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Joel McCrea, 84, actor in Westerns

Joel McCrea, the tall, rugged actor who was equally adept in comedy and drama but was best known for his Westerns, died Saturday. He was 84. Mr. McCrea died of lung complications at 4:50 a.m. in the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital, said supervisor Eileen Singer-Brown.

His wife, actress Frances Dee, and son, Peter, were with him. Sons Jody and David were out of state because his death was unexpected, Peter McCrea said.

A veteran of 87 films, Mr. McCrea made his last public appearance this month at a dinner for First Lady Barbara Bush in Los Angeles.

Mr. McCrea was a well-rounded actor. Early on he appeared in dramas such as Dead End and Foreign Correspondent, and comedies such as Primrose Path and The More the Merrier.

Last week, another McCrea comedy, Sullivan's Travels, was listed by the Library of Congress as one of 25 outstanding films worthy of historic preservation. In the 1941 film, written and directed by Preston Sturges, Mr. McCrea plays a Hollywood director who sets out to find out what real life is like.

But Mr. McCrea went mostly with Westerns in the late 1940s in such features as The Virginian,Buffalo Bill, Four Faces West and Cattle Drive.

His most memorable role in later years was as co-star to another Western immortal, Randolph Scott, in Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country in 1962. He performed in only a few later films.

Although the Western was pretty much passe in recent decades, Mr. McCrea's films had a second life on television.

"I've made a sneak-up comeback," he told a reporter in 1969.

In April 1969, Mr. McCrea was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Western Actors.