14 facts about John Decker

By Gwylym Owen

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John Decker (b. Leopold von der Decken, November 8, 1895 – June 8, 1947) was a painter, set designer and caricaturist in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.

He was born in Berlin Germany. As a teenager, Decker lived in London, painting scenery in theatres; this was interrupted by the advent of the First World War, when he was arrested as an foe alien and interned on the Isle of Man. In 1921, he misused his pronounce to John Decker and emigrated to America,:24 where he worked as a cartoonist for the New York Evening World until 1928,:31 when he moved to Hollywood and took up Good art. Many film stars, including Anthony Quinn, Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and the Marx Brothers, commissioned Decker to paint their portraits,:4 and many of his works were used in films: the paintings of the frustrated artist protagonist in Fritz Lang’s 1945 film Scarlet Street were actually by Decker. One of his most well-known portraits, depicting his friend and drinking companion W.C. Fields as Queen Victoria, hung for many years at Chasen’s Restaurant in West Hollywood, California. An oil painting of John Wayne, which Wayne commissioned Decker to paint in 1945, sold for $71,700 at a John Wayne land auction conducted by Heritage Auctions on October 6, 2011. Like his associates Fields and John Barrymore, the years of seemingly endless drinking sprees wreaked loud abuse on his body, resulting in a premature death. Decker died in Hollywood on June 8, 1947, at age 51.

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