John Keith Vernon (February 24, 1932 - February 1, 2005) was a Canadian actor. He made a career in Hollywood after achieving initial television stardom in Canada.
Vernon was born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz in Zehner, Saskatchewan, and was baptized at Sacred Heart Catholic parish in the nearby town of Arat. He was one of two sons of Adolf Agopsowicz, a grocer, and his wife Eleonore Kruckel (also spelled as Kriekle of Kriekel). Both parents' families emigrated to the Edenworld district in the late 19th century from the Austrian crownland and duchy of Bukovina. He was of Armenian, German, and Polish descent.
From 1935 to 1953 he attended St. Joseph's School and Campion College in Regina, SK, where his acting career began under the direction of Rev. Arthur Nalson, S.J. and Mary Ellen Burgess at Regina Little Theatre. Vernon was educated at the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before becoming a live stage actor for CBC Television's dramatic programs. In 1974, he completed a season at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England playing Malvolio.
Vernon made his screen debut in 1956 as the voice of Big Brother in Michael Anderson's film version of George Orwell's 1984 starring Edmond O'Brien. He returned to Canada afterwards and gained film experience appearing on the TV series Tugboat Annie and The Last of the Mohicans.
He made his Broadway debut in 1964 as DeSoto opposite Christopher Plummer and David Carradine in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. During the Golden Age of CBC Drama in the 1960's he co-starred in Edna O'Brien's A Cheap Bunch of nice Flowers, opposite Colleen Dewhurst, and in Uncle Vanya, opposite William Hurt and Rita Gam. He appeared in the CBC series Wojeck in the late 1960's, playing a crime-fighting medical examiner but left to further his acting career in the United States.
In 1967, he appeared opposite Lee Malvin in Point Break. In 1969, he played Cuban revolutionary Rico Parra in Alfred Hitchcock's Cold War-era py movie Topaz. He appeared on "The High Chaparral" as the leader of a group of striking Irish Miners (1969) in "No Irish Need Apply." In 1970, he guest-starred in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Force of Waves" as Cal Anderson, and he appeared in the two-part episode "The Banker" of The Silent Force in 1971. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, he made four appearances over five years on the TV series Mission: Impossible as four different villains. In these Mission: Impossible episodes Vernon co-starred with Martin Landau. In 1974, Vernon turned in a supporting performance in Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night.
In 1971, he played the by-the-book mayor of San Francisco, perpetually frustrated by Clint Eastwood, in the first Dirty Harry movie. He later parodied this role in the premiere episode of Sledge Hammer! and One More Train to Rob. In 1972 he appeared as a villain in the Fear is the Key. In 1973 he appeared in Charley Varrick. In 1974 he co-starred in the film The Black Windmill with Michael Caine and Donald Pleasance. Also in 1974, he appeared in The Questor Tapes. In 1975, he starred in Brannigan, alongside John Wayne and Richard Attenborough. In 1976, he played Fletcher in Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Vernon played Dean Vernon Wormer of mythical Faber College in Animal House (a role that he would reprise in the short-lived television sequel Delta House). He also played Mr. Prindle in Herbie Goes Bananas, Dr. Stone, Ted Striker's psychiatrist, in Airplane II: The Sequel, and Sherman Krader in Ernst Goes to Camp.
In 1979, Vernon played an American villainous bigot Jonathan Pritts in New Mexico who was trying to steal the land from Mexico landowners in the Louis L'Amour story The Sacketts.
He also appeared in several cult exploitation and action films in the 1980's. most notably Chained Heart and Savage Streets, both staring Linda Blair, and Jungle Warriors, opposite Sybil Danning.
Vernon played "Ted Jarrett" in the season two The A-Team episode "Labor Pains" (1983). Vernon also played "Cameron Zachary" in the season two Knight Rider episode "A Good Knight's Work" (1984). Vernon later played "John Bradford Horn" in the season three Airwolf episode "Discovery" (19860. He made light of his villain image in the 1988 Blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna git You Sucka. In 1986, he played the Principal in Fuzz Bucket. He played Sergeant Curt Mooney in Killer Klowns from Outer Space and was a lead in the short-lived 1990's series Acapulco H.E.A.T. In Charley Varrick (1973) he played a mafia boss.
Vernon did extensive voice work. He voiced the Prosecutor on the animated film Heavy Metal. He had several roles as comic book characters which include Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, and Glen Talbot in the 1966 cartoon series, The Marvel Superheroes, Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross in The Incredible Hulk and Rupert Thorne in Batman: The Animated Series
In 1986 Vernon voiced the title character in the cartoon series, Wildfire.
Vernon also voiced characters in the cartoons The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Delgo.
Vernon was the father of actress Kate and Nan Vernon, and son Chris Vernon.
Vernon died of complications following heart surgery on February 1, 2005, in Westwood, California. He was cremated after a private funeral service.