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Don Calfa (1939 - 2016)

Getty / Albert L. Ortega

Don Calfa (1939 - 2016)

Don Calfa, a prolific character actor who appeared in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” died Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, of natural causes in Palm Springs, California, according to The Associated Press. He was 76.

Calfa appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over the course of his more than 40-year career. One of the most successful was the 1989 comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s,” in which he played Paulie the hitman.

Perhaps his most beloved role was as mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in the 1985 cult film “The Return of the Living Dead.” The horror-comedy helped to popularize the idea of zombies feeding on brains. Of all the roles he played, that one seemed to resonate the most with audiences and he made appearances at fan conventions for many years.

“It’s nice doing these shows and it’s great being in a cult classic. I’m very proud of it,” he told LITT Magazine in 2009.


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Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dec. 3, 1939, Calfa dropped out of high school to join a theater workshop and pursue his love of acting. He got his first professional work on the New York stage, eventually appearing on Broadway in “Mating Dance” in 1965.

He made his screen debut for underground director Robert Downey Sr. in “No More Excuses” (1968). He played small roles in the films of several notable directors, including Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” (1977), Blake Edwards’ “10” (1979), and Steven Spielberg’s “1941” (1979).

On television, he played a number of different characters over the run of “Barney Miller” and had short, recurring roles on “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

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