Clu Gulager

William Martin "Clu" Gulager (born November 16, 1928) is an American television and film actor and director. He first became known for his work in television, appearing in the co-starring role of William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid) in the 1960–62 NBC television series The Tall Man and as Emmett Ryker in another NBC Western series, The Virginian.

Clu Gulager
Gulager in 2015
William Martin Gulager

(1928-11-16) November 16, 1928
Years active1947-present
Miriam Byrd-Nethery Gulager
(m. 1960; her death 2003)
ChildrenTom Gulager
John Gulager

Gulager's first major film role was in Don Siegel's The Killers (1964), followed by a supporting part in the racing film Winning (1969) opposite Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; in Peter Bogdanovich's drama The Last Picture Show (1971); and opposite John Wayne in McQ (1974). In the 1980s, Gulager appeared in several horror films, such as The Initiation (1984) and the zombie comedy The Return of the Living Dead (1985). In 2005, he appeared in the horror film Feast, as well as its sequels. He also appeared in the critically acclaimed independent film Tangerine (2015).

Gulager directed the short film A Day with the Boys, which was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.

Early life

Gulager was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, the son of John Delancy Gulager, who had been an actor before settling down to practice law in nearby Muskogee.[1][lower-alpha 1] His paternal grandmother, Martha Schrimsher Gulager, was a sister of Mary Scrimshaw, the mother of Will Rogers, making Gulager and Rogers first cousins, once removed.[1][3] He has Cherokee Indian ancestry.[4]

His Cherokee nickname was given to him by his father for the clu-clu birds (known in English as martins,[4] like his middle name) that were nesting at the Gulager home at the time of his birth.[5] From 1946 to 1948, Gulager served in the United States Marine Corps. After attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Gulager transferred to Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He won a 1-year scholarship to study abroad, where he worked under Jean Louis Barrault, an internationally known French actor and director. In 1952, he returned to Baylor. In 1960, he married fellow actor Miriam Byrd Nethery, an Arkansan. The couple had two sons, including film director John Gulager, and remained married until her death in 2003.[1]


In 1958, Gulager appeared as Roy Carter in the episode "The Return of Roy Carter" (written by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame) in the Western television series Have Gun-Will Travel starring Richard Boone. In the spring of 1959, Gulager appeared as Tommy Pavlock in the episode "The Immigrant" of NBC's series The Lawless Years, a 1920s crime drama. In the fall of 1959, he appeared in the episode "The Temple of the Swinging Doll" of NBC's short-lived espionage drama Five Fingers, starring David Hedison.[6]

On June 3, 1959, he guest-starred as the unscrupulous photographer Elliott Garrison in "The Andrew Hale Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. On October 11, 1959, Gulager appeared as a U.S. Navy sailor in the "Appointment at Eleven" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and again as an escaped convict in "Pen Pal" on November 1, 1960. On The Untouchables, he played the role of real-life vicious mob killer Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll. Gulager was hailed for his utterly chilling performance as the psychopathic Coll. Late in 1959, he was cast as Beau Chandler in the episode "Jessie Quinn" of the NBC Western series Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. The episode is a tale of intrigue involving the Texas Revolution. Capt. Holden attempts to send weapons to Sam Houston, but forces of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in Mexico threaten to blow up Holden's vessel, the Enterprise.

From 1960-62, Gulager played Billy the Kid in The Tall Man opposite Barry Sullivan as Sheriff Pat Garrett. The episodes portray Billy as a sympathetic character without resorting to the "misunderstood young man" theme used in such films as The Outlaw and The Left Handed Gun. In 1961, Gulager guest-starred in another NBC Western, Whispering Smith, Audie Murphy's only attempt at series television. Gulager portrayed Deputy Sheriff Emmett Ryker from 1964 to 1968 on The Virginian, the 90-minute Western series in which he starred with James Drury, Doug McClure, Lee J. Cobb, Roberta Shore, Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, and Diane Roter. Gulager appeared more than 60 times in other roles in film and television, including the film Winning and the CBS series Three for the Road. He also appeared several times on NBC's Bonanza. He starred with Lee Marvin, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, and Angie Dickinson in The Killers, teaming with Marvin as a pair of ruthless hit men.

Gulager appeared notably in The Last Picture Show (1971). In 1977, long after his role on The Virginian, he appeared in Rod Taylor's unsuccessful NBC Western series, The Oregon Trail, in the episode "The Army Deserter". Gulager also played the boss of Susan Sarandon in a 1977 film drama, The Other Side of Midnight. In 1981, he co-starred opposite Oscar Award-winner Jane Wyman, along with some newer younger actors Lorenzo Lamas, William R. Moses, and Jamie Rose, in the pilot episode of The Vintage Years (which was retooled as the primetime soap opera: Falcon Crest) for the male lead role of Angela Channing's long-suffering nephew, Chase Gioberti, when he was not rehired to continue with his role, hence, Robert Foxworth, took over the role, until his firing in 1987.[7] He also appeared in his son John Gulager's Feast series of films as a shotgun-toting bartender, and had a role in the 2012 film Piranha 3DD. He was also a featured player in director John Landis' darkly comedic 1985 film noir satire, Into The Night, a film rife with insider Hollywood cameos, as an FBI agent, courier of a cache of clandestine funds, which he grudgingly delivers to secure the safety of the film's two romantic leads (Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum). In an example of the film's dry humor, their characters find they are not in a position to object as the agent/courier (Gulager) angrily pilfers as many packets of bills from the treasure trove as he can resentfully stuff into his pockets in plain sight of them, before leaving the bewildered pair in a huff.

He was cast as Burt Wilson in the Dan O'Bannon-directed 1985 cult classic, The Return of the Living Dead. In 2005, Gulager appeared in Feast, followed by the film's two sequels, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008), and Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009), all of which were directed by his son, John. He also had a minor role in the critically acclaimed independent film Tangerine (2015).[8]



Year Title Role Year Notes
1964The KillersLee
1966And Now MiguelJohnny
1967Sullivan's EmpireJuan ClementeTelevision film
1969A Day with the BoysN/ADirector
1971The Last Picture ShowAbilene
1972Molly and Lawless JohnDeputy Tom Clements
1972The Glass HouseOfficer CortlandTelevision film
1972FootstepsJonas KaneTelevision film
1973Call To DangerEmmet JergensTelevision film
1974Hit LadyRoarke
1974GangsterfilmenGlenn Mortenson
1974Smile Jenny, You're DeadDetective Milt BosworthTelevision film
1974Houston, We've Got a ProblemLou MatthewsTelevision film
1977The Other Side of MidnightBill Fraser
1979A Force of OneDunne
1979WillaJoe WelchTelevision film
1980Kenny Rogers as The GamblerRufe BennettTelevision film
1980SkywardSteve WardTelevision film
1983Living Proof: The Hank Williams Jr. StoryJ.R. SmithTelevision film
1984Chattanooga Choo ChooSam
1984The InitiationDwight Fairchild
1985Into the NightFederal Agent
1985Prime RiskPaul Minsky
1985The Return of the Living DeadBurt
1985LiesDoctor Bartlett
1985A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's RevengeMr. Walsh
1985Bridge Across TimePeter DawsonAlso known as: Terror at London Bridge
1986Hunter's BloodMason Rand
1987From a Whisper to a ScreamStanley BurnsideOriginal title: The Offspring
1987The HiddenLieutenant Ed Flynn
1987Summer HeatWill
1988TapeheadsNorman Mart
1988I'm Gonna Git You SuckaLieutenant Baker
1988Teen VampThe Reverend
1990Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective Desk Sergeant
1990The WilliesGreeley Principal
1991My Heroes Have Always Been CowboysDark Glasses
1992Eddie PresleySid
1993Killing DeviceSmitty
1993In the Line of Duty: Ambush in WacoMcLennan County SheriffTelevision film
1994Puppet Master 5: The Final ChapterMan #1
1999GunfighterUncle Buck Peters
1999Palmer's Pick-UpJeb
2006VicVic ReevesShort film
2008Feast II: Sloppy SecondsBartender
2009Feast III: The Happy FinishBartender
2012Piranha 3DDMo
2015TangerineThe Cherokee
2015Director's Commentary: Terror of FrankensteinGavin Merrill
2016Blue JayWaynie
2018Children of the Corn: RunawayCrusty
2018Give Til It HurtsMr. Lawson
2019Once Upon a Time in HollywoodBook Store Owner


Year Title Role Notes
1956The United States Steel HourCokerEpisode: "Bang the Drum Slowly"
1956Goodyear PlayhouseTerribleEpisode: "Stardust II"
1957Studio One in HollywoodLloyd CarpenterEpisode: "Walk Down the Hill"
1957The Alcoa HourJames WesleyEpisode: "15 October 1864"
1959Black SaddleAndy MeadeEpisode: "Client: Meade"
1959Playhouse 90ZachEpisode: "The Day Before Atlanta"
1959Westinghouse Desilu PlayhouseYoung VixEpisode: "The Day the Town Stood Up"
1959LaramiePrivate Gil BradyEpisode: "Fugitive Road"
1959The UntouchablesVincent “Mad dog” Coll Vincent “Mad dog” Coll
1959The Lawless YearsTommy PavolockEpisode: "The Immigrant"
1959Have Gun – Will TravelRoy CarterEpisode: "Return of Roy Carter"
1959Wanted: Dead or AliveJoe CollinsEpisode: "Crossroads"
1959–64Wagon TrainVarious5 episodes
1960The RebelVirgil TaberEpisode: "Paint a House with Scarlet"
1959–60Alfred Hitchcock PresentsRod Collins / Sailor2 episodes
1960–62The Tall ManBilly the Kid75 episodes
1962The Alfred Hitchcock HourJimmy K. BressonEpisode: "Final Vow"
1963The VirginianJake CareweEpisode: "The Judgement"
1964Kraft Suspense TheatreDan WalshEpisode: "The Deep End"
1964Dr. KildareDr. Norman Gage2 episodes
1968The VirginianEmmet RykerEpisode: "Lost Yesterday"
1968–73IronsideFrank Clinton / D.W. Donnelly / Jack Brody3 episodes
1969The SurvivorsSenator Mark JenningsEpisode: "Chapter Twelve"
1970San Francisco International AirportBob Hatten3 episodes
1971The F.B.I.Lyle Chernik2 episodes
1971–75CannonB.J. Long / Burdick / Jonathan Quill3 episodes
1972BonanzaBilly BrennerEpisode: "Stallion"
1972Mod SquadDustin EllisEpisode: "Another Final Game"
1972Medical CenterJackEpisode: "The Choice"
1972–76Hawaii Five-OArthur Lambert / Jack Gulley2 episodes
1973Kung FuSheriff RutledgeEpisode: "Blood Brother"
1973Walt Disney's Wonderful World of ColorKeith RaynorThe Mystery In Dracula's Castle (Part 1–2)
1973–76Barnaby JonesSheriff Mack Hollister / Mark Landy2 episodes
1974ShaftRichard QuayleEpisode: "The Murder Machine"
1974Get Christie Love!Sheriff Burl TaggertEpisode: "Highway to Murder"
1974–75Police StoryOfficer Williams / Tim Keegan2 episodes
1975McCloudJohnny MonahanEpisode: "Lady on the Run"
1975The Streets of San FranciscoInspector George TurnerEpisode: "Poison Snow"
1976Ellery QueenFather Terrence Devlin / Captain Thomas G. Horton2 episodes
1979The MacKenzies of Paradise CoveCuda Weber6 episodes
1981Falcon CrestChase GiobertiEpisode: "Unaired Pilot"
1982Quincy M.E.Larry KrushevitzEpisode: "For Love of Joshua"
1982CHiPsStolerEpisode: "The Game of War"
1982–86The Fall GuyCol. Halston / Osborne / Marv Jackson3 episodes
1983AutomanRudolph BrockEpisode: "The Great Pretender"
1984The MasterMr. ChristensenEpisode: "Max"
1985Street HawkWill GassnerEpisode: "Fire on the Wing"
1985Knight RiderEugene HansonEpisode: "Buy Out"
1986AirwolfCullen DixonEpisode: "Day of Jeopardy"
1986Magnum P.I.Theo WolfEpisode: "Way of the Stalking Horse"
1986Simon & SimonNathan SloanEpisode: "The Manual"
1986North and South, Book IIGen. Philip Henry SheridanMiniseries
1985–87Murder, She WroteRay Carter / Mike Gann / Carl Mestin3 episodes
1988MacGyverWalt KirbyEpisode: "Thin Ice"
1995Kung Fu: The Legend ContinuesDeputy Clay HardinEpisode: "Gunfighters"
1995Beavis and Butt-HeadAnderson's War BuddyEpisode: "What's the Deal?"
1995Walker, Texas RangerDuke JamisonEpisode: "Final Justice"
1996Dr. Quinn, Medicine WomanArt McKendrickEpisode: "Medicine Man"

Awards and nominations

  • The Virginian (TV series) (1966) Bronze Wrangler Award for Best Fictional Television Drama ensemble cast
  • A Day with the Boys (1969) (director, short film) Nominated Palme D'Or - Cannes Film Festival "Best Short Film"
  • Hunter's Blood (1986) Nominated Saturn Award "Best Supporting Actor"


  1. One source described John Gulager as a cowboy entertainer.[2]


  1. Michener, Judith "Gulager, William Martin (1928 )," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture; accessed August 25, 2016.
  2. Clu Gulager Biography,; accessed September 2, 2018.
  3. "Clu" Gulager profile,; accessed February 12, 2019.
  4. Conley, Robert J. A Cherokee Encyclopedia, University of Old Mexico Press, 2007. pg. 110.
  5. Profile,; accessed September 2, 2018.
  6. "Clu Gulager was insecure once, but not uncertain". Provo Daily Herald. January 23, 1967. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  7. " - Deutscher FALCON CREST - Fanclub / German FALCON CREST Fan Club".
  8. Powers, John (July 7, 2015). "Why Tangerine Is the Most Unlikely Hit of the Year". Vogue. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
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