We have sad news to report today, as it was announced over the weekend that legendary character actor Clu Gulager passed away on Friday at the age of 93. Gulager had 165 screen acting credits to his name, and is probably best known to genre fans for his roles in The Return of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
Born in Oklahoma on November 16, 1928, Clu Gulager was officially named William Martin Gulager, but his father gave him the nickname Clu after the clu-clu birds (or martins) that were nesting around the Gulager house at the time. He joined the military in 1946, and after participating in some Army plays he began studying acting. He made his screen debut in the TV series Omnibus in 1955, and nine years later landed his first film role in The Killers.
Gulager’s long list of credits includes the films The Last Picture Show, A Force of One, The Initiation, Into the Night, From a Whisper to a Scream, The Hidden, Tapeheads, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Eddie Presley, Puppet Master 5, Feast, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds, Feast III: The Happy Finish, Piranha 3DD, and Children of the Corn: Runaway. On the TV side, he appeared in episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dr. Kildare, Wagon Train, The Virginian, Bonanza, Mod Squad, Mannix, Ironside, Hawaii Five-O, Knight Rider, Space, Airwolf, Magnum P.I., The Fall Guy, Simon & Simon, Murder She Wrote, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and Walker: Texas Ranger. He even made a voice acting appearance on Beavis and Butt-Head. And he worked on TV movies like Mystery in Dracula’s Castle, The Killer Who Wouldn’t Die, Shaft: The Murder Machine, Ski Lift to Death, The Gambler, Living Proof: The Hank Williams Jr. Story, Terror at London Bridge, and In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, as well as the mini-series North & South: Book 2.
Gulager was one of the leads on the TV series The Tall Man, where he played Billy the Kid alongside Barry Sullivan’s Pat Garrett. The show ran for two seasons and seventy-five episodes.
His last screen acting role was as Book Store Man in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Gulager was married to Miriam Byrd-Nethery from June of 1952 until she passed away in January of 2003. They had two sons – John Gulager and Tom Gulager, both of whom are filmmakers and have multiple acting credits of their own. Gulager’s family provided the following statement:
Clu Gulager, revered television and film actor, known for The Tall Man and The Virginian, died of natural causes at the home of his son John and beloved daughter-in-law Diane, surrounded by his loving family. 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. He was good-humored, an avid reader, tender and kind. Loud and dangerous. As a writer and director, he made the influential short film A Day with the Boys, which opened the 1970 Cannes Film Festival as an example of the state of the art of filmmaking. He was shocked that he lived, for even a day after Miriam Byrd-Nethery, the love of his life, died 18 years ago. He was 93 years old. He is survived by his sons John and Tom, their partners Diane and Zoe, his cherished grandson Clu Mosha, dedicated fans, and decades of extraordinary students. His family will miss him terribly.
Clu Gulager had an awesome screen presence, it was always a delight to see him show up on the screen. It’s sad to know we’ll never get to see another new Clu Gulager performance, but at least he left behind a lot of movies and TV episodes for us to continue enjoying. We’re going to be watching and rewatching his work for a long time to come.
We send out our heartfelt condolences to Gulager’s family, friends, and fans… and a heartfelt thank you to him for all the entertainment he brought us over the years.