John Phillip Law

John Phillip Law

John Philip Law in Death Rides a Horse (1967)
Born (1937-09-07)September 7, 1937
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Died May 13, 2008(2008-05-13) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Pancreatic cancer
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 1950-2008
Spouse(s) Shawn Ryan (divorced) 1 child
Children Dawn Law (b. 1974)

John Phillip Law (September 7, 1937 – May 13, 2008) was an American film actor.[1]

He was best known for his roles as the blind angel Pygar in the science fiction cult classic Barbarella (1968) with Jane Fonda,[1] as Manfred von Richthofen in Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), as a Russian sailor in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and as news anchor Robin Stone in The Love Machine (1971). The latter reteamed him with Alexandra Hay, his co-star from the 1968 "acid comedy" Skidoo.[1]


Law was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff John Law and actress Phyllis Sallee. He was the brother of actor Thomas Augustus Law (also known as Tom Law).

He worked as a film extra as a child, and had a non-speaking role as a courtroom page in John Sturges's The Magnificent Yankee (1950). He studied drama at the University of Hawaii and appeared in several university stage productions.

After graduation, Law moved to New York, where he studied with Elia Kazan's Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre and had a small role in Garson Kanin's comedy Come On Strong (1962). Like many American actors he moved to Italy where he acted in several films. One of these was seen by the director Norman Jewison, who thought Law perfect for the role of a young Soviet sailor in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966).[1]

He followed this with a co-star role in Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown (1967). Law returned to Europe where he played the lead in a Spaghetti Western, Death Rides a Horse (1967), then the title role of Danger: Diabolik (1968),[1][2] and played an angel in Barbarella. He followed this with The Sergeant (1968) with Rod Steiger.

Tall and handsome, with steel-blue eyes, Law became a sex symbol in the 1960s. He was a VIP guest at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion and in Hollywood society. While he never achieved superstar status, he became a popular action hero, particularly in the Italian movie market in films of the science fiction and fantasy, comedy, westerns, drama, and war genres.

Law co-starred in Roger Corman's film Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), playing Manfred von Richthofen opposite Don Stroud's Roy Brown. Corman used Lynn Garrison's Irish aviation facility, complete with replica World War I aircraft. Garrison taught Law the basics of flying so that he could take off and land, making some of the footage more realistic. Some other of Law's movies have also become cult classics, including The Love Machine (1971), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Attack Force Z. Two of Law's films, Danger: Diabolik and Space Mutiny, were also featured in the movie-mocking TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In 2001 he appeared in Roman Coppola's directorial debut CQ, an homage to the Italian spy/sci-fi B-movies in which Law often starred during the 1960s.[1] Law's final credited film role was in 2008's Chinaman's Chance.

Personal life

He was at one time married to actress Shawn Ryan, with whom he had a daughter.


On December 13, 2007, his doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. Law died five months later on May 13, 2008 at his home in Los Angeles. His remains were cremated.

Selected filmography


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Vallance, Tom (May 17, 2008). "John Phillip Law: Actor best known for 'Barbarella'". The Independent.
  2. Aguilar, Carlos y otro & Haas, Anita John Phillip Law - Diabolik Angel Scifiworld/Quatermass (2008)
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