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Don Collier is one of the most prolific actors in both television and film, counts varying from 200 appearances in both medias and others saying that the number is closer to 700. Nevertheless, his handsome face, deep voice and imposing stature are recognizable to many viewers.
Don Collier was born in Santa Monica California in 1928. His childhood was uneventful except that his only sibling, a sister, died at the age of 13 as the result of surgery. After high school, Don joined the U.S.. Navy at the end of World War II. After his term of service, at the age of 20, Collier had his first acting role in Massacre River and although he enjoyed acting, he qualified for a football scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University, a Baptist affiliated school in Abilene, Texas. From there, Collier transferred to Brigham Young in Provo, Utah and played football there as well. If he graduated is unknown. He went into the poultry business for a very short time but then set his sights on acting.
Collier’s first introduction to acting came when he worked as a cowboy with his father on the actor Francis Lederer’s ranch in Canoga Park. Lederer and his wife, Virginia Grey started giving acting lessons on Saturdays and they invited Collier, mainly because he was shy, to join the class. He enjoyed it and after a failed enterprise in poultry, as mentioned earlier, he turned his hand at acting and in 1957, he co-starred for the first season and starred for the second season in the television western, Outlaws, starring Rory Calhoun and Guy Madison. The show had an original approach the first season; the stories were told from the viewpoints of the outlaws but obviously it wasn’t a popular approach and by the second season, the two main stars were gone, Collier’s character, Will Foreman, received a raise to full U.S. Marshall and the point of view changed to become the good guys’. His costars were Bruce Yarnell and Slim Pickens.
Acting jobs came fast and furious for Collier. He appeared in many episodes of Bonanza (“The Saddle Stiff,” “Flannel Mouth Gun,” “Credit for a Kill,” “Good Samaritan” and “The Mission”), Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Branded and Death Valley Days. In the 80‘s and 90‘s, Collier appeared in Highway to Heaven and regularly guest starred on The Young Riders as the recurring character William Templar. He also appeared in the television movies Gunsmoke: To the Last Man, Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice and Bonanza: Under Attack.
Collier also made many movies and appeared with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Anthony Quinn, Dean Martin, Tom Selleck, Raymond Burr, James Drury, James Arness and Elvis Presley. His last appearance was as a character named “High Roller” in Tombstone.
Collier made a few commercials for Pace Picante Sauce, Ray-O-Vac Batteries and was the iconic “Gun Fighter” in the Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum ads.
But despite all his appearances in a variety of shows and movies, Collier is best know for his role in David Dortort’s show, The High Chaparral as Sam Butler. He worked again with Bob Hoy as Joe and the two became inextricably linked. (Hoy died in 2010) Collier was one of the most popular supporting characters in the show that starred Leif Ericson, Linda Cristal, Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow and Mark Slade. Of the 70 episodes, Collier appeared in 62 and as his popularity rose, a few shows were written around his character, Sam. In one of the episodes, the viewers were surprised to know that Sam had a Mexican wife and a daughter in the episode “Follow Your Heart,” co-starring Miriam Colon.
Today, Collier is a sidekick to Fred Imus on his Sirius radio show, Fred’s Trailer Park Bash. He is married to Holly Hire and has six children and 11 grandchildren and at the time of this writing, is in good health and to all accounts, happy.
Starring in Outlaws
On The High Chaparral. An older Don Collier. A Hubba Bubba Bubblegum commercial
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