Don Gordon (actor)


Don Gordon (born Donald Walter Guadagno; November 13, 1926 – April 24, 2017)[2] was an American film and television actor. His most notable film roles were those in which he appeared alongside his friend Steve McQueen: Bullitt (1968), Papillon (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974).[citation needed] Between the first and the last of those films he appeared in The Gamblers (1970), WUSA (1970), Cannon for Cordoba (1970), The Last Movie (1971), Z.P.G. (1972), Fuzz (1972), Slaughter (1972), The Mack (1973), The Education of Sonny Carson (1974) and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) as the ill-fated assistant to protagonist Damien Thorn.

Don Gordon
Donald Walter Guadagno

(1926-11-13)November 13, 1926
DiedApril 24, 2017(2017-04-24) (aged 90)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationFilm, television actor
Years active1949–1993
  • Helen Westcott (1928–1998)
    (m. 1948; div. 1953)
  • (m. 1954; div. 1958)
  • Bek Nelson (1927–2015)
    (m. 1959; div. 1979)
  • Denise Farr
    (m. 1979)

Early lifeEdit

Gordon was born Donald Walter Guadagno in Los Angeles on November 13, 1926. He sold newspapers at the age of eight to help support his family during the Great Depression. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of fifteen after the attack on Pearl Harbor, convincing his mother to say he was eighteen. He won eleven battle stars.[3]

Gordon entered drama school after the war and changed his name. As recounted after his death in The New York Times, Gordon was standing outside the drama school at Sunset Boulevard and Gordon Street, when "a classmate told him that he would never make it in show business with the surname Guadagno. The student then pointed to the street sign and said, 'Your name should be Don Gordon.'"[3]


Gordon's television successes began with a starring role in the 1960–1961 syndicated series The Blue Angels, based on the elite precision flight demonstration pilots of the United States Navy Blue Angels.[4] In 1962, Gordon was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his role as Joey Tassili on CBS's legal drama, The Defenders,[5] starring E.G. Marshall. During 1977–1978, he co-starred in the television show Lucan,[4]: 632  and he played Harry in the CBS drama The Contender (1980).[4]: 207 

Later careerEdit

Gordon's last credited film work was the 2005 documentary, Steve McQueen – The Essence of Cool. Gordon was interviewed along with several others who had worked with McQueen, with whom he was a close friend and colleague.

Personal lifeEdit

On February 18, 1948, Gordon (aged 21) married actress Helen Westcott (aged 20) in Oxnard, California.[6] They divorced in 1953.[1][7] He married actress Bek Nelson on December 31, 1959, in Los Angeles. They adopted a daughter, Gabrielle, in 1966, and they divorced on May 23, 1979.[8]

Gordon died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center[2] in Los Angeles on April 24, 2017, aged 90, survived by his wife, Denise, and his daughter, Gabrielle, from a previous marriage. He was diagnosed with cancer shortly before his death.[9][3]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b "Don Gordon Dead: Character Actor, Steve McQueen Friend Was 90 | Holly…". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 26 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (May 5, 2017). "Don Gordon, Top-Notch Character Actor and Pal of Steve McQueen, Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 26 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Don Gordon, Steve McQueen’s Sidekick Onscreen and in Life, Dies at 90 The New York Times, May 7, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  5. ^ "("Don Gordon" search results)". EMMYS. Television Academy. Archived from the original on July 26, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  6. ^ "Marriages". Billboard. March 20, 1948. p. 48. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  7. ^ Wagner, Laura (Fall 2016). "Helen Westcott: "A Very Gifted Actress"". Films of the Golden Age (86): 74–76.
  8. ^ Aaker, Everett (2017). Television Western Players, 1960–1975: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. p. 318. ISBN 9781476628561. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Don Gordon, Top-Notch Character Actor and Pal of Steve McQueen, Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. 5 May 2017.

External linksEdit

  • Don Gordon at IMDb
  • RIP Don Gordon