John George Agar Jr.
January 31, 1921
|Died||April 7, 2002 (aged 81)|
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Riverside National Cemetery|
(m. 1945; div. 1950)
(m. 1951; died 2000)
John George Agar Jr. (January 31, 1921 - April 7, 2002) was an American film and television actor. He is best known for starring alongside John Wayne in the films Sands of Iwo Jima, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In his later career he was the star of B movies, such as Tarantula, The Mole People, The Brain from Planet Arous, Revenge of the Creature, Flesh and the Spur and Hand of Death. He was the first husband of Shirley Temple.
Agar's career suffered in the wake of his divorce, but he developed a niche playing leading men in low-budget science fiction, Western, and horror movies in the 1950s and 1960s. John Wayne gave him several supporting roles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In later years he worked extensively in television.
Agar was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lillian (née Rogers) and John George Agar Sr., a meat packer. He was educated at the Harvard School for Boys in Chicago and Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. He graduated from Trinity-Pawling Preparatory School in Pawling, New York, but did not attend college. He and his family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1942, after his father's death.
During World War II, Agar joined the Navy Air Corps, had basic training in Texas, and instructed in physical training at March Field in Riverside, California. He later transferred to the United States Army Air Corps. He was a sergeant at the time he left the AAF in 1946.
After his marriage with Temple, her boss at the time, David O. Selznick, signed Agar to a five-year acting contract starting at $150 a week, including acting lessons. Agar made his film debut as Temple's love interest in Fort Apache (1948), a John Ford western for RKO starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda. It was a financial and critical success.
RKO used him in The Woman on Pier 13 (1950), an anti-communist drama that was a pet project of Howard Hughes. It was Agar's first movie without Temple, and he was billed after Robert Ryan and Laraine Day. It was another flop.
More successful was a reunion with Wayne and Ford, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), in which Agar played the romantic lead. It was a sizeable hit and has come to be regarded as a classic. Even more popular was the World War II film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) where Agar supported John Wayne. Made by Republic Pictures, it was a sizeable hit, earning Wayne an Oscar nomination and getting Agar some good reviews.
Agar had support roles in Bait (1954), a Hugo Haas drama with Cleo Moore; The Rocket Man (1954), a Charles Coburn comedy co-written by Lenny Bruce; and Shield for Murder (1954), a film noir starring and co-directed by Edmond O'Brien.
In 1954 Agar signed a seven-year contract with Universal. He began the association with Revenge of the Creature (1955), the popular first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); it was produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold. He was borrowed by Lippert Pictures for The Lonesome Trail (1955), then, at Universal, made a second film for Haas with Cleo Moore, Hold Back Tomorrow (1955).
Agar made another science fiction film, Tarantula (1955), made by Alland and Arnold, which was popular and became a cult favorite.
Universal starred him in a Western, Star in the Dust (1956), produced by Albert Zugsmith. A new company, American International Pictures, borrowed Agar for a Western, Flesh and the Spur (1956). Then he went back to Universal for The Mole People (1956), produced by Alland.
Agar remained in demand for low budget science fiction, horror and Western films. He starred in The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) for Edgar G. Ulmer at Allied Artists, then made The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) for Howco International.
Agar starred in some low budget Westerns for Fox, Ride a Violent Mile (1958) and Frontier Gun (1958). He went to the Philippines to make Cavalry Command (1958) and did two for AIP, Jet Attack (1958) and Attack of the Puppet People (1958).
Agar could be seen in Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), The Young and The Brave (1963), Of Love and Desire (1963), Law of the Lawless (1963), Stage to Thunder Rock (1965), Young Fury (1965), Johnny Reno (1966), Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1967), and Waco (1966).
Agar's sister was a schoolmate of Shirley Temple. In 1944 Agar escorted Temple to a party held by her boss at the time, David O. Selznick. The two were married in 1945. Agar and Temple had a daughter together, Linda Susan Agar, born 1948 (who was later known as Susan Black, taking the surname of her stepfather, Charles Alden Black). However, the marriage foundered, in part because of Agar's drinking (he had been arrested for drunk driving) and in part because of pressures of their high public profile. Temple sued for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1949. The two were divorced on December 7, 1950. After the divorce, Agar had little contact with his daughter or with Temple.
Agar remarried in 1951 to model Loretta Barnett Combs (1922-2000). They tried to elope but officials refused to marry them for an hour because Agar had been drinking. They remained married for 49 years until her death in 2000. They had two sons, Martin Agar and John G. Agar, III.
In 1950 Agar was fined for reckless driving. In 1951 he was sentenced to five months in jail for drunk driving, and released on probation after 60 days. In 1953 Agar was again arrested for drunk driving, and sentenced to 120 days in prison. In 1960 he was again arrested for drunk driving.
Agar died on April 7, 2002, in Burbank, California from complications from emphysema. He was 81. He was buried beside his wife at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California. He was survived by his three children, four grandchildren, and two brothers.
As for being associated with science fiction B movies, Agar said, "I don't resent being identified with B science fiction movies at all", Agar later said. "Why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I'm doing my job, and that's what counts."
The television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 has made fun of several of Agar's films, including The Mole People, Women of the Prehistoric Planet and Revenge of the Creature.