Actor Mark Damon Has Died

The actor credited with revolutionizing international film distribution passed away at home on Sunday due to natural causes.

Actor, producer and Hollywood legend Mark Damon passed away on Sunday, May 12 at the age of 91. Damon's daughter, Alexis Damon Ribaut, told The Hollywood Reporter that he died of natural causes in Los Angeles. Now, fans and colleagues are looking back to salute a one-of-a-kind career, which included on-screen credits in House of Usher and Zorro.

Damon was born in Chicago in 1933 and was originally named Alan Harris. Name changes were nothing new to his family, who had Americanized their surname "Herscovitz" when immigrating to the U.S. Damon's family moved to L.A. when he was young and he attended Fairfax High School, where he was scouted by comedian Groucho Marx. Damon opted to attend college instead, and graduated with a business degree. However, he also participated in the school's theater program and decided to pursue a career as an actor when he finished.

Damon made four TV appearances from 1952 until 1955, but his career really kicked off in 1956 when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. He would go on to amass 74 credits as an actor, 70 credits as a producer, one as a writer and three as "additional crew." These days, he is best known for the original 1960 version of House of Usher, where he played Philip Winthrop. Other movie credits include Black Sabbath, Johnny Yuma, Long Live Robin Hood and the 1962 Beauty and the Beast adaptation. He also appeared in multiple episodes of ABC's Zorro in the '50s and '60s.

Off-camera, he is best known for producing the 2003 crime drama Monster and the 2013 action comedy 2 Guns.

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(Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

Damon stepped back from acting in 1970s to focus mainly on producing, where he is credited with shaping the business models for sales, production and distribution as we know them. Because he had worked on "Spaghetti Westerns," he understood the market for American movies overseas and sought to capitalize, founding the Producers Sales Organization. He set the stage for today's focus on foreign sales.

"An independent distributor overseas who is putting his own money into a film, he's going to fight a lot harder, not only in the key cities but also the provinces, to make that picture happen, because he has his own money at stake," Damon explained in a 2020 interview on Matthew Helderman's podcast. "The majors have their employees who are only interested in their paychecks."

Still, Damon struggled for most of his career to prove that his business model could work and to keep it working. PSO filed for bankruptcy after about seven years, while his second company Vision International was sold to Credit Lyonaisse. His third company, MDP Worldwide, enjoyed about two decades of success before going bankrupt in 2012.

Damon and his second wife, Margaret Markov, married in 1976. They lived in Beverly Hills and had two children together, Alexis and a son named Jonathan. Fans are sharing their condolences for Damon's loved ones on social media.