Sam Shepard, actor and playwright, dies at age 73

The celebrated artist whose plays reflected life in the American West, died at home in Kentucky of complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease, his family said.

NEW YORK — Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American West, has died. He was 73.

Family spokesman Chris Boneau said Monday that Shepard died Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The taciturn Shepard, who grew up on a California ranch, was a man of few words who nevertheless produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. He was one of the most influential playwrights of his generation: a plain-spoken poet of the modern frontier who combined ruggedness with lyricism.

In his 1971 one-act “Cowboy Mouth, which he wrote with his then girlfriend, musician and poet Patti Smith, one character says, “People want a street angel. They want a saint but with a cowboy mouth” — a role the tall and handsome Shepard fulfilled for many.

“I was writing basically for actors,” Shepard told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview. “And actors immediately seemed to have a handle on it, on the rhythm of it, the sound of it, the characters. I started to understand there was this possibility of conversation between actors and that’s how it all started.”

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Shepard’s Western drawl and laconic presence made him a reluctant movie star, too. He appeared in dozens of films — many of them Westerns — including Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert…

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