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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Rawhide actor Elam dies
Jack Elam
Elam appeared in more than 100 films
Hollywood character actor Jack Elam - who appeared in films such as Rawhide and Wichita - has died at his home in Oregon, a family friend has announced.

The wild-eyed actor, who was aged 84, died of an unspecified illness.

Elam, who was born in Arizona, worked as an accountant in Hollywood during the 1940s before breaking into films.

He played a tough gunslinger alongside Tyrone Power in Rawhide, but also played more comic roles in westerns such as Support Your Local Sheriff.

Elam was listed in most biographies as being 86 but his friend Al Hassan said the actor had lied about his age when he was younger to get work.

"He was cantankerous in a great way, in a funny way," Hassan said.

Jack Elam
He continued acting in the 1990s

"He smoked, drank, all that stuff. He lived one of the best lives I've ever seen," he added.

Elam was famed for his distinctive appearance - his cockeyed look was the result of being blinded in a childhood accident in Phoenix, Arizona, where he grew up.

Most famous for his baddie roles, Elam said he had no time for the psychological analysis of film villains.

"In the old days, Rory Calhoun was the hero and I was the heavy because I was the heavy - and nobody cared what the problem was. And I didn't either," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1977.

"I robbed the bank because I wanted the money - I've played all kinds of weirdos but I've never done the quiet, sick type. I never had a problem - other than the fact I was just bad," he said.

His last screen credit was a television reunion show called Bonanza: Under Fire in 1995.

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