Paul Brinegar, Western character actor best remembered as the grizzled chuck wagon cook Wishbone in the long-running television series “Rawhide,” has died. He was 77.
The veteran actor died Monday in Los Angeles of emphysema.
“I love the role,” Brinegar said of the Wishbone part in 1959. “My appearance (always) suited me more for character roles than straight or romantic parts.”
Although he was portraying a 65-year-old man in the series that helped launch Clint Eastwood, Brinegar was only 41 at the time of the interview. When his hair started turning gray at the age of 32, Brinegar began to appreciate his receding hairline and craggy, lined face as profitable attributes.
He appeared in 226 episodes of “Rawhide,” 51 episodes of the series “Lancer,” 38 episodes of “Wyatt Earp” and 13 episodes of “Matt Houston.”
Last year Brinegar received the Golden Boot Award at a Beverly Hills ceremony for his efforts to further Westerns on television and in film.
Born in Tucumcari, N.M., Brinegar started acting in high school plays and continued as a student at Pasadena City College.
He served as a chief radioman in the Navy during World War II and supported himself after the war as a radio repairman while taking bit parts in movies.
As an early television actor, Brinegar won roles in “Dragnet” and “Racket Squad.” His first big break came when he was cast as the mayor of Dodge City in the “Wyatt Earp” series starring Hugh O’Brian.
Brinegar went on to the film “Cattle Empire,” which was directed by Charles Marquis Warren, the producer of “Rawhide.” Warren decided Brinegar would be the ideal camp cook.
Brinegar guest-starred more than 200 times in a variety of television series, commercials and music videos.
Along with many colleagues from Western shows, Brinegar appeared in the 1994 movie “Maverick” starring Mel Gibson and James Garner.
In private life, Brinegar was honorary sheriff and fire chief of Granada Hills.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley; two sons, Paul III and Mark, and a brother, Warren.
The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.