Sunday, November 1, 2015

RIP Gregg Palmer

R.I.P., GREGG PALMER (January 25, 1927 – October 31, 2015),

By Laura Wagner

GREGG PALMER an actor best known for his roles in westerns. Born Palmer Lee in San Francisco, he served in World War II in the Army Air Corps. After his 1946 discharge, he became a radio announcer, and then the strapping 6’3” hunk secured work as a bouncer, a truck driver, and in construction. In 1949 he auditioned for Al Capp and Busby Berkeley for a projected NBC-TV series based on Capp’s comic strip LI’L ABNER; he played Li'l Abner and Marilyn Monroe was his Daisy Mae. After Palmer played an uncredited role at Paramount (MY FRIEND IRMA GOES WEST), he was signed to a Universal-International contract in 1951. “We would maybe have a featured role in a picture,” he said, “maybe we would star, maybe we would do a little cameo, but we were working. They were good and happy days.” He was billed Palmer Lee until 1953; henceforth, he went by the name Gregg Palmer. During the fifties, until the early 1980s, he appeared in film roles of varying size (sometimes uncredited), for U-I and others. One of his rare leads was 1957's ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU. He was a particular favorite of John Wayne’s, appearing in a few movies with the Duke. Palmer would get most of his best roles on television, finding his niche in westerns, but guesting with regularity on tons of series, often multiple times: THE PUBLIC DEFENDER, STORIES OF THE CENTURY (as Jack Slade), HIGHWAY PATROL, SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON, SKY KING, THE TEXAN, THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW, CIMARRON CITY, THE LINEUP, THE RESTLESS GUN, 26 MEN, STATE TROOPER, SEA HUNT, WORLD OF GIANTS, SHOTGUN SLADE, THE MILLIONAIRE, SURFSIDE 6, WAGON TRAIN, LAWMAN, SUGARFOOT, THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE ROARING 20'S, BRONCO, CHEYENNE, HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL, LARAMIE, 77 SUNSET STRIP, RAWHIDE, THE BIG VALLEY, BRANDED, GET SMART, THE LONG, HOT SUMMER, LAREDO, GOMER PYLE – U.S.M.C., TARZAN, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, CIMARRON STRIP, STAR TREK, THE WILD WILD WEST, BONANZA, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, THE VIRGINIAN, CANNON, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, THE NIGHT STALKER, GUNSMOKE, QUINCY M.E., and many others. He was also briefly a regular on THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (1961). When Clayton Moore was having contractual issues, Palmer was approached to take over the lead on television’s THE LONE RANGER, on which he had guested in 1954. In 1959, he was also offered the role of Tarzan on screen. Palmer turned both chances down. As the years went by, his clean-cut good looks grew into a reflection of his nickname, “Grizzly,” and his wild-and-woolly appearance made him ideal for his many rugged characters, in particular his role as mountain man Jim Bridger in 1977’s two-part WALT DISNEY'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR presentation of "Kit Carson and the Mountain Man." His last role was in the 1982 television miniseries THE BLUE AND THE GRAY. Palmer, a widower since 1999, lived in retirement in Encino, California, played golf, did much for charity, and was interested in Native-American history. He was a solid featured player, never a star, but someone reliable enough to get the job done. Palmer essayed his parts with conviction and a dedication to his craft, finding his forte in westerns, a genre that was his favorite.

PALMER, Gregg (Palmer Lee)
Born: 1/25/1927, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Died: 10/31/2015, Encino, California, U.S.A.

Gregg Palmer’s westerns – actor:
The Battle at Apache Pass – 1952 (Joe Bent)
The Cimarron Kid – 1952 (Grat Dalton)
The Raiders – 1952 (Marty Smith)
Column South – 1953 (Chalmers)
The Redhead from Wyoming – 1953 (Hal Jessup)
Taza, Son of Cochise – 1954 (Captain Burnett)
The Lone Ranger (TV) – 1954 (Stanley Ammons)
The Adventures of Champion (TV) – 1955, 1956 (Jack Preston, Al)
Stories of the Century (TV) – 1955 (Jack Slade)
Death Valley Days (TV) – 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969 (John Brewster,
      Randall, Gabe, Fred, Shunar, Leach, Jacob Hamlin, Orrin Porter Rockwell)
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (TV) – 1956-1961 (Deputy Bill Tillman, Tom McLowery)
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (TV) – 1956 (Ed McQuade)
Revolt at Fort Laramie – 1957 (Captain James 'Jamie' Tenslip)
Broken Arrow (TV) – 1957 (Lieutenant Fielding)
Tales of the Texas Rangers (TV) – 1957 (Pete Hackett)
Tales of Wells Fargo (TV) – 1957-1961 (Jeff Anderson, deputy, Steger)
Wagon Train (TV) – 1957, 1960, 1962 (Groton, Paul Dawson, Raleigh, Calso)
Buckskin (TV) – 1958 (Jaeckel)
Frontier Doctor (TV) – 1958 (Charlie Pierce)
Fury (TV) – 1958 (Deputy Barry Carver)
Gunsmoke (TV) – 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966. 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972  (Harry, Hulbert
     Strunk, Wells, Collie Fletcher, Jake, Doak, Sheriff Jackson, blacksmith, Herk, Deputy Reed,
     Fry, Clete Davis, Wales, Benson, Bodine, Nicols, Guthrie, Simeon Reed
Jefferson Drum (TV) – 1958 (Grant)
The Restless Gun (TV) – 1958, 1959 (Joe Kruger, Jim Carter, Bill Clayton)
Sky King (TV) – 1958 (Frank Kinnard)
The Texan (TV) – 1958 (card player)
26 Men (TV) – 1958, 1959 (Ed Braddock, Ranger Andrew Shoreman, Ranger Edie Graham
Cimarron City (TV) – 1959 (Tom Hiller)
Have Gun - Will Travel (TV) – 1959, 1960, 1962 (drunk, Brogan, Ben Mattock, Sheriff
Pony Express (TV) – 1959
Riverboat (TV) – 1959 (Lieutenant Peterson)
Shotgun Slade (TV) – 1959, 1960 (Dolph Peterson, marshal)
Five Guns to Tombstone - 1960 (Mel Dixon)
Lawman (TV) – 1960 (Tracy McNeil)
Overland Trail – 1960 (Will Purdue)
The Deputy (TV) – 1960 (Tulley)
Hotel de Paree (TV) – 1960 (Cooper)
Laramie (TV) – 1960, 1962, 1963 (Duke Walker, Chuck Logan)
The Man from Blackhawk (TV) – 1960 (Gil Harrison)
Sugarfoot (TV) – 1960 (Captain McHenry)
The Comancheros – 1961 (Emil Bouvier)
Gunfight - 1961 (Brad Santley)
Cheyenne (TV) – 1961, 1962 (Dillard, Nick, Hal Walton)
Outlaws (TV) – 1961 (Heff)
The Tall Man (TV) – 1961 (Truman Blanchard)
Two Faces West (TV) - 1961 (Cowlin)
Bronco (TV) – 1962 (Wes, Colton, Lieutenant Ames)
Temple Houston (TV) – 1963
Advance to the Rear – 1964 (gambler)
The Quick Gun – 1964 (Donovan)
Bonanza (TV) – 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969 (Gannett, Wells, Muley, Terrell, Benson)
The Virginian (TV) – 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970 (Sunday, Cal, Peters, Ed Sticks,
     sheriff, Boak, O’Shea)
Shenandoah – 1965 - (guard)
The Big Valley (TV) – 1965 (Mel Coombs)
Branded (TV) - 1965 (Doc)
Laredo (TV) – 1965, 1966 (Curly, Sergeant Mason)
The Loner (TV) – 1965 (Adjutant)
Rawhide (TV) – 1965 (Mace)
The Wild Wild West (TV) – 1965, 1967, 1968 (Thaddeus, Sheriff Jonas Bolt, bartender)
The Rare Breed – 1966 (Rodenbush)
The Legend of Jesse James (TV) – 1966 (Moose Walters)
Cimarron Strip (TV) - 1967, 1968 (Rocky, Buford, Webber)
The High Chaparral (TV) – 1968 (Colonel)
Smith! – 1969 (Sergeant, Court Bailiff)
The Undefeated – 1969 – (Parker)
Chisum – 1970 – (Karl Riker)
Cutter's Trail (TV) - 1970 (Oakes)
Menace on the Mountain (TV) – 1970 (posse bushwacker)
Rio Lobo – 1970 – (Pete)
Big Jake – 1971 – (John Goodfellow)
Life Is Tough, Eh Providence? – 1972 (Hurricane Smith)
Alias Smith and Jones (TV) – 1972 (Fermin)
Nichols (TV) – 1972 (Burt)
Here We Go Again, Eh Providence? – 1973 (The Hurricane Kid)
The New Daughters of Joshua Cabe - 1976
The Shootist – 1976 – (burly man)
Kit Carson and the Mountain Men (TV) – 1977 (Jim Bridger)
How the West Was Won (TV) – 1978 (Loman)
Go West, Young Girl (TV) – 1978 (Payne)
Hot Lead and Cold Feet 1978 - (Jeff)
True Grit (TV) – 1978 (Slatter)
The Blue and the Grey (TV) – 1982 (Bull Run Colonel)
 Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (TV) - 1994 (Tom McLowery)


  1. Greg was in 4 movies with Audie Murphy and 6 films with John Wayne. I asked Greg about "Duke" Wayne & Greg said "You knew where you stood with Wayne" and "he gave you the bottom line always", but Greg's best comment to me about John Wayne with whom we loved to play chess was "he (Wayne) was a pussycat"!
    Jimmy Stewart, Jim Arness & John Wayne were a few of Greg's heroes. He started in radio in San Jose and San Francisco (KGO). Greg wanted to be a corporate attorney and went to the University of Utah. He became a great character actor and was constantly working because he came prepared, did his job and was pleasant. His TV & movie filmography is very extensive, and Greg was proud of his doing 22 episodes of Gunsmoke, the most by any actor except for that series' stars. Greg told me he was offered the role of Tarzan after Gordon Scott & before Mike Henry. Greg tore his knee meniscus while filming the Blue & the Gray and a surgeon butchered the knee badly which much interfered with his beloved golf. Greg had 4 brothers and loved & missed his wife Ruth who passed in 1999. Three stories of Greg's I loved were:
    (1)He grew up in San Francisco and when I told him I lived in Novato CA he told me he loved as a boy to go to this uncle's chicken ranch in Petaluma and collect eggs. (2)He loved visiting one of his brothers who lived in Novato and loved playing golf at the Indian Valley Golf Club here, and (3)One of the last times I spoke with Greg only a few weeks ago I called him and we talked for a good while and he said to me "Mike, I am freezing...I just got out of the shower and picked up your call but I am not dressed and am freezing". I felt bad I had so intruded on him but he was so polite & kind. He had recently gone to the Gunsmoke series reunion at the Sportsman Lodge in the San Fernando Valley and enjoyed it. Greg had told me and other friends recently he planned to visit us in the Bay Area but sadly for us, his time ran out. His mind and memory were so rich and wonderful. His passing has taken a library from us all. God bless you, my friend, and THANK YOU SO MUCH. Rest in peace, big man.

  2. His remains were cremated. His ashes were sprinkled on a golf course in Encino, California.