Rick Dalton, the beloved fictional star of the iconic TV series Bounty Law and the cult film The Fourteen Fists of McCluskey, peacefully passed away at the age of 90 in his home in Hawaii. Quentin Tarantino, the renowned filmmaker and cohost of the Video Archives Podcast alongside director-producer Roger Avary, announced Dalton’s death on Twitter. Dalton’s character was immortalized by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which portrayed a turbulent phase in the actor’s life during the late 1960s, including his guest appearance on the western series Lancer and his fateful encounter with a group of home-invading hippies.
Tarantino expanded Dalton’s story further through the novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, released in 2021. Additionally, a follow-up book entitled The Films of Rick Dalton is currently in progress. To honor Dalton’s legacy, Tarantino and Avary will dedicate a special episode of their podcast, scheduled for release next week, as a heartfelt memorial.
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Born in 1933, Dalton achieved fame with the hit TV western Bounty Law, where he portrayed the fearless bounty hunter Jake Cahill from 1959 to 1963. Dalton also ventured into the world of cinema, predominantly starring in westerns such as Hellfire, Texas, and Tanner, along with a notable supporting role in the cult WWII action film The Fourteen Fists of McCluskey. One missed opportunity in his career was the film The Great Escape, as Dalton was considered for the role of Virgil Hilts, ultimately played by fellow TV western star Steve McQueen. Despite the setback after the conclusion of Bounty Law, Dalton struggled to secure leading roles and found himself limited to guest appearances on various TV shows of that era, including Tarzan, The FBI, and Lancer.
Acting on the advice of producer Marvin Schwarz, Dalton embarked on a journey to Europe, where he enjoyed success in several films, including the spaghetti westerns Kill Me Quick, Ringo, Said the Gringo, Nebraska Jim, and the comedic crime caper Operazione Dyn-O-Mite! It was during this time in Europe that Dalton met and married Italian actress Francesca Capucci. Upon his return to America, a bizarre incident unfolded in Hollywood history when Dalton’s home was invaded by three members of Charles Manson’s cult. However, Dalton’s longtime friend and stuntman, Cliff Booth, along with Booth’s faithful dog Brandy and Dalton himself wielding the flamethrower from The Fourteen Fists of McCluskey, swiftly neutralized the intruders.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, featuring DiCaprio as Dalton, Brad Pitt as Booth, and Margot Robbie as Dalton’s neighbor, actress Sharon Tate, garnered critical acclaim and achieved significant box office success, grossing over $370 million worldwide. The film received ten Academy Awards nominations, with Pitt winning the Best Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Booth, and DiCaprio earning a nomination for Best Actor. However, the movie generated controversy due to its depiction of an alleged altercation between Booth and Bruce Lee, who was starring in The Green Hornet at the time.