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John Beck (born January 28, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American retired actor. He grew up in Joliet, Illinois. Renowned as a gritty actor with plenty of presence on set, he is ultimately best-known worldwide for playing the role of Mark Graison in Dallas during the mid-1980s, but is also well-known for several other roles in which he specialised in playing hard-ball businessmen.
Early career (1964–1976)
Beck grew up in Chicago, where he lived on his father's ranch. His childhood ambition was to become a vet. However, following his performance in a school play aged 16, which he had been asked to take part in as a means of overcoming profound shyness, his tutors encouraged him to try to get into drama school instead. He moved to California in 1962 at age 19, and initially made his living by appearing in TV commercials. In 1963/ 1964 he attended Joliet Junior College and was in an acting class. A year later, he made his first television appearance as an actor in his own right in a 1965 episode of I Dream of Jeannie (entitled 'Russian Roulette') at the age of 21, and was soon highly commended as one of the United States' strongest support actors. His numerous credits as a support actor over the years include guest slots in such series as the Perry Mason TVMs of 1985 to 1993, Diagnosis: Murder, Baywatch (Beck was a good friend of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff during the 1980s), Tales from the Crypt, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, and Matlock, among numerous others. So busy was his schedule in his early career that many of the characters he played were either killed off or written out prematurely as he no longer had time to play them.
Already a household name in the United States by this point, Beck first came to the attention of international audiences in 1973 when he played an underground leader named "Erno" who leads a revolt against a fascist government in the Woody Allen sci-fi comedy Sleeper. That same year he appeared as a character named "Poe" in the Sam Peckinpah western Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and in 1975 he appeared opposite James Caan as "Moonpie" in the original Rollerball.
Commercial peak (1977–1986)
In the film The Other Side of Midnight in 1977, Beck played the male lead. The film, though critically acclaimed, was a box office flop, largely due to 20th Century Fox's controversial decision to tag the film as a double bill with the first Star Wars film on its cinema release, a factor that caused The Other Side of Midnight to do less well commercially than it might otherwise have done. Nevertheless, Beck's strong performance in this film made numerous TV producers and directors take notice, and marked him out as an actor with great potential.
In 1978, Beck starred in an adaptation of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine (with future Three's Company actress Priscilla Barnes). He appeared as Dorian Blake in 1985's Peyton Place: The Next Generation, a proposed revival of 1960s nighttime drama Peyton Place. Both productions aired on NBC in the United States.
After over fifteen years of being cast in support roles and bit-parts in various American drama and comedy series and low-budget films, he finally landed his first major starring role playing Sam Curtis in the early 1980s television soap opera Flamingo Road, followed by the role of Mark Graison on Dallas (his best-known role) from 1983 to 1986. Although his character was killed off in 1984, he later returned after having faked his death to seek an alternative cure for a disease he was suffering from. In 1986, however, former star Patrick Duffy asked to return to the program. To accommodate this, the producers made the entire 1985-86 season a dream of Pamela Ewing (Victoria Principal). As a result, Beck's character was written out of the show as if he had never actually returned from the dead.
Recent career (1989–2009)
The 1990s saw Beck turn to voice acting for the first time in his career when he provided the voice of the Punisher in three episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, although to date this remains the only role as a voice actor in his career. Beck also guest-starred as the character Raymond Boone in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine extended episode "Tribunal" in 1994. A year later, he appeared in the film Black Day Blue Night. His increasingly hectic workload between the early 1970s and the mid-1990s wore Beck down to the extent that after leaving the Walker: Texas Ranger series in 1997, he began to wind down his acting schedule due to exhaustion.
Still a favourite of US critics, Beck's last appearance on screen to date was in the 2005 TV movie Crash Landing.
Outside of acting
Beck was a proficient boxer in the 1970s and won several amateur titles, most notably the heavyweight 'Golden Gloves' of Chicago in 1973. Also a one-time champion roller-skater, he was able to perform many of his own stunts in the film Rollerball without the need for a stunt double.
Throughout his time in the showbiz industry Beck has rarely talked to the media, even at the peak of his career in the mid-1980s.
Now aged 67, Beck has over 200 TV/film appearances to his name, in an acting career spanning more than four decades. He has been married to former actress and model Tina Carter since 1971 and they have four children.
- Sleeper (1973)
- Rollerball (1975)
- Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1975) (TV movie)
- The Big Bus (1976)
- Sky Riders (1976)
- Audrey Rose (1977)
- The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
- Fire and Rain (1989) (TV movie)
- Extreme Limits (2000)
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