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Don Collier, the rugged actor who built a career filled with Westerns with turns in three John Wayne films and work on such shows as The High Chaparral, Outlaws and The Young Riders, has died. He was 92.
Collier died Monday of lung cancer in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, friend and casting director Susan McCray (Little House on the Prairie) told The Hollywood Reporter.
On the big screen, Collier performed alongside Wayne in El Dorado (1966), The War Wagon (1967) and The Undefeated (1969) and acted with Audie Murphy in Seven Ways From Sundown (1960) and with Val Kilmer in Tombstone (1993).
Starting in the 1970s, Collier starred for years as the “Gum Fighter” in commercials for Hubba Bubba bubble gum (“Big bubbles, no trouble!”).
Collier also appeared with New York Yankees legends Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford in the spring training-set Safe at Home! (1962).
The blue-eyed, deep-voiced Collier got his big break in 1960 when he was hired to portray Deputy Will Foreman on NBC’s Outlaws, also starring Barton MacLane, and he starred on that show for its two seasons.
He returned to another NBC Western to play the honorable ranch foreman Sam Butler on The High Chaparral. He remained with that series for all four of its seasons, through 1971.
“Mine is a simple part to play, a man who punches cattle for a living,” he said in a 1968 interview. “And I play it pretty straight.”
Collier then recurred as shopkeeper William Tompkins on the 1989-92 ABC Western The Young Riders.
Donald Mounger Collier was born in Inglewood on Oct. 17, 1928. After stints with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Merchant Marine, he attended Hardin–Simmons College in Texas (on an athletic scholarship) and Brigham Young University in Utah.
Back in California, Collier came to the attention of actor Francis Lederer and agent Henry Willson, who represented the likes of Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter and Robert Wagner. His horse-riding skills helped him land his Outlaws gig.
Collier guest-starred on five episodes of Bonanza from 1960-72, playing different characters each time, and showed up on installments of many other series, from The Virginian, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Branded and Death Valley Days to The Waltons, Banacek and Little House on the Prairie. He later narrated The Desert Speaks, a series of documentaries for the University of Arizona.
Don Collier: Confessions of an Acting Cowboy was released on DVD last year.
Survivors include his children, Pamela, Diane, Steven and Mike; 11 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.
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