A beloved character actor, Don Calfa, best known for his role as mortician Eddie Kaltenbrunner in the 1980’s cult classic Return of the Living Dead, passed away peacefully on December 1, two days before what would have been his 77th birthday.
Born on December 3, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, Don Calfa originally had planned a career in fine arts before he opted to become an actor. Taking the risk, in which he had dropped out of high school to join a theater workshop, the hard work paid off. Calfa eventually did earn his degree through night courses and in 1968, made his film debut with No More Excuses, directed by Robert Downey Sr. Calfa played a priest in the film.
Calfa was known for his comedic and dramatic roles, usually playing some great supporting characters. Aside from his iconic performance in Return of the Living Dead, Calfa’s best known roles include hitman Paulie in the hit comedy Weekend at Bernie’s and mad scientist Ralph Willum in the Troma film Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town, which featured a pre-fame Billy Bob Thornton in the role of the lead character’s boyfriend.
Calfa almost returned with roles in the sequels to Return of the Living Dead as different characters, but did not appear in them. However, the aftermath of playing Ernie in the original would lead Calfa to attend many horror film conventions in recent years and had kept in touch with many of his former co-stars.
World Film Geek sends its condolences to the family of Don Calfa. As a final tribute, here is the man himself at the Crypticon convention in Minnesota in 2009. Thanks to YouTube user SinisterBunnyPro for the uploaded video:
Rest in Peace, Don Calfa.