The American actor and director ALBERT DEKKER died on this date (b. 1904). Born in Brooklyn, New York, as Albert Ecke, his films include the classics The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), Beau Geste (1939), The Killers (1946), The Sound and the Fury (1959), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), and The Wild Bunch (1969).
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 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. 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.
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; to avoid being blacklisted he spent most of the blacklist working on Broadway rather than Hollywood. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Dekker has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6620 Hollywood Boulevard.
The circumstances of Dekker’s death, which we make note of today, were very, very strange. He was …<ahem>…found nude in the bathtub with a scarf over his eyes, a ball gag in his mouth, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. In addition to the belt around his neck, Dekker had an additional belt around his waist, which was tied to a rope that also tied his two ankles together and was wrapped around his wrist and clasped in his hand. He also had a dirty hypodermic needle sticking out of each of his arms and there were two hypodermic punctures on his right buttock. Above these punctures, the word “whip” had been written on his buttock in lipstick, and a picture of the sun had been drawn.
Lipstick was also used the write a lot of words on Dekker’s body, including “make me suck”, “slave” and “cocksucker”, and there appeared to be drawings of sun rays around his nipples and a picture of a vagina on his lower abdomen. The initial ruling was suicide, but after S&M pornography and bondage equipment was found in the apartment, the ruling was changed to accidental death caused by auto-erotic asphyxiation (reminiscent of the death of David Carradine).
However, Dekker’s fiancee believed there had to be someone else involved since it seems impossible that he could bound his hands and feet together behind his back and hang himself. In addition, Dekker was keeping $70,000 in cash in his apartment in order to make a down payment on a house, but the money was never found and some camera equipment and a tape recorder were also missing. The most baffling aspect of Dekker’s death was that the bathroom door was locked with a chain from the inside and there were no other exits.