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Andrew Prine, the charming character actor who proved quite comfortable in the saddle in Bandolero!, Chisum, Wide Country and dozens of other Westerns on television and the big screen, has died. He was 86.
He died Monday in Paris of natural causes while on vacation with his wife, actress-producer Heather Lowe, she told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was the sweetest prince,” she said.
Prine also played the brother of Helen Keller (Patty Duke in an Oscar-winning turn) in The Miracle Worker (1962) and portrayed a lawman in Texarkana, Arkansas, who hunts a hooded serial killer alongside Ben Johnson in cult classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976).
Later in his career, he stood out as Confederate Gen. Richard B. Garnett in the sprawling Gettysburg (1993).
In 1962-63, the lanky Prine got a taste of fame when he starred as the younger brother of Earl Holliman — their characters are traveling rodeo performers — on NBC’s Wide Country. Four years later, he played the oldest son of Barry Sullivan on another NBC Western, The Road West.
Prine worked with director Andrew V. McLaglen on three episodes of CBS’ Gunsmoke in 1962-63, and the pair reunited in 1968 for two films: William Holden-starring war film The Devil’s Brigade, and Bandolero!, in which he and George Kennedy take after fugitives across the Mexican border.
Prine teamed with John Wayne in Chisum (1970), also helmed by McLaglen, and Rooster Cogburn (1975).
For his body of work in Westerns, he received the Golden Boot Award in 2001.
The son of a Pullman conductor, Andrew Lewis Prine was born Feb. 14, 1936, in Jennings, Florida. He graduated from Miami Jackson High School and attended the University of Miami on a theater scholarship but dropped out and headed to New York to pursue acting.
In 1958, he took over Anthony Perkins’ role on Broadway in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Look Homeward, Angel, written by Thomas Wolfe and directed by George Roy Hill.
“I think one of the reasons I got it is because I was so thin,” he told Backstage in an undated interview. “I weighed 138 pounds at 6-foot-2, so I looked exactly right for this character, who was supposed to be this gangly 17-year-old. I swear to God, I think my diet had something to do with it.
“I was getting free classes at that point from a lady in The Actors Studio who liked me. But I was a very lazy actor. I was berated by Old Man [Lee] Strasberg over the years and some other teachers who used to tell me, ‘You’re not paying attention.’ But I did get training, in spite of myself.
“Fortunately, I did Look Homeward for two years, and what I did while playing the lead and being paid was learn how to act. The stage manager came backstage every night with copious notes, and his job was to keep me on target. I learned how to act, really, on Broadway.”
Scouts from Universal saw him onstage and wanted him to star on a rodeo series.
“So I said, ‘I’m just going to go out [to California] and do [that] and I’m coming right back to Broadway,'” he recalled in a 2013 episode of A Word on Westerns. “Then I found out how much money they would give me just to sit on a horse, and I said, ‘So long, Broadway.'”
In 1964, Prine played a doubting brother of David Janssen’s Richard Kimble on the first season of ABC’s The Fugitive, and he had a recurring role a year later on the final season of NBC’s Dr. Kildare, but Westerns were his bread and butter.
In the 1960s, he guest-starred on Bonanza, The Virginian, Wagon Train, Daniel Boone and Lancer and appeared in the Dean Martin-starring Texas Across the River (1966), often doing his own stunts.
“I’ve been in many wrecks, as we call them, and broken my knees and shoulders trying too hard to do stunts I should not have done and was not qualified to do,” he said.
Prine stayed busy in the next decade, too. “I managed to take on so many roles in the period during the 1970s because I never met a film role I didn’t like,” he said in 2013. “I’m a working actor, I don’t wait a year for a picture.” (He has more than 180 acting credits listed on IMDb.)
To promote the sexploitation thriller The Centerfold Girls (1974), in which he starred as a sadistic serial killer, Prine posed nude for the women’s magazine Viva in 1974. His other films of the era included One Little Indian (1973) with James Garner, the Alan Rudolph-directed Terror Circus (1973), Grizzly (1976) and The Evil (1978).
Prine played the father of Michael Manasseri and Lee Tergesen’s characters on the 1994-98 USA series Weird Science and was the “visitor” known as Steven on the 1983-84 NBC miniseries V and V: The Final Battle.
He also acted for Quentin Tarantino on a two-part Emmy-winning episode of CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2005. On television, he was in everything from The United States Steel Hour, Peter Gunn, The Defenders and Combat! to The Bionic Woman, Saving Grace, Boston Legal and Six Feet Under.
Prine was married to actress Sharon Farrell from 1962 to 1963 and to actress Brenda Scott three times — from 1965 to 1966, 1968 to 1969 and 1973 to 1978 — before he wed Lowe in 1986. He also was romantically involved with actress Karyn Kupcinet when she was murdered in 1963 in an infamous unsolved Hollywood homicide.
Survivors also include his brother, John, and nephews Nick (and his wife, Rhonda) and Kevin (and his wife, Kathy).
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