Cliff Emmich, ‘Payday’ and ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ Actor, Dies at 85

Character actor Cliff Emmich, who played major roles in “Payday” and “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” has died, his agent confirmed. He was 85.

Emmich’s rep and friend for over 50 years, Steve Stevens, tells TheWrap that the celebrity died Monday in Los Angeles following a long battle with lung cancer.

“He was a very special man and an underrated actor,” Stevens said. “He loved being a member in good standing of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA and so very proud of his chosen profession. He loved being a cowboy and could ride a horse with the best of them. I’m sure Cliff would be embarrassed with all the attention he is now getting.”

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Emmich’s best-known roles were that of Chicago, the driver who drove the Cadillac sedan to transport honky tonk singer Maury Dann (Rip Torn), in “Payday” (1973) and as the Western Union security guard who found dress-wearing Jeff Bridges’ character attractive in Michael Cimino’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” (1974).

He also had a role in “Halloween II” (1981) as a security guard — one that doesn’t survive Michael Myers’ hammer. His guest appearance in Season 5 of NBC’s “Little House on the Prairie” as a shy, overweight man of middle age whose daughter is embarrassed by him was molded to Emmich. He took on the role in “The Man Inside” episode.

Before his acting career began, Emmich served in the United States Air Force upon graduation from John Muir High School in Pasadena. He studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, went on tour with the American Repertory Players and followed his calling to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he took summer stock at the Pink Garter Theatre.

His father Clifford dealt exotic cars to celebrity customers like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Ozzie Nelson.

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Emmich made his acting debut in an uncredited role in Norman Jewison’s 1969 film “Gaily, Gaily” starring Beau Bridges. In 1979, he portrayed “The Candy Man,” a counterfeiter in the “Fonzie’s Funeral” episode (a two-parter) of “Happy Days.”

Other film credits include “Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973), “Jackson County Jail (1976), “Barracuda” (1978), “Hellhole” (1985) and “Digital Man” (1995). He made TV appearances on “The Odd Couple,” “Ironside,” “The FBI,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Night Court,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Coach,” “Nash Bridges” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Emmich is survived by his nephews Chuck, Mark and James, as well as his niece Shirley.

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