Patrick Cranshaw, 86; Veteran Character Actor Gained Unlikely Fame as “Blue” in “Old School”

Times Staff Writer

Patrick Cranshaw, a veteran character actor who unexpectedly attained pop-culture status playing “Blue,” the elderly fraternity brother in the hit comedy “Old School,” has died. He was 86.

Cranshaw died of natural causes Wednesday at his home in Fort Worth, said his personal manager, Jeff Ross.

After launching his screen career in 1955 playing a bartender at a dance in the western “Texas Lady,” Cranshaw appeared in a variety of roles, including a bank teller in “Bonnie and Clyde” and the demolition derby owner in “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

But he was well into his 80s when he was cast in the small part that gave him the kind of public recognition rarely afforded to a character actor: his scene-stealing role as white-haired and bearded Joseph “Blue” Palasky in “Old School,” directed by Todd Phillips and starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn.

In one of his key scenes, a long-johns-clad Blue is supposed to wrestle with two topless girls, but he never gets a chance: He looks at them and is so excited that he keels over dead of an apparent heart attack.


Ferrell’s character delivers the eulogy for Blue, who is seen with angel wings during the closing credits playing a piano and singing “Dust in the Wind.”

After the movie’s release, Cranshaw was frequently recognized by fans of the film, who couldn’t resist calling out Ferrell’s signature line, “You’re my boy, Blue.”

Cranshaw was also invited to meet with the Texas Rangers when they were playing the Angels in Anaheim.

“A lot of the ballplayers loved that movie,” said Ross, who accompanied Cranshaw to the stadium. “When we got there, the Angels wanted him to come to their locker room too.”

While the Rangers were playing catch along the foul lines after batting practice, “fans in the stands saw Patrick throwing the ball,” Ross said, “and they wanted his autograph more than the Texas players’.”

The following spring, the Angels invited Cranshaw for a return clubhouse visit.

And even then, Ross said, the actor couldn’t leave his seat without fans yelling out, “Hey, Blue!”

“It was a great experience and an acknowledgment for him,” said Ross. “He loved the recognition and would turn back and say, ‘I’m your boy Blue.’ ”

Born in Bartlesville, Okla., in 1919, Cranshaw became interested in acting while entertaining the troops with the Army Air Forces before World War II.

In addition to small parts in films such as “Bandolero,” “Best in Show” and “The Hudsucker Proxy,” Cranshaw appeared frequently on television and had recurring roles on “Mork & Mindy,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and other series.

He had recently returned home to Fort Worth after shooting the movie “Air Buddies,” due for release next year.

The actor is survived by three children, Jan Ragland, Joe Cranshaw and Beverly Trautschold; his sister, Billie Vi Gillespie; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

The family requests that donations be made to the American Heart Assn., the American Lung Assn. or the American Cancer Society.