John Agar, 81, who got his start in acting after marrying film star Shirley Temple and appeared in a series of classic John Ford action movies in the late 1940s before his career and marriage rapidly deteriorated, died April 7 at a hospital in Burbank, Calif. He had emphysema.
His first roles were his best, in Ford's acclaimed Westerns "Fort Apache" (1948) and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) and the war drama "The Sands of Iwo Jima" (1949).
Insecure in his acting ability -- with just cause, critics would say -- Mr. Agar was often a tall, handsome and static male hero, a secondary male lead to such charismatic actors as John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas.
Some derisively called him "Mr. Shirley Temple," and in large measure he lived in her shadow. They appeared on-screen together in "Fort Apache" and the comedy "Adventure in Baltimore" (1949).
Starting in 1949, the year Temple divorced him, Mr. Agar's career also started to falter. His alcoholism and indiscriminate choices in film roles took an irreparable toll.
He began starring in a cluster of low-budget detective and science-fiction films, including "Tarantula" (1955), "The Mole People" (1956) and "The Brain from Planet Arous" (1957).
Even after escaping what he considered a stifling film contract at Universal Studios and took up freelancing, he found himself in a succession of schlock shock films such as "Zontar the Thing from Venus" (1966).
Wayne, a friend and co-star in the earlier Ford films, helped Mr. Agar get small parts in "The Undefeated" (1969), "Chisum" (1970) and "Big Jake" (1971). He also was the mayor in the 1976 remake of "King Kong."
About that time, he reportedly stopped drinking and was earning a living by selling insurance and real estate.
"I had never planned to be an actor, and it was thrust upon me at a very early age," he told an interviewer. "It was something I really wasn't ready for."
Mr. Agar was a Chicago native, the oldest of four children born into a wealthy meatpacking family. He grew up in Los Angeles.
He was on leave from the Army Air Forces when he met film mogul David O. Selznick at a party. Selznick asked the handsome veteran, a physical-training instructor at a nearby airfield, if he would consider a movie career. Mr. Agar was pleased with the offer of $150 a week (nearly double his military pay) plus drama lessons.
He made international headlines in 1945 by marrying Temple, the world famous child star who was then a beauteous 17-year-old. They had met only months earlier through a friend of both families, the actress Zasu Pitts. Also, Temple was friends with Mr. Agar's younger sister.
Trouble appeared both personally and professionally for the Agars, foremost his heavy drinking. He caroused with other women and was arrested for drunken driving.
When he tried to explain to one judge that his troubled marriage contributed to his drinking, the judge shot back, "Don't try to blame this on Shirley Temple!"
He was reportedly estranged from Temple and his daughter from that marriage, who survives him.
He was married to model Loretta Agar from 1951 until her death in 2000.
Mr. Agar's survivors also include two sons from his second marriage; two brothers; and four grandchildren.
He had a sense of humor about the years in grade-Z horror films and agreed to cameo appearances in movies by directors weaned on those campy favorites. He was in Clive Barker's "Nightbreed" (1990).