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Airwolf Actors You May Not Know Have Passed Away

"Airwolf," which ran for four seasons on CBS, dealt with a special military helicopter and was influenced by the movie "Blue Thunder," which was a big hit in the summer of 1983. The show was created by Donald P. Bellisario, a well-known and prolific TV producer who also gave us "Magnum, P.I.," "Quantum Leap," "JAG," and "NCIS."

"Airwolf" aired during an era of Cold Ear fear in the eighties. Jan-Michael Vincent, the star of the show, played Stringfellow Hawke, a 'Nam vet who steals the helicopter from its evil creator, Dr. Charles Henry Moffet, played by David Hemmings, and uses it for good. Helping Stringfellow out is Dominic Santini, played by Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord, playing Archangel, who keeps a close eye on them through the Firm, a government agency.

"Airwolf" was actually one of three helicopter shows that went into production in 1984, including a TV spinoff of "Blue Thunder," but "Airwolf" lasted the longest of the three. If you were a fan of "Airwolf," you may not be aware that several pivotal cast members and several guest stars from the show have passed away — including Jan Michael-Vincent, who disappeared from public view after the show went off the air.

Jan-Michael Vincent

Jan-Michael Vincent had a long career in movies and television, and he would also have one of the most tragic downfalls of a Hollywood star.

While "Airwolf" may be his best-known title, Vincent played a variety of big and small screen roles, and some of his best-known films include the Disney comedy "The World's Greatest Athlete" and "The Mechanic," where he co-starred with Charles Bronson and played an assassin. He also appeared in "White Line Fever," a trucker hit that predated "Smokey and the Bandit," "Hooper," the Burt Reynolds comedy smash about stuntmen, "Big Wednesday," the cult classic about surfers coming of age, and more.

In the eighties, Vincent got a career boost when he starred in the ABC mini-series "Winds of War," then transitioned into "Airwolf," which The Hollywood Reporter said made him one of the highest-paid actors on television.

From this career high, Vincent took a long fall into an abyss of drinking and drug abuse, surviving two near-fatal car accidents and losing sections of his right leg from an infection. Vincent died on February 10, 2019, of cardiac arrest at the age of seventy-three after too many years of hard living.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine, who played Dominic Santini on "Airwolf," was a Hollywood veteran for many years before he came aboard the copter crew. Borgnine starred in several classic movies like "From Here to Eternity," "Bad Day at Black Rock," "The Dirty Dozen," "The Wild Bunch," "The Poseidon Adventure," and "Escape From New York," to name a few. Borgnine also won the Academy Award for best actor for the starring role in "Marty," written by one of the most celebrated writers in Hollywood history, Paddy Chayefsky.

Borgnine was also a big hit on television as part of the "McHale's Navy" ensemble, and he kept working well into his eighties, even appearing on "SpongeBob SquarePants" as Mermaid Man. He would also win a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild after decades of memorable roles, his specialty playing tough guys and lovable lugs.

Borgnine died on July 8, 2012, of kidney failure at the age of ninety-five.

Alex Cord

Cord played Archangel on "Airwolf," the point of contact for the Firm, an enigmatic government organization that dispatched the team on assignments. On occasion, Archangel would also serve as a flight engineer when the Airwolf helicopter was in need of upgrades or repairs.  

A native of New York, Alex Cord survived childhood polio, then went on to become a rodeo rider. After an injury that left him in the hospital for eight months, Cord went for an acting career, first on the stage, then on television.

Cord starred in many well-known series including "Naked City," "Route 66," "Mission: Impossible," "Fantasy Island," and "Walker, Texas Ranger." Among his feature roles, Cord starred in the rehab drama "Synanon," the bizarre 70's sci-fi action film "Chosen Survivors," the Irwin Allen disaster film "Fire!," and the B movie action film "Jungle Warriors," among others.

Cord died on August 9, 2021, at the age of 88

Eugene Roche

Eugene Roche is the kind of actor you can immediately recognize by his face, if not his name. According to TCM, Roche began his show biz career as a pitchman for Ajax soap before breaking into acting in a role on "Naked City." This led to roles on other top shows of the day, like "Route 66," and then, in 1972, he had a role in the acclaimed but under-appreciated Kurt Vonnegut adaptation "Slaughterhouse-Five" as Edgar Derby.

On the small screen, Roche had a featured role on the '70s sitcom "Soap," playing lawyer E. Ronald Mallu, and on the big screen he had roles in the 70's action-comedy "Corvette Summer," which was Mark Hamill's first starring role after "Star Wars," and "Foul Play." His TV work continued well into the nineties and early aughts with roles on "Lenny," "Julie," "Dave's World," and "7th Heaven."

Roche was a guest star on two episodes of "Airwolf," "Firestorm," where he played a character named Eddie Donahaugh, and "Shadow of the Hawke," where he played Senator William Dietz. In "Firestorm," Roche plays an alcoholic who thinks he's seeing visions of UFOs. This leads the "Airwolf" team to discover a rouge general who wants to hit the USSR with nukes.

Roche died on July 28, 2004, of a heart attack at the age of 75.

David Hemmings

David Hemmings, who played Dr. Charles Henry Moffet on "Airwolf," is probably best known for starring in one of the most acclaimed and influential films of the sixties, "Blowup." A native of Surrey, England, Hemmings sang with the English Opera Group as a soprano when he was a boy, and he also studied to be a painter before he got the acting bug. He landed the starring role in "Blowup" when he was twenty-four and became a sensation during the swinging London era. This led to roles in "Tom Jones," the big-screen version of "Camelot," 'Barbarella," and the Dario Argento horror classic "Deep Red."

Hemmings also directed several features and was a prolific television director as well, helming episodes of "The A-Team," "Magnum, P.I.," "Quantum Leap," and of course, "Airwolf."

Hemmings died of a heart attack while filming a movie, "Blessed," in Romania on December 3, 2003. He was sixty-two years old.

David Carradine

A legend of the big and small screen who starred in many quality films — as well as a lot of low-budget schlock — David Carradine was part of the legendary Carradine acting clan that came from big-screen legend John Carradine. His famous acting siblings include Robert Carradine, best known for "Revenge of the Nerds," and Keith Carradine, who starred in the 1975 film "Nashville."

Carradine was a working actor for 45 years, and he appeared in a whopping 118 movies, including "Bound For Glory" and "Kill Bill," and he was the star of three series, including the iconic "Kung Fu." Carradine also had over thirty-five guest appearances on TV shows, including his guest-starring role on "Airwolf" as Dr. Robert Winchester, one of the researchers who helped design the "Airwolf" helicopter. Carradine guest-starred as Winchester in the episode "Mind of the Machine," which aired on April 7, 1984.

Carradine died on June 3, 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand of a reported accidental asphyxiation at the age of 72.

Doug McClure

All throughout this career, Doug McClure became one of the most dependable character actors in the business, and he became so ubiquitous he even inspired a character on "The Simpsons," Troy McClure.

A native of Glendale, California, McClure broke through in the age of the television western after attending UCLA, and he usually played sidekicks. He was first cast in "The Overland Trail" in 1960, which eventually lead to "The Virginian" in 1962, where he played the role of Trampas, a villain. "The Virginian," a big-budget show for NBC, was also the first 90-minute series on television, according to The Buffalo News.

On "Airwolf," McClure played a character named Darren McBride on an episode titled "Half-Pint," which aired December 21, 1985. In the episode, Hawke is trying to learn the truth about his brother, who's been missing in action in Vietnam.

McClure died of lung cancer on February 5, 1995, at the age of 59.

Martin Milner

While Martin Milner first broke through as an actor in big-screen classics like "Life With Father" and "Sweet Smell of Success," he's one of many actors who's best known for his television work, first on "Route 66," then "Adam-12."

Milner broke into television when it was a relatively new medium in the fifties while still doing big-screen roles in films like "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" before landing "Route 66," the hit CBS series than ran from 1960 to 1964. He then co-starred in the realistic cop drama "Adam-12" as cop Pete Malloy. The show was produced by Jack Webb of "Dragnet" fame and ran on NBC from 1968 to 1975. Like "Route 66," Milner successfully partnered with another actor, co-star Kent McCord, who played Officer Jim Reed.

On "Airwolf," Milner guest-starred in the episode "Severance Pay," which aired on March 23, 1985. In the episode, a friend of Hawke is threatening to let out sensitive government information if he doesn't get his retirement benefits. Co-starring was the late Arte Johnson of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" fame.

Milner died of heart failure on September 6, 2015, at the age of 83.

Richard Lynch

A prolific character actor who often played bad guys, Richard Lynch had a distinctive look that came from a bizarre accident he suffered in 1967 when he accidentally lit himself on fire, according to Variety.

Lynch's best-known roles include the lost '70s classic "Scarecrow," starring Al Pacino, "The Ninth Configuration," which was William Peter Blatty's acclaimed follow up to "The Exorcist." He also appeared in the 1979 TV movie "Vampire," where he played the title role, the Chuck Norris action film "Invasion U.S.A.," and "Little Nikita."

Lynch appeared on the "Airwolf" episode "The Horn of Plenty," which aired in 1985, and ironically enough, he also showed up in an episode of the "Blue Thunder" series as well.

Later in his career, Lynch starred in horror films for writer and director Rob Zombie, including his remake of "Halloween" and "The Lords of Salem." Lynch was found dead in his Palm Springs home on June 19, 2012, at the age of 72.

Larry Linville

Larry Linville is best known for playing Major Frank Burns on "M*A*S*H." Linville broke into television in the late sixties and starred in shows such as "Bonanza," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," and "Room 222" before landing his signature role on "M*A*S*H." Linville left "M*A*S*H" six years before the show took its final bow, a decision he never regretted. He went back into the theater and did guest-starring roles on shows like "The Jeffersons," "Fantasy Island," and, of course, "Airwolf."

Linville appeared in the episode "And a Child Shall Lead," which aired on October 12, 1985. In the episode, an aircraft designer named Robert Phelps vanishes, and Hawke finds him with the help of his autistic son. In the episode, Linville appears as a character named Clinton Maxwell.

Linville died on April 10, 2000, of complications from pneumonia at the age of 60 after surviving a previous bout with cancer.

Cesare Danova

Many movie fans know Cesare Danova as the shady mayor in "National Lampoon's Animal House," but he had a lengthy career long before he came aboard one of the biggest comedy hit of the seventies.

Danova has over 350 movie and TV credits to his name including "Tarzan, the Ape Man," "Cleopatra," "Viva Las Vegas," and "Mean Streets." At first, he resisted television work because he was afraid it would take him away from feature films, and eventually, he primarily made guest appearances, often playing foreign characters with names like Vince Ferrari, a character he played on "Barnaby Jones." 

In addition to shows like "Hart to Hart" and "The Love Boat," Danova was a guest star on "Airwolf" on the episode "Airwolf II," playing a character named Alonzo Delomo. In this episode, a hotshot pilot thinks he can build a better version of the "Airwolf" helicopter and challenges Hawke to a game of chicken in the air.

Danova died of a heart attack on March 19, 1992.

John Ireland

A native of Vancouver, Canada, John Ireland, like Johnny Weissmuller, started as a professional swimmer who transitioned into being an actor. He performed on Broadway and toured with Shakespeare companies before he made his way into movie classics like "My Darling Clementine," "Red River," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," and "Spartacus." Ireland would also notably co-direct the very first "The Fast and the Furious" movie in 1954, whose title was later borrowed for the wildly successful film franchise in the aughts.

Like many actors who were in the game for decades, Ireland did a lot of TV appearances, and he starred in the 1985 "Airwolf" episode "Santini's Millions," where the "Airwolf" team discovers a crashed plane that belongs to a billionaire, played by Ireland. He changes his will before he's killed in a mysterious accident, and Santini inherits a ton of dough, which immediately makes him a target. He would also return to the series in 1987 for the episode "Rogue Warrior," playing a character named Hardesty.

Ireland died of leukemia on March 21, 1992, at the age of 78.

Lance LeGault

A native of Chicago, Lance LeGault has the distinction of being Elvis Presley's stunt double on several of his best-known films, including "Girls! Girls! Girls!," "Kissin' Cousins," "Viva Las Vegas," and "Roustabout." 

LeGault had a number of movie roles, including a villainous appearance in "Coma," which was directed by Michael Crichton, a funny voice-over performance in "Kentucky Fried Movie," and a comedic role in "Stripes." He also had many featured roles on TV series such as "Dynasty," "T.J. Hooker," "Knight Rider," and he also had a featured role on "The A-Team" as Col. Decker, one of many military roles LeGault played in his career.

LeGault was the uncredited narrator for "Airwolf," and he also had featured roles on two episodes. First, he played villainous Sheriff J.J. Bogan in the "Sweet Britches" episode and later appeared as a character named Noble Flowers in an episode titled "Wildfire," where Dominic tries to help out an old friend from the war.

LeGault died of congestive heart failure on September 10, 2012, at the age of 77.

Joe Campanella

While his name sounds like a baseball legend, Campanella was a memorable character actor whose career spanned decades, to the point where he joked that people would stop him on the street and say, "Say, Mac, you're my favorite actor and I know your name, but I can't think of it."

Campanella was widely known for playing Lew Wickersham on "Mannix," the long-running police drama on CBS, and he also had a recurring role on "One Day at a Time," another long-running CBS hit. He even played David Hasselhoff's father on "Baywatch," as Campanella stayed active as an actor well into his eighties.

A New York native, Campanella graduated from Columbia and almost played baseball for the New York Giants before finding his way into radio and television. On "Airwolf," Campanella starred in the "Firestorm" episode with Eugene Roche, where he played General Elliot Sandhower.

Campanella died on May 16, 2018, at the age of 93 from natural causes.