Don Calfa was an American film and TV actor who, despite having over 80 screen acting credits throughout his 40-plus year career, was best known for playing the mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in the horror-comedy "The Return of the Living Dead" (1985). Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Calfa originally intended on becoming a painter. He was artistically inclined in high school and planned on attending an art college once he turned 18. His plans changed, however, after he saw James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955). Upon watching the landmark film for the first time, Calfa knew he wanted to become an actor. With that in mind, he promptly quit high school and started training at a New York acting workshop. By the mid-1960s Calfa was appearing in numerous plays, both on Broadway and Off, while making a name for himself as a serious actor who could also do comedy. Calfa landed his first film role in director Robert Downey Sr.'s 1968 comedy "No More Excuses." He continued landing film and TV roles throughout the 1970s, most notably in films like "Nickelodeon" (1976) and "New York, New York" (1977), as well as television shows like "Kojak" (CBS, 1973-78). Then in 1985 Calfa appeared as a mortician named Ernie in the horror-comedy "The Return of the Living Dead." The tongue-in-cheek horror film became a cult hit, and although he didn't know it at the time, Calfa's role as Ernie would be the one he was most remembered for. Four years later, Calfa landed a part as a moronic hitman named Paulie in the comedy "Weekend at Bernie's" (1989). That film would go on to become a major hit at the box office, with Calfa receiving wide-praise for his comedic chops. Over the next 15 years Calfa continued to act steadily in both movies and TV shows, but his output came to a halt in the mid-2000s. He appeared in two more films in the mid-2010s, "Sharkskin" (2015) and "Lewisburg" (2017), but those would prove to be his last. On December 2, 2016 Calfa died at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 77.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First screen acting credit as Priest in "No More Excuses"
Played multiple roles in TV series "Kojak"
Played Gilbert in Martin Scorsese's "New York, New York"
Played Petie 'The Weasel' Regan in TV series "The Bionic Woman"
Appeared as a telephone operator in Steven Spielberg's satire "1941"
Appeared as Goebel in Jack Nicholson vehicle "The Postman Always Rings Twice"
Played his most famous role as the mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in "The Return of the Living Dead"
Played Paulie the hitman in "Weekend at Bernie's"
Had a recurring role on "Doogie Howser, M.D."
Appeared as Joey Snot in mafia comedy "Sharkskin"
Made his final film appearance in "Lewisburg"