Character actor Clu Gulager, known for roles on TV’s “The Virginian” and in films such as “The Last Picture Show” and “Return of the Living Dead,” has died of natural causes. He was 93.
Gulager died Friday at the Los Angeles home of his son, John, “surrounded by his loving family,” according to a statement on Facebook, posted by his daughter-in-law Diane Goldner.
“Clu was as caring as he was loyal and devoted to his craft,” the statement continued. “A proud member of the Cherokee nation, a rule-breaker, sharp and astute and on the side — always — of the oppressed. He was good-humored, an avid reader, tender and kind. Loud and dangerous. His family will miss him terribly.”
A real-life cowboy born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Oklahoma, he amassed 165 film and television credits during a career spanning nearly 70 years.
Gulager had early appearances on 1950s TV shows including “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive” before landing a co-starring role on the western series “The Tall Man,” which aired from 1960 to 1962. His most high-profile TV role came on NBC’s “The Virginian,” which aired from 1962 to 1971.
Gulager’s big-screen appearances often featured him alongside some of the most popular actors of the ’60s and ’70s, under the guidance of the era’s top directors.
He played the protégé of Lee Marvin’s character and wound up getting killed by a mob boss, played by future president Ronald Reagan in his final acting role in director Don Siegel’s 1964 film “The Killers;” a detective colleague of John Wayne’s in t974’s “McQ;” and a race-car mechanic opposite Paul Newman in 1969’s “Winning.”
In director Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 classic “The Last Picture Show,” Gulager’s Abilene deflowers Jacy Farrow, the virginal, so-called town flirt played by Cybill Shepherd.
The family statement noted that Gulager wrote and directed an influential short film, “A Day with the Boys,” which opened the 1970 Cannes Film Festival as an example of state-of-the-art filmmaking.
In 1985, he appeared in two horror films “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” as well as “The Return of the Living Dead.”
His final appearance came in 2019’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” directed by Quentin Tarantino.
LA’s New Beverly Cinema, which is owned by Tarantino, remembered the actor on Twitter Saturday.
“Clu Gulager, 1928 – 2022. A beautiful life filled with family, friends, and films,” the post read. “Clu will always have a seat in our front row. We send our love to John, Tom, Diane, and to all the lives he touched.”
He is survived by sons, John and Tom; their partners, Diane and Zoe; and a grandson. His wife of more than 50 years, actress Miriam Byrd Nethery, died of cancer in 2003.