Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Alex Gordon, producer, screenwriter, publicist and film preservationist, died at a nursing home here June 24. He was 80. Best known in show business circles as the long time publicist for cowboy legend Gene Autry, MSTies know him from his work in the 1950s with such revered names as Ed Wood, Roger Corman and Samuel Z. Arkoff. He wrote the original script for the movie in episode 423- BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and served as producer for the movie in episode 808- THE SHE CREATURE. He also produced THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, which was featured on Sci-Fi Channel's "MST3K: The Home Game" stunt.

Gordon was born in London, and he and his brother Richard spent as much of their childhood as they could in movie theaters; Alex particularly enjoyed Westerns, especially those starring cowboy crooner Gene Autry. (Richard, incidentally, has MST3K credentials of his own: He was executive producer of the movie in episode 901- THE PROJECTED MAN and producer of the movie in episode 818- DEVIL DOLL.) As a teenager, Alex had founded the British Gene Autry Fan Club.

After serving in World War II, Alex got a job as a publicist at a British movie distributor and eventually rose to head the publicity department. His hero Autry was impressed with Gordon's talents, and when the brothers came to America in 1947, Autry hired him, part-time, as an advance publicity man. That role soon brought him way to California.

In an interview with, Gordon recalled that one of his few possessions when he arrived in Hollywood was a script for a movie called "Atomic Monster."

Hoping to find a buyer for his script, he looked up actor-writer-producer Johnny Carpenter (who had a small role in the movie in episode 613- THE SINISTER URGE), who got him placed as executive producer on his next film. The production manager for the film was Ed Wood—and he had exceeded the film's budget by about 400 percent. The bank put a lien on the film and its backers were clamoring for the money back. They needed a lawyer, and Gordon found one who willing help for free--because he, too, was looking to get into the movie business.

His name was Samuel Z. Arkoff.

Wood was determined to make Gordon's "Atomic Monster" script, and was hoping to cast ill and aging actor Bela Lugosi in the lead (for a somewhat romanticized version of the story, see the 1994 movie "Ed Wood,"--a movie Gordon never saw, by the way). They pitched the script at one small studio, which rejected them, but apparently liked the title. A reissue of a Lon Chaney Jr. film appeared as "Atomic Monster" not long after. Gordon and Wood were livid, and turned again to lawyer Arkoff for help. Among the studio executives Arkoff harangued was James Nicholson. The two founders of American International Pictures might never have met, were it not for Gordon and his script, which eventually became known as "Bride of the Monster."

AIP hired Gordon and he produced a number of titles, doing everything from casting to publicity. His films included "Dragstrip Girl," "Runaway Daughters" and "The Day the World Ended," starring Mike "Touch" Connors.

"Alex was a cheerful, happy-go-lucky guy, always laughing and smiling," Connors told the L.A. Times. "He was one of the nicest people I've known in the business in 50 years. He was one of those guys that just ate, slept and loved to talk movies. If you sat down and started asking questions about old movies, he was in seventh heaven."

Gordon delighted in being able to cast aging or forgotten stars in movies. "I liked She-Creature," he told, "mainly because I was able to use so many old timers in that. I had Chester Morris, Tom Conway, Ron Randell and Frank Jenks. I had a lot of fun on that."

But casting the evil hypnotist Carlo Lombardi gave him some trouble. Gordon recalled that he originally wanted Peter Lorre for the role, and Lorre's agency had agreed to a deal before Lorre had read the script. Lorre was forced to fire his agency to get out of project.

"So I tried to get John Carradine who was in a high and mighty mood, too," Gordon recalled. "He'd just done 'The Ten Commandments' for Cecil B. DeMille. He wasn't going to do any nine-day picture. He got so worked up about it that he got drunk at Lucy's restaurant and actually wrecked the place. I said to his agent, 'My God! Let him off the hook!'"

Gordon left AIP in 1957 and worked at a number of different studios, including Allied Artists, Columbia and Embassy. In 1968 he joined at 20th Century Fox, where he instituted a film restoration project after uncovering more than 30 of Fox's silents and early talkies that were thought to have been lost. That began a lifelong interest in film preservation.

In 1976, Autry offered Gordon a full-time job as his publicist. "Of course, I jumped at it," he recalled. He was vice president of Autry's Flying A Pictures and director of licensing for the Gene Autry Music Group.

"The best way I always introduced Alex when someone came into the office was, 'He is our walking and talking Gene Autry encyclopedia and on-site historian,'" Karla Buhlman, vice president of Gene Autry Entertainment, told the L.A. Times.

He is survived by Ruth, his wife of 46 years, and by his brother Richard.

At Gordon's request, no memorial service will be held. Donations in his memory can be made to the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, 90027-1462; or to the American Cancer Society.