Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Tribute To John Agar

(January 31, 1921 – April 7, 2002)

“…. if I give anybody any enjoyment, I'm doing my job, and that's what counts."

Early Life

John Agar was born in Chicago, Illinois into a wealthy Chicago meat packing family as the oldest of 4 children on Jan 31, 1921. 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.

After the death of his father, John and his family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1942. 

War Service 

During World War II, a 20 year old John Agar left his studies and enlisted and served in the United States Army Air Corps, mostly at the March Field in Riverside, California. He served as a physical fitness instructor on account of his solid physique. He left the AAF in 1946 having achieved the rank of sergeant at the age of 24.


John Agar is often best remembered for being the first husband of actress Shirley Temple (a school friend of his sister) whom he married in 1945. Agar was 24 years old and Temple was only 17.

A foretaste of what was to come regarding the marriage soon emerged with the media frenzy and constant scrutiny surrounding Agar’s relationship with Shirley Temple.

Agar and Temple had a daughter, Linda Susan Agar in 1948.

Agar and Temple’s marriage turned out to be a troubled one due in part to Agar's drinking problems and the pressures arising from their high public profile. John Agar hated being constantly referred to as "Mr. Shirley Temple" in the papers. He turned to alcohol to help cope with the mounting pressures. 

After only 4 years of marriage, Temple sued for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1949.

After his divorce from Temple, Agar remarried in 1951 to model Barnett Combs. They had two sons, Martin Agar and John G. Agar, III. The marriage lasted for 49 years until Loretta’s death in 2000.

Acting Career 

Movie producer and Temple’s boss, David O. Selznick signed Agar to a five-year acting contract starting at $150 a week, including acting lessons!

Agar and his wife Shirley Temple worked together in Ford's classic 1948 Western film, Fort Apache and in the film, Adventure in Baltimore. Agar worked with John Wayne in Fort Apache and again in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. He also worked with Wayne in the classic World War 2 film, Sands of Iwo Jima. Agar went on to make a total of six movies with John Wayne.

John Agar’s career was unfortunately punctuated by alcohol-fuelled incidents. In 1950 Agar was fined for reckless driving and in 1951 was jailed for five months for drunk driving. Agar was released after 60 days on probation. In 1953 he was arrested for drink driving yet again and was sentenced to 120 days’ imprisonment.

The news media turned against John Agar who was not long before considered to have been one of Hollywood's most popular leading men.

No longer having the status of an A-movie star, Agar did manage to continue with his acting career by playing leading roles in low-budget science fiction, Western, and horror B movies in the 1950s and 1960s. He was to eventually achieve something of a cult status among classic science fiction movie fans.

John appeared in many science fiction films, some of which have already been featured in this blog;

(sequel to "Creature from the Black Lagoon")




Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) 
Attack of the Puppet People (1958) 
Destination Space (1959) 
Invisible Invaders (1959) 
The Hand of Death (1962) 
Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) 
Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) 
Zontar the Thing from Venus (1966) 
(remake of 1956 Roger Corman’s, "It Conquered the World") 

As the popularity of science fiction films began to wane in the 1960's, John Agar appeared mostly in Western genre films.

Although acting roles grew more scarce for Agar, his loyal friend of over 20 years, John Wayne, gave Agar supporting roles in the Westerns, The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), and Big Jake (1971).

In tribute to John Agar’s contributions to science fiction, director John Guillermin also gave Agar a cameo role in the 1976 remake of the 1933 classic, King Kong.

In addition to these movie roles, John Agar made several guest appearances on popular T.V. programs in the 1970's and 1980's, such as Charlie's Angels, Police Story, and an episode of The Twilight Zone. Agar was also in great demand at sci-fi conventions.


John Agar died on April 7, 2002 at Burbank, California of complications from emphysema. He was survived by his three children.

Awards & Legacy 

John Agar was awarded the "Lifetime Career Award" by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films in 1981.

Agar was quite realistic about his career, and the films he appeared in:

“To me the idea of just working is what's fun, I don't give a doggone what kind of part.” However, “a lot of the pictures I made were not released--they escaped.” 

Thank you John Agar for doing your job: giving us a lot of fun!

©Chris Christopoulos 2016