John Gavin Biography

Film Actor, Actor, Television Actor, Diplomat (1931–)
American actor and businessman John Gavin starred in such classic films as Psycho and Midnight Lace, and was also U.S ambassador to Mexico under Ronald Reagan.


John Gavin was born on April 8, 1931, in Los Angeles, California. From 1958 to 1969, he starred in classic films, and from 1981 to 1986, he was ambassador to Mexico. He left his post in 1986 to become president of Univisa Satellite Communications. Gavin has likewise been the acting president of Gamma Services Corp., otherwise known as Gamma Holdings, since he founded the global capital and consulting company in 1968.

Early Life

John Gavin was born to parents Herald Ray and Delia Diana on April 8, 1931, in Los Angeles, California. Before college, he attended St. John Military Academy, and Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, California.

Gavin received his college education at Stanford University. The fact that Gavin had a Mexican mother and was himself fluent in Spanish fueled his interest in studying Latin countries. In 1952, he graduated Stanford with a bachelor's degree in the economic history of Latin America. After graduation, Gavin joined the U.S. Navy, serving as an air intelligence officer during the Korean conflict, and a Pan-American affairs officer from 1952 to 1955. 


Gavin had long dreamt of pursuing a career in foreign service. After leaving service as an air officer, he was about to join the diplomatic corps when a friend suggested Gavin take up acting. Gavin approached show business casually at first, but soon found he was hooked.

Gavin first own over audiences when, in 1958, he starred as a German soldier on the Russian front during WWII in A Time to Love and a Time to Die. The following year, he appeared in Imitation of Life opposite Lana Turner. From the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Gavin continued to star in a large body of classic films: Spartacus, A Breath of Scandal, Psycho, Midnight Lace, Back Street and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Though his film career lasted scarcely more than a decade, Gavin co-starred with a long lineup of powerful leading ladies, including Doris Day, Sophia Loren, Susan Hayward and Sandra Dee. He also managed to balance a successful acting career with a role in government service. From 1961 to 1974, Gavin served as special advisor to the secretary general of the Organization of the United States.

In 1973 Gavin made his Broadway theater debut in the play Seesaw.

Personal Life

A year later, Gavin married his real-life leading lady, actress Constance Towers (his second wife). Gavin was previously married to Cecily Evans, with whom he had daughters Christina and Maria. Similarly, Towers had two daughters from her first marriage (Maureen Ardath and Michael Ford) when she and Gavin wed.

In addition to being a husband and father, Gavin has dedicated his personal time to serving on the boards of numerous organizations. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1971 to 1973. In homage to his alma mater, Gavin is also a member of the Stanford Alumni Association and a trustee of the Villanova Preparatory School. His charitable efforts have extended to helping The National Park Foundation and the Hoover Institution.


In 1981, Gavin was nominated U.S. ambassador to Mexico by his friend and former fellow actor, President Ronald Reagan. Gavin spent the next five years in Mexico, leading one of America's biggest diplomatic missions abroad. An excess of 1,000 Mexican and American workers represented more than 12 government organizations positioned throughout Mexico. Gavin left his diplomatic post in May 1986 to return to the private sector.


After he gave up his ambassador's position, Gavin became president of Univisa Satellite Communications, Inc., as subsidiary of Univisa, which operates a broad array of communications, entertainment and media firms. Gavin has likewise been the acting president of Gamma Services Corp., otherwise known as Gamma Holdings, since he founded the global capital and consulting company in 1968.

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