Wayne Maunder, Star of the 1960s Western 'Lancer,' Dies at 80

Wayne Maunder-Still-Photofest-H 2018

He portrayed George Armstrong Custer on an earlier series, appeared on a Stephen J. Cannell cop show and has a connection to Quentin Tarantino.

Wayne Maunder, who starred on the TV Westerns Custer and Lancer in the 1960s, has died. He was 80.

Maunder died unexpectedly Nov. 11 in his home in Brattleboro, Vt., a spokesman for the state's Department of Health confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor had a history of heart disease.

The handsome Maunder wore his blond hair long to play Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer (in the days before Little Bighorn) on Custer, a 1967 ABC action drama that lasted just 17 episodes. (Footage was later edited into a feature called The Legend of Custer.)

On Lancer, a CBS Western that ran for two seasons from September 1968 to June 1970, Maunder portrayed Scott Lancer, the Boston-educated older son of Murdoch Lancer (Andrew Duggan) and half-brother of gunslinger Johnny Madrid Lancer (James Stacy). The boys, who had different mothers and had never met, come to California's San Joaquin Valley to assist their father on his sprawling ranch.

Both shows were created by Western writer Samuel A. Peeples at 20th Century Fox Television.

Maunder then played Sgt. Sam MacCray opposite Mitchell Ryan on the 1973-74 NBC drama Chase, a show about undercover L.A. cops co-created by Stephen J. Cannell.

Maunder also appeared on such shows as Kung FuThe FBIThe RookiesPolice StoryThe Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones and in the features The Seven Minutes (1971), directed by Russ Meyer, and Porky's (1981), where he played a racist motorcyclist who gets into a fight with his son in his final onscreen role.

Born Dec. 19, 1937, in New Brunswick, Canada, Wayne Ernest Maunder was raised in Bangor, Maine. He graduated from Bangor High School and had a brief stint in the U.S. Navy and tryouts with several baseball teams, including the Milwaukee Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates.

He studied acting under Stella Adler in New York. 

In a Long Island production at the Red Barn Theatre of Ann Jellicoe's The Knack, Maunder played the womanizing Tolen (portrayed by Ray Brooks in the 1965 film adaptation directed by Richard Lester). He was noticed and signed by Hollywood agent Jane Oliver (she later would discover Sylvester Stallone), who helped get Maunder a screen test at Fox in 1966.

"I was asked if I would like to play Custer," he told Hollywood columnist Bob Foster in 1967. "It seemed too good to be true. I was living in a small, cheap hotel, and the word spread fast. Not until the pilot was shot and ABC bought the series did I realize how far I had come." 

In Quentin Tarantino's upcoming 1969-set Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, populated with actors playing Steve McQueen, Sharon Tate, Squeaky Fromme and others, Luke Perry will appear as a character named Scott Lancer.

Survivors include his brothers Lyle and Lloyd. His son, Dylan, died at age 37 in 2005 of a drug overdose.