Turhan Bey, 90; starred in Hollywood swashbucklers

Turhan Bey (on horse) in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”
Universal Pictures/file 1944
Turhan Bey (on horse) in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

NEW YORK — Turhan Bey, whose dark good looks, swept-back hair and soothing, Continental voice brought him fame in swashbuckling films of the 1940s, died in Vienna on Sept. 30. Mr. Bey, who was a fashion photographer in his later years, was 90.

Marita Ruiter, who exhibited his photos in her gallery in Luxembourg, told the Austria Press Agency that the cause was Parkinson’s disease.

The son of a Turkish father and a Jewish mother from Czechoslovakia, Mr. Bey was described as ‘‘exotic’’ at the height of his popularity and has been referred to as ‘‘the Turkish delight.’’ Particularly during World War II, when many of Hollywood’s leading men were in the military, he was frequently seen in movie magazines, often in safari clothes.


‘’He has brought a new personality type to the screen,’’ Screen Guide magazine wrote of him in 1944. ‘‘He is cultured, suave, and inscrutable — made to order for moviegoers.’’ Mr. Bey, who appeared in more than 30 movies, is perhaps best known for his roles in the ‘‘Arabian Nights’’ series, including ‘‘Arabian Nights’’ (1942), ‘‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’’ (1944), ‘‘Sudan’’ (1945) and ‘‘Night in Paradise’’ (1946) — often opposite Jon Hall, Sabu, and another actor widely viewed as exotic, Maria Montez.

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When ‘‘Sudan,’’ a romantic adventure about a princess whose life and throne are saved by the leader of liberated slaves, was released, Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times, ‘‘Turhan Bey gives a boyish imitation of Rudolph Valentino as the desert sheik.’’

Among Mr. Bey’s many other movies were ‘‘The Mummy’s Tomb’’ (1942), ‘‘Drums of the Congo’’ (1942), ‘‘White Savage’’ (1943), ‘‘Adventures of Casanova’’ (1948), and ‘‘Prisoners of the Casbah’’ (1953).

Mr. Bey’s career began to fade after the likes of Clark Gable and Robert Taylor came home from military service. He returned to his native Vienna in the mid-1950s, and to his childhood passion, photography.

But four decades later, he had a guest role on ‘‘Murder, She Wrote.’’ Turhan Selahattin Sahultavy was born in Vienna.