Lex Barker

Submitted by on Oct 16, 2015

Lex Barker (1919-1973)

Born Alexander Barker Jr. in New York on May 8, 1919, Lex Barker came from a wealthy family that didn’t think too much of performing artists. Therefore, in the early 1940s when Barker decided to drop out of Princeton to become an actor, his family practically disowned him. Although he was spotted by 20th Century-Fox talent scouts and was offered a contract, Barker enlisted in the Armed Forces during World War II, as many other actors had done. After the war, the talented Barker attempted to resume his acting career and began landing small roles in good films. But he would have to wait for stardom until 1949, when producer Sol Lesser selected Lex Barker, after screening hundreds of actors to replace Johnny Weissmuller. for the title role in Tarzan’s Magic Fountain .

LEFT: Barker as Tarzan. CENTER: Working out in the 1950s. RIGHT: Signed photo, thanks to Carol L. Simonson. You will find more photos like these in the Lex Barker Gallery

Barker’s first outing as Tarzan, Tarzan’s Magic Fountain (1949; with Brenda Joyce, Albert Dekker, and Evelyn Ankers ) was arguably his best Tarzan film. In addition to Tarzan’s Magic Fountain. Barker made four more Tarzan films for Sol Lesser: Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950; with Robert Alda), Tarzan’s Peril (1951; with George Macready), Tarzan’s Savage Fury (1952; with Dorothy Hart), and Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953; with Raymond Burr. Tom Conway, and Monique van Vooren). The next actor to take on the role of Tarzan was Gordon Scott in 1955.

With the Tarzan series behind him, Barker’s film career began to stall; the rise of television had erased many roles for the handsome leading man. He made a dozen or so pictures, including several westerns, between 1954 and 1958—the best of these includes The Girl in the Kremlin (1957; with Zsa Zsa Gabor ) and Strange Awakening (1958). Lex Barker’s career got a second wind in 1958, when he began making films in Europe, a move that saw his popularity explode once again. He was especially successful in Germany, where he made many films in several popular series. In the early 1960s, Barker was hailed as the best foreign actor in Germany.

Married five times, Barker’s two most famous wives were Arlene Dahl (1951-52) and Lana Turner (1953-57). With his first wife, Constanze Thurlow, Barker had a son and daughter, but that union ended in 1950. His fourth wife, Irene Labhardt, bore Barker a son, Christopher, in 1960 (Christopher Barker is now an actor). Sadly, Labhardt died suddenly in 1962. By 1965, Barker married again, this time to Maria del Carmen Cervera, but this relationship soured quickly.

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