Jack Starrett Cause of Death: The Life and Legacy of a Cult Filmmaker

Jack Starrett was a talented and versatile actor and director who made a name for himself in the low-budget exploitation cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his roles as Gabby Johnson in Blazing Saddles and Deputy Galt in First Blood, as well as for directing cult classics like Run, Angel, Run!, The Losers, and Race with the Devil. However, his life was cut short by kidney failure at the age of 52. What led to his untimely demise and how did he impact the film industry? Here is a brief overview of his career and legacy.

Early Life and Career

Jack Starrett was born on November 2, 1936, in Refugio, Texas. He attended San Marcos Academy in the 1940s and 1950s, where he developed an interest in acting and directing. He made his acting debut as Coach Jennings in the 1961 film Like Father Like Son, and later reprised the role in The Young Sinner in 1965 and Like Father Like Son in 1987. According to IMDb, he also worked in the oil fields before coming to Hollywood.

Starrett started his career as a character actor, often playing tough and menacing roles in biker films, westerns, and crime dramas. He appeared in films such as Hells Angels on Wheels, The Born Losers, Angels from Hell, Hell’s Bloody Devils, The Gay Deceivers, and Cry Blood, Apache. He also made guest appearances on TV shows such as Hill Street Blues, Hunter, The A-Team, and Knight Rider.

Breakthrough as a Director

Starrett’s first attempt at directing was in 1969, when he took over the helm of The Girls from Thunder Strip, a biker film starring Casey Kasem, after the original director needed assistance. He then directed two more biker films starring William Smith: Run, Angel, Run! and The Losers. The latter film was especially influential, as it featured a group of bikers who go on a mission to rescue American POWs from Vietnam. This premise was later reused in several action films of the 1980s, such as Uncommon Valor, Missing in Action, and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Starrett continued to direct feature films and episodes of TV shows throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He specialized in making low-budget, but highly entertaining, exploitation films that catered to the drive-in audience. He directed blaxploitation films such as Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones, horror films such as The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie and Race with the Devil, and redneck films such as A Small Town in Texas and Kiss My Grits. He also often took small roles in his own films, such as a gas station attendant in Race with the Devil and a sheriff in The Losers.

Personal Life and Death

Starrett was married to soap opera actress Valerie Starrett, who appeared in some of his films, such as The Losers and The Dion Brothers. Their daughter, Jennifer Starrett, was also an actress, who starred in the 1984 film The River Rat. Starrett was close friends with Tony Schweikle, a fellow actor and director, who directed him in three short films: Legend of the Durango Kid, Colorado Rid’n High, and Nolo Bait.

However, Starrett also struggled with alcoholism, which affected his health and career. According to IMDb, he used to perform a comedic drunk routine at parties, which caught the attention of Mel Brooks, who cast him as Gabby Johnson in Blazing Saddles. However, his drinking also led to his tragic and untimely death at age 52 from kidney failure on March 27, 1989, according to Wikipedia.

Legacy and Influence

Jack Starrett may not be a household name, but he left a lasting mark on the film industry. He was a pioneer of the exploitation genre, which influenced many filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Eli Roth. He also created memorable characters and scenes, such as the mumbling Gabby Johnson in Blazing Saddles, the brutal Deputy Galt in First Blood, and the thrilling car chase in Race with the Devil. He was a master of making the most out of a limited budget and a tight schedule, and delivering films that were fun, exciting, and sometimes shocking.

Jack Starrett was a cult filmmaker who deserves more recognition and appreciation for his work. He was a man of many talents and passions, who lived a life full of adventure and creativity. He was a true rebel and a visionary, who made films that reflected his personality and vision. He was Jack Starrett, and he will be remembered.

Doms Desk

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