Don Calfa, who played Ernie the embalmer in 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead, has died at age 76, Deadline confirmed. The actor, whose credits also include Weekend at Bernie’s, Nickelodeon, Bugsy and New York, New York, died at his home in Yucca Valley, CA.
The death, two days before his December 3 birthday, was confirmed to Deadline by his publicist Michael Perez. Other credits include Foul Play, The Rose and 1941.
Calfa, born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens and Long Island, began his acting career on the New York stage, performing on Broadway in 1965’s Mating Dance and 1971’s Lenny. He made his film debut in 1968’s No More Excuses, directed by Robert Downey Sr.
Along with frequent roles in episodic TV throughout the 1970s and ’80s – Kojak, The Streets of San Francisco, Benson, Hill Street Blues, among many others, including numerous appearances on Barney Miller, as seen at left — Calfa was a familiar big-screen character actor, with roles in films by major directors: Mark Rydell’s Cinderella Liberty, Peter Bogdanovich’s Nickelodeon, Blake Edwards’ 10, Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York.
He was particularly memorable as hitman Paulie in 1989’s Weekend at Bernie’s, Scarface in the Chevy Chase starrer Foul Play and mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in Return of the Living Dead. Calfa appeared as himself in the 2012 doc More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead.