (married 1957–1962; her death from leukemia), a Swiss actress. They had one son, Christopher (born 1960), who became an actor and singer.[32]
  • Tita Cervera (married 1965–divorced 1972, although divorce not deemed legally valid), a Spanish beauty pageant winner. Voted Miss Spain in 1962, she later became the wife of movie producer Espartaco Santoni in 1975 (the marriage turned out to be bigamous) and later still, in 1985, the fifth and final wife of billionaire art collector Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.[34]


Barker died on May 11, 1973 of a heart attack while walking down a street in New York City on his way to meet his fiancée, actress Karen Kondazian.[35] The funeral was in New York. He was cremated and the ashes were taken by his estranged wife Tita to Spain.



Year Title Role Notes
1945 Doll Face Jack, Coast Guardsman Uncredited
1946 Do You Love Me Party Guest Uncredited
1946 Two Guys from Milwaukee Fred, the Usher Uncredited
1946 Cloak and Dagger Man Rescued at End Uncredited
1947 The Farmer's Daughter Olaf Holstrom
1947 Crossfire Harry
1947 Under the Tonto Rim Joe, Deputy in Tonto
1947 Unconquered Royal American Officer Uncredited
1947 Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Ambulance Driver Uncredited
1948 Berlin Express Soldier Uncredited
1948 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Carpenter Foreman
1948 The Velvet Touch Paul Banton
1948 Return of the Badmen Emmett Dalton
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain Tarzan
1950 Tarzan and the Slave Girl Tarzan
1951 Tarzan's Peril Tarzan
1952 Tarzan's Savage Fury Tarzan
1952 Battles of Chief Pontiac Lt. Kent McIntire
1953 Tarzan and the She-Devil Tarzan
1953 Thunder Over the Plains Captain Bill Hodges
1954 The Mystery of The Black Jungle Tremal Naik Original (Italian) title: I misteri della giungla nera
1954 Black Devils of Kali Tramal Naik Original (Italian) title: La vendetta dei Tughs
1954 The Yellow Mountain Andy Martin
1955 The Man from Bitter Ridge Jeff Carr
1955 Duel on the Mississippi André Tulane
1956 The Price of Fear Dave Barrett
1956 Away All Boats Commander Quigley
1957 War Drums Mangas Coloradas
1957 The Girl in the Kremlin Steve Anderson
1957 Jungle Heat Dr. Jim Ransom
1957 The Deerslayer Deerslayer
1957 The Girl in Black Stockings David Hewson
1958 The Strange Awakening Peter Chance
1958 Captain Falcon Pietro Original (Italian) title: Capitan Fuoco
1959 Son of the Red Corsair Enrico di Ventimiglia Original (Italian) title: Il figlio del corsaro rosso
1959 The Pirate and the Slave Girl Dragon Drakut Original (Italian) title: La scimitarra del Saraceno
1959 Mission in Morocco Bruce Reynolds
1960 Terror of the Red Mask Marco Original (Italian) title: Terrore della maschera rossa
1960 La Dolce Vita Robert Italian film
1960 Knight of 100 Faces Riccardo D'Arce Original (Italian) title: Il cavaliere dai cento volti
1960 Pirates of the Coast Captain Luis Monterey Original (Italian) title: I pirati della costa
1960 Robin Hood and the Pirates Robin Hood Original (Italian) title: Robin Hood e i pirati
1961 The Secret of the Black Falcon Captain Don Carlos de Herrera Original (Italian) title: Il segreto dello sparviero nero
1961 Le Trésor des hommes bleus Fred Spanish/French film
1961 The Return of Dr. Mabuse FBI-Agent Joe Como Original (German) title: Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse
1962 The Invisible Dr. Mabuse FBI-Agent Joe Como Original (German) title: Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse
1962 Doctor Sibelius Dr. Georg Sibelius Original (German) title: Frauenarzt Dr. Sibelius
1962 Treasure of the Silver Lake Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Der Schatz im Silbersee
1963 Breakfast in Bed Victor H. Armstrong Original (German) title: Frühstück im Doppelbett
1963 Storm Over Ceylon Larry Stone Original (German) title: Das Todesauge von Ceylon
1963 The Executioner of Venice Sandrigo Bembo Original (Italian) title: Il boia di Venezia
1963 Kali Yug: Goddess of Vengeance Major Ford Original (Italian) title: Kali Yug, la dea della vendetta
1963 Il mistero del tempio indiano Major Ford Italian film
1963 Apache Gold Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou I
1964 Apaches' Last Battle Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Old Shatterhand
1964 Victim Five Steve Martin UK film, US title: Code 7, Victim 5
1964 The Shoot Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Der Schut
1964 Last of the Renegades Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou II
1965 The Treasure of the Aztecs Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Der Schatz der Azteken
1965 The Pyramid of the Sun God Dr. Karl Sternau Original (German) title: Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes
1965 Twenty-Four Hours to Kill Captain Jamie Faulkner UK film
1965 The Hell of Manitoba a.k.a. A Place Called Glory Clint Brenner Original (German) title: Die Hölle von Manitoba
1965 The Wild Men of Kurdistan Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Durchs wilde Kurdistan
1965 The Desperado Trail Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou III
1965 Fury of the Sabers Kara Ben Nemsi Original (German) title: Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen
1966 Who Killed Johnny R.? Sam Dobie Original (German) title: Wer kennt Johnny R.?
1966 Killer's Carnival Glenn Cassidy Original (French) title: Le carnaval des barbouzes, (Rio segment)
1966 Winnetou and the Crossbreed Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi
1967 Woman Times Seven Rik (segment "Super Simone")
1967 Spy Today, Die Tomorrow Bob Urban Original (German) title: Mister Dynamit – Morgen küßt Euch der Tod
1967 The Blood Demon Roger Mont Elise Original (German) title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel
Also released as: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism
1968 The Valley of Death Old Shatterhand Original (German) title: Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten
1970 Aoom Ristol Spanish film
1970 When You're With Me Kapitän Hannes Schneider Original (German) title: Wenn du bei mir bist


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Kurt Episode: "Red Dust"
1956 Lux Video Theatre Stephen Dexter Episode: "Hired Wife"
1956–1957 Studio 57 Brad / Robin Ridour 2 episodes
1960 Tales of the Vikings König Gordar Episode: "The Shield"
1963 Berlin-Melodie Television film
1969 It Takes a Thief Kurt 'Matt' Matson Episode: "The King of Thieves"
1971 The Name of the Game Will Cheyenne Episode: "The Man Who Killed a Ghost"
1971 The F.B.I. Owen Stuart Episode: "Three-Way Split"
1972 Night Gallery Charlie McKinley Segment: "The Waiting Room"


  • "Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu dir" / "Mädchen in Samt und Seide" 1965, Single, Decca D 19 725
  • Winnetou du warst mein Freund 1996, CD, Bear Family Records

See also


  1. Obituary Variety, May 16, 1973.
  2. Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme (2003). Lex Barker – Die Biografie. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-89602-444-2.
  3. "Miss Beals's Wedding", The New York Times, April 20, 1913.
  4. "LEX BARKER DIES; TARZAN OF MOVIES". The New York Times. May 12, 1973. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  5. The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles: A Biography, pp. 188–201
  7. Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938–1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64
  8. Freese, Gene (2017). Classic Movie Fight Scenes: 75 Years of Bare Knuckle Brawls, 1914–1989. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-4766-6943-4.
  9. Rowan 2013, p. 40.
  10. Vallance, Tom (August 15, 2009). "Brenda Joyce: Actress who played Jane to Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan". The Independent. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  11. Schneider 2012, p. viii.
  12. Drew 1986, section 742.
  13. Österberg, Bertil O. (2000). Colonial America on Film and Television: A Filmography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7864-4242-3.
  14. Nott, Robert (2004). The Films of Randolph Scott. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-7864-3759-7.
  15. Rowan, Terry (2015). Motion Pictures From the Fabulous 1950's. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-329-76077-6.
  16. Monush 2003, p. 43.
  17. Maltin, Leonard (2015). Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. New York: Penguin Random House. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.
  18. Kalat 2005, p. 150.
  19. Bergfelder 2005, p. 192.
  20. Hughes 2011, p. 40.
  21. Dyer, Richard (2018). La dolce vita. London: British Film Institute. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-8445-7392-9.
  22. Kalat 2005, p. 298.
  23. Goral, Pawel (2014). Cold War Rivalry and the Perception of the American West. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-137-36429-6.
  24. Lentz III, Harris M. (2016). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2015. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7864-7667-1.
  25. Hughes 2011, p. 42.
  26. Prickette, James (2012). Actors of the Spaghetti Westerns. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-4691-4428-3.
  27. Bergfelder 2005, p. 219.
  28. Bergfelder 2005, p. 252.
  29. Rowan 2013, p. 447.
  30. Petzel, Michael (1998). Karl-May-Filmbuch: Stories und Bilder aus der deutschen Traumfabrik [Karl May film book: Stories and Pictures from the German dream factory] (in German). Radebeul, Germany: Karl-May-Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 978-3780201539.
  31. "Music Capitals of the World". Billboard. New York. November 13, 1965.
  32. Michael & Parish 1969, p. 52.
  33. "Mrs. Barker's Nuptials", The New York Times, September 12, 1952
  34. Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968–1980. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-7864-6976-5.
  35. Boller, Reiner (November 2, 2009). "Karen Kondazian". Lex-Barker.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.


  • Bergfelder, Tim (2005). International Adventures: German Popular Cinema and European Co-productions in the 1960s. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-538-4.
  • Christ, Manfred (1994). Von Tarzan bis Old Shatterhand – Lex Barker und seine Filme [From Tarzan to Old Shatterhand - Lex Barker and his Films] (in German). Tuningen, Germany: Günter Albert Ulmer Verlag. ISBN 3-924191-81-6.
  • Drew, Bernard A. (1986). Motion Picture Series and Sequels: A Reference Guide. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415726658.
  • Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-607-3.
  • Kalat, David (2005). The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse: A Study of the Twelve Films and Five Novels. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-2337-8.
  • Michael, Paul; Parish, James Robert (1969). The American Movies Reference Book: The Sound Era. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0130281340.
  • Monush, Barry (2003). The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  • Rowan, Terry (2013). The American Western A Complete Film Guide. ISBN 978-1-300-41858-0.
  • Schneider, Jerry L. (2012). Lord of the Jungle Filming Locations of California. California: Corriganville Press. ISBN 978-0-9831972-7-0.
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