Saturday, August 06, 2022

RIP Clu Gulager (1928 - 2022)

It’s sadly time to bid a fond farewell to the great Clu Gulager. I once had the pleasure of meeting him and his son, director John Gulager, when the New Beverly Theater (Clu’s home away from home) invited me to host a Q&A after a screening of Dario Argento’s INFERNO. As his legend comfirms, he sat in the front row of the theater and I was aware of his intent presence throughout. Afterwards, he came up to me with some wonderful words on the evening. I told him that I’d just recently seen THE KILLERS again and the absolute truth, as I saw it: that he stole the picture and every single scene from Lee Marvin! He replied, with the voice of a repentent school boy, “No sir, no one ever steals a scene from Mr. Marvin!” He had my heart after that, and I quickly coralled him and John into a photo that I think Howard S. Berger was kind enough to take. (I don't seem able to find it just now.) Clu actually steals most scenes he’s part of, simply by being the most authentic person on screen, whether that means being organized, committed, lethal, or sweet as can be. He’s only in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW briefly but the sexual heat he emanates just by entering a room is startling. Donna and I have recently been enjoying his appearances as the deputy sheriff on THE VIRGINIAN, the most recent one being the Season 3 episode that shoukd have introduced his character but was held back till Episode 19. He doesn’t get many opportunities to cut loose on THE VIRGINIAN, but his character has an aura about him that seems to emanate from the chortle in his voice, an assurance that we’re only seeing about half what he can really do... and then sometimes he outdraws another actor (in a way that feels genuine, not just written that way) or jumps on a horse or competes with Doug McClure for the girl of the week where we see the fuller breadth of his talent suddenly leap to life. So many stories today on my newsfeed of what a great guy he was. No one could miss it. Wish I’d known him better, but so, so grateful for the evening we shared and the moment we had. My deepest sympathies to Clu’s family and to everyone his life touched.

(c) 2022 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

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