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Actor appeared in 'Barbarella' and 'The Russians Are Coming'

Obituaries / John Phillip Law, 1937 - 2008

May 15, 2008|Claire Noland | Times Staff Writer

John Phillip Law, a tall, blond actor who cut a striking figure as the blind angel opposite Jane Fonda in 1968's "Barbarella" and in other film roles, has died. He was 70.

Law died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, his former wife, Shawn Ryan, said. The cause of death was not announced.

Born in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 1937, to L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy John Law and actress Phyllis Sallee, Law decided to become an actor after taking drama classes at the University of Hawaii.

He moved to New York in the early 1960s, studied with Elia Kazan at the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater and landed bit parts on Broadway. He went to Europe and found work in a handful of Italian films, where he caught the attention of Norman Jewison. The director cast Law as Alexei Kolchin, a young Soviet submariner who wins the heart of a teenage baby-sitter in "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming," his 1966 Cold War comedy set in New England.

Law's next break came in Roger Vadim's science fiction fantasy starring Fonda, who was then married to the director.

Equipped with oversize, feathery wings, Law's bronzed angel, Pygar, shields Fonda's gun-toting, go-go-boot-wearing heroine in her intergalactic adventures.

After gaining notice for his roles in "Hurry Sundown" (1967), "The Sergeant" (1968) opposite Rod Steiger, and "The Red Baron" (1970), Law starred as the ruthless Robin Stone in "The Love Machine," a 1971 version of Jacqueline Susann's pulp novel. The movie flopped.

Law, who mastered Italian and Spanish in his European travels, worked steadily in Hollywood and abroad, appearing in such action-adventure movies as "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" (1974), "The Cassandra Crossing" (1977) and "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1981), among others. He also had a stint playing Jim Grainger on the daytime television drama "The Young and the Restless."

At the beginning of his career in the '60s, Law lived in a 1924 Los Feliz mansion with his brother, Tom, who had been the road manager for Peter, Paul and Mary.

The brothers rented rooms to up-and-coming singers and artists, including Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Tiny Tim, turning the home into a vibrant salon of emerging pop-culture icons. Life at the Castle, as it was known, was documented in “Flashing on the Sixties,” a 1987 collection of photos and text by Tom's former wife, Lisa Law.

Besides his brother, Law is survived by a daughter, Dawn, and a grandson.

Services will be private.

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claire.noland@latimes.com

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On latimes.com

For more on actor John Phillip Law and to view a photo gallery, go to

latimes.com/law.

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