Imposing, 6'6'' actor Don Megowan went head-to-head with all of TV’s toughest cowboys
The former college football player and Army boxing champion could certainly hold his own in a fight.
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Don Megowan was the perfect Western villain. At six and a half feet tall and over 250 pounds, he could stand eye-to-eye with the towering heroes of the day like Chuck Connors and James Arness. He also had a boxing background, which he used over and over again during his acting career.
Megowan was born in Inglewood, California in 1922. He played baseball and threw the discus as kid, but it was his football skills that won him a scholarship to the University of Southern California. While serving in the Second World War, he became a U.S. Army boxing champion.
When he turned to acting in the 1950s, his imposing physique and stone-cold stare won him roles in noirs like The Mob and Westerns like A Lawless Street and Gun the Man Down starring James Arness. In A Lawless Street, Megowan battles star Randolph Scott in a lengthy fight that spills out of the saloon and into the street. Columbia Pictures even used the brawl as a selling point for the film, calling it the most "spectacular" fight of Scott’s career.
Megowan also traded punches with James Arness in Gun the Man Down. It was a precursor to their big bout four years later in the Gunsmoke episode “Big Tom.” In that classic Gunsmoke installment, Marshal Dillon replaces ailing prizefighter Big Tom Burr who is set to face off against the menacing Hob Creel, played by Megowan. It was just one of many times Megowan used his boxing skills on TV in the 1950s and '60s.
Megowan fought Richard Boone in the season three Have Gun, Will Travel episode “First, Catch a Tiger.” In a reversal of his later appearance on Gunsmoke, Megowan also played a prizefighter that Paladin replaced in the season one episode “The Prize Fight Story.”
Megowan’s other Western brawls include bouts with Clint Walker in Cheyenne, Dan Blocker in Bonanza and Chuck Connors in The Rifleman. Megowan’s fight with Connors in the episode “Seven” is an absolute knock-down drag-out clash in the middle of the street with both landing haymaker after haymaker while all of North Fork watches in fear. It's quite the climact moment!
Because of his boxing experience, and the fact that not many stunt men could believably be his 6'6" double, Megowan performed much of his onscreen fighting himself. In real life Don Megowan was the opposite of the evil characters he played. He was a gentle giant and loving father to two children. He also occasionally spoofed his hardnosed image in shows like Get Smart and movies like Blazing Saddles.