The man who killed John Wayne’s dog: Remembering formidable villain Gregg ‘Grizzly’ Palmer

Jeremy Roberts
19 min readOct 20, 2016
Goldie Taylor, wife of Buck Taylor, best known as “Gunsmoke’s” long-running gunsmith-reserve deputy Newly O’Brien, corrals a robust-looking Gregg Palmer for a winning candid on September 18, 2015, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Los Angeles, California, for the iconic TV Western’s 60th anniversary. Palmer would pass away a mere six weeks later. Photography by Jessica Rabe

Without a doubt, it was a bit intimidating interviewing one of the most ruthless screen adversaries to ever cross paths with the iconic John Wayne. It became perfectly evident right off the bat that Gregg Palmer was a gentle, cuddly bear, albeit one with a booming radio announcer’s intonation.

Discovered in 1949 after a producer accidentally heard his rich baritone delivering the news in San Francisco, Palmer headed to Hollywood and never looked back. An uncredited bit part in one of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’s earliest films, My Friend Irma Goes West, became Palmer’s film debut.

Serendipitously, within months of arriving in Tinseltown, Universal Studios scooped up the fresh-faced, handsome young actor for a five-year contract exemplified by military action, drama, crime potboilers, romantic escapades, and Westerns.

While his prolific Universal stint didn’t catapult the burly actor into leading man territory, Palmer did hone his craft with such future stars as Rock Hudson [Magnificent Obsession], Tony Curtis [The All American], Audie Murphy [To Hell and Back, Universal’s top grosser until Jaws’ sudden impact 20 years later], and Clint Eastwood. The Creature Walks Among Us, a shining example of the low budget monster mania that swept America’s Eisenhower era, wrapped up Palmer’s Universal tenure.

But forays into the Western genre became the journeyman actor’s true bread and butter over a 30-year celluloid career. The Rare Breed with James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara, guest spots on Gunsmoke [an astonishing 21 episodes available on Paramount’s meticulously assembled Gunsmoke: The Complete Series], Bonanza, The Virginian, and six films with John Wayne — all Westerns — enabled the actor to make countless appearances at cowboy festivals in modern times.

As he grew older, the actor seamlessly transformed his persona into the consummate bad guy, exemplified by an unkempt, unruly beard and matched by a towering build. Unfortunately, a painful knee injury on the set of the Civil War miniseries The Blue and the Gray precipitated his early retirement in 1982.

Palmer first met the Duke while on a date with Oscar-nominated actress Ann Blyth [i.e. Mildred

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Jeremy Roberts

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net