James Karen was a veteran character actor with more than 200 acting credits to his name. Over a long career that began in 1948, he performed on stage and appeared in many movies and TV shows. Horror fans know him best for his roles as Frank in The Return of the Living Dead, Ed in The Return of the Living Dead II, and Mr. Teague in Poltergeist.
In a 2006 interview, Karen had some fond memories of The Return of the Living Dead and recalled how he helped with the scene of Frank’s demise:
“I enjoyed that one very much, too. I thought that was a great part and I helped to write the ending for my character, Frank. It was the deal where he figures out he’s becoming a zombie and decides to incinerate himself in the crematorium. He kisses his wedding ring as he goes in. It was a very emotional scene, but it also got me out of being one of the rain-drenched zombies milling around outside the place at the end of the film. I didn’t really want to do all that muddy stuff.”
Karen starred in other horror films as well, including Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965), The Unborn (1991), and Piranha (1995).
Karen died on Tuesday. He was 94. According to the New York Times, his longtime friend, film historian Bruce Goldstein, said Karen died of “cardiac arrest caused by respiratory difficulties.” He leaves behind his wife Alba and his son Reed.