Born Feb. 13, 1915, in Philadelphia, he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1937. He made his Broadway debut at the age of 25 in the Kenyon Nicholson and Charles Robinson play, The Flying Gerardos. The show lasted 24 performances. He returned to Broadway in 1942 in John Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down, with only slightly greater success. After Oh, Brother! in 1945, he won a role in the hit 1948 Norman Krasna comedy John Loves Mary, joining a cast that included Tom Ewell. The show was produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and directed by Joshua Logan. It was popular enough to run well over a year.
Mr. Bettger's final Broadway show was a revue called Love Life. With a book by Alan Jay Lerner, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Kurt Weill, it was directed by Elia Kazan and choreographed by Michael Kidd. The huge cast included Nanette Fabray. Beginning in October 1948, it ran 252 performances.
After that, Mr. Bettger was strictly a Hollywood actor. He became familiar to filmgoers as a blonde, cold-eyed villain, typically in westerns. Among his films are "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "Nevada Smith," "Destry" and "The Sea Chase." He retired in 1979 and had lived in Paia, Hawaii ever since.
Mr. Bettger was the son of St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Franklin Bettger.
He is survived by Mary Wolfe, his wife of 56 years, and two sons and a daughter.