Turhan Bey

Turhan Bey (30 March 1922  30 September 2012)[1] was an Austrian-born[2] actor of Turkish and Czech Jewish origin. Turhan was active in Hollywood from 1941 to 1953. He was dubbed "The Turkish Delight" by his fans.[3] After his return to Austria, he pursued careers as a photographer and stage director. Returning to Hollywood after a 40-year hiatus, he made several guest appearances in 1990s television series including SeaQuest DSV, Murder, She Wrote and Babylon 5 as well as a number of films. After retiring he appeared in a number of documentaries, including a German-language documentary on his life.

Turhan Bey
Turhan Gilbert Selahattin Sahultavy

(1922-03-30)30 March 1922
Vienna, Austria
Died30 September 2012(2012-09-30) (aged 90)
Vienna, Austria
Years active19411953 and 19901998

Life and career

Turhan was born Turhan Gilbert Selahattin Sahultavy in Vienna, Austria, on 30 March 1922, as the son of a Turkish diplomat and a Czechoslovakian Jewish mother.[3][4][5]

After the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany and his parents' divorce, he and his mother emigrated to the U.S., initially settling in New Hampshire. In 1939 they moved to Los Angeles.[6][7]


Bey was an acting student at Ben Bard's School of Dramatic Art and was active in the Pasadena Playhouse.[8]

When he enrolled in classes to improve his English, he also was asked to play a role in a teacher's play.

Bey says it was Bard who helped come up with his stage name. He said, "He knew that 'Bey' was a term of respect in Turkey so said, 'Why don't we just make it Turhan Bey?'"[7]

In December 1939 he appeared in Bard's Talent Scout Revue on stage. "Vivid playing and several fine characterizations distinguished the evening" reported the Los Angeles Times.[9]

A talent scout from Warner Brothers was in the audience, was impressed and signed him to a contract, under the name of Turhan Bey.[6]

Warner Bros

Bey appeared in a number of films in small roles, usually playing someone sinister: Shadows on the Stairs (1941), and Footsteps in the Dark (1941) with Errol Flynn. Warners then dropped him.


Bey moved to Universal, where he had small roles in Raiders of the Desert (1941) (which had an early appearance from Maria Montez), and Burma Convoy (1941).[10]

He went to RKO to appear in The Gay Falcon (1941), the first in The Falcon series of B movies. He returned to Universal for a small role in Bombay Clipper (1942), starring Montez and directed by John Rawlins.

Bey had a slightly bigger part in Unseen Enemy (1942), directed by Rawlins, playing a Japanese spy. He was in a serial, Junior G-Men of the Air (1942). Bey was in Drums of the Congo (1942) then went back to RKO for The Falcon Takes Over (1942), an adaptation of Farewell My Lovely.

Bey played a South Sea islander in Danger in the Pacific (1942), and a Japanese officer in Destination Unknown (1942). He had an excellent part as the Egyptian follower of Kharis in The Mummy's Tomb (1942) with Lon Chaney Jr.[11] which he later said was his favorite film.[12]

Bey's first "A" movie in color was Arabian Nights (1942) with Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu directed by Rawlins; Bey had a support role as a captain. The movie was a huge success and led to a series of exotic adventure stories starring Montez. Bey was noticed too, one reviewer calling him "a handsome snake in the grass."[13]

Bey was in another serial for Universal, The Adventures of Smilin' Jack (1942), then had his best chance to date with White Savage (1943). This was a follow up to Arabian Nights, reuniting Montez, Hall and Sabu; Bey was cast in the important role of Montez's wastrel brother. Arthur Lubin directed and the movie was a hit.

Warner Bros borrowed Bey to play a small role in a George Raft movie set in Turkey, Background to Danger (1943).


By now Bey was receiving a lot of fan mail and Universal began to build him into a star. Hedda Hopper called him a "Turkish Valentino."[14]

He was top billed in a horror film, The Mad Ghoul (1943), with Evelyn Ankers.[15]

When Sabu enlisted in the army, Bey took his place in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944), a Technicolor spectacular with Montez and Hall directed by Lubin. Bey was top billed and the film was very popular. Bey had a cameo in Universal's all-star Follow the Boys (1944).

Bey was meant to be reunited with Montez and Hall in Gypsy Wildcat (1944) when MGM borrowed him to play a Chinese in Dragon Seed (1944) starring Katharine Hepburn and Walter Huston. His part in Wildcat went to Peter Coe.[16][17]

Dragon Seed earned over $4 million but lost money due to its high cost.[18] Bey said the experience of working at MGM was "very exciting" although he "almost preferred the way Universal worked, because it was faster and less time consuming."[19]

Back at Universal, Bey was the romantic male lead in the big-budget The Climax (1944) with Boris Karloff and Susanna Foster, an unsuccessful attempt to duplicate the success of The Phantom of the Opera (1943).[20] He had a key role in a musical, Bowery to Broadway (1944) which top billed Montez and Foster, but really was a vehicle for Jack Oakie.

In 1944 a poll by exhibitors of "Stars of Tomorrow" listed Bey at number nine.[21]

In May 1944 Universal announced they would star him in Return of the Sheik.[22]

Universal put Bey and Foster in a Western, Frisco Sal (1945). He was more comfortably cast in Sudan (1945) alongside Montez and Hall, where Bey got Montez at the end.[23]

MGM wanted Bey for a part in Weekend at the Waldorf but Universal and Walter Wagner wanted him for another film so he could not do it (George Zucco played the role). The Wanger film was Night in Paradise (1946), with Bey playing Aesop opposite Merle Oberon for director Arthur Lubin.[24] Bey admitted to often arriving late on set, something he later regretted.[25] The movie was a box office flop and damaged Bey's standing in Hollywood.[26]

A starring vehicle he was announced for, a swashbuckler The Don Returns, was not made.[24][27] Neither was another project announced for Bey, an adaptation of the play Command to Love, previously filmed as The Boudoir Diplomat.[28]

Army Service

As a Turkish subject, Bey had not been eligible to be called by the draft board. That changed when Turkey declared war on Germany in February 1945 and in June Bey was inducted into the army at Fort MacArthur.[29]

He served at Santa Ana Air Base for a time[30] and performed in a version of Carmen at Fort Roberts.[31]

Bey was in the army for 18 months, which halted his career's momentum.[7]

When he got out, Universal offered him a film that Bey refused, and he was put on suspension. They sold his contract, which had three years to go, to Eagle-Lion.[32]

Bey later recalled his time at Universal as "very pleasant, very constructive; the end, unfortunately, a big flop but c'est la vie... It was a studio of cooperation where the biggest producer was never too big to listen to you... I should have been a little more serious about my work but I was very young."[32]

Eagle-Lion Productions

Bey made four films with Eagle-Lion. The first was the comedy Out of the Blue (1947) with George Brent and Virginia Mayo where Bey played an artist; he replaced Richard Basehart.[33]

Bey followed it with the swashbuckler Adventures of Casanova (1947) supporting Arturo de Cordova. He was announced for Rainbow Ridge but James Craig did it instead.[34] He was also announced for Blood on the Snow which became Cannon City with another actor.[35]

Bey made the thriller The Amazing Mr. X (1948) with Lynn Bari, in which Bey was top billed.[36]

His fourth film for Eagle-Lion was Parole, Inc (1948) with Michael O'Shea.

In August 1948 he appeared on stage in The Second Man in Princeton.[37] J. Arthur Rank offered him Son of Genghis Khan in England but it was not made.[38]

Final Films as Star

Bey made Song of India (1949) at Columbia with Sabu and Gail Russell. The film was not a success.[39]

He bought an interest in a cafe in Palm Springs saying "people have to eat."[40] The same year he tried to get financing for a film on Sir Edward Coke, A Lion Under the Throne.[41]

Bey was called to Europe to handle business and property matters. What was intended to be a three-month stay lasted three years.

In Austria he produced, but did not star in, Stolen Identity (1953).

He returned to Hollywood and waited six months before being cast in a film, Sam Katzman's Prisoners of the Casbah (1953), billed after Gloria Grahame and Cesar Romero.[42][32] He announced he had set up his own production company, Metropolitan Pictures, and wanted to produce but not star in Dikov, a film about a boy and his bird.[43]

He was to appear in Those Redheads from Seattle with Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl[44] however did not.


Facing a scandal, he moved back to Vienna and lived with his mother while working as a photographer.[42]

Return to Hollywood

Turhan returned to the United States in the early 1990s. He appeared in episodes of SeaQuest 2032, Murder, She Wrote, VR.5, and The Visitor. He also guest starred in two episodes of the science fiction TV series Babylon 5: first as the Emperor of the Centauri Republic (who also had the name Turhan), and later as a Minbari Ranger named Turval.

Bey was in the Fred Olen Ray thriller Possessed by the Night (1994), the drama Healer (1994), The Skateboard Kid 2 (1995), and Grid Runners (1995).

A documentary film about Turhan, Vom Glück verfolgt. Wien – Hollywood – Retour, was made in 2002 by Andrea Eckert.

Another documentary in which he appeared was film historian Scott MacQueen's included Extra Bonus, filmed in 2000, on Universal Studio's Phantom of the Opera and The Invisible Man double-DVD pairing, released in 2004. This also included an interview with Jennifer Rains, Claude Rains' daughter, known as Jessica Rains.

Personal life

Bey was romantically linked with Lana Turner at one time. In September 1944 he had a brawl over Turner with the latter's ex-husband Stephen Crane.[45] His relationship with Turner ended when he went into the army.[46][47]


Turhan died on 30 September 2012 from Parkinson's disease.[48] He was cremated at Feuerhalle Simmering, where his ashes are buried next to his mother's.

Turhan Bey's long absence from Hollywood was referenced in the first part of the 1969 Get Smart episode "To Sire, with Love", aired February 15., in the US. Maxwell Smart claims that after appearing in an unspecified movie involving mummies, Bey was cursed and his career never recovered.

In a 1980 episode of Alice called "Dog Day Evening", Vera uses Turhan Bey's name in a rhyming game.


Year Film Role Notes
1941 Shadows on the Stairs Ram Singh
1941 Footsteps in the Dark Ahmed
1941 Raiders of the Desert Hassen Mohammed
1941 Burma Convoy Mr. Yuchau
1941 The Gay Falcon Manuel Retana
1941 Bombay Clipper Captain Chundra
1942 Unseen Enemy Ito
1942 Junior G-Men of the Air Henchman Araka
1942 The Falcon Takes Over Jules Amthor Uncredited
1942 Danger in the Pacific Tagani
1942 Drums of the Congo Juma
1942 Destination Unknown Captain Muto
1942 The Mummy's Tomb Mehemet Bey
1942 Arabian Nights Captain of the Guard
1943 The Adventures of Smilin' Jack Kageyama Serial film
1943 White Savage Tamara
1943 Captive Wild Woman End Narrator Voice, Uncredited
1943 Background to Danger Hassan
1943 Crazy House Turhan Bey Uncredited
1943 The Mad Ghoul Eric Iverson
1944 Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Jamiel
1944 Dragon Seed Lao Er Tan – Middle Son
1944 The Climax Franz Munzer
1944 Bowery to Broadway Ted Barrie
1945 Frisco Sal Dude Forante
1945 Sudan Herua
1946 Night in Paradise Aesop
1947 Out of the Blue David Gelleo
1948 Adventures of Casanova Lorenzo
1948 The Amazing Mr. X Alexis
1948 Parole, Inc. Barney Rodescu
1949 Song of India Gopal
1953 Prisoners of the Casbah Ahmed
1993 SeaQuest DSV Dimitri Rossovich TV series (one episode: "Treasure of the Mind")
1994 Possessed by the Night Calvin
1994 Healer Igor Vostovich
1995, Broadcast Jan.22, US. Murder, She Wrote Sherif Faris TV series (one episode: "Death 'N Denial")
1995 VR.5 Abernathy TV series (one episode: "Reunion")
1995 Grid Runners Dr. Cameron
1997 The Visitor TV series (one episode: "The Black Box")
1995, 1998 Babylon 5 Centauri Emperor Turhan / Turval TV series (two episodes: "The Coming of Shadows" and "Learning Curve" )
2000 The Skateboard Kid II Zeno, an Angel
2002 Vom Glück verfolgt. Wien – Hollywood – Retour Himself TV documentary
Year Film Notes
1953 Stolen Identity Producer


  1. Garrett 2005, 28.
  2. Monush, Barry (9 February 2019). "Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965". Hal Leonard Corporation. Retrieved 9 February 2019 via Google Books.
  3. Feramisco & Koster 2008, 167.
  4. "Czech Boy Makes Good". Voice. 18, (20). Tasmania, Australia. 19 May 1945. p. 4. Retrieved 5 August 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. Hevesi, Dennis (13 October 2012). "Turhan Bey, 90, Screen's 'Turkish Delight'". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  6. Vallance, Tom (22 October 2012). "Turhan Bey: Actor who worked with Hepburn and Montez". The Independent.
  7. Katz, Ephraim (1979). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-50601-2. P.118.
  8. ON APPROVAL: What's Doing in Little Theaters Katherine Von Blon. Los Angeles Times 10 Dec 1939: C4.
  9. Pair Invade Film Desert Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. 9 July 1941: 16.
  10. Turkish Actor Makes Debut in Mystery Film Los Angeles Times 7 Dec 1942: 25.
  11. "Interview with Turhan Bay". You Tube. 1995.
  12. Film, 'Arabian Nights,' Brimful of Fascination Tinee, Mae. Chicago Daily Tribune 22 Jan 1943: 16.
  13. Hedda Hoppers LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 8 May 1943: 7.
  14. Hedda Hoppers LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 8 May 1943: 7.
  15. Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (2 Oct 1943). "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Turhan Bey, Czech Actor, Will Appear Opposite Katharine Hepburn in 'Dragon Seed'". New York Times. p. 19.
  16. DRAMA AND FILM: Sacrosanct Chaplin Studio Stage Invaded Long Hiatus in Lana Turner Career Approaching End; Coe Gets Bey Role Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 4 Oct 1943: A8.
  17. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  18. Weaver p 78
  19. Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomahawk Press 2011 p 290-291
  20. "SAGA OF THE HIGH SEAS". The Mercury. Hobart, Tasmania. November 11, 1944. p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  21. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Blanche Thebom and Leonard Warren Signed for Fox Film -- Two Openings Today Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 19 May 1944: 15.
  22. 'Willie' Will Bring Return of John Payne: Turhan Bey, Susanna Foster Thrice Costarred; Tenor Discovery Hailed Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 11 Sep 1944: 8.
  23. 'A Night in Paradise' Will Star Turhan Bey: Winfield Sheehan Signs Darryl Hickman to Play Eddie Rickenbacker as Boy Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 10 Nov 1944: 13.
  24. Weaver p 79
  25. Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p442
  26. Rome Haul' Reviving; Bey Will Swashbuckle Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 12 Oct 1944: 11.
  27. SCREEN NEWS: 'Dear Ruth' Is Bought for Reported $450,000 New York Times 8 Feb 1945: 14.
  28. Rehabilitation Urged Los Angeles Times 5 June 1945: A12.
  29. TURHAN BEY BECOMES STAGEHAND IN ARMY Los Angeles Times 14 Nov 1945: A2
  30. Bey called Candidate for Bullfighter Role Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 11 Sep 1945: 11.
  31. Weaver p 81
  32. BRENT, BEY WILL DO COMEDY MYSTERY New York Times 19 Feb 1947: 32.
  33. SCREENPLAYS GETS SPACE FOR MOVIES New York Times 10 June 1947: 37.
  34. Bey Will Portray Killer; MacMurray Movie Set Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 4 Feb 1948: 17.
  35. Hedda Hopper--LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 29 Nov 1947: 7.
  36. STRAW HAT TRAIL New York Times 29 Aug 1948: X2
  37. Daring Documentary Soviet Expose Planned; England Bids for Turhan Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times20 Sep 1948: A7.
  38. Sturges to Guide Betty; 'Song of India' Jells Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 11 May 1948: 23.
  39. Stewart Will Do Good Scout Deed Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 21 Jan 1949: 14.
  40. Kramer Signs Zinnemann; Build-up for Thompson; Carey, O'Hara in 'Bowie' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 7 July 1949: 23.
  41. Lamparski, p.93.
  42. Turhan Bey to Produce and Star; Anna Sten Named Film Consultant Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 3 Oct 1952: B9.
  43. Katzman Ups Actioners; Hartman Building Stars; Turhan Bey Reappears Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times ]12 Nov 1952: B7.
  44. Land Turner's Ex-Mate and Turhan Bey Scuffle Los Angeles Times 18 Sep 1944: A1
  45. Lana Turner Has New Heart Throb Los Angeles Times 31 Oct 1945: A1
  46. "Lana Turner Loses Out In 'Perfect' Affair With Turhan Bey". The Dowerin Guardian And Amery Line Advocate. XIX, (39). Western Australia. 20 September 1946. p. 9 (Modern Weekly News Magazine). Retrieved 10 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  47. Hevesi, Dennis (11 October 2012). "Turhan Bey, Actor, Dies at 90". The New York Times.


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