Turhan Bey, the Austrian-born actor who was active in 1940’s Hollywood and starred in films alongside Errol Flynn and Katherine Hepburn, has died in his home city of Vienna. He was 90.
Shortly after his 1941 Hollywood debut in Shadows on the Stairs, Bey’s smouldering good looks earned him the nickname of “Turkish Delight”. Turhan Bey remained active in Hollywood from 1941 to 1953, when he decided to quit acting and return to Vienna and pursue careers as a photographer and an occasional stage director.
The lure of acting drew Bey back for a handful of performances in the 1990’s, though these were almost exclusively for television productions.
His death on September 30 was revealed by Marita Ruiter, who exhibited Turhan Bey’s photos in her Luxembourg gallery. She informed the Austria Press Agency that Bey had endured a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was cremated on Monday.
Ruiter paid tribute to her late friend, praising him for his unassuming and humble nature, despite his star-studded associations with the likes of Flynn, Hepburn, and John Wayne:
“He was a man brimming with humor, with plenty of aplomb and self-irony, and was very popular. He wasn’t the kind who cared a lot about honors.”
Born in 1922 in Austria, Turhan Bey was the son of a Turkish diplomat who emigrated to the United States with his Jewish Czech mother to escape the Nazis. While in America, he was discovered by talent scouts from Warner Bros. studios.
His strikingly un-American looks meant Bey was often employed for adventure fantasies set in faraway places. The adventure genre was vastly popular throughout the 1940’s, and Bey was in some of the biggest films of the time, including A Night in Paradise, Out of the Blue, and The Amazing Mr. X.
During his brief 1990’s comeback, Turhan Bey earned an Emmy nomination for his performance as Turval in the Babylon 5 space fantasy TV series.