“There were forty western series, and I went from one to the other. I started out playing the third bad guy on a horse and worked my way up to the No. 1 bad guy,” Oates once quipped.
Most known for the films/tv by director Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, The Rifleman) Warren Oates succeeded at playing the wayward cowboy. Persistence, a love of filming on location (which gained and lost him 3 wives), and pure old fashioned grit won him a long list of tv appearances and a few substantial roles- his most famous being The Wild Bunch.
But what is fame when you have talent?
Oates role as GTO in Monte Hellman’s 1971 cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop was so powerful that it has been studied in film schools in large part due to Oates’ heartbreaking portrayal of GTO. Famed film critic Leonard Maltin himself has remarked that Oates’ performance in this film was as good as any he’d seen and should have won the Oscar.