Actor Brad Dexter, who rode as one of the “Magnificent Seven” and became a confidant of both Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, died Thursday Dec. 12. He was 85 and had been hospitalized with emphysema.
Born Boris Milanovich in Goldfield, Nev., he studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and changed his name to Barry Mitchell. After World War II he acted in radio dramas and on stage under that name. He took the name Brad Dexter when he was cast in “The Asphalt Jungle” in 1950.
Burly and handsome, Dexter was often the tough guy, supporting top stars like Sinatra and Steve McQueen. His three dozen feature credits included 1950’s “The Asphalt Jungle,” 1958’s “Run Silent, Run Deep,” starring Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable, and 1965’s “None but the Brave,” starring Sinatra.
He made many guest appearances on TV shows, from “Death Valley Days” and “Wagon Train” in the 1950’s to “Kojak” and “The Incredible Hulk” in the 1970’s.
But his most prominent role came in 1960’s “The Magnificent Seven,” in which he starred with McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.
Dexter’s friendship with Sinatra became the stuff of legend when Dexter saved Sinatra from drowning during 1964 filming of “None but the Brave.”
Dexter served as vice president of Sinatra Enterprises, and in 1966 he produced the Sinatra-starrer “The Naked Runner.” Sinatra and Dexter had a falling out during shooting, but pic opened the door to a producing career for Dexter, who went on to produce 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues.”
In January 1953, he married singer Peggy Lee, but they divorced after eight months. Soon after, he befriended Monroe, and tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to stay with husband Joe DiMaggio when she began talking of divorce in 1954.
He is survived by his wife, June Deyer-Dexter, a stepson and three grandchildren.