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Police Academy Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

In a world dominated by a seemingly endless slew of IP-driven films, it's hard to believe that a silly film about bumbling would-be police officers would be among the biggest hits of the 1980s. But, such was the case with 1984's "Police Academy." Due to a shortage of police officers, anyone desiring to join the force is automatically granted a place in the academy. Thus, the flood gates are open for a motley crew of lovable losers to enlist. Hijinks ensue as the trainees must prove that they have what it takes to be police officers. 

Made on a modest budget of $4.5 million, the first "Police Academy" film would go on to earn $81.2 million (via The Numbers). It's even more impressive when you consider this was director Hugh Wilson's directorial debut. The film eventually spawned six sequels and two spinoff series. Seeing how decades have passed since the release of the original film, it's not a surprise that a few key cast members have died.

Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith played the imposing Hightower in the "Police Academy" films. Smith was intimidating, but he brought an endearing and childlike persona to the role. This made him a favorite character within the series. In fact, Smith had played the role in five more films in the franchise, and would even act in the spinoff series "Police Academy: The Series." Before acting, the 6-foot-7-inch Smith was best remembered as an NFL defensive lineman. Even in his college days, it seemed that Smith was destined to play pro football. In college, he played at Michigan State University and became a two-time All-American in 1965 and 1966. This obviously gained a lot of attention, and Smith was the Baltimore Colts' No. 1 pick in the 1967 NFL-AFL draft. Smith ended up playing in two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one of them (via Sportscasting). 

Like many other pro athletes, Smith parlayed his fame into acting going as far back as a guest spot playing himself in a 1973 episode of "The Odd Couple" (via IMDb). Other notable appearances include: "Charlie's Angels," "Taxi," and "Good Times." After "Police Academy," Smith made cameos in cult favorites such as "Gremlins 2" and "Married with Children."

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Smith was found dead in his Los Angeles home on August 4, 2011, at age 66. At the time, the cause of death was not determined. USA Today reported that Smith had Stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease thought to be caused by repeated head trauma and concussions.

David Graf

David Graf had an impressive resume that includes over 100 film and television credits (via IMDb). However, he is best remembered for his role in "Police Academy" as the lovable but deeply unhinged Tackleberry. Like the rest of the trainees, Tackleberry, a war veteran, had a series of quirks, including being trigger-happy — arguably, this seems incredibly cringe-worthy by today's standards. Yet, he was endearing thanks to Graf's charisma. He was beloved enough to be brought back for all seven "Police Academy" films. Like Bubba Smith, Graf even showed up in the television spinoff "Police Academy: The Series" which saw him make a cameo appearance as Tackleberry. It would end up being the last time Graf played the character. 

Post-"Police Academy," the actor found steady work in notable television series, including "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Aaahh!! Real Monsters," and "Touched by an Angel." On the big screen, Graf appeared in fan-favorite films such as "The Brady Bunch Movie" and "Rules of Engagement."

The Washington Post reported that Graf died on April 7, 2001, of a heart attack. He was 50 years old.

Art Metrano

Actor Art Metrano took over the villainous role as the scheming Ernie Mauser in "Police Academy 2" and "Police Academy 3." Considered one of the cast's veterans, Metrano had quite an interesting career path leading up to the "Police Academy" films. Incredibly, it was performing magic tricks as "The Amazing Metrano" for "The Tonight Show" that helped launch his professional career. 

In New York, he studied with the famous acting coach Stella Adler and John Cassavetes. This led to roles such as "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and television appearances such as a 16-episode run on "Joanie Loves Chachi" as well as "Bewitched" and "The Mod Squad." Tragically, in 1989 Metrano, fell off a ladder while working on the roof of his Los Angeles home, fracturing his second and seventh vertebrae. 

He would not only recover, but he also turned his harrowing experience into a one-man show (via The Hollywood Reporter). The actor worked steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, he made a cameo appearance as Sheriff Meiser — a renamed version of Mauser — in "Police Academy: The Series."

Metrano died of natural causes on September 8, 2021, at his Florida home at the age of 84.

George Gaynes

One of the many highlights of the "Police Academy" franchise is Commandant Eric Lassard, as portrayed by George Gaynes. Though a bit oblivious and often buffoonish, Lassard made clear his hope for the future academy. Gaynes appeared as his character in all seven "Police Academy" movies in addition to a single episode of "Police Academy: The Series." At the same time, Gaynes more than proved his skills as an actor beyond "Police Academy" media, appearing in several films and TV shows throughout his decades-long career.

After serving in the Royal Netherlands Navy during World War II, the Helsinki-born Gaynes made his way to the United States to become an actor. He got his start on stage, though it didn't take him long to make it to screens. He debuted on television in 1955 via "NBC Television Opera Theatre," which eventually led him to shows like "Bonanza" and "Columbo," as well as movies ranging from "Tootsie" to the infamous "Fantastic Four" adaptation from 1994. Gaynes' final acting credit joined his filmography in 2003 in the form of "Just Married" (via IMDb)

Sadly, on February 15, 2016, George Gaynes died at the age of 98.

Marion Ramsey

Marion Ramsey enjoyed quite an impressive run in the "Police Academy" film series, featuring in six of the seven total films. Sadly, she didn't return to the part of Officer Laverne Hooks in "Police Academy: Mission to Moscow" or "Police Academy: The Series," but in hindsight, that's not too big a deal. After all, Ramsey was able to keep busy elsewhere in the entertainment world well into the 2010s. When it was all said and done, her career had stretched to just over four decades.

Ramsey got her start on Broadway before jumping to TV for "The Jeffersons," where she played Tracy Davis in one episode. She'd follow this up with appearances on a bunch of other TV classics, including "Days of Our Lives" and "The Nanny," among others. As her career went on, Ramsey tried her hand at more feature films, with some of the titles she featured in being "Maniacts," "Return to Babylon," and "Wal-Bob's," to name a few. According to IMDb, her final project was released in 2018, titled "When I Sing," where she played Reggie.

On January 8, 2021, it came to light that Marion Ramsey had died at the age of 73 (via BBC).

Debralee Scott

Though her tenure in Hollywood was rather brief, Debralee Scott has become synonymous with the "Police Academy" series. She made her first appearance as Mrs. Fackler in the original 1984 film before disappearing from the franchise for the second installment. She reemerged as Cadet Fackler in "Police Academy 3: Back in Training," which ultimately proved to be her final "Police Academy" outing. Elsewhere in the entertainment world, it's safe to say that Scott did rather well for herself.

Long before joining the "Police Academy" ranks, Scott scored her first big credit as a minor character in 1973's "American Graffiti." However, as the 20th century came to a close, she'd become a far more frequent face on television than at the movies. Scott enjoyed lengthy stints on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," "Forever Fernwood," and "Angie," in addition to making more sporadic appearances on "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "The Love Boat." Upon deciding to retire from work in front of the camera, 1989's "Misplaced" turned out to be Scott's acting farewell (via IMDb).

On April 5, 2005 — a mere three days after her birthday — Debralee Scott died at the age of 52.

George Robertson

George Robertson was a staple of the "Police Academy" series, appearing in the first six films. He took on the role of the no-nonsense police chief — and later commissioner — Henry Hurst, who he also portrayed on a single episode of "Police Academy: The Series." Outside of the "Police Academy" franchise, fans might recognize him from his work in the "Twilight Zone" reboot from the 1980s, the 1990 remake of "War of the Worlds," and 1991's "JFK," among a handful of other big and small screen endeavors.

Born on April 20, 1933, in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Robertson's professional acting career wouldn't begin until the late 1960s. At the tail end of the decade, he made an uncredited appearance in "Rosemary's Baby," which kicked off his run at the cinema. In the decades that followed, he continued to find steady work in film and television, taking on supporting parts and guest spots here and there. To close out his acting run, he appeared in the 2017 National Geographic special "Cradle to Grave": a look at the average human's lifespan (via IMDb).

On February 3, 2023, sources such as the Hollywood Reporter confirmed that George Robertson had died on the previous Sunday, January 29. He was 89 years old.