Donald George Calfa (December 3, 1939 – December 1, 2016) was an American film and television character actor whose credits spanned over 40 years, playing both comedic and dramatic roles. Although Calfa appeared in many high-profile films and television series, he was perhaps best known for his role as mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in the 1985 cult horror-comedy The Return of the Living Dead, and the bumbling hitman in Weekend at Bernie's.

Don Calfa
Donald George Calfa

(1939-12-03)December 3, 1939
DiedDecember 1, 2016(2016-12-01) (aged 76)
Years active1968–2015
SpouseTrixie Flynn (1977-1981) (divorced)[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Calfa was born on December 3, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Ozone Park, Queens and later West Hempstead, Long Island. According to his official biography, Calfa was originally interested in pursuing a career in the fine arts, but diverted his interest to acting after seeing Rebel Without a Cause. He promptly dropped out of high school to join a theater workshop (later finishing his degree through night school), eventually joining both the Actors' Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild.[2]


Before transitioning to film, Calfa worked heavily in theater, appearing in many Off-Off-Broadway productions and having performed on Broadway in 1965 in Mating Dance and in 1971 in Lenny.[2][3]

Calfa worked steadily in both film and television for over 40 years, and worked alongside such high-profile actors and directors as Warren Beatty, Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.[4] Although he worked extensively as a dramatic actor, Calfa is perhaps best recognized for his comedic performances in various cult films, including as Paulie in Weekend at Bernie's, Scarface in Foul Play, Harold Grand in Treasure of the Moon Goddess and mad scientist Ralph Willum in Chopper Chicks in Zombietown.

Calfa was perhaps best known for his major role in the 1985 cult horror-comedy The Return of the Living Dead, in which he played the eccentric mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner. He would later audition for the role of Doc Mandel in the 1988 sequel Return of the Living Dead Part II, which also featured several returning stars from the original, but the part ultimately went to Philip Bruns. In 1993, Calfa was set to play the character Colonel Peck in Return of the Living Dead III, but had to pull out of production due to personal reasons.[5] He remained good friends with the rest of the Living Dead cast and crew, and made appearances alongside them at horror conventions and screenings of the film across the United States. Calfa was also interviewed for the 2012 documentary on the film, More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead.[citation needed]

Calfa appeared in many other popular American television series, including Kojak (2 episodes), Baretta, The Streets of San Francisco (3 episodes), The Bionic Woman, Benson, Night Court, Simon & Simon, Hill Street Blues (2 episodes), Matlock, Twin Peaks, Doogie Howser, M.D. (3 episodes), Murder She Wrote (2 episodes), and Beverly Hills 90210 (3 episodes). He played 7 different characters on 7 episodes of Barney Miller.

Personal life and deathEdit

Calfa was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[2] He had been a close friend and colleague of fellow actor Richard Lynch since the 1960s, and acted alongside him in H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon (1993), Toughguy (1995), Corpses Are Forever (2003) and Lewisburg (2010).[5] He was married to Trixie Flynn (from September 10, 1977 – August 26, 1981); the union ended in divorce.

Calfa died on December 1, 2016, at his home in Yucca Valley, California,[6] two days before his 77th birthday.[7]


Film rolesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1968 No More Excuses Priest Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
1969 Utterly Without Redeeming Social Value Peter DeCola
1970 Pound Italian Terrier Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
1972 Greaser's Palace Morris Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
1973 The Rainbow Boys Mazella
Cinderella Liberty Lewis Directed by Mark Rydell
1974 Rhinoceros Waiter
Bank Shot Stosh Gornik
Shanks Albert Einstein Directed by William Castle
1975 Peeper Rosie
1976 Nickelodeon Waldo Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
1977 New York, New York Gilbert Directed by Martin Scorsese
1978 Foul Play Scarface
1979 10 Neighbor Directed by Blake Edwards
The Rose Don Frank
1941 Telephone operator Directed by Steven Spielberg
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice Goebel
1983 The Star Chamber Lawrence Monk
Over Here, Mr. President Wardell Slaughter
The Man Who Wasn't There Tohfa
1984 E. Nick: A Legend in His Own Mind E. 'Nick' Vanacuzzi Starring role
1985 The Return of the Living Dead Ernie Kaltenbrunner Major role
1986 Running Scared Women's Room Lawyer
1987 Talking Walls Andre
Treasure of the Moon Goddess Harold Grand Major role
1988 The Presidio Howard Buckely
Blue Movies Max
1989 Weekend at Bernie's Paulie Major role
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown Ralph Willum Major role
1991 Bugsy Louie Dragna Directed by Barry Levinson
1992 Me Myself & I Irving Major role
Stay Tuned Wetzel
1993 H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon Mr. Benedict (part 3)
1995 Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie City Hall Guard Video Game
Toughguy Office Worker #1
Cobs n Roberts Lance
1998 Progeny Jimmy Stevens
Dr. Dolittle Patient at Hammersmith
2001 Downward Angel Adam
2002 The 4th Tenor Bum #3
2003 Night Creep Mr. Blunt
Corpses Are Forever Jack Stark Credited as Lance Fladoda
2010 Lewisburg Night Clerk
2011 More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead Himself Documentary film
2012 Pablo Himself
2015 Sharkskin Joey 'Snot'

Television rolesEdit

Year Show Role Notes
1972 Goodnight, My Love Bananas Made for TV movie
The Delphi Bureau Gunjamen Episode: "The White Plague Project"
1973 The Blue Knight Made for TV movie
1974–1975 Kojak Fidelio Ortez
Episode: "Marker to a Dead Bookie"
Episode: "A House of Prayer, a Den of Thieves"
1974–1977 The Streets of San Francisco Larry Mason
Randolf J. "Moonshine" Fisher
Episode: "Mister Nobody"
Episode: "Poisoned Snow"
Episode: "A Good Cop...But"
1976 Most Wanted Episode: "Pilot"
Baretta Corsican Episode: "Aggie"
Delvecchio Sergeant Mendez
Episode: "Contract for Harry"
Episode: "The Avenger"
1977–1981 Barney Miller Mr. DiLucca
Angelo Dodi
Leon Bidell
Calvin J. Kendall
Gilbert Lesco
Arthur Thompson
Episode: "Group Home"
Episode: "Copy Cat"
Episode: "Hostage"
Episode: "Identity"
Episode: "The Desk"
Episode: "The Vests"
Episode: "Homeless"
1977 Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected Episode: "The Final Chapter"
1978 The Bionic Woman Petie "The Weasel" Regan Episode: "Rancho Outcast"
The Comedy Company Harry Fenner Made for TV movie
Steel Cowboy "Go" Trucker Made for TV movie
1979 The Runaways Sam Episode: "Dreams of My Father"
1980 Nobody's Perfect Rosen Episode: "What's on Third?"
1981 Park Place Howie Beech Recurring role (4 episodes)
Benson Dr. Death Episode: "The Grass Ain't Greener"
1982 The Day the Bubble Burst Mr. Cinelli Made for TV movie
1983 Allison Sydney Harrison Pat Rosetti Made for TV movie
Shooting Stars Driscoll Made for TV movie
1984 Legmen Oscar Armismendi Episode: "Poseidon Indenture"
Hill Street Blues Oscar Foreman Episode: "Eva's Brawn"
Night Court Miles Seaver Episode: "Billie and the Cat"
1985 Simon & Simon Randall Deeds Episode: "Slither"
Our Family Honor Maltz Episode: "Runaway Movie Queen"
Amazing Stories Messenger Episode: "The Amazing Falsworth"
1986 Blacke's Magic Officer O'Malley Episode: "Wax Poetic"
Throb Coyote Man Episode: "My Fair Punker Lady"
1987 Private Eye Made for TV movie
9 to 5 Janipopolous Episode: "Love and Death"
1988, 1993 Murder, She Wrote Clifford Coleson
Episode: "Mr. Penroy's Vacation"
Episode: "The Survivor"
1988 Houston Knights Episode: "Bad Paper"
1989 Mancuso, F.B.I. Episode: "Murder of Pearl"
1990 Matlock Andrew Sloan Episode: "Nowhere to Turn"
Twin Peaks Vice Principal Greege Episode: "Episode 10 (uncredited) and Episode 17"
1990–1993 Doogie Howser, M.D. Carmine Delpino Recurring role (3 episodes)
1990, 1995 Columbo Rudy Episode: "Strange Bedfellows"
Episode: "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo"
1993–1994 Beverly Hills, 90210 Mr. Pitts Recurring role (3 episodes)
1994 Boy Meets World Frank Episode: "Who's Afraid of Cory Wolf?"
2003 Less Than Perfect Uncle Nicky Episode: "Save the Squirrel, But Bet the Over/Under"


  1. ^ Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2016. 2017-08-11. ISBN 9781476629124.
  2. ^ a b c "Don Calfa Biography". Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  3. ^ "Don Calfa – The Internet Broadway Database". Internet Broadway Database.
  4. ^ "Don Calfa filmography". Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ a b "Don Calfa biodata". Internet Movie Database.
  6. ^ "Don Calfa, evil mortician in 'The Return of the Living Dead,' dies at 76". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. December 2, 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 2, 2006). "Don Calfa, the Mortician in 'The Return of the Living Dead' Dies at 76". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 2, 2016.

External linksEdit