Clu Gulager, actor on ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Last Picture Show,’ dead at 93

Veteran actor Clu Gulager, a real-life cowboy who starred in the NBC western “The Virginian” and also appeared in “The Last Picture Show” and “The Return of the Living Dead,” died Friday, his son said. He was 93.

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Gulager died of natural causes at the Los Angeles home of his son and daughter-in-law, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Clu was as caring as he was loyal and devoted to his craft, a proud member of the Cherokee nation, a rule-breaker, sharp and astute and on the side -- always -- of the oppressed,” Gulager’s daughter-in-law, Diane Goldner, said in a statement posted on Facebook. “He was good-humored, an avid reader, tender and kind. Loud and dangerous.”

Gulager’s acting career spanned seven decades, beginning with small roles in television series during the 1950s, according to Variety. He starred as Billy the Kid in “The Tall Man” from 1960 to 1962 and played Emmett Ryker in 104 episodes of “The Virginian” from 1963 to 1968, according to

Gulager also had a role in “The Last Picture Show” in 1971, Variety reported.

Filmmaker Sean Baker, who directed Gulager in the 2015 feature “Tangerine,” paid tribute to the actor on Twitter.

In the 1980s, Gulager played prominent roles in several horror films.

He starred with Vera Miles in 1984′s “The Initiation,” and the following year had roles in “The Return of the Living Dead” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” according to Variety.

Gulager said he was reluctant to accept the role of the head of a medical supply warehouse who battles the undead in “The Return of the Living Dead,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I didn’t especially want to do it,” he said in a 2017 interview. “I thought I was kind of above that. And it turned out, if I’m remembered at all, that’s what I will be remembered for … I killed 18 zombies and then they came back and nuked me!”

More recently, Gulager had roles in “Tangerine” (2015), “Blue Jay” (2016) and his final screen credit, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Oklahoma, on Nov. 16, 1928, his father was a former actor and a cowboy entertainer, Variety reported. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during the 1940s, Gulager attended Northeastern State University and later Baylor University, where he began acting, according to the entertainment news outlet.

In 1964, Gulager played a major role in “The Killers,” acting with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and Ronald Reagan in his final film role, Variety reported.

Gulager also directed “A Day With the Boys,” which was nominated for the Palme d’Or for best short film at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.