Clu Gulager Dead: ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Return of Living Dead’ Star Was 93

Clu Gulager, a veteran actor known for his roles in the NBC series “The Virginian” and the 1985 horror-comedy “The Return of the Living Dead,” has died. He was 93 years old.

Gulager’s son, John, shared a photo of his father on his Facebook as a tribute. Filmmaker Sean Baker, who directed Gulager on the 2015 feature “Tangerine,” confirmed the news of his death on Twitter.

Gulager’s acting career stretched across seven decades, beginning with small guest performances in 1950s television series. A mainstay of TV Westerns, Gulager starred as Billy the Kid in NBC’s “The Tall Man” for its two-season run and took a regular role in the network’s “The Virginian” for four of its nine seasons.

In the 1980’s, Gulager was reintroduced to a new generation of viewers with prominent roles in horror films. The actor starred alongside Vera Miles in 1984’s “The Initiation” and led Dan O’Bannon’s “The Return of the Living Dead” a year later. Gulager was a favorite of director Quentin Tarantino, whose 2019 film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” marked the actor’s final screen credit. Gulager played a book shop owner in Tarantino’s film.

Born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Okla. on Nov. 16, 1928, Clu’s father was a former actor and a cowboy entertainer. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1940s, Gulager attended Northeastern State University and later Baylor University, beginning his venture into acting.

Gulager’s first screen credit is listed as a 1955 episode of the variety series “Omnibus.” After a series of guest appearances on TV shows, Billy the Kid on “The Tall Man” marked his first major role, acting opposite Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett. Although the NBC series was short-lived, Gulager quickly found himself back in the saddle as a regular cast member on “The Virginian” only a few years later.

In 1964, Gulager played a major role in Don Siegel’s “The Killers,”acting alongside a cast that included Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and Ronald Reagan (in his final film role).

Gulager also directed his own 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.

Later in his career, Gulager was directed by his son, John Gulager. The pair collaborated on the horror-comedy film series “Feast” and 2012’s “Piranha 3DD.”

Gulager wed fellow actor Miriam Byrd-Nethery in 1960. The two remained married until Byrd-Nethery’s death in 2003. He is survived by his sons, John and Tom; and his daughter-in-law, Diane.