Clu Gulager

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Clu Gulager
Gulager in 2015
William Martin Gulager

(1928-11-16)November 16, 1928
DiedAugust 5, 2022(2022-08-05) (aged 93)
Alma materBaylor University
Occupation(s)Actor, director
Years active1947–2019
(m. 1952; died 2003)
RelativesWill Rogers (first cousin once removed)

William Martin Gulager (/ˈɡləɡər/;[1] November 16, 1928 – August 5, 2022), better known as Clu Gulager, was an American television and film actor and director born in Holdenville, Oklahoma. He first became known for his work in television, appearing in the co-starring role of William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid) in the 1960–1962 NBC television series The Tall Man and as Emmett Ryker in another NBC Western series, The Virginian. He later had a second career as a horror film actor, including a lead part in Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead (1985). He also was in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985). In 2005 he started acting in his son's horror films — the Feasts films and Piranha 3DD — in his 80s.

Gulager's first major film role was in Don Siegel's The Killers (1964) with Lee Marvin and Ronald Reagan in his only movie role as a villain, followed by a supporting part in the racing film Winning (1969) opposite Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; in Peter Bogdanovich's drama The Last Picture Show (1971); and opposite John Wayne in McQ (1974). In the 1980s, Gulager appeared in several horror films, such as The Initiation (1984) and the zombie comedy The Return of the Living Dead (1985). In 2005, he appeared in the horror film Feast, as well as its sequels. He also appeared in the independent film Tangerine (2015) and in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), which was his final film role.

Gulager directed the short film A Day with the Boys, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.

Early life[edit]

Gulager was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, on November 16, 1928, the son of John Delancy Gulager, who had been an actor before settling down to practice law in nearby Muskogee.[2] His paternal grandmother, Martha Schrimsher Gulager, was a sister of Mary Schrimsher, the mother of Will Rogers, making Gulager and Rogers first cousins, once removed.[2][3] He was Cherokee, having been an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.[4][5]

His Cherokee nickname was given to him by his father for the clu-clu birds (known in English as martins,[4] like his middle name) that were nesting at the Gulager home at the time of his birth.[6] From 1946 to 1948, Gulager served in the United States Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.[7] After attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Gulager transferred to the Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he graduated.[8][9] He won a one-year scholarship to study abroad in Paris, where he worked under Jean-Louis Barrault, a French actor and director. In 1952, he returned to Baylor. On June 19, 1952, he married fellow actor Miriam Byrd-Nethery. The couple had two sons, John and Tom, and remained married until her death in 2003.[2]


In 1958 he appeared as Roy Carter in the episode "The Return of Roy Carter" (written by Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek) in the Western television series Have Gun – Will Travel starring Richard Boone.

Gulager stated, "Lew Wasserman saw me on a Playhouse 90 episode where I played an Elvis Presley-type character. I became the first contract player at Universal".[7] In the spring of 1959, he signed with MCA-TV, where he appeared as Tommy Pavlock in the episode "The Immigrant" of NBC's series The Lawless Years, a 1920s crime drama. In the fall of 1959, he appeared in the episode "The Temple of the Swinging Doll" of NBC's short-lived espionage drama Five Fingers, starring David Hedison.[10]

On June 3, 1959, he guest-starred as the unscrupulous photographer Elliott Garrison in "The Andrew Hale Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. On October 11, 1959, Gulager appeared as a U.S. Navy sailor in the "Appointment at Eleven" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and again as an escaped convict in "Pen Pal" on November 1, 1960. On The Untouchables, he played the role of real-life vicious mob killer Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll. Gulager was hailed for his utterly chilling performance as the psychopathic Coll. Late in 1959, he was cast as Beau Chandler in the episode "Jessie Quinn" of the NBC Western series Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. The episode is a tale of intrigue involving the Texas Revolution. Capt. Holden attempts to send weapons to Sam Houston, but forces of Antonio López de Santa Anna in Mexico threaten to blow up Holden's vessel, the Enterprise.

Gulager as Billy the Kid with Marianna Hill as his sweetheart, Rita, from the television program The Tall Man.

From 1960 to 1962, Gulager played Billy the Kid in The Tall Man, opposite Barry Sullivan as Sheriff Pat Garrett. The episodes portray Billy as a sympathetic character without resorting to the "misunderstood young man" theme used in such films as The Outlaw (1943) and The Left Handed Gun (1958). In 1961, Gulager guest-starred in another NBC Western, Whispering Smith, Audie Murphy's only attempt at series television. Gulager portrayed Deputy Sheriff Emmett Ryker from 1964 to 1968 on The Virginian, the 90-minute Western series in which he starred with James Drury, Doug McClure, Lee J. Cobb, Roberta Shore, Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, and Diane Roter. Gulager appeared more than 60 times in other roles in film and television, including the film Winning (1969) and the CBS series Three for the Road. He also appeared several times on NBC's Bonanza. He starred with Lee Marvin, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, and Angie Dickinson in The Killers (1964), teaming with Marvin as a pair of ruthless hit men. The Killers was intended to be one of the early made-for-TV movies as part of a Project 120 series of films that did not reach the airwaves,[11] but NBC cited it too violent for broadcast; Universal released the film theatrically instead.[12]

In 1971, Gulager appeared in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. In 1977, long after his role on The Virginian, he appeared in Rod Taylor's unsuccessful NBC Western series, The Oregon Trail, in the episode "The Army Deserter". Gulager also played the boss of Susan Sarandon in a 1977 film drama, The Other Side of Midnight. In 1981, he co-starred as Angela Channing's long-suffering nephew Chase Gioberti, opposite Oscar Award-winner Jane Wyman, Lorenzo Lamas, William R. Moses, and Jamie Rose, in the pilot episode of The Vintage Years, which was later retooled as the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. When he was not rehired to continue with his role, Robert Foxworth took over the role until his firing in 1987.[13]

In 1985, he was cast as Burt Wilson in Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead. He was also a featured player in director John Landis' darkly comedic 1985 film noir satire, Into the Night, a film rife with insider Hollywood cameos, as an FBI agent who is a courier of a cache of clandestine funds, which he grudgingly delivers to secure the safety of the film's two romantic leads (Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum).

In 2005, Gulager appeared as a shotgun-toting bartender in Feast, followed by the film's two sequels, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008), and Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009), all of which were directed by his son, John. He also had a minor role in the critically acclaimed independent film Tangerine (2015).[14] He had a role in the 2012 film Piranha 3DD. Gulager's final screen performance was as an unnamed book store owner in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019.


Gulager died of natural causes at the Los Angeles home of his son John on August 5, 2022. He was 93.[15][16][17]



Year Title Role Notes
1964 The Killers Lee
1966 And Now Miguel Johnny
1967 Sullivan's Empire Juan Clemente TV movie
1969 Winning Larry
1969 A Day with the Boys Director
1971 The Last Picture Show Abilene
1972 Molly and Lawless John Deputy Tom Clements
1972 The Glass House Officer Cortland TV movie
1972 Footsteps Jonas Kane TV movie
1973 Call to Danger Emmet Jergens TV movie
1974 McQ Toms
1974 Hit Lady Roarke
1974 Gangsterfilmen Glenn Mortenson
1974 Smile Jenny, You're Dead Detective Milt Bosworth TV movie
1974 Houston, We've Got a Problem Lou Matthews TV movie
1977 The Other Side of Midnight Bill Fraser
1977 Charlie Cobb: a Nice Night for a Hanging Charles Cobb TVM
1978 A Question of Love Mike Guettner TV movie
1979 A Force of One Dunne
1979 Willa Joe Welch TV movie
1980 Kenny Rogers as The Gambler Rufe Bennett TV movie
1980 Skyward Steve Ward TV movie
1983 Living Proof: The Hank Williams Jr. Story J.R. Smith TV movie
1983 Lies Doctor Bartlett 1984 Chattanooga Choo Choo Sam
1984 The Initiation Dwight Fairchild
1985 Into the Night Federal Agent
1985 Prime Risk Paul Minsky
1985 The Return of the Living Dead Burt Wilson
1985 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge Mr. Walsh
1985 Bridge Across Time Peter Dawson Also known as: Terror at London Bridge
1986 Hunter's Blood Mason Rand
1987 From a Whisper to a Scream Stanley Burnside Original title: The Offspring
1987 The Hidden Lieutenant Ed Flynn
1987 Summer Heat Will
1988 Tapeheads Norman Mart
1988 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Lieutenant Baker
1988 Teen Vamp The Reverend
1988 Uninvited Albert
1990 Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective Desk Sergeant
1990 The Willies Greeley Principal
1991 My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys Dark Glasses
1992 Eddie Presley Sid
1993 Killing Device Smitty
1993 In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco McLennan County Sheriff TV movie
1994 Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter Man #1
1999 Gunfighter Uncle Buck Peters
1999 Palmer's Pick-Up Jeb
2005 Feast Bartender
2006 Vic Vic Reeves Short film
2008 Feast II: Sloppy Seconds Bartender
2009 Feast III: The Happy Finish Bartender
2012 Piranha 3DD Mo
2015 Tangerine The Cherokee
2015 Director's Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein Gavin Merrill
2016 Blue Jay Waynie
2018 Children of the Corn: Runaway Crusty
2018 Give Til It Hurts Mr. Lawson
2019 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Book Store Owner
2019 Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street Himself Documentary film


Year Title Role Notes
1956 The United States Steel Hour Danny Episode: "Bang the Drum Slowly"
1956 Goodyear Playhouse Terrible Episode: "Stardust II"
1957 Studio One in Hollywood Lloyd Carpenter Episode: "Walk Down the Hill"
1957 The Alcoa Hour James Wesley Episode: "15 October 1864"
1959 Black Saddle Andy Meade Episode: "Client: Meade"
1959 Playhouse 90 Zach Episode: "The Day Before Atlanta"
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Young Vix Episode: "The Day the Town Stood Up"
1959 Laramie Private Gil Brady Episode: "Fugitive Road"
1959 The Untouchables Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll
1959 The Lawless Years Tommy Pavolock Episode: "The Immigrant"
1959 Have Gun – Will Travel Roy Carter Episode: "Return of Roy Carter"
1959 Wanted Dead or Alive Joe Collins Episode: "Crossroads"
1959–64 Wagon Train Various 5 episodes
1960 The Rebel Virgil Taber Episode: "Paint a House with Scarlet"
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Sailor Season 5 Episode 3 ("Appointment at Eleven")
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Rod Collins Season 6 Episode 6 ("Pen Pal")
1960–62 The Tall Man Billy the Kid 75 episodes
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Jimmy K. Bresson Season 1 Episode 6: "Final Vow"
1963 The Virginian Jake Carewe Episode: "The Judgement"
1963 The Virginian Jud Episode: "Run Quiet"
1963–68 The Virginian Emmet Ryker 102 episodes, 44 credit only
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Dan Walsh Episode: "The Deep End"
1964 Dr. Kildare Dr. Norman Gage 2 episodes
1968–73 Ironside Frank Clinton / D.W. Donnelly / Jack Brody 3 episodes
1969 The Survivors Senator Mark Jennings Episode: "Chapter Twelve"
1970 San Francisco International Airport Bob Hatten 3 episodes
1971 The F.B.I. Lyle Chernik 2 episodes
1971–75 Cannon B.J. Long / Burdick / Jonathan Quill 3 episodes
1972 Bonanza Billy Brenner Episode: "Stallion"
1972 The Mod Squad Dustin Ellis Episode: "Another Final Game"
1972 Medical Center Jack Episode: "The Choice"
1972–76 Hawaii Five-O Arthur Lambert / Jack Gulley 2 episodes
1973 Mannix Kyle Foster Episode: The Man Who Wasn't There
1973 Kung Fu Sheriff Rutledge Episode: "Blood Brother"
1973 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Keith Raynor The Mystery In Dracula's Castle (Part 1–2)
1973–76 Barnaby Jones Sheriff Mack Hollister / Mark Landy 2 episodes
1974 Shaft Richard Quayle Episode: "The Murder Machine"
1974 Get Christie Love! Sheriff Burl Taggert Episode: "Highway to Murder"
1974–75 Police Story Officer Williams / Tim Keegan 2 episodes
1975 McCloud Johnny Monahan Episode: "Lady on the Run"
1975 The Streets of San Francisco Inspector George Turner Episode: "Poison Snow"
1976 Ellery Queen Father Terrence Devlin / Captain Thomas G. Horton 2 episodes
1976 Once An Eagle Alvin Merrick Recurring Role
1979 The MacKenzies of Paradise Cove Cuda Weber 6 episodes
1981 Falcon Crest Chase Gioberti Episode: "Unaired Pilot"
1982 Quincy, M.E. Larry Krushevitz Episode: "For Love of Joshua"
1982 CHiPs Stoler Episode: "The Game of War"
1982–86 The Fall Guy Col. Halston / Osborne / Marv Jackson 3 episodes
1983 Automan Rudolph Brock Episode: "The Great Pretender"
1984 The Master Mr. Christensen Episode: "Max"
1985 Street Hawk Will Gassner Episode: "Fire on the Wing"
1985 Knight Rider Eugene Hanson Episode: "Buy Out"
1986 Airwolf Cullen Dixon Episode: "Day of Jeopardy"
1986 Magnum, P.I. Theo Wolf Episode: "Way of the Stalking Horse"
1986 Simon & Simon Nathan Sloan Episode: "The Manual"
1986 North and South, Book II Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan Miniseries
1985–87 Murder, She Wrote Ray Carter / Mike Gann / Carl Mestin 3 episodes
1988 MacGyver Walt Kirby Episode: "Thin Ice"
1995 Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Deputy Clay Hardin Episode: "Gunfighters"
1995 Beavis and Butt-Head Anderson's War Buddy (voice) Episode: "What's the Deal?"
1995 Walker, Texas Ranger Duke Jamison Episode: "Final Justice"
1996 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Art McKendrick Episode: "Medicine Man"

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • The Virginian (TV series) (1966) Bronze Wrangler Award for Best Fictional Television Drama ensemble cast
  • A Day with the Boys (1969) (director, short film) Nominated Palme d'Or — Cannes Film Festival "Best Short Film"
  • Hunter's Blood (1986) Nominated Saturn Award "Best Supporting Actor"
  • Gulager is one of several "Oklahoma Walk of Fame" members represented on medallions in front of Tulsa's Circle Cinema.


  1. ^ "Say How: G". National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Michener, Judith "Gulager, William Martin (1928 – )," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture; accessed August 25, 2016.
  3. ^ "Clu" Gulager profile Archived February 19, 2019, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed February 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Conley, Robert J. A Cherokee Encyclopedia, University of Old Mexico Press, 2007. pg. 110.
  5. ^ "GULAGER, WILLIAM MARTIN (1928– )". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  6. ^ Profile,; accessed September 2, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "THE TALL MAN - getTV Interview with Clu Gulager".
  8. ^ Hamilton, Anita (November 17, 2016). "Celebrating Seniors – Clu Gulager is 88, Part 1". Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  9. ^ Conley, Robert J. (2007). A Cherokee Encyclopedia. UNM Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-3951-5.
  10. ^ "Clu Gulager was insecure once, but not uncertain". Provo Daily Herald. January 23, 1967. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  11. ^ Smith, Cecil. (November 21, 1963) "Two-Part Show Is One Worth Look" Los Angeles Times
  12. ^ p 167 Moore, Barbara, Bensman, Marvin R. & Van Dyke, Jim Prime-time Television: A Concise History Praeger (30 March 2006)
  13. ^ " – Deutscher FALCON CREST – Fanclub / German FALCON CREST Fan Club".
  14. ^ Powers, John (July 7, 2015). "Why Tangerine Is the Most Unlikely Hit of the Year". Vogue. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Barnes, Mike (August 6, 2022). "Clu Gulager, Actor in 'The Virginian,' 'The Last Picture Show' and 'Return of the Living Dead,' Dies at 93". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  16. ^ Murphy, J. Kim (August 6, 2022). "Clu Gulager, 'The Virginian' and 'Return of the Living Dead' Actor, Dies at 93". Variety. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  17. ^ Haring, Bruce (August 6, 2022). "Clu Gulager Dies: Veteran Horror Film Actor In 'Return Of The Living Dead' Was 93". Deadline. Retrieved August 7, 2022.

External links[edit]