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Michael Parks

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Michael Parks
Parks in Then Came Bronson (1969)
Harry Samuel Parks

(1940-04-24)April 24, 1940
DiedMay 9, 2017(2017-05-09) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active1960–2017
Louise Johnson
(m. 1956; div. 1958)
Joanne E. "Jan" Moriarty
(m. 1964; died 1964)
Carolyn Kay Carson
(m. 1969; div. 1977)
Frances Alston Fenci Walker
(m. 1987; div. 1996)
Oriana Parks
(m. 1997)
Children2, including James

Michael Parks (born Harry Samuel Parks; April 24, 1940 – May 9, 2017) was an American singer and actor[2] who made numerous film and television appearances, notably starring in the 1969–1970 series Then Came Bronson. He was widely known for his work in his later years with filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith.


In 1961, Parks portrayed the nephew of the character George MacMichael on the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys. In a Wagon Train episode airing April 10, 1963, Parks played Hamish Browne, in an episode titled "The Heather and Hamish Story". He appeared as Cal Leonard in the 1963 Perry Mason episode "The Case of Constant Doyle", in which Bette Davis played Constant Doyle.[3][4] He gained recognition in the role of Adam in John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966).[5]

Parks was the star of the series Then Came Bronson from 1969 to 1970, in which he rode an iconic red Harley-Davidson Sportster, as he drifted from town to town.[6][7] He sang "Wayfarin’ Stranger", a duet with pilot episode co-star Bonnie Bedelia, and later the theme song for the show, "Long Lonesome Highway",[8] which became a No. 20 Billboard Hot 100 and No. 41 Hot Country Songs hit.[9] "Long Lonesome Highway" also peaked at number 84 in Australia.[10]

Parks recorded five albums under MGM Records (the label of the studio which produced the series) that charted including Closing The Gap (1969), Long Lonesome Highway (1970), and Blue.[8]

After disputes with the producers of Bronson, Parks said he was informally blacklisted in Hollywood.[11] Parks admitted he could be "difficult on the set" and also said he objected to producers wanting to make the series more violent. After the cancellation of Bronson, Parks didn't work in a major Hollywood production for several years, but he had regular small roles in independent or Canadian features throughout the 1970s, such as Between Friends (1973), although director Donald Shebib had trouble dealing with Parks, describing him as a "terrific actor in a lot of ways, but weird". Later in the same interview, Shebib accuses Parks of having been openly and aggressively anti-semitic. [12]

He played in twelve episodes of ABC's The Colbys, a spin-off from Dynasty, first as Hoyt Parker, and then Phillip Colby during the second season (1986–1987). He appeared as Irish mob boss Tommy O'Shea in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994), French-Canadian drug runner Jean Renault in the ABC television series Twin Peaks, Dr. Banyard in Deceiver (1997), Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in From Dusk till Dawn (1996), and Ambrose Bierce in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (2000).[13]

Parks played two roles in the Kill Bill film series, reprising the role of Earl McGraw in the first film (2003) and playing pimp Esteban Vihaio in the second film (2004).[14] He again reprised the role of Earl McGraw in both segments of the film Grindhouse (2007), making his fourth appearance as the Texas Ranger.[15] His son, James Parks, played the son of Earl McGraw in Kill Bill, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Death Proof, and Planet Terror. Parks played a villain in Kevin Smith's horror films Red State (2011) and Tusk (2014).[14]

Smith later announced on his podcast that Parks had recorded an album during Red State's production, after Smith and producer Jon Gordon noticed his singing talent during filming. The album, titled The Red State Sessions, was released on August 15, 2011, as a download from the film's website.

Personal life[edit]

Parks was born in Corona, California to Harry Arthur Parks and Beatrice Adora Dunwoody.[16][17] He drifted from job to job during his teenage years, including picking fruit, digging ditches, driving trucks, and fighting forest fires.[16]

Parks married five times. His first marriage in 1956 at age 16 to Louise Johnson lasted until 1958 and produced a daughter.[18][19] His second marriage in 1964 to actress Jan Moriarty lasted only a few months, ending with her apparent suicide from an overdose.[20] His third marriage in 1968 to Carolyn Kay Carson produced a son, James.[19] His fourth marriage to Alston Fenci, whom he married in 1987, ended in divorce in 1996.[13] In 1997, he married Oriana. The union lasted until his death.[18]

Death and reaction[edit]

Parks died on May 9, 2017, in his Los Angeles home at the age of 77 from undisclosed causes.[21] He requested a full body burial at sea, which his wife attended alone following a public funeral held at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Upon hearing the news, director Kevin Smith posted on his Instagram account "Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I've ever known. I wrote both Red State and Tusk for Parks, I loved his acting so much." He also included, "He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set."[22][23] In a Twitter post, director Robert Rodriguez referred to Michael Parks as "a true legend".[24]


Kevin Smith produced a documentary on the life and times of Michael Parks, directed by Michael's former assistant, Josh Roush.[25] Titled Long Lonesome Highway, it covers his beginnings as an itinerant teenager hopping boxcars through being blacklisted in Hollywood, to his career resurgence at the hands of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino.[26] It stars James Parks, Kurt Russell, Haley Joel Osment, Robert Rodriguez, Leonard Maltin, Mickey Rourke, Justin Long, Wyatt Russell, Mark Frost, and others.[27][28]



Year Title Role Notes
1965 Wild Seed Fargo
Bus Riley's Back in Town Bus Riley
1966 The Bible: In the Beginning... Adam
The Idol Marco
1967 The Happening 'Sureshot'
Stranger on the Run Vincent McKay
1973 Between Friends Tony
1976 The Last Hard Men Sheriff Noel Nye
The Savage Bees Dr. Jeff DuRand
1977 Murder at the World Series Larry Marshall
Escape from Bogen County Jack Kern
Sidewinder 1 J.W. Wyatt
The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover Robert F. Kennedy
1978 Love and the Midnight Auto Supply 'Duke'
Rainbow Roger Edens
1979 The Evictors Ben Watkins
Breakthrough Sergeant Anderson
1980 North Sea Hijack Harold Shulman
1981 Hard Country Royce
1982 Savannah Smiles Lieutenant Savage
1986 The Return of Josey Wales Josey Wales Also director[29]
Spiker Coach Doames
1988 Arizona Heat Larry Kapinski
Nightmare Beach 'Doc' Willet
1989 Caged Fury Mr. Collins Also associate producer
Prime Suspect Bill Nevins
1991 The Hitman Detective Ronny 'Del' Delany
1992 Storyville Detective Michael Trevllian
Over the Line Pearlmutter
1994 Death Wish V: The Face of Death Tommy O'Shea
Stranger by Night Detective Larson Direct-to-video
1995 Sorceress Stan Direct-to-video
1996 From Dusk till Dawn Texas Ranger Earl McGraw
1997 Niagara, Niagara Walter
Deceiver Dr. Banyard
Julian Po Vern
1998 Wicked Detective Boland
1999 From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter Ambrose Bierce Direct-to-video
2000 Bullfighter Cordobes
2001 Big Bad Love Mr. Aaron
2002 13 Moons Bartender
2003 Kill Bill: Volume 1 Texas Ranger Earl McGraw
The Librarians William Clark
2004 Kill Bill: Volume 2 Esteban Vihaio
2005 Miracle at Sage Creek Justice Stanley
2006 The Listening James Wagley
2007 Grindhouse Texas Ranger Earl McGraw Segments: Planet Terror / Death Proof
El Muerto Sheriff Stone
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Henry Craig
2008 Noble Things Pete Collins
Maidenhead Dad
Three Priests Jacob
2010 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball Fritz Tremor Direct-to-DVD
Street Poet Benny
2011 Red State Pastor Abin Cooper
2012 Argo Jack Kirby
Django Unchained LeQuint Dickey Mining Company Employee
2013 We Are What We Are 'Doc' Barrow
2014 Tusk Howard Howe
2016 Blood Father Tom 'Preacher' Parker
Greater Leo
2020 The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. Chet Fuller Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1960–1961 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater Juanito / Younger Prisoner Episode: "Ransom", "The Scar"
1961 The Law and Mr. Jones Mike Enslow Episode: "One by One"
The Asphalt Jungle Ty Episode: "The Sniper"
Straightaway Donald Stafford Episode: "Pledge a Nightmare"
The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor Johnny Blaine / Eddy Washburn / Jimmy Episodes: "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt", "Personal Enemy", "The Frightened Ones"
1962 Gunsmoke Park Episode: "The Boys"
Target: The Corruptors! 'Rocky' Kustak Episode: "Nobody Gets Hurt"
Stoney Burke 'Tack' Reynolds Episode: "The Mob Riders"
The Real McCoys Tom Episode: "George's Nephew"
Bus Stop Unknown Episode: "The Opposite Virtues"
Sam Benedict Larry Wilcox Episode: "Too Many Strangers"
The Gallant Men Billy Ray Medford Episode: "A Place to Die"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Dr. Daniel Dana Season 1 Episode 22: "Diagnosis: Danger"
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Skip Baxter Season 2 Episode 8: "The Cadaver"
The Greatest Show on Earth Cristos Episode: "The Hanging Man"
Perry Mason Cal Leonard Episode: "The Case of Constant Doyle"
Arrest and Trial Gregory Wade Episode: "We May Be Better Strangers"
77 Sunset Strip Eddie Marco Episode: "Crash Out!"
1963–1964 Channing Dante Donati 2 episodes
Wagon Train Hamish Browne / Michael Malone Episodes: "The Heather and Hamish Story", "The Michael Malone Story"
1964 Route 66 'Tank' Episode: "Cries of Persons Close to One"
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Lieutenant Colonel Burt Engle Episode: "A Time for Killing"
1969–1970 Then Came Bronson Jim Bronson Lead role, 26 episodes; a feature-length pilot was released theatrically in some European countries[30]
1970 The Johnny Cash Show Himself Singing
1973 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Ollie Gregson Episode: "Sometimes Tough Is Good"
Medical Center Dr. Chris Wells Episode: "Fatal Memory"
1974 Ironside Professor Riley MacDane Episode: "A Death in Academe"
1975 The Rookies Crilen Episode: "One-Way Street to Nowhere"
1976 Ellery Queen Terry Purvis Episode: "The Adventure of the Wary Witness"
1978 Hunters Of The Reef Jim Spanner Television film
1979 Fantasy Island Convict pen pal to paraplegic Toni Tennille Espisode: "The Comic"; "Golden Hour"
1981 Dial M for Murder Max Television film
1986, 1988 The Equalizer Logan / Jonathan Grey 2 episodes
1987 The Colbys Phillip Colby 12 episodes
1989 Murder, She Wrote Ben Aaron Episode: "Prediction: Murder"
War of the Worlds 'Cash' McCullough Episode: "My Soul to Keep"
Billy the Kid Rynerson Television film
1990 The China Lake Murders Officer Jack Donnelly Television film
1990–1991 Twin Peaks Jean Renault 5 episodes
1991 Shades of L.A. Reverend James Scarborough 2 episodes
1993 SeaQuest 2032 George Le Chein Episode: "To Be or Not To Be"
1993 The Untouchables Dean 'Dion' O'Banion Pilot episode, billed as guest star[31]
1996 Hart to Hart Evan Powell Episode: "Secrets of the Hart"
1996-1999 Walker, Texas Ranger Major Caleb Hooks 2 episodes



  • 1969 – Closing The Gap (MGM)
  • 1970 – Long Lonesome Highway (MGM)
  • 1970 – Blue (MGM)
  • 1970 – Lost & Found (Verve)
  • 1971 – Best Of Michael Parks (MGM)
  • 1981 – You Don't Know Me (First American)
  • 1998 – Coolin' Soup (Listen)
  • 2011 – The Red State Sessions (SModcast)


  • 1969 - Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again / Won't You Ride in My Little Red Wagon (MGM K14092) #117 Billboard's Bubbling Under chart
  • 1970 - Long Lonesome Highway / Mountain High (MGM K14104) #20 Billboard's Hot 100 chart
  • 1970 - Sally (Was A Gentle Woman) / Spend A Little, Save A Little (Give A Little Away) (MGM K14154)
  • 1970 - Big "T" Water / Won't You Ride in My Little Red Wagon (MGM K14363)
  • 1970 - I Was Born In Kentucky / Turn Around Little Mama (Verve VK10653)


  1. ^ "Obituaries for 8/17". The Daily Sentinel. August 17, 2005. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  2. ^ "Michael Parks". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2015. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "PERRY MASON: THE CASE OF CONSTANT DOYLE (TV)". Raymond Burr. The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  4. ^ Brockman, Dave. "The Case of Constant Doyle". Perry Mason TV Series. Big Dave Brockman's Perry Mason TV Series Wiki. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  5. ^ Cooley, Patrick (May 12, 2017). "Actor Michael Parks' seven best roles during his decades-long career". Cleveland. Advance Local. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Nichols, Dave (May 8, 2010). One Percenter: The Legend of the Outlaw Biker. Motorbooks. ISBN 978-0-7603-3829-2.
  7. ^ "Michael Parks, Star of Then Came Bronson, Dies at 77". Ultimate Motorcycling. May 12, 2017. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Leszczak, Bob (June 25, 2015). From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4274-6.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (August 2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 229. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ Liam Brennan The Blacklisting of Michael Parks: How a Hollywood Star Was Quietly Shunned, The Artifice, September 12, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2019
  12. ^ "Sung Antiheroes: An Interview with "Goin' Down the Road" Director Donald Shebib". October 16, 2013.
  13. ^ a b III, Harris M. Lentz (April 30, 2018). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2017. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-7032-4.
  14. ^ a b Gordon, Dr Roger L. (September 7, 2018). Supporting Actors in Motion Pictures: Volume II. Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4809-5841-8.
  15. ^ Browning, Mark (July 19, 2012). George Clooney: An Actor Looking for a Role. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39622-9.
  16. ^ a b Evans, Greg (May 10, 2017). "Michael Parks Dies: 'Then Came Bronson', 'Kill Bill' Actor Was 77". Deadline Hollywood. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  17. ^ "Harry Samuel Parks". California Birth Index. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Michael Parks, 'Kill Bill' and 'Twin Peaks' Actor, Dies at 77". NBC News. Associated Press. May 10, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Bucher, Chris (May 10, 2017). "Michael Parks' Wives: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  20. ^ Frasier, David K. (September 11, 2015). Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-0807-5.
  21. ^ "Michael Parks dies, aged 77". Den of Geek. May 10, 2017. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  22. ^ Kreps, Daniel (May 10, 2017). "Michael Parks, 'Twin Peaks' Actor and Tarantino Favorite, Dead at 77". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  23. ^ Kelley, Seth (May 10, 2017). "Michael Parks, Character Actor in 'Kill Bill' and 'Tusk,' Dies at 77". Variety. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  24. ^ "RIP Michael Parks: Hollywood's most underrated actor?". BBC. May 10, 2017. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  25. ^ Roush, Josh (May 11, 2017). "Michael Parks and I". Film Threat. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  26. ^ "Josh Roush [Interview]". TRAINWRECK'D SOCIETY. November 5, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  27. ^ "Long Lonesome Highway". ParksDoc.com. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  28. ^ Long Lonesome Highway: The Story of Michael Parks, Kevin Smith, Haley Joel Osment, Wyatt Russell, 2019, retrieved August 16, 2018{{citation}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  29. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (December 21, 2012). Western Movies: A Guide to 5,105 Feature Films, 2d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6372-5.
  30. ^ Harrison, John (September 28, 2012). Hip Pocket Sleaze: The Lurid World of Vintage Adult Paperbacks. SCB Distributors. ISBN 978-1-900486-98-9.
  31. ^ Prouty (1996). Variety and Daily Variety Television Reviews, 1993-1994. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-8240-3797-0.

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