R.I.P. Don Collier, a real rancher who landed starring roles on 'The High Chaparral' and 'Outlaws'

By: H&I Staff     Posted: September 14, 2021, 10:18AM

Don Collier knew his way around a horse. His ability to ride got him work in Hollywood. Once upon a time, saddle skills could do that. The actor was comfortable enough in the stirrups to do stunt work. But, like a gentleman, he left that to the professionals.

"We were all pretty athletic and could have done the fight scenes and horse falls, but you didn't want the stunt guys to lose a paycheck so they did most of that," he reminisced to the St. George Spectrum in 2019.

Western fans will be familiar with Collier, who had two major starring roles, dozens of guest spots, and one commercial he could really sink his teeth into.

His screen career began in 1960, as he landed a lead role as Deputy Marshal (and later just Marshal) Will Foreman in Outlaws, an NBC series about lawmen in Oklahoma Territory. Five years after that show wrapped, Collier snagged a big part in The High Chaparral, playing principled ranch foreman Sam Butler.

Between those gigs, Collier could be seen in guest spots on Wagon TrainDeath Valley Days, The Virginian, and Bonanza. He also popped up on the big screen, joining the sprawling cowboy cast of John Wayne's El Dorado. He later joined Wayne in The War Wagon (1967) and The Undefeated (1969). Working on those films led Collier to subscribe to the Duke's acting method.

"I'd like to think that the John Wayne 'school of acting' consists of three things: One, be on time for your call. Two, know your dialogue; and three, don't leave the camera, even if you're not in the shot. So many times, especially if you're working with younger actors, the director says 'cut' and, boom, they scatter like quail," Collier explained to Classic Film & TV Café.

His lengthy career landed him alongside several generations of Western legends, from directors John Ford and Howard Hawks to a part in the 1993 modern classic Tombstone. Gen X will even know him for his gumfighting skills. Yes, "gum" with an "M."

In the 1980s, Collier delightfully played a grizzled "gunfighter" in commercials for Hubba Bubba bubblegum.

Prior to becoming an actor, young Collier served as a sailor in World War II, losing the tip of his finger while loading shells on a cruiser. Later in life, he and his wife, former casting agent Holly Collier, moved to Tucson in 1983, where the Arizona Daily Star dubbed them "the first couple of Tucson TV history."

Holly's job including finding actors for roles in Tucson-shot movies such as Tombstone and Gunsmoke: One Man's Justice, not to mention The Young Riders, a later TV series starring her hubby.

Collier continued to be a presence at cowboy conventions and on the Western scene. Just last year, he told The News of San Patricio, "I'm really enjoying life; it's a lot of fun just traveling around. I don't have not a one responsibility."

He eventually made his way to Kentucky, where one of his sons live. It was there he died on September 13, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Collier was 92.