Albert Dekker (1905 – 1968) was a noted American character actor, whose career spanned 40 years on stage and the silver screen. During that time, he accumulated a filmography of over 110 credits, winning acclaim for notable performances in films such as East of Eden, The Killers, Dr. Cyclops, Kiss Me Deadly, as well as in his final acting role in Sam Peckinpah’s classic western, The Wild Bunch.
He also won acclaim for being one of the few actors in Hollywood to exhibit enough moral courage during the Red Scare of the early Cold War to stand up to and denounce the demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). That got him blacklisted in Hollywood and derailed his career for years before the anticommunist hysteria finally waned and he was able to return to acting.
In 1968, Dekker completed his final role in The Wild Bunch, left the set, and seemed to fall off the map. Friends and family became concerned after days passed with nobody hearing from him. He was a no-show at a date with his fiancee, fashion model Geraldine Saunders, and after she tried calling but got no response, she went to his apartment and pinned a note on a door already covered by notes from friends and acquaintances.
When she returned later that evening and found things still the same, she convinced the building manager to let her in the apartment. Once in the apartment, they found the bathroom door chained from the inside and had to break it open. There, they discovered Dekker hanging dead from a leather belt.
The scene was horrific, as well as so bizarre and grotesque that Geraldine collapsed, and the building manager needed minutes to overcome the shock and gather his wits to call the police. Dekker was naked in the bathtub, with a ball gag in his mouth, a scarf covering his eyes, and his hands cuffed behind his back. In addition to the belt around his neck, there was another around his waist, tied to a rope binding his ankles, which in turn was wrapped around his wrist and clasped in his hand.
Sun rays were drawn around his nipples in lipstick, which was also used to draw a vagina on his stomach. A hypodermic needle was sticking out of each arm, and his right butt cheek had two needle punctures, above which the word “whip” was written in lipstick. His body was covered in other words written in lipstick, including “cocksucker”, “make me suck”, and “slave”. His death has initially ruled a suicide, but after S&M toys and porn were found in his apartment, it was changed to accidental autoerotic asphyxiation while masturbating.
Despite the coroner’s ruling, foul play was suspected and the death was and remains suspicious. For one, his fiancee knew that he had been keeping $70,000 cash in the apartment to buy a new house. The money, as well as expensive cameras and filming equipment, were never found. In addition, it seemed incongruous that Dekker could have tied himself in the manner in which he was discovered all on his own. Whether he acted alone, had a partner or partner who panicked and fled when the sex game went terribly wrong or was murdered, the mystery remains unsolved to this day.