Stefan Gierasch, Actor in 'Jeremiah Johnson' and 'Carrie,' Dies at 88

Stefan Gierasch Obit - H 2014
Courtesy Everett Collection

Stefan Gierasch Obit - H 2014

He also appeared in 'High Plains Drifter,' 'The Hustler,' 'Silver Streak' and 'Dave'

Stefan Gierasch, a character actor for nearly six decades who stood out opposite Robert Redford in Sydney Pollack's poetic 1972 Western Jeremiah Johnson, has died. He was 88.

Gierasch died Sept. 6 at his home in Santa Monica of complications from a stroke, his wife, Hedy Sontag, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Gierasch also played the mayor of Lago, who Clint Eastwood ousts in favor of a dwarf in High Plains Drifter (1973). As the dense Principal Morton, Gierasch fell victim to an electric shock at the high school prom in Brian De Palma's horror classic Carrie (1976).

In Jeremiah Johnson, Gierasch stole his share of scenes as the colorful trapper Del Gue, who's buried up to his neck in sand and has feathers stuffed up his nose when he first encounters Redford's title character.

"These here is God's finest sculpturing!" Del Gue, talking about the Rocky Mountains, says later in the film. "And there ain't no laws for the brave ones! And there ain't no asylums for the crazy ones! And there ain't no churches except for this right here! And there ain't no priests excepting the birds! By God, I are a mountain man, and I'll live until an arrow or a bullet finds me!"

A native of New York who studied at The Actors Studio, Gierasch also appeared in such films as The Hustler (1961), What's Up Doc? (1972), The New Centurions (1972), Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975), Silver Streak (1976), Perfect (1985), Dave (1993), Junior (1994) and Murder in the First (1995).

His body of work on television included stints on The Defenders, Naked City, The Untouchables, Nichols, Mod Squad, Kung Fu, Starsky and Hutch, Kung Fu, Barney Miller, Dallas, Fantasy Island, M*A*S*H, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Star Trek: The Next Generation and ER.

Gierasch made his Broadway debut in 1944 in Snafu, produced and directed by George Abbott, and was in the original 1959 production of The Sound of Music. He also appeared in revivals of Threepenny Opera, The Iceman Cometh, Of Mice and Men and You Never Can Tell.

In addition to Heddy, his wife of 33 years and an actress and faculty member at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, survivors include his children Amanda, Elisa and Matthew and cousin Flor.

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