Roy Rogers — King of the Cowboys — Actor — Legend

Posted on Dec 31, 2013 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | No Comment

Nov 5, 1911 to July 6, 1998

Roy Rogers was born Leonard Franklin Slye on November 5, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. To young children in the 30s, 40s and 50s, he was King of the Cowboys and with his following, that couldn’t be more true!

Along with his beautiful Palomino horse, Trigger, he appeared in almost 100 films from the 30s through the 50s. Many of his films also featured his wife Dale Evans whom he married on New Year’s Eve in 1947.

In the late 1920s his family moved to California where he held various odd jobs including being a fruit picker and a factory worker. He first started a music career with his cousin Stanley, playing at local theaters and square dances.

When he met Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, they set off playing together as a trio, followed by various name changes. They started off as the O-Bar-O Cowboys, the Pioneer Trio and finally, Sons of the Pioneers in which they appeared in several movies.

Roy also went through a variety of name changes before landing on Roy Rogers. When he started performing with Sons of the Pioneers, he was called Dick Weston which was the name he was credited with in his first film Slightly Static in 1935.

When Republic Studio gave him a seven year contract, his name was changed to Roy Rogers (1937).

His big break came in 1938 when he replaced Gene Autry in “Under Western Stars“. The movie proved to be an enormous success with the viewing audiences. He then went on starring in approximately 7 singing B-Westerns every year until the early 1950s. All these films featured Trigger, his palomino and Bullet his German Shepherd.

With a healthy rivalry between Rogers and Autry, both went on to extremely successful careers. Although Rogers was referred to as the Singing Cowboy for a short while, Gene Autry ended out coining that title while Roy Rogers became known as the King of the Cowboys.

In 1932, Roy bought a palomino colt named “Golden Cloud” whom he renamed “Trigger”. Under the name Golden Cloud, he made his debut in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn and ridden by Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian. The story goes that Trigger got his name because, while working with Smiley Burnette, Burnette said the big horse was “quick on the trigger.”

This was an era when musical westerns were hot! Some of his films include Sunset in El Dorado (1945), My Pal Trigger (1946) and The Golden Stallion (1949). Known for his heroism and good-guy persona, he was extremely popular among children. Many of his productions included a sidekick which was casted with Pat Brady who drove an old Jeep named “Nellybelle”, Andy Devine or crotchety but lovable Gabby Hayes.

In 1944, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” formed an immediate chemistry between Roy and Dale and shortly thereafter she gained the title “Queen of the Cowgirls”.

Dale Evans: Oct 31, 1912 to Feb 7, 2001


The Roy Rogers Show ran from 1951 – 1975, co-starring Dale Evans. At the end of each show, Roy and Dale sang the duet “Happy Trails” written by Dale. In 1962, the show went through an overhaul and returned as “The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show”.

In 1936, Roy married his first wife, Arlene Wilkins. Sadly she died after giving birth to their only son Roy, Jr in 1946. They had two daughters Cheryl who was adopted and Linda Lou.

Roy and Dale were married on New Year’s Eve in 1947 (66 years ago). They had a daughter Robin who was born with a heart defect and Down’s Syndrome. She died a few days before her second birthday. Roy and Dale adopted four children: Dodie, Sandy, Marion Swift and Debbie Lee. Again their family was struck with tragedy when Debbie was killed in a church bus accident in 1964 and Sandy chocked to death while serving in the Army in 1965.

With their many tragedies, their religion and faith always remained strong.

In 1965 Roy and Dale established the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in their hometown of Victorville, CA. The museum held Trigger whom Roy preserved when the horse died in the same year.

After celebrating their 50th anniversary, Roy passed away six months later on July 6, 1998 in Victorville, CA from congestive heart failure, he was 102 years old.

Roy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, induced into the Western Performers Hall of Fame (along with Dale) and was inducted again as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers in 1995. He received many other honors for his years of excellent contributions to the industry.

Roy Rogers, to many of us who were very young children, singing along with Roy and Dale “Happy Trails”, there is only one King of the Cowboys. He showed us the importance of values, being of our word and treating others with respect.

In this day and age, kids could sure use another Roy Rogers.

Wishing Everyone — A Happy New Year and a Prosperous Life!


Happy New Year from Golden Age of Westerns!

Posted on Dec 31, 2013 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | No Comment


Wishing Everyone a Safe & Happy New Year!


Artwork by Webweaver

Chuck Connors: American Actor/Athlete, Rifleman Star

Posted on Aug 01, 2013 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | No Comment


April 10, 1911 to Nov 10, 1992

Chuck Connors was born Kevin Joseph Connors on April 10, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY.  His parents, Allan and Marcella, were from the Dominion of Newfoundland.  He was one of two children, sister Gloria was 2 years younger.  Gloria discovered that Connors disliked his first name and went on a campaign to select another name for him.  He tried “Lefty” and “Stretch” before deciding on Chuck.  Chuck came about because while playing first base, he would yell to the pitcher “Chuck it to me baby, chuck it to me!”

Chuck was only one of 12 athletes in the history of American professional sports to have played in both Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association.  His athletic abilities earned him scholarships to both Adelphi Academy and Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ.

During World War II he enlisted into the Army at Fort Knox, KY.  He spent the majority of the war as a tank warfare instructor stationed at Fort Campbell, KY and later on at West Point, NY.

His Athletic Career:

He moonlighted, during his Army service, as a professional basketball player with the Rochester Royals, helping to lead them to the 1946 National Basketball League Championship.

Upon leaving the military, he joined the newly formed Boston Celtics and left the team for spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.  He always loved the Dodgers and hoped someday to join their team!  He only played one game with the Dodgers and in 1951 joined the Chicago Cubs in which he played 66 games as the first baseman and occasional pinch hitter.

In 1966 Connors played an off field role by helping to end the famous holdout by Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.  He acted as an intermediary during the negotiations between the team and players and can be seen in the Associated Press photo with Drysdale, Koufax and the Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi, announcing the pitchers’ new contract.

His Acting Career:

Chuck Connors realized he would never make a professional career in sports, so focused his future by pursuing a career in acting.  He was spotted by an MGM casting director and was signed for the 1952 Tracy/Hepburn film “Pat and Mike”.

He was continually casted in supporting/character roles in films for many years to follow.  In 1957 he was cast in the role of Burn Sanderson in Disney’s “Old Yeller”.  This was the same year he co-starred in “The Hired Gun”.

The Rifleman (Sept 30, 1958 to April 8, 1963)

J Crawford and C Connors The Rifleman

Chuck Connors beat out 40 actors for the leading role as Lucas McCain on the newly created television series The Rifleman.  McCain was a widowed rancher known for his skill with a customized Winchester Rifle.  The ABC Western was the first show ever to feature a widowed father raising a young son.

The producers offered a lower amount of money to do 39 episodes for the 1958/59 season.  Chuck realized he was making more as a freelance actor and turned it down.  The producers were Dick Powell, Charles BoyerIda Lupino and David Niven and known as “Four Star Television“.

A few days after turning down the role, the producer brought their children to see Old Yeller.  They watched his performance as the neighbor who originally owned Old Yeller and gave the dog to the Coates boys (Travis & Arliss).  They believed after watching the movie that Connors should be cast as Lucas McCain and made him a better offer, including a 5% ownership of the show.

The show was an immediate hit ranking in at #4 in the Nielsen Ratings following behind Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and Have Gun Will Travel.

The show wanted to cast an unknown child actor to play the part of McCain’s son Mark.  Johnny Crawford was a former Mousketeer and a big fan of both Westerns and baseball.  He beat out 40 other young stars and remained on the show from 1958 until its cancellation in 1963,

Johnny Crawford on Chuck Connors:

“I was very fond of Chuck, and we were very good friends right from the start. I admired him tremendously.” “I was a big baseball fan when we started the show, and when I found out that Chuck had been a professional baseball player, I was especially in awe of him. I would bring my baseball and a bat and a couple of gloves whenever we went on location, and at lunchtime I would get a baseball game going, hoping that Chuck would join us. And he did, but after he came to bat, we would always have trouble finding the ball. It would be out in the brush somewhere or in a ravine, and so that would end the game.”

Johnny stayed in touch with Chuck until his death in 1992.

His Personal Life:

He was married three times.  He met his first wife, Elizabeth Riddell Connors, at one of his baseball games.  They were married on Oct. 1, 1948 and they had 4 sons: Michael (born 1950), Jeffrey (born 1952), Steven (born 1953) and Kevin (1956 – 2005).  He and Elizabeth divorced in 1961.

He was married to Kamala Devi from 1963 to 1972 and Faith Quabius from 1977 to 1980.

Chuck Connors passed away on November 10, 1992 at the age of 71 in Los Angeles.  He developed pneumonia, stemming from lung cancer.  He was interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles.  At the time of his death, his companion was Rose Mary Grumley.

Chuck Connors was blessed with a long and successful life with millions of fans.  One of those fans was Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev of the former Soviet Union.  They met at a party given by Nixon at the Western White House in San Clemente, CA in June, 1973.  The Rifleman was one of the few American shows allowed on Russian television because it was Brezhnev’s favorite show!

I’m not sure I can expound more on the influence and character of Mr. Connor, so I will leave it with more memories of Johnny Crawford:

“We remained friends throughout the rest of his life.  He was always interested in what I was doing and ready with advice and anxious to help in any way that he could…  He was a great guy, a lot of fun, great sense of humor, bigger than life and he absolutely loved people.  He was very gregarious and friendly and not at all bashful… I learned a great deal from him about acting, and he was a tremendous influence on me.  He was just my hero.” — J Crawford

Stop by my Fan page on Facebook: The Golden Age of Television When Westerns Ruled

Jeanette Nolan, American Character Actress – TV, Film and Radio

Posted on Apr 12, 2013 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | No Comment

Dec. 30, 1911 to June 5, 1998

When discussing the great artists that paraded through the westerns in the 50s and 60s, you cannot leave Jeanette Nolan off the list!  She was one of the very finest character actresses of her time, appearing in more than three hundred television shows!

Jeanette was born on December 30, 1911 in Los Angeles, CA and was married to western actor John McIntire in 1932 until his death in 1991.  They had two children, Holly and Tim McIntire.

Her career began at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, CA and debuted in radio in 1932 with the broadcast of Omar Khayyam.  She debuted in films playing Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles‘ 1948 production of Macbeth, based on William Shakespeare’s play. Although the film received lukewarm reviews, Jeanette’s career took off playing supporting characters from the 30s through the 1990s.

Her career in westerns was extensive, playing an array of characters from Mountain Mamas to a newly widowed sheriff in season 4, episode 7 of Have Gun Will Travel, starring Richard Boone in 1960.  In 1959 she was cast as Emmy Zecker in an episode of the western Johnny Yuma on ABC.

From 1959 to 1960 she played Annette Deveraux, part-owner of the Hotel de Paree in the series of the same name, along with Earl Holliman.

In 1963, Jeanette was cast as Mrs. Mertens in the episode “Reformation of Willie” on the ABC drama Going My Way starring Gene Kelly as a priest living in New York City.  Going My Way aired after the popular western Wagon Train in which her husband John McIntire co-starred as the wagon master Chris Hale from 1961 to 1965 (after the death of Ward Bond).  She appeared in three episodes of Wagon Train during that time as well.

In 1965 she portrayed Ma Burns in “The Golden Trail” an episode on NBC’s popular western Laredo.  Ma Burns is a refined woman who, on the side, is plotting to hijack a gold shipment which, in reality, ends out being 36 bottles of Tennessee whiskey!

She was also cast on another episode of Laredo “It’s the End of the Road, Stanley” in 1966 portraying Martha Tuforth and Vita Rose in “Like One of the Family” in 1967.  Unknown to many, Laredo was a spin-off of the classic TV western The Virginian.  Nolan also joined the cast of The Virginian in 1967 along with her husband John McIntire.

Nolan appeared as a guest star on Gunsmoke (starring James Arness) more than any other actress,  In 1974 she starred with Dack Rambo in CBS’s series Dirty Sally which was the only spin-off of Gunsmoke, playing the recurring role for 8 episodes.  Nolan portrayed the toothless, hard drinking 62 year-old Sally Fergus on her way to California to pan for gold. Cyrus Pike (Dack Rambo) is the young man who accompanies her westward, while he flees from past partners in crime.

J Nolan and Dack Rambo

December 19, 1961, Nolan played the title in Gunsmoke’s “Aunt Thede” written by Kathleen Hite and Directed by Sutton Roley.  Aunt Thede is Festus Haggen’s (Ken Curtis) cantankerous aunt who arrives in Dodge and decides to squat on some land, set up a still and  marry off to star-crossed lovers to boot!  She has a wonderful, wonderful monologue toward the end of the episode which is so beautifully written regarding the meaning of love.  Her delivery is pitch perfect!

Her versatility cast her in many other genres including crime dramas such as the very popular Columbo starring Peter Falk, Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr and the short lived Slattery’s People starring Richard Crenna.  Later on, she would appear again with Mr. Crenna and Walter Brennan on ABC’s sitcom The Real McCoys.

She appeared two separate times on the short-lived comedy The Mothers-In-Law.  She played Kaye Ballard’s grandmother Gabriela Balotta and then Annie Mac Taggart, a crazy Scottish Nanny.

She played witches on Rod Serling’s television series The Twilight Zone and later on with his series Night Gallery“Since Aunt Ada Came To Stay” with James Farentino and Michele Lee.

Her final film appearance was with Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer as Redford’s mother, Ellen Booker, in 1998.

Jeanette Nolan passed on June 5, 1998 at age 86 from a stroke.  She was buried at Tobacco Valley Cemetery in Eureka, Montano.  She is survived by her daughter Holly.

Trying to cover Jeanette Nolan’s career, in full, would take a novel.  She was an extremely fine actress with a natural charm for characters.  She played her fair share of villains but was best known for her quirky, somewhat backwards, lovable souls.  She was nominated for four Emmy Awards.

The Golden Age of Television would not have been the same without the likes of Jeanette.


Her son, Timothy John McIntire, passed away April 15, 1986 from congestive heart failure.  He was best known for his character as the disc jockey Alan Free in American Hot Wax (1978) and portrayed the country music legend George Jones in the 1981 TV movie “Stand By Your Man”.

Happy Birthday James Garner!

Posted on Apr 09, 2013 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

I was away on April 7th, as I am lucky enough to share my birthday with the most wonderful James Garner! That said, I wanted to wish him a wonderful birthday even if it is a little late!

James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma.  He was one of the first actors to excel in both films and television.

His television career spanned more than five decades making him one of the most beloved actors of all times.

If you would like to read more about Jim, please visit my post



Born Apri 7, 1928

Michael Landon, American Actor, Bonanza

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | No Comment

Oct. 31, 1936 to July 1, 1991

Born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 in Forest Hills, NY, second child of Eli Orowitz and Kathleen O’Neill. No one could have known this second child would become known as: Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza, Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie and Jonathan Smith on Highway to Heaven.

February, 1955, he enrolled at USC, but his fellow teammates were jealous of his long hair. On the field, one day, they pinned him down and cut off his hair. After seeing the 1949 film Samson and Delilah, Eugene honestly believed long hair would physically make him stronger. This turn of events proved to be devastating. He went back to

His father was Jewish and his mother Irish Catholic. Kathleen was a popular comedienne and showgirl working on Broadway. Eli was a studio publicist and theater manager.

In 1941 the family moved to Collingswood, New Jersey. Eugene attended Collingswood High and excelled in track and field with an expertise in Javelin throwing. This earned him a scholarship to USC in Los Angeles, CA. Although he was only 299th in a class of 301, he graduated in 1954 with a genius IQ of 159.

In the field and was throwing the javelin when he tore an elbow ligament in his left arm. He totally lost interest and dropped out of USC.

On The Road To Success:

In 1956 Eugene was hoping to be discovered for film and television roles. Realizing his name Eugene Orowitz was not exactly a great marquee name, he started looking through the telephone book for a more suitable name. He decided on Michael Lane until he discovered there was an actor in the Screen Actor’s Guild with that name. Upon continuing his search, he ran into the name Landon and Michael Landon was born.

In 1956 he met a married Dodie Levy-Fraser, a 26 year-old widow with a 7 year-old son. Her husband had been killed in an automobile accident a few years before.

While pumping gas across the street from Warner Brothers Studio, one of the studio’s talent scouts spotted him. He joined the studio’s acting class the next day. In his spare time he sold blankets door to door and believed this an invaluable experience because it taught him to communicate with all sorts of people.

After spending over 2 years waiting for a break, little did he know it was right around the corner. No one ever could have thought that a low budget horror film entitled “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” would start him on the road to unbelievable success!

In 1958, Michael landed small roles in “High School Confidential”,”God’s Little Acre” and “Maracaibo”. He then landed the lead in “The Legend of Tom Dooley” which was a low-budget western film.

1959 to 1973

Bonanza (1959-1973)

In March of 1959, producer David Dortort was searching for a handsome, young actor to portray the youngest son of Ben Cartwright in the hour long series for NBC called “Bonanza”. Remembering Michael from 1957 when they worked together on David’s first TV series “The Restless Gun” in the pilot episode “Duel at Lockwood”, Michael was the perfect choice for the role of Little Joe Cartwright.

Bonanza ran 14 years from 1959 to 1973 making him financially secure bringing him from rags to riches. The show also starred Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright and Dan Blocker as Hoss Cartwright.

In the earlier years of the series, David Dortort referred to Michael’s acting abilities as “The most highly intuitive set of natural acting responses I’ve ever seen in a young actor.”

In 1960, Michael’s marriage was on the rocks when he met 26-year old Marjorie Lynn Noe, a model instructor who worked on live television between modeling gigs. His divorce from Dodie was final in December, 1962 and he married Lynn on January, 1963.

In later years, the show ran out of scripts bringing a great threat of the show being shut down. Michael came up with a story about the Cartwrights being framed for murder and robbery. He wrote the story on yellow legal pads and handed it over to David Dortort. They broke it down into a teleplay, written by Frank Cleaver and was garnered with rave reviews. The story was titled “The Gamble” in 1962.

Michael co-authored three other teleplays for the series “Ballad of the Ponderosa”, Joe Cartwright, Detective” and “The Wormwood Cup”.

By the end of the 1971 – 72 season, Bonanza was out of the top 10 ratings and quite honestly the cast and film crew were growing tired. Both Michael and Lorne knew the show was winding down and their future was uncertain. The sudden death of Dan Blocker was an unexpected blow for both the show and cast members. He died just two weeks after gall bladder surgery on May 13, 1972. His death happened just 19 days before the 1972-1973 season production would start.

The final season of Bonanza started production in June, 1972. Michael wanted to tell a story “Forever” for his best friend Dan Blocker to showcase his acting talents. With Dan’s unexpected death, this was impossible to do. Michael rewrote the script for Joe instead.

On Michael’s birthday, October 31, the Neilson ratings came in with a disastrous No. 53 and the series was canceled on November 3rd. The cast was only given 2 days notice that they would stop filming on the 8th. NBC’s decision left David Dortort in tears and Michael disgusted with NBC.

1974 to 1983

Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983)

In 1974, Little House on the Prairie pilot film was completed at NBC as a premiere movie. Taking it to a testing house for viewers to rate, it turned out to be the highest tested viewing and rated NBC Movie of the Week. This gave the show the green light and 13 episodes started filming in June of 1974.

Michael was excited to be working on the pilot with Ed Friendly, even though they had earlier had a falling out over the adaptation of the series. Michael felt the series would be way too dark and depressing if they stuck by the books, turning the viewing audience off. NBC backed up Michael and agreed to his adaptation changes.

Michael now playing a compassionate, caring, hard-working father and husband was a big change from his years on Bonanza. Loosely based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, Little House was filled with warmth, heart-filled lessons and a significant alteration in landscaping.

In 1976, the show was at its peak of popularity and success. Unfortunately, Victor French had a falling out with the studio over a contractual dispute and left the show at the end of the 1976-77 season. He returned in an episode in 1979 “The Return of Mr. Edwards” in a dramatic story-line dealing with Edwards’ logging accident that leaves him disabled and losing the will to live.

While filming Little House in 1980, Michael fell in love with a much younger woman through the camera on the set. Cindy Clerico, 23 year-old makeup artist and stand-in for Melissa Sue Anderson and other stars in the series. Although wracked with guilt, he said his 19 year marriage to Lynn was on the rocks for some time.

His relationship with Cindy proved to be professionally ruinous. Not only was he being barbecued by the press, but NBC questioned his ability to portray Charles Ingalls, devoted father and happily married man. An even bigger blow followed when Kodak announced they were removing him as their television spokesman. Even with all controversy, Michael and Cindy married on Valentine’s Day, 1983.

The final season of “Little House on the Prairie” ended on March 21, 1983 with “Hello and Goodbye”.

1984 to 1989

Highway to Heaven (1984-1989)

Shortly after the finale of Little House, Michael was launched into another project close to his heart. His concept on a new project for NBC was partially based on his favorite movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a promise he made God, when his eldest daughter Cheryl was seriously injured in a car accident in 1973. He named the series “Highway to Heaven” and Tartikoff gave him the green light. He wrote the pilot in 4 days, handed to the network and they bought it. Highway started shooting in April, 1984.

The story-line is about a convicted angel, Jonathan, who comes to earth in order to make people’s lives better. Mark Gordon, an ex-cop who worked out of Oakland, is saved from ruin by Jonathan and becomes his partner.

NBC wanted a good-looking co-star for the part of Mark. Michael told the network, the part would be played by his long time friend Victor French or no one at all! As happened so many other times with the network, Michael won!

Upon completion of the pilot, it was sent on to the network’s testing facility where several hundred viewers sampled it. The response was huge, the viewer response sent it sky-high (no pun intended). Highway to Heaven garnished the highest tested show of any pilot on NBC before or since.

Highway to Heaven aired on Wednesday, September 19, 1984 with a 2-hr episode. The pilot kicked off the first of a successful 5 seasons.

“Highway to Heaven” spanned 109 first-run episodes on NBC, with Michael directing 90 episodes and writing 18. Victor French directed 11 episodes.  There were nine 2-part episodes as well as a 90 minute episode on November 12, 1986.

Michael canceled the show in December, 1988. Four months later, April 1989, his friend Victor French returned from directing a film in Ireland. He was feeling ill and thought he had the flu. He checked into Sherman Oaks and was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Michael was at his bedside for an all night vigil with Victor’s family on June 15th. Victor passed away from the cancer, he was only 54 years of age.

Highway received 7 Emmy nominations and 11 Young Artist nominations over the five years. Michael received the People’s Choice Award for his work on the series.

The End of the Road — Rest In Peace:

Michael planned a trip to Park City, Utah with his family the last week of March, 1991. Suffering from severe Abdominal pains, the trip was cut short. He had not told anyone that he had been experiencing these pains since February, including his wife.

Knowing something was seriously wrong, he flew back to Los Angeles on April 2nd and checked into Cedars-Sinai on April 3rd or an MRI which revealed a large tumor in his abdomen. Cindy and the children returned to Los Angeles and on April 4th a biopsy was performed with a grim diagnosis.

On Friday, April 5th, the doctor called Michael, giving him the bad news. He had adenocarcinoma, the medical name for cancer of the pancreas. It had spread to his liver and lymph nodes and was inoperable.

Michael held a press conference on April 8th at his Malibu home, looking quite ill and showing a great weight loss.

“I think I have it because for most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much.  I also smoked way too many cigarettes and ate a lot of wrong things.  And if you do that, even if you think you’re too strong to get anything, somehow you’re going to pay”

Michael’s one-time TV big brother, Pernell Roberts issued a statement with his reaction: “I am deeply grieved”

On July 1, 1991 at 1:30 pm, Michael passed away at his Malibu home. Services were held at Hillside Memorial Park in West Los Angeles on July 5th.

John Dehner: American Actor and Disney Animator

Posted on Jun 02, 2012 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Nov 23, 1915 – Feb 4, 1992

Born John Forkum — November 23, 1915, in Staten Island, NY.  He was the son of an artist and was educated in Slemdal, Norway and Lycee Carnot in Paris, France.  He also attended high school at Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and the University of California.

John was a consummate actor whose career spanned from the early 40s through 1988.  Some of his finest work was playing supporting roles on all the old 50s and 60s Westerns.

He could speak four languages and during World War II, he was a radio news editor and received the Peabody Award for his coverage of the first United Nations Conference in San Francisco, CA.  Before WWII, he performed dozens of roles on radio due to his wonderful, rich baritone voice.

Unlike many actors, he did not start his career as an actor but as an animation artist for Disney Animation Studios. As an animation assistant he worked on  Bambi, Fantasia and various Mickey Mouse cartoons.  Afterwards, he moved to radio and was an excellent piano player to boot! His movie debut was in 1944 “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo“.

Due to his extensive talent, he was capable of wearing many different hats from despicable villains to down-trodden victims.  Appearing 12 times on Gunsmoke from 1955 to 1968, he showcased his talent in many ways.

My Personal Favorites from Gunsmoke:

Crack-Up: September 14, 1957: Season 3 — Episode 1

John portrayed villain Nate Springer.  Springer, a hired gun, shows up in Dodge City leaving Matt trying to find out who he was hired to kill.  He is a gunfighter who has lost his nerve yet still maintains his cruel, malicious persona. As usually happens on the Streets of Dodge – Matt kills Springer. It is only then Matt learns, no one hired him, he hired himself. He believed, by killing Dillon he would get his confidence back.

Here is the Evil Side of John’s Characters





Caleb: March 4, 1964: Season 9 — Episode 26

Caleb is a poor farmer who believes he is a complete loser at anything he tries to do.  He moves to Dodge in hopes of finding a meaning for his life.  He befriends a saloon girl, Julie, (Dorothy Green) who he proceeds to tell how inadequate he is and wishes he could be like Matt Dillon. Meanwhile, town bully Lige (Lane Bradford) tries to get Caleb to put on a gun and fight, when this doesn’t work he belittles Caleb in front of the entire town.

With no place to go and no money, he wanders the streets . Earlier in the show, he is on his farm talking to his dog “Dog”.  “Dog” shows up in Dodge and they meet on the streets in the late hours, his  forever friend.  Matt, who was away from Dodge, returns and meets up with Caleb.  Caleb wants to have a word with Matt, privately, when Lige appears out of the darkness, ready to kill Matt.

Caleb leaps in front of Matt and takes the bullet.  The old dog lies down on Caleb’s chest, his last words are “Dog…Dog..Dog”.  Matt learns from Julie that Caleb wanted to tell Matt how much he wanted to be just like him. His portrayal of Caleb is plain and simple.. he’s so endearing…

If you would like to watch this wonderful episode here it is:

Meet Caleb: The Gentler Side of John Dehner!

In my personal opinion, Caleb was Dehner’s finest performance.  I cannot imagine anyone’s heart not breaking. John understood “justifying” his characters.  You cannot play any role without understanding where the characters are from.  John dug deep and found an answer to every single character he ever portrayed.  His roles were not built around special effects, he was human, real and ever so human.  John was the very best at bringing to life every character he ever breathed life into.  Special effects had no place in the realism he created.

John was not only a workaholic but a perfectionist.  He never showed up on a set without knowing his lines as well as everybody else’s.  In 1959, he made 9 guest appearances on various television shows that all aired at the same time.

His work ethics landed him in motion pictures too lengthily to even attempt to list.  From supporting and leading roles to villains and comedians, John was an extremely versatile actor.

As mentioned earlier, he covered all the major westerns on television.  From Cimarron to Wagon Train, The Restless Gun, Wanted Dead or Alive, The Texan, Laramie, The Westerner, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, Lawman, Maverick, Bronco, Bonanza, Rawhide and Branded (and of course Gunsmoke) just to name a few!

He also played Paladin in the radio version of  Have Gun Will Travel, airing from 1958 to 1960.  He was originally considered for the role of Paladin on the television show, but Warner Brothers would not release him from his contract with the show The Roaring 20′s.

His last performance was as Admiral Ernest J. King in the 1988 TV miniseries War and Remembrance.

He died on February 4, 1992, from emphysema and diabetes, in Santa Barbara, CA.  He was 76 years old.

He was known for his subtle sense of humor and people enjoyed being around him.  John Dehner is another great, great example of the many men and women who were acting in that era.  Leaving a treasure trove of great works and wonderful memories.

I cannot watch John, without respecting his workmanship and dedication to his craft. He was an actor you hated one minute and loved the next minute.

John Dehner’s performances will live on for many generations.


Morgan Woodward, American Actor 1950s – 1990s

Posted on May 02, 2012 under ARCHIVES, CATEGORIES | 2 Comments

Morgan Woodward

His Beginnings:

Morgan Woodward was born on September 16, 1925 in Fort Worth, TX.  His father and Uncle were both doctors, his uncle Dr. S.A. Woodward was summoned to help in a birth of a male child.  The child was named Woodward Ritter, who later on was known as Tex Ritter.

Morgan’s brother, Dr. Lewis Woodward, was a successful professor of music at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, CA.  What a small world; his brother worked with Jack Elam’s half brother who was also a PhD.  Jack Elam is also recognized as one of the best known supporting actors of his time.

Upon graduating from college, Morgan enrolled in the University of Texas Law School.  His studies were interrupted when he was recalled to active duty in the Air Force, during the Korean War.  After being released from the military, he pursued a career in acting instead of returning to law school.

His Career:

One of his longest running television roles was as Deputy “Shotgun” Gibbs in the long running series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp”  (1955 – 1961).  He portrayed Gibbs as a trustworthy, cantankerous character endeared by the viewing audience.

Morgan Woodward enjoyed on of the longest and most successful careers in both television and motion pictures.

Over his career, he was a guest star on more than 40 television shows from the 50s through the 90s.  He holds the record of appearing in more Gunsmoke and Wagon Train episodes than any other actor.  He played various characters on Gunsmoke 19 times and 12 times on Wagon Train.  He was also in the made-for-tv movie –  “Gunsmoke: To The Last Man” (1992) as Sheriff Abel Rose

He is probably best known for his villains on old westerns and two very distinctive characters on the long running series “Dallas” and his portrayal as Boss Godfrey in the blockbuster movie “Cool Hand Luke”.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

He portrayed Marvin “Punk” Anderson in a recurring role on “Dallas” which aired from 1978 to 1991.  In Cool Hand Luke (1967), starring Paul Newman, he portrayed the silent, sunglasses-wearing Boss Godfrey — “the man with no eyes”.

He also starred two episodes in the original Star Trek as two different characters.  In “Dagger of the Mind”, he portrayed Dr. Simon Van Gelder, an attending physician at a hospital of the criminally insane.

In “The Omega Glory”, he portrayed Captain Ron Tracey, commander of the starship USS Exeter.

The Omega Glory

Morgan Woodward was so sought after due to his ability to wear so many different hats in so many different roles.

In 2005, he attended the 50th anniversary celebration of the premier of Gunsmoke in Dodge City, Kansas. James Arness’ wife and son also attended as Jim was unable to travel.

Due to his long and successful career in TV and Movies, he is recognized by many viewers in many generations. I, personally, believe his work is some of the very finest in the entertainment industry and he should never be forgotten.

The Man:

He served as a pilot in the Army Air Force in World War II and had been flying airplanes since he was 16.

One of his favorite hobbies is restoring and rebuilding antique aircrafts.  In aviation circles, he is considered an authority on Early American Aircraft and has received many awards for his restorations.

In August, 1995, he received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his many western roles.

Personal Quote:

“Recognition is a funny thing. I’ve been recognized for many roles and recently I had someone remember me from an old show I did more than 20 years ago. It was such an obscure role that it took me a few minutes to remember the part myself. But it’s amazing what people will remember you for doing. I still get response about my role as Shotgun Gibbs on ‘Wyatt Earp’ and that ended in the early 60′s.”

Hugh O’Brian, Wyatt Earp Star, TV & Movie Legend

Posted on Apr 03, 2012 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

Hugh O’Brian as Wyatt Earp

“Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?” – Hugh O’Brian’s message to young people is “Freedom to Choose

Tall, handsome Hugh O’Brian, best known for his role as Wyatt Earp in the 50′s, has worn many different hats through the many characters he has portrayed.  Along with his extensive movie and television career, he is an inspiration to young high school kids through  the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership.

From The Beginning:

Hugh O’Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe on April 19, 1925 and is known for his various roles on westerns in television and in movies.

He was born in Rochester, NY to father — Hugh John Krampe (a career US Marine) and mother — Edith Krampe.  He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.  Other future actors who attended New Trier were Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson and Ann-Margaret, to name a few.  He later attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri where he excelled in football, basketball, wrestling and track.  After only attending one semester, Hugh dropped out of the University of Cincinnati to enlist in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was the youngest drill instructor at 17 years of age.  After World War II he moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA.

His big break came (while he was performing on stage)  when he was discovered by legendary actress/director Ida Lupino.  She signed him to a film she was directing, Never Fear, and eventually this lead to a contract with Universal Pictures.

His Television Career:

In 1955 the television western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp aired.  Hugh O’Brian was cast in the leading role as legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp.  That same year debuted Gunsmoke, both of these shows started the “Adult Western” on television.

The emphasis of both shows were on character development vs elaborate moralizing.  Wyatt Earp quickly became one of the top rated shows on television and during its 7 year run, remained in the top 10 shows in the U.S.

Throughout the 60′s he appeared regularly on other shows including Jack Palance’s ABC Circus and as a visiting attorney on Perry Mason.  Star Raymond Burr was absent due to a minor emergency surgery.    He appeared as a panelist on both Password and What’s My Line? where he served as a mystery guest on three different occasions.

His Movie Career:

O’Brian enjoyed great success in many movies as well, here are just a few:

Rocketship X-M (1950)
The Lawless Breed (1953)
Fireman Save My Child (1954) he replaced Bud Abbott in the movie and Buddy Hackett replaced Lou Costello (Abbott and Costello).
There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954)
Ten Little Indians (1955)

In 1976 he played killer Jack Pulford in John Wayne’s last movie The Shootist. The scenario of the movie was about a gunfighter, J.B. Books, who returns home to find out he is dying from cancer.  Sadly, John Wayne died from stomach cancer three years later.

O’Brian was very good friends with the Duke and said he considered it a great honor to be in this film with him.

In 1990 he reprised the role of Wyatt Earp in Guns of Paradise and The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991). Fellow actor Gene Barry did the same, reprising his role as Bat Masterson.

His Marriage:

On June 25, 2006, Hugh O’Brian married for the first time at age 81. The ceremony was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, officiating was the Reverend Robert Schuller.  The couple was serenaded by close friend Debbie Reynolds.

His Dedication:

Hugh O’Brian has dedicated a great deal of his life to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, known as HOBY.  It is a non-profit youth leadership development program that empowers 10,000 high school sophomores through its 70+ leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries.

For his contributions to the television industry, Hugh O’Brian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Paul Brinegar, American Character Actor, Rawhide Star

Posted on Apr 01, 2012 under ARCHIVES | 2 Comments

Left to Right Brinegar – Eastwood – Fleming: Rawhide

Paul Brinegar was born December 19, 1917 in New Mexico. He appeared in over 100 films and television shows throughout his career. Probably best know for his portrayal of George Washington Wishbone “Wishbone” on the ever popular television western Rawhide, starring Eric Fleming and co-staring Clint Eastwood.

Paul Brinegar specialized in grizzly, feisty, likable characters and humorous sidekicks. He headed to California and made his film debut in Larceny (1948). He worked steadily for many years until a slowdown hit him in the 1950s. Things picked up and he continued working through the 1990s. His final screen appearance was in the 1994 version of Maverick as the stagecoach driver.

In 1958, he portrayed Tom Jefferson Jeffrey in the movie Cattle Empire, which Rawhide was based on.

He appeared 21 time, from 1956 to 1958, playing Major Jim “Dog” Kelly in the TV Western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O’Brian.

In 1959 he played Ludwig, the bartender, in the movie western The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun.

Ten years later, he appeared in the movie western Charro!, starring Elvis Presley.

From 1968 to 1970, Paul played Jelly Hoskins, on Lancer, whose character was loosely based on Wishbone. Well known veteran actor Andrew Duggan, James Stacy and Wayne Maunder also co-starred.

Paul starred mostly in westerns but was also very active in many other television shows, including but not limited to:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents “Premonition (1955)
Noah’s Ark “The Guide” (1957)
Perry Mason “The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary” (1958)
Peter Gunn “Short a Motive” (1961)
Daniel Boone “Take the Southbound Stage” (1967)

Paul was a wonderful character actor who was known by so many television viewers for years. His endearing characters have given us wonderful humor and delightful character personalities. He was a consummate actor who spent his career constantly working. I enjoyed all his performance so very much.