The “77 Sunset Strip” heartthrob appeared in several TV and movie westerns, including “Yellowstone Kelly” with Clint Walker and John Russell.
Edd Byrnes — who passed away Wednesday at age 87 in Santa Monica, California — attained heartthrob status during the 1950s and ’60s while playing Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson, a hipster parking lot attendant who gradually became a full partner in a private eye firm, in the TV drama 77 Sunset Strip. He was such a popular teen idol that, in 1959, he scored considerable Billboard chart success by celebrating his character’s trademark penchant for tending to his hair with “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” a Top 10 single he recorded with Connie Stevens.
During the run of 77 Sunset Strip, Byrnes appeared opposite two other stars of top-rated Warner Bros. TV series, Clint Walker of Cheyenne and John Russell of Lawman, in the 1959 big-screen western Yellowstone Kelly (pictured above). He also earned his spurs as a guest star on such prime-time sagebrush sagas as Colt .45, Sugarfoot, The Virginian, Alias Smith and Jones, and the 1969 TV movie The Silent Gun.
Last year, director Quentin Tarantino cited Byrnes as one of the actors whose lives and careers inspired the Rick Dalton character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. And, indeed, much like the fictional Rick Dalton, Byrnes attempted to jump-start his stalled career years after the cancellation of 77 Sunset Strip by starring in three ’60s spaghetti westerns filmed more or less back-to-back in Italy and Spain: Renegade Riders (aka Payment in Blood), with Guy Madison; Any Gun Can Play, with George Hilton and Gilbert Roland; and Professionals for a Massacre, also with George Hilton.
Any Gun Can Play, arguably the best of the lot, was directed by Enzo G. Castellai — who, not incidentally, later went on to direct 1978’s The Inglorious Bastards, a WWII action-adventure that inspired Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds. At the very least, the movie gave Byrne (cast as a bank agent who may or may not be involved with train robbers) the opportunity to shine in a couple of acrobatic fight scenes that look like early rough drafts for Jackie Chan’s Shanghai Noon.
By the way: Byrnes played a character named Chattanooga Jim in Nando Cicero’s Professionals for a Massacre. In Hollywood, Rick Dalton stars in a Spaghetti Western titled Nebraska Jim. Coincidence? We don’t think so.