Blazing Saddles actor Karras dies aged 77

Former professional wrestler and NFL star played Mongo in Mel Brooks' classic Western spoof

Alex Karras, who played the character of Mongo in 'Blazing Saddles', has died aged 77.

The former American football player, who was also suffering from cancer, heart disease and dementia, died from kidney failure yesterday (October 10) after doctors told him he had only days to live.

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Karras... as Mongo (r) with Slim Pickens (Copyright: Rex)

He died at his home in California surrounded by his family after being released into hospice care from his Santa Monica hospital.

Karras had recently joined a lawsuit with other ex-players against the NFL, which blames the league for diagnoses of dementia resulting from head injuries.

He played as a defensive linesman for the Detroit Lions in the 1960s, and had also been a professional wrestler, but then made the move into acting.

His role of dim-witted henchman Mongo in Mel Brooks' classic Western spoof 'Blazing Saddles' – in which he knocks out a horse with a single punch – is among his most memorable roles.

He also starred in the 80s sitcom 'Webster', and scored roles in 'Porkys', as Sheriff Wallace, 'Against All Odds', 'The Odd Couple' and 'M*A*S*H'.

He is survived by his wife, actress Susan Clark, and six children.

Lions... Karras playing for the Detroit Lions in 1971 (Copyright: PA)