Biography

Though Richard Harrison is perhaps best remembered by American audiences as a footnote in most biographies of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood (he recommended Eastwood for the lead in Leone's Fistful of Dollars), the ruggedly handsome actor enjoyed one of the longest film careers of any American expatriate performer. Born in Utah in 1935, Harrison relocated to Los Angeles and worked as a fitness trainer and physique model before moving onto bit parts in television and films like South Pacific and Kronos. He married Loretta Nicholson, daughter of American International Pictures chief James Nicholson, and was on the verge of becoming an AIP stock player when he received an offer from Italian producer Italo Zingarelli to come to Europe and star in The Invincible Gladiator, one of a host of sword-and-sandal films made in the wake of Steve Reeves' Hercules (1958). Harrison's toned (but not overdeveloped) build, male-model good looks, and physical prowess helped make the film into a success, and he would star in several more "peplum" before making the transition to Italian Westerns and spy pictures in the mid-'60s. Though virtually unknown in the United States, Harrison quickly became a top draw in the rest of the world, and remained a leading man well into the late '70s. Under the name James London, Harrison also wrote and directed Two Brothers in Trinity, (1972), a broad Western-comedy co-starring Donald O'Brien. As the '70s drew to a close, Harrison made films in Yugoslavia, Turkey (Una donna per sette bastardi), and later the Philippines and Hong Kong, where he appeared in two films for the Shaw Brothers, including Marco Polo (1975). While in Hong Kong, he made the acquaintance of Godfrey Ho, who directed him in Inferno Thunderbolt, a low-budget martial arts film which was incorporated into at least nine other films, each touting Harrison as the star without his knowledge. Harrison returned to the United States in the early '90s, a wealthy man from his adventures in Europe; aside from a few friendly appearances for Fred Olen Ray and a pair of bids for mayor of Palm Springs, he is content to enjoy his life in well-deserved anonymity. Harrison's son Sebastian also had a brief acting career in Europe; among his credits is the 1987 Western Scalps, directed by Bruno Mattei, and featuring a script co-written by his father. ~ Paul Gaita, Rovi