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Hunter Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

A cop who doesn't play by the rules, is rougher with his suspects than he should be, and is always butting heads with his bureaucratic, pencil-pushing superiors – these days, they're all tropes so overdone you usually only see them in parodies. But in 1984, NBC's crime drama "Hunter" was one of the most controversial things on TV. Starring Fred Dryer as untamable LAPD police sergeant Rick Hunter and Stepfanie Kramer as his more levelheaded partner Dee Dee McCall, "Hunter" pushed the relatively narrow boundaries of '80s network TV.

Of course, like any good crime drama, "Hunter" couldn't survive on detectives alone. The series includes plenty of great recurring characters who are snitches, desk-bound cops, crooks, lawyers, and, of course, the captains and other high-ranking police officers always breathing down Hunter's neck. Sadly, quite a few of the actors who brought the world of "Hunter" to life are no longer with us. Keep reading to learn more about who they played, who they were off-camera, and how they left us.

Charles Hallahan acted until he dropped

If there isn't a captain giving the lead cop grief, then it just isn't an American cop show. Starting with the Season 3 premiere "Overnight Sensation," that role goes to Captain Charles Devane, played by Charles Hallahan. 

Hallahan's true home was the stage. According to the Los Angeles Times, in the 1970s, Hallahan appeared in dozens of productions as a member of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater. He even toured the Soviet Union with the troupe in 1976. On screen, he was often cast as police officers, though some of his most memorable film roles find him playing more science-minded characters. For example, he's one of the research station occupants in John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi-horror classic "The Thing," and in the final film released during Hallahan's lifetime, the 1997 thriller "Dante's Peak," he plays volcanologist Paul Dreyfus. 

In 1987, Hallahan told the Los Angeles Times, "I intend to act till the day I drop." His words proved prophetic: Hallahan was driving his car in Los Angeles when he died of a heart attack in 1997. He was 54 years old. Days later, principal photography began on "Honor Among Thieves," a Season 6 episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" in which Hallahan was cast in the one-off role of aging crook Liam Bilby. Nick Tate stepped in at the last minute to replace him. 

John Shearin was passionate about the stage

Before Captain Devane steps in, Hunter and McCall enjoy the supervision of a less confrontational higher-up. Lt. Ambrose Finn, played by John Shearin, is introduced in Season 2's "Blow-Up." Perhaps because Hunter and McCall get a new supervisor in Devane, Finn is killed off in the Season 4 finale "Silver Bullet."

Landing his first screen acting job in the late '70s as Dr. Michael Powers on the daytime soap "The Doctors," Shearin enjoyed one-offs and recurring roles on popular shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Little House on the Prairie," "The Facts of Life," and "Remington Steele." He was in the 1982 black comedy "Eating Raoul," and played Sheriff Mitchell Dowd in the James Garner-led revival Western series "Bret Maverick."  

Shearin was passionate about theater. In 1990, he joined the faculty of East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, North Carolina as part of the School of Theatre and Dance. In his time at ECU, Shearin produced close to 200 plays and musicals, earning ECU's Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 72.

Darlanne Fluegel's time on Hunter was short

While she reappeared for various TV movies and revivals, Stepfanie Kramer left "Hunter" after Season 6 concluded to pursue a singing career. Starting with the Season 7 premiere, Kramer's character is replaced with Officer Joanne Molenski, played by Darlanne Fluegel. But Molenski is killed off halfway through what proved to be the show's final season. Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel in 1990, Fluegel's then-publicist Lili Unger said the actress had expected to be playing "a fully realized woman, a strong female character," and was disappointed because "It just didn't turn out that way." Lauren Lane stepped in to fill the sidekick role as Sgt. Chris Novak.

Many of the roles for which Fluegel is best remembered came in the years before her time on "Hunter." For example, she appears as Robert De Niro's girlfriend in the 1984 gangster epic "Once Upon a Time in America," plays Billy Crystal's ex-wife in the 1986 buddy cop comedy "Running Scared," and is an informant in the 1985 neo-noir thriller "To Live and Die in L.A." 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fluegel ran an acting school in later years, and produced "Land of the Rising Fastball," a 2010 documentary about Japanese baseball. Fluegel died in January 2018 of early-onset Alzheimer's. She was 64 years old.

Don Edmonds was a cult filmmaker

Appearing between Seasons 2 and 5 of "Hunter" is Don Edmonds. While he always plays a detective, the writers apparently either kept forgetting his name or changing their minds: Edmonds' character's last name changes three times in as many seasons, though the first syllable always remains "Ray." In Season 3's "Overnight Sensation," he's Detective Raymond. Seven episodes later in "Love, Hate and Sporty James," he's Detective Rayford. In the next episode, he's Detective Raymar. Then, in Season 5's "Informant," he's back to Rayford. The poor guy must've driven the DMV nuts.

While apparently no one was sure what his name was on "Hunter," Edmonds was much better known behind the camera as a cult filmmaker. He's best remembered for directing then1975 B-film "Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS," and its 1976 sequel, "Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks." He went on to direct the 1977 blaxpoitation flick "Bare Knuckles," and the pilot episode of the CBS crime drama "Silk Stalkings." He also co-produced 1993's "True Romance" — one of Quentin Tarantino's first screenwriting credits.

Edmonds passed away from liver cancer in May 2009. He was 73 years old.

Brian Dennehy was a gift to Hunter's series premiere

One of the most acclaimed actors to ever make an appearance on "Hunter" was Brian Dennehy. His appearance is only a one-off, but it's one to remember. In the "Hunter" series premiere, Dennehy plays Dr. Bolin. On the surface, he seems like a celebrated and well-respected police psychiatrist — but secretly, he's a serial killer. 

Many of the parts Dennehy cemented in audiences' memories are similar to his role on "Hunter" — he made a career out of portraying corrupt men who wield significant power. He plays cruel police chief Will Teasle, who squares off against Sylvester Stallone in the latter's first appearance as John Rambo in 1982's "First Blood," while 1990 saw him play vengeful district attorney Raymond Horgan in "Presumed Innocent." But not all of his roles were quite so dark: Dennehy appears as Chris Farley's big-hearted dad in the 1995 comedy "Tommy Boy." 

Dennehy was also a devotee of the stage – Variety even called him "the foremost living interpreter of [Eugene] O'Neill's works." Indeed, he appeared often in the late playwright's productions, including "The Iceman Cometh" and "Desire Under the Elms." It is his performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" that earned him his first Tony Award, however, in 1999. After a lifetime of acting, Dennehy passed away in April 2020. He was 81.

Paul Mantee was an author as well as a veteran actor

In the final two seasons of "Hunter," the titular detective and his sidekicks must contend with Commander Clayton, played by Paul Mantee. While he only shows up seven times, his appearances usually arrive in two-parters with greater narrative weight. He would go on to spend a lot more time as Detective Al Corassa on CBS' "Cagney & Lacey." 

Mantee enjoyed a long acting career. He moved to Hollywood after serving in the Navy during the Korean War, and took on a slew of tough-guy roles. One of his most well-known performances remains his turn as Commander "Kit" Draper in 1964's "Robinson Crusoe on Mars." He was reunited with his 'Robinson Crusoe" co-star Adam West three years later when he played Catwoman's henchman in two episodes of "Batman." Among other, mostly smaller, film roles, Mantee was a mainstay on TV for years, appearing in "The Fugitive," "Bonanza," "Mannix," "Kojak," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Dallas," "The A-Team," "Seinfeld," and many more series. 

Acting wasn't the end of Mantee's creative endeavors. While living in Malibu, he wrote columns for local newspapers, and published two novels: 1991's "Pasta Master: In Search of the Perfect Ravioli," and 1994's "Bruno of Hollywood." 

Mantee died in 2013 at the age of 82. 

Gary Crosby was part of entertainment royalty

"Hunter" takes place long before the days of smartphones, let alone plain old cell phones. Without computers to thumb through in their pocket or built into their dash, Hunter and his sidekicks rely on guys like Smitty, the desk-bound cop back at the precinct feeding them info on past cases, license plate numbers, and the like. Appearing half a dozen times in Season 1, Smitty is played by Gary Crosby, eldest child of the famous crooner Bing Crosby. 

Gary Crosby made his film debut in 1942 at the age of 9, playing himself in "Star Spangled Rhythm." In the '60s, he worked mainly in television, landing one-off and recurring roles on popular shows like "The Twilight Zone," "The Flying Nun," and "Love, American Style." He enjoyed longer-term roles on the police procedural "Adam-12" and the action-packed medical drama "Emergency!" He died in 1995 from complications of lung cancer at the age of 62.

Before his death, Gary made waves with his 1983 memoir "Going My Own Way." In this explosive book, he alleges years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, who he claims regularly beat him and his three brothers. 

Stanley Kamel went on to play troubled shrinks

When Stanley Kamel first appears on "Hunter" as Agent Brad Wilkes in Season 3's "The Girl Next Door," he doesn't have a lot of respect for Hunter or McCall. But by the time their collaboration is over, he's learned to look at them differently. Wilkes goes on to appear three more times, including a part in the Season 4 two-parter "Naked Justice."

Having worked in TV since the late '60s, Kamel got his big break with the recurring role of Eric Peters on the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives." In later years, he made splashes on a diverse array of series like "Cagney & Lacey," "Melrose Place," and "L.A. Law."

Kamel also had the distinction of appearing on one of the few near-perfect TV show seasons ever made: He plays unethical psychiatrist Dr. Graham Lester in Season 1 of the ABC legal drama "Murder One." Kamel is best remembered for portraying a very different psychiatrist, however: Dr. Charles Kroger, psychiatrist to the multi-phobic mental health enigma that is Adrian Monk of the beloved mystery-comedy series "Monk." 

Kamel died in April 2008 of a heart attack at the age of 65. In the Season 7 premiere of "Monk," Dr. Kroger is revealed to have died of a heart attack as well. The episode serves as a touching tribute to Kamel's memory.

Bruce Kirby was a wonderful character actor

In Seasons 3 and 4 of "Hunter," beginning with the three-part "City of Passion," veteran character actor Bruce Kirby joins the recurring cast as Chief Edward Stanmore, a high-ranking member of the police brass.

Kirby's roles were often small in terms of dialogue and billing, but the actor always left behind an unforgettable impression. He had memorable roles in films like "Stand By Me" and the crime comedy "Throw Momma from the Train," as well as shows like "Punky Brewster" and "The Golden Girls." He's well-remembered today as snooty Dr. Russ Fegoli on "The Sopranos" and Sergeant George Kramer on "Columbo."

Kirby died at the age of 95 in January 2021. Alongside his own body of work, Kirby gave the entertainment world his son, Bruno Kirby. Another great character actor who often took on comic roles, Bruno appeared in films like "City Slickers," "When Harry Met Sally," and "The Godfather Part II." He died in 2006, from complications related to leukemia.

Dale Swann was a proud man

Starting with "Honorable Profession," Dale Swann plays the recurring role of Sgt. Brennan in Season 5 of "Hunter." While he isn't on the series for a very long time, his portrayal of the uniformed sergeant does encompass the comparatively epic three-parter, "City Under Siege." Swann continued his career as a character actor until the mid-'90s, appearing mostly in one-offs on series like "Beauty and the Beast," "Quantum Leap," and "The Wonder Years." He also appears as a security supervisor in 1990's "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Swann passed away in April 2009, following a stroke. He was 61.

While he may be more recognizable for his roles in feature films like 1989's "Tango & Cash" and the 1994 action thriller "Drop Zone," the late actor had a special place in his heart for one of his very first credited screen roles: A deputy in the 1987 TV movie "Proud Men." This film stars Charlton Heston as a dying cattle rancher who's still heartbroken about his son refusing to fight in the Vietnam War 15 years earlier. While Swann's role is relatively minor, the legendary Heston sent him a personal letter, thanking Swann for his contribution to the film. He cherished this memory all his life.

Don Bexley was one of TV's funniest

If you're going to be an effective outside-the-box TV detective like Rick Hunter, you're going to need a snitch — or a "criminal informant," if you're feeling a bit more polite. Between Season 2 and 5 of "Hunter," that C.I. is Sporty James, played by Garrett Morris. Often there to help Sporty in a, for lack of a better word, administrative capacity, is Kirby, played by Don Bexley. Kirby works at a shoeshine station next to a public payphone where Sporty can often be found. If Hunter or McCall need some intel from Sporty, they call the payphone. Kirby then stops whatever he's doing to answer, "Sporty James Enterprises!"

As early as the 1940s, Bexley was making audiences laugh as a stand-up comic in New York's Catskill region. His first film role was in the 1970 action comedy "Cotton Comes to Harlem." While his part was relatively small, it gave him the opportunity to work with celebrated actor-comedian Redd Foxx, who later tapped Bexley to play his character's friend Bubba on the hit sitcom "Sanford and Son," and the short-lived follow-up "Sanford Arms." 

Foxx and Bexley were good friends off camera as well, to the point that when Foxx passed away in 1991, Bexley was named one of his honorary pallbearers. Suffering from heart and kidney failure, Bexley passed away in April 1997 at the age of 87.

Martin E. Brooks defended the guilty and helped the bionic

When you're a TV cop trying to make the streets safer, the crooks you round up will defend themselves any way they can. When it comes to more financially secure criminals, their arsenal tends to include the best defense lawyer money can buy, who will inevitably use smear tactics. Such an attorney is Mike Snow, played by Martin E. Brooks. He gives Hunter and McCall more than their fair share of headaches between Season 3 and 4 of "Hunter."

Born Martin Baum, Brooks served as a paratrooper during World War II, and was awarded a Purple Heart after receiving injuries in battle. He began studying acting while attending Penn State University after the war. It wasn't long before he became an award-winning stage actor, with his career on the screen beginning in the early '50s. While he appeared in numerous films and TV series over the years, he is best known as the third actor to play scientist Dr. Rudy Wells on "The Six Million Dollar Man," its spin-off "The Bionic Woman," and a number of follow-up TV movies. 

Brooks retired from screen acting in the mid-'90s, though he continued to act on stage and teach at the Tracy Roberts Acting School. In December 2015, a week after his 90th birthday, Brooks died in his home.