Walter Reed

Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85.

In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), “Young Man With a Horn” (1950) and an uncredited role in 1962’s “How the West Was Won.”

He also made dozens of appearances on TV shows such as “Adventures of Superman,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Annie Oakley,” “Dragnet,” “Buffalo Bill Jr.,” “Gunsmoke,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Alcoa Presents,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “My Three Sons,” “Lassie,” “Petticoat Junction” and “Family Affair.”

The son of an Army artillery major, Reed was born on Bainbridge Island, Wash., but grew up in Hawaii and Los Angeles. Reed’s movie career began in 1929 when, at 13, he was chosen to play an Indian in the movie “Redskin.” At 17, Reed hitched rides on railroad cars and headed to New York. He went on to work in stock companies and on Broadway.

In 1941, he was working in a theater production in Maine when actor Joel McCrea, who was in the audience, told him after the show: “You’re ready.” Two weeks later, Reed got a contract with RKO and his movie career began that same year. During World War II he was in the Army, appearing in the Army Air Corps play “Winged Victory” by Moss Hart.

He left the movie business in 1967 and moved to Santa Cruz to pursue a new career as a real estate investor and broker.

Last year, Reed received a Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture and Television Fund for his work in Westerns.

Reed is survived by three children and a brother.

More Scene

  • Sundance Parties

    Sundance 2018: The Insider's Party Guide

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

  • '12 Strong' film premiere

    '12 Strong': Chris Hemsworth Hopes Film Can Reduce 'Misconceptions' About Afghanistan

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

  • Guillermo del Toro, Greta Gerwig and

    Timothée Chalamet Says He'd Love to Work With Christopher Nolan or Guillermo del Toro

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

  • Tracee Ellis Ross

    Tracee Ellis Ross at Image Makers Awards: 'Clothing Started as Armor for Me'

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

  • 'Salute to Service' Honored Industry Support

    Variety's 'Salute to Service' Presented by National Geographic Celebrates Industry Supporters of Troops, Veterans

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

  • Golden Globes Timeline

    Inside the Glamorous Golden Globes After-Parties

    Walter Reed, longtime character actor who appeared in dozens of Westerns and war films, died Monday of kidney failure at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 85. In a career that spanned three decades, he appeared in nearly 100 movies, including “Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant” (1942), “Bamboo Blonde” (1946), “Fighter Squadron” (1948), “Tripoli” (1950), […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content