Turhan Bey, the actor whose exotic good looks helped him carve out a career in 1940s-50s Hollywood, died on September 30 in Vienna after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease it was announced yesterday. He was 90.
Thanks to his swarthy, Mediterranean good looks and debonair acting style, Bey was able to land roles that had him appearing in films alongside the likes of Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne and Peter Lorre throughout the 1940s in such films as A Night in Paradise, Out of the Blue and The Amazing Mr. X.
Born Gilbert Selahettin Schultavey on March 30, 1922 in Austria his dark good looks came courtesy of his father, a Turkish diplomat. He emigrated to the United States with his father and Jewish Czech mother to escape Hitler’s Austrian Anschluss at the outbreak of World War Two.
Settling with his family in California, Bey attended the Ben Bard’s School of Dramatic Art in order to improve his English. He went on to study at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he as spotted by talent scouts. Signed to a studio contract in 1941, he quickly made a career out of playing exotic and often romantic parts in fantasy films, earning the nickname “the Turkish Delight” from fans. He would place ninth in a poll of “Stars of Tomorrow” conducted by movie exhibitors.
Bey frequently found himself paired with actress María Montez, appearing with the actress in Raiders Of The Desert, Arabian Nights, White Savage, Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves, Bowery To Broadway, Follow The Boys and Sudan.
Unfortunately, the vogue for the type of films he worked in faded and after 1953’s Prisoners Of The Casbah, he moved back to Vienna, where he made living as a photographer and occasional stage director.
Bey had a career resurgence in the 1990s, with appearances on shows such as SeaQuest 2032, VR 5 and Murder She Wrote. He won an Emmy award for his appearance on Babylon 5 as the Centauri Emperor.