Paul Brinegar (December 19, 1917 – March 27, 1995) was an American character actor best known for his roles in three western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Rawhide, and Lancer.
Born and reared in Tucumcari in eastern New Mexico, Brinegar attended Pasadena City College.
Brinegar headed to California as a young man and made his feature film debut in Larceny (1948). From there, he launched a steady film career that slowed down considerably in the late 1950s, after he began appearing on television but did not end until 1994, when Brinegar made his final screen appearance, as a stagecoach driver, in the 1994 film version of Maverick.
Brinegar appeared more than one hundred times between 1946 and 1994 in western films. He is remembered as the barman in Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter in 1973. He was cast as the cook, George Washington Wishbone, on the CBS series Rawhide from 1959 to 1966.:875 He had even played Tom Jefferson Jeffrey in the 1958 movie Cattle Empire upon which Rawhide was based.
From 1956 to 1958, he played James H. "Dog" Kelley, the mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, who held that office from 1877 to 1881, in the ABC/Desilu western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian in the title role of Wyatt Earp. Brinegar appeared thirty-three times as Kelley and once in a previous episode in another role. In 1959, he played Ludwig, the bartender, in the episode "The Ringer" of the western series The Texan with Rory Calhoun. In 1969, he appeared in the western film Charro! starring Elvis Presley.
Brinegar made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason. His first appearance during the series' first season in early 1958 was as Tom Sackett in "The Case of the Sun Bather's Diary;" his second appearance in the series' ninth and final season in 1966, he played Jason Rohan in "The Case of the Unwelcome Well."
In the 1968-1970 CBS western series Lancer, Brinegar played Jelly Hoskins.
From 1982 to 1983, Brinegar played a humorous cowboy-like character, Lamar Pettybone, during the first season of the ABC series Matt Houston.:667
Brinegar guest starred mostly in westerns, including the Saturday morning series on CBS, Tales of the Texas Rangers in the 1956 episode "The Hobo." In 1967, he guest starred in the episode "Take the Southbound Stage" of the NBC series, Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker in the title role.
He appeared on Rod Cameron's western-themed crime drama, State Trooper.
On October 1, 1966, he was cast as a prospector, Sawbuck, in the episode "Solid Gold Cavity" of the syndicated Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor and filmed in Sedona, Arizona. In the story line based on a true incident, Sawbuck saves the life of Dr. John Beers, a young dentist, who on the trail to San Francisco is attacked and left for dead by two bandits. Dr. Beers (played by Thomas Peters) repays Sawbuck by taking some of the prospector's gold and making him a set of gold teeth, for which Beers subsequently obtained a patent. That same month, Brinegar played, Rupert Johnson, who entered a partnership to cook for a feisty miner in return for half of the gold findings in the Death Valley Days episode "The Lady and the Sourdough". Amzie Strickland played the "lady", the neighboring widow, Laticia Daigle.
On June 11, 1969, Brinegar played the Death Valley pioneer Jimmy Dayton (died 1899) in the episode "Jimmy Dayton's Bonanza". The aging rancher Dayton takes a saloon girl, played by Marilyn O'Connor, as his wife, but she has second thoughts after she learns that he has exaggerated his wealth. James Wainwright (1938-1999) co-stars as a cowboy who feigns an interest in Mrs. Dayton. The episode was released three days after the death of series host Robert Taylor.
Brinegar's non-western roles included:
- The Captive City (1952)
- The Public Defender (1954)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Premonition" (1955)
- Highway Patrol "Retired Gangster" (1955)
- Noah's Ark "The Guide" (1957)
- Peter Gunn "Short a Motive" (1961)
- Country Boy as Link Byrd, Sr., the father of Nashville musician played by Randy Boone (1966)
- Charro! (1969)
- Cannon "Duel in the Desert" (1974)
- The Six Million Dollar Man "Taneha" (1975)
- Emergency! "Grateful" (1975)
- CHiPs "Undertow" (1977)
- The Dukes of Hazzard "Route 7-11" (1979)
- CHiPs "Overload" (1982)
Character actor of films and television, Paul Brinegar specialized in playing feisty, grizzled cowboy sidekicks. Besides the role of Wishbone, Brinegar was cast as Lamar Pettybone on the early-1980s television series Matt Houston. He reprised a revised version of his Wishbone character for the 1991 TV movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, in which he has a brief monologue into which is worked the names of about a dozen old television western series.