He was born Louis Lorenzo Degni on January 6th 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His grandparents were Italian immigrants and in an interview he mentions that he had a brother who was a musician. He was 6' (1.83 m) tall.
Mark began weightlifting while at school and before long he was appearing on magazine covers, entering bodybuilding competitions and operating his own gym on Long Island.
Relocating to California at age 19, he joined the troupe of musclemen in Mae West's show, alongside other future peplum stars such as Gordon Mitchell, Mickey Hargitay and Reg Lewis. He also took classes to learn acting at this time and screen-tested to play Tarzan, but didn't land the role.
He was the first of the many American bodybuilders to arrive in Italy following the international success of Steve Reeves in Le fatiche de Ercole. He changed his name at the request of the Italian producers, who thought his real name sounded "too Italian"! After Reeves, Mark was probably the second most successful of the American bodybuilders active in Italian peplums, appearing in leading roles in 12 features over 5 years with almost all his films getting wide international cinema releases, making the role of Maciste his own (though outside Europe his roles were always re-titled as the more familiar Hercules or Goliath).
Following the decline of the peplum genre in the mid-60's, Mark was offered roles in eurospies and westerns, but he chose instead to retire from the screen to concentrate on his passion for opera. He remained in Italy for a few years training as an opera singer, then, following his return to the U.S., he became a teacher of vocal technique (with his famous pupils including Dolly Parton, Sissy Spacek, Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes), as well as working as a personal trainer.
Mark died in California on January 7th 2022, one day after his 89th birthday.
- La vendetta di Ercole .... Ercole (credited)
- Maciste nella valle dei Re .... Maciste (credited)
- Maciste, l'uomo più forte del mondo .... Maciste (credited)
- Maciste, il gladiatore più forte del mondo .... Maciste (credited)
- Maciste contro i Mongoli .... Maciste (credited)
- Maciste, l'eroe più grande del mondo .... Maciste (credited)
- Ercole contro i figli del sole .... Ercole (credited)
- Il Leone di Tebe .... Arian (credited)
- Il magnifico gladiatore .... Attalus (credited)
- Maciste nell'inferno di Gengis Khan .... Maciste (credited)
- Maciste, gladiatore di Sparta .... Maciste (credited)
- Kindar, l'invulnerabile .... Kindar (credited)
- Married to the Mob (1988) Mark can be glimpsed in a clip from La vendetta di Ercole seen on TV.
- The Egyptian (1954) Mark is listed as appearing in this film in a minor role by IMDb and other sources, but I don't know of anyone who has ever managed to identify him, so if he does appear he is presumably in an unidentifiable background role.
Notes and sources
|1. Mark's biographical details come mainly from an extensive 2003 interview from Scarlet Street magazine|