Actor Albert Dekker

Thomas Albert Ecke Van Dekker (December 20, 1905 – May 5, 1968) was an American character actor and politician best known for his roles in Dr. Cyclops, The Killers (1946), Kiss Me Deadly, and The Wild Bunch.

Early life and career

Dekker was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the only child of Thomas and Grace Ecke Van Dekker. He attended Richmond Hill High School, where he appeared in stage productions. He then attended Bowdoin College, where he majored in pre-med with plans to become a doctor. On the advice of a friend, he decided to pursue acting as a career instead. He made his professional acting debut with a Cincinnati stock company in 1927. Within a few months, Dekker was featured in the Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s play Marco Millions.

After a decade of theatrical appearances, Dekker transferred to Hollywood in 1937 and made his first film, 1937’s The Great Garrick. He spent most of the rest of his acting career in the cinema but also returned to the stage from time to time.

He replaced Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman in the original production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and during a five-year stint back on Broadway in the early 1960s, he played the Duke of Norfolk in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons.

Dekker appeared in some seventy films from the 1930s to the 1960s, but his four most famous screen roles were as a mad scientist in the 1940 horror film Dr. Cyclops, as a criminal mastermind in 1946’s The Killers, as a dangerous dealer in atomic fuel in the 1955 film noir Kiss Me Deadly, and as an unscrupulous railroad detective in Sam Peckinpah’s Western The Wild Bunch, released in 1969. In 1959 he played a convincing Texas Ranger, Captain Rucker, in The Wonderful Country. He was rarely cast in romantic roles, but in the film Seven Sinners, featuring a romance between Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne, Dietrich sails off with Dekker’s character at the end of the film. Dekker was an often memorable guest star – usually a villain – in numerous TV series from the 50s through to 1968, such as Rawhide, The Man From UNCLE, Mission: Impossible, Climax!, Bonanza, and I Spy. Dekker’s role as Pat Harrigan in The Wild Bunch was his last screen appearance; he died over a year before it was released.

Personal life

On April 4, 1929, Dekker married former actress Esther Guerini. The couple had two sons, John and Benjamin, and a daughter, Jan, before divorcing in 1964.

In April 1957, Dekker’s 16-year-old son, John, shot himself with a .22 rifle at the family’s home in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. He had reportedly been working on a silencer for the rifle for a year. His death was ruled accidental.

In his book-length account of the production of The Wild Bunch, writer W.K. Stratton describes Dekker as “completely nuts,” and possibly the most troubled person on a set filled with eccentrics. According to actor R.G. Armstrong, Dekker showed up to the remote Mexican shooting location of that film in 1968 with a thirteen-year-old girl he described as his wife, telling people (falsely) that he was a medical doctor, and that after filming he would retire from acting to help impoverished Africans.


Dekker’s off-screen interest in politics led to his winning a seat in the California State Assembly for the 57th Assembly District in 1944. Dekker served as a Democratic member of the Assembly until 1946.

During the McCarthy era he was an outspoken critic of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. As a result, Dekker was blacklisted in Hollywood and spent most of the blacklist period working on Broadway rather than Hollywood.


On May 5, 1968, Dekker was found dead in his Hollywood home by his fiancée, fashion model and future Love Boat creator Jeraldine Saunders. He was naked, kneeling in the bathtub, with a noose tightly wrapped around his neck and looped around the shower curtain rod. He was blindfolded, his wrists were handcuffed, there was a ball gag in his mouth, and two hypodermic needles were inserted in one arm. His body was covered in explicit words and drawings in red lipstick.

Money and camera equipment were missing, but there was no sign of forced entry. Police originally said it was suicide but the deputy coroner found no evidence of foul play nor any indication that he planned to take his life and ruled his death accidental, the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. Dekker was cremated, and his remains interred at the Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, New Jersey.

Dekker has a star, in the motion picture category, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6620 Hollywood Boulevard.


Year Title Role Notes
1937 The Great Garrick M. LeBrun Credited as Albert Van Dekker
1937 She Married an Artist Whitney Holton
1938 Extortion Jeffrey Thompson Credited as Albert Van Dekker
1938 The Lone Wolf in Paris Marquis Louis de Meyerson
1938 Marie Antoinette Comte de Provence Credited as Albert Van Dekker
1938 The Last Warning Higgs the Butler
1939 Paris Honeymoon Amorous Drunk Uncredited
1939 Hotel Imperial Sergeant Uncredited
1939 Never Say Die Kidley’s Second Uncredited
1939 The Man in the Iron Mask Louis XIII
1939 Beau Geste Legionnaire Schwartz
1939 The Great Commandment Longinus
1940 Strange Cargo Moll With Clark Gable and Joan Crawford
1940 Dr. Cyclops Dr. Thorkel
1940 Rangers of Fortune George Bird
1940 Seven Sinners Dr. Martin With John Wayne. Alternative title: Cafe of the Seven Sinners
1941 Blonde Inspiration Phil Hendricks
1941 You’re the One Luke Laramie
1941 Reaching for the Sun Herman
1941 Honky Tonk Brazos Hearn With Clark Gable and Lana Turner
1941 Buy Me That Town Louie Lanzer
1941 Among the Living John Raden / Paul Raden
1942 The Lady Has Plans Baron Von Kemp
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Himself Uncredited
1942 Yokel Boy ‘Buggsy’ Malone
1942 In Old California Britt Dawson With John Wayne
1942 Night in New Orleans Police Lieutenant William Richards
1942 Wake Island Shad McClosky
1942 The Forest Rangers Twig Dawson
1942 Once Upon a Honeymoon Gaston Le Blanc
1943 Buckskin Frontier Gideon Skene
1943 The Kansan Steve Barat
1943 In Old Oklahoma Jim “Hunk” Gardner With John Wayne. Alternative title: War of the Wildcats
1943 The Woman of the Town Bat Masterson With Claire Trevor as Dora Hand
1944 The Hitler Gang Narrator Uncredited
1944 Experiment Perilous ‘Clag’ Claghorne
1945 Salome Where She Danced Von Bohlen
1945 Incendiary Blonde Joe Cadden
1945 Hold That Blonde Police Inspector Callahan
1946 The French Key Johnny Fletcher
1946 Suspense Frank Leonard
1946 The Killers Big Jim Colfax Alternative title: A Man Alone
1946 Two Years Before the Mast Brown
1947 California Mr. Pike
1947 Slave Girl Pasha
1947 Wyoming Duke Lassiter
1947 The Pretender Kenneth Holden
1947 Cass Timberlane Boone Havock
1947 The Fabulous Texan Gibson Hart
1947 Gentleman’s Agreement John Minify with Gregory Peck and Celeste Holm
1948 Fury at Furnace Creek Edward Leverett
1948 Lulu Belle Mark Brady
1949 Tarzan’s Magic Fountain Mr. Trask
1949 Bride of Vengeance Vanetti
1949 Search for Danger Kirk
1950 The Kid from Texas Alexander Kain
1950 Destination Murder Armitage
1950 The Furies Mr. Reynolds
1951 As Young as You Feel Louis McKinley
1952 Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie Lloyd Slocum
1954 The Silver Chalice Kester
1955 East of Eden Will Hamilton with James Dean
1955 Kiss Me Deadly Dr. G.E. Soberin
1955 Illegal Frank Garland
1957 She Devil Dr. Richard Bach
1958 Machete Don Luis Montoya
1959 The Sound and the Fury Earl Snopes
1959 These Thousand Hills Marshal Conrad
1959 Middle of the Night Walter Lockman with Fredric March and Kim Novak
1959 The Wonderful Country Texas Ranger Capt. Rucker
1959 Suddenly, Last Summer Dr. Lawrence J. Hockstader
1965 Once Upon a Tractor Colonel Short
1966 Gammera, the Invincible Secretary of Defense
1967 Come Spy with Me Walter Ludeker
1969 The Wild Bunch Pat Harrigan (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1951 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse George Washington Episode: “Valley Forge”
1952 Studio One Billy Bones Episode: “Treasure Island”
1955 Goodyear Television Playhouse Episode: “The Chivington Raid”
1956 Climax! Brewster Episode: “Fear Is the Hunter”
1959 Decoy Otto Flagler Episode: “High Swing”
1960 The Witness Jimmy Hines Episode: “Jimmy Hines”
1961 Route 66 Frank Ivy Episode: “The Newborn”
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Karl Hesse Episode: “The World I Want”
1965 Seaway Captain Marland Episode: “The 34th Man”
1965 Rawhide Josh Breeden & Jonas Bolt Episodes: Josh & Crossing at White Feather
1965 The Trials of O’Brien George Brewer Episode: “Bargain Day on the Street of Regret”
1966 Mission: Impossible Colonel Shtemenko Episode: “The Short Tail Spy”
1966 Death of a Salesman Uncle Ben CBS-TV production
1967 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Harry Beldon Episode: “The Summit-Five Affair”
1968 Run for Your Life Sir Harry Hiller Episode: “A Dangerous Proposal”
1968 Bonanza Barney Sturgess Episode: “The Bottle Fighter”
1968 I Spy Indris Episode: “Shana”

External Links

Actor Albert Dekker – Wikipedia

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