Heroes of Cult

Remembering Michael Parks (1940 – 2017)

It is Cult Faction’s sad duty to report that Earl McGraw himself, Michael Parks, has passed away at the age of 77 years old. The news was broken by Kevin Smith who described Parks as “the best actor I’ve ever known” and “the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform”.

McGraw grew to cult status with his recurring role as Earl McGraw in various Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez movies. Parks first appeared as McGraw in 1996’s From Dusk till Dawn. This version of Earl was a formerTexas Ranger. In the movie Earl goes into a liquor store, where killers Seth and Richie Gecko are hiding. Before McGraw can leave, he is shot in the head by Richie, who mistakenly believed that the store’s clerk whispered “Help us” to McGraw.

This version of Earl had a son named Edgar (played by Michael’s real life son James Parks) who appears briefly in two scenes in the sequel film From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. Bo Hopkins references Edgar’s businesslike demeanor: “Oh, them Gecko brothers killed his daddy.”

While Earl Mcgraw does not appear in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter, Michael Parks portrays a fictionalized version of real life writer Ambrose Bierce as a main character throughout the film. Ambrose’s relationship, if he has any, with Earl is unknown.

In Kill Bill Vol. 1, Earl, alongside his son Edgar, investigate the massacre at the Two Pines Chapel. Ten people have been brutally murdered there, which is the setup for the story of the film and its sequel. He soon discovers that the bride, Beatrix Kiddo, is still alive. In the film, he scolds his son for taking the Lord’s name in vain in a chapel.

In Planet Terror Earl’s further family are introduced resulting in Earl being forced to kill his wife Ramona after she turns into a zombie, while Dakota, his daughter, takes refuge in his house. McGraw also helps survivors gather and fight, as well as staying behind to fight off the zombie attack while the others escape. He reappears near the end, where he saves Dakota by killing her infected husband, Doctor Block.

In Death Proof, Earl and Edgar visit a hospital after Stuntman Mike’s first attack. He is the only person aware of the fact that Stuntman Mike was responsible for the deaths of five girls, but Mike is cleared of all charges because the girls were intoxicated. Although he can’t formally arrest him, Earl does however run Mike out of Texas.

Long before his time as Earl McGraw, Parks (born 24th April 1940) was born in Corona, California and during his teenage years drifted from job to job. He noted that during that time he picked fruit, dug ditches, drove trucks, battled  forest fires and briefly married at the age of 16.

In 1961, Parks portrayed the nephew of the character George MacMichael on the sitcom The Real McCoys. He appeared as Cal Leonard in the 1963 Perry Mason episode “The Case of Constant Doyle”, and gained recognition in the role of Adam in John Huston’s The Bible: In the Beginning (1966).

Other early roles included an appearance in 1962 episode of Sam Benedict, as Larry Wilcox and the medical drama The Eleventh Hour, as Mark Reynolds.  He also appeared in The China Lake Murders and Stranger by Night, playing a police officer in both.

Parks starred in the series Then Came Bronson from 1969 to 1970. He sang the theme song for the show, “Long Lonesome Highway”, which became a #20 Billboard Hot 100 and #41 Hot Country Songs hit. Albums he recorded under MGM Records (the label of the studio which produced the series) include Closing The Gap (1969), Long Lonesome Highway (1970), and Blue.

From 1986 Parks played Philip Colby during the second season of Dynasty spin-off series The Colbys. He also appeared as Irish mob boss Tommy O’Shea in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994).

In 1990, Parks played French-Canadian drug runner Jean Renault in the ABC television series Twin Peaks.

In 2011, Parks played a villain in Kevin Smith’s horror films Red State and Tusk (2014). Smith later announced on his podcast that Parks had recorded an album during Red State‘s production, after Smith and producer Jon Gordon noticed his singing talent during filming. The album, titled The Red State Sessions, was released on August 15, 2011 as a download from the film’s website.

Other roles included The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, Boone, Blood Father, Django Unchained, Argo, Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball, Noble Things, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Miracle at Sage Creek, Walker – Texas Ranger, Hart to Hart: Secrets of the Hart, SeaQuest 2032, Caged Fury, War of the Worlds, Murder She Wrote, and Fantasy Island.

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