Gregg Palmer, Bad Guy in John Wayne’s 'Big Jake,' Dies at 88

Gregg Palmer - H 2015
AP Photo

The burly actor appeared in six films alongside the Duke and guest-starred a whopping 21 times on 'Gunsmoke.'

Gregg Palmer, an imposing actor and Western veteran who killed John Wayne's dog in the 1971 film Big Jake, has died. He was 88.

Palmer, who appeared in six movies with Wayne, died Saturday at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles, his stepson Richard Brooks told The Hollywood Reporter.

Palmer, who in his prime stood a menacing 6-foot-4 and weighed 300 pounds, appeared in 21 episodes of CBS’ Gunsmoke in various side roles from 1958 through the series’ final season of 1975, believed to be the second most for any guest star (only Shug Fisher is thought to have appeared more times).

In Big Jake, Palmer played the machete-wielding outlaw John Goodfellow, a rather large member of John Fain's (Richard Boone) gang, who kidnaps the grandson of Wayne's character. And in The Shootist (1976), Palmer's bank robber is shot in the belly by the ailing hero at the start of Wayne’s final film.

Palmer, who was nicknamed “Grizzly” by his pal Wayne, also appeared with the Duke in The Comancheros (1961), The Undefeated (1969), Rio Lobo (1970) and Chisum (1970).

Palmer also could be seen through the years in such TV Westerns as The Lone Ranger, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and The Virginian and in the 1982 Civil War miniseries The Blue and the Gray.

A native of San Francisco, Palmer made his movie debut in the Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin film My Friend Irma Goes West (1950). He was signed to a contract at Universal and appeared in such films as Magnificent Obsession (1954) with Rock Hudson and To Hell and Back (1955), starring real-life war hero Audie Murphy.

Palmer’s survivors also include his brothers Mel and Gilbert and stepchildren Steve and Gloria.

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