Sunday, April 21, 2024

RIP Clu Gulager, 93, Veteran of TV Series, Westerns, and In the End, Quentin Tarantino


In “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” the great 2019 movie by Quentin Tarantino, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate visits a bookstore to buy Roman Polanski a copy of “Tess of the Durbevilles.” The white haired clerk, an older man, looked familiar. The shock was he was played by Clu Gulager, then 90, who represented in many ways the characters played Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt in the movie. Gulager, matinee idol handsome, had been a regular on TV westerns in the late 1950s and well into the 60s. But mostly people had forgotten about him, and probably assumed, as I did, that he’d died long ago.

Gulager passed away Saturday at age 93. He spent his young years with roles on TV westerns until he became a regular on “The Tall Man.” He went into “Wagon Train” playing different parts and then filmed 104 episodes, five seasons of the hit show, “The Virginians.” That role set him up for the next three decades.

There is almost not a hit broadcast show in the 70s or 80s that Gulager didn’t guest star on. He never got a series again, but like the Pitt and DiCaprio characters, he was always in demand and warmly welcomed. His one big artistic moment was in 1969 when a short film he directed, “A Day with the Boys,” was nominated for Best Short Film at Cannes.

In the foggy mists of Hollywood lore, Gulager turned down a role in Robert Altman’s “MASH.” He also filmed the pilot for the nighttime soap, “Falcon Crest,” but wasn’t hired for the series. Still, his credits rolled and rolled. Toward the end of his career, Gulager was cast in a number of low budget horror films, which could not have been fun. He was one of TV’s original cowboys.

Condolences to his two sons, his fans, and friends.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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