John Gavin, Actor in ‘Psycho’ and ‘Spartacus,’ Dies at 86

John Gavin, who reached the pinnacle of his acting career with roles in Douglas Sirk’s “Imitation of Life,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and the epic “Spartacus,” later serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the early ’70s and as U.S. ambassador to Mexico under Ronald Reagan, died Friday morning in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 86.

The actor was signed to a contract and almost played James Bond in the film “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Gavin was SAG president from 1971-73 and as President Reagan’s first ambassador to Mexico from 1981-86.

His two films with German-born director Douglas Sirk in the late 1950s, “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” and “Imitation of Life,” greatly raised his profile in Hollywood and around the country.

Shot in black-and-white CinemaScope, and adapted from the novel by “All Quiet on the Western Front” author Erich Maria Remarque, “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” (1958) was the first film in which Gavin starred, and the Sirk melodrama was remarkable for its sympathetic portrait of Germans near the end of WWII — made just 13 years after that war to defeat the Nazis had ended. Gavin portrayed a weary German soldier returning from the Russian front to a Hamburg destroyed by Allied bombing. Fruitlessly searching for his family, he falls in love with fellow orphan Elisabeth (Liselotte Pulver), but both of them know he must return to the front.

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