Warren Oates (July 5, 1928 – April 3, 1982)
Warren Mercer Oates was born and raised in Depoy, Kentucky, a tiny rural community a few miles west of Greenville. He starred in many Westerns, once quipping, “there were 40 [western] series and I went from one to the other. I started out playing the third bad guy on a horse and worked my way up to the No. 1 bad guy.” Oates is best known for his performances in several of Sam Peckinpah’s films (The Wild Bunch (1969) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, 1974). He also appeared in The Hired Hand (1971), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Race With the Devil (1975). He portrayed John Dillinger in the 1973 biopic Dillinger. Also notably were his roles in Stripes (1981) and the New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs (1977).
Oates had been ill for a few weeks with influenza prior to his death in April 1982. At age 53, he died of a heart attack while taking an afternoon nap at his Los Angeles home. Earlier in the day, Oates had experienced chest pains and shortness of breath. His autopsy concluded he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His final two films were released in 1983 Blue Thunder and Tough Enough. Monte Hellman’s 1988 film Iguana was dedicated to Warren. Tom Thurman produced a documentary film Warren Oates: Across the Border in 1993 as a tribute to his career. In March 2009, Susan Compo published a biography (Warren Oates: A Wild Life) featuring interviews with his three former wives, his three children and friends. His family has rejected the biography.