Don Calfa, a versatile actor known for his work in both comedy and horror genres, passed away on December 1, 2016. Throughout his career, Calfa demonstrated his incredible range and ability to captivate audiences with his unique and diverse characters. From his iconic role as Ernie Kaltenbrunner in “The Return of the Living Dead” to his comedic performances in films like “Weekend at Bernie’s,” Calfa has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1939, Calfa began his journey into acting as a young man. He studied drama at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, honing his craft and preparing for what would become a remarkable career. After appearing in various theater productions and off-Broadway plays, Calfa made his way to Los Angeles in the 1960s, where he would eventually establish himself as a sought-after character actor.
Calfa’s breakthrough came in 1985 when he portrayed the lovable, yet sinister, undertaker Ernie Kaltenbrunner in the horror-comedy cult classic “The Return of the Living Dead.” His impeccable comedic timing and ability to balance humor with horror made him an instant favorite amongst fans. His portrayal of the bumbling but well-intentioned Ernie remains one of his most memorable and beloved performances.
Capitalizing on his newfound success, Calfa continued to dabble in both comedy and horror genres, showcasing his versatility as an actor. He appeared in films such as “Weekend at Bernie’s,” where he portrayed mob hitman Paulie, adding a touch of humor to an otherwise dark and twisted tale. His ability to seamlessly switch between genres and engage audiences with his unique brand of acting made him a sought-after talent.
Throughout his career, Calfa worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Tim Burton. In Burton’s 1988 comedy-fantasy film “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Calfa portrayed the role of Francis Buxton, a spoiled and devious villain. Once again, Calfa’s talents shone through, seamlessly transitioning from horror to comedy with ease.
Despite his success in both genres, Calfa never limited himself to just one type of character. He continuously embraced opportunities to explore different roles, always looking for new challenges and ways to expand his repertoire. Whether as a sinister villain, a comedic sidekick, or anything in between, Calfa’s dedication to his craft was evident in every performance he delivered.
Calfa’s legacy extends beyond his on-screen work. He also acted in various theater productions, including a memorable role in the off-Broadway play “The Gathering,” where he received critical acclaim for his outstanding performance.
Though Calfa may no longer be with us, his incredible body of work remains a testament to his talent and versatility. From his memorable characters in horror movies to his comedic turns in popular comedies, he established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. His ability to seamlessly navigate between genres and captivate audiences with his performances will continue to inspire and entertain for years to come. Don Calfa’s name should always be remembered as a remarkable actor who left an indelible mark on the world of comedy and horror.