Albert Dekker (December 20, 1905 – May 5, 1968) was an American character actor and politician best known for his roles in Dr. Cyclops, The Killers, Kiss Me Deadly, and The Wild Bunch. He is sometimes credited as Albert Van Dekker or Albert van Dekker.
Early life and career
He was born Thomas Albert Ecke Van Dekker in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Thomas and Grace Ecke Van Dekker. He attendedRichmond 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 and made his professional acting debut with aCincinnati stock company in 1927. Within a few months, Dekker was featured in the Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's play Marco Millions.
Dekker as Dr. Alexander Thorkel in the 1940 film Dr. Cyclops
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 1960s, but his four most famous screen roles were as a mad scientist in the 1940 horror film Dr. Cyclops, as a vicious hitman in 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. 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's role as Pat Harrigan in The Wild Bunch would be his last screen appearance.
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 Hastings-on-Hudson, New York home. He had reportedly been working on a silencer for the rifle for a year. His death was ruled accidental.
Dekker's off-screen preoccupation with 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 for 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 apartment after failing to answer numerous phone calls for two days. Although money and camera equipment were missing, there were no signs of forced entry. He was found naked, kneeling in his bathtub with a noose wrapped around his neck that was looped around the shower's curtain rod. He was also handcuffed, blindfolded, gagged and had sexually explicit words scrawled on his body in red lipstick. The coroner ruled his death accidental stating, "We have no information that Mr. Dekker planned to take his own life." Dekker was cremated. His cremains were interred at Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, New Jersey.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Albert Dekker has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6620 Hollywood Boulevard.