The beautiful 1931 Wampus Baby Star and leading lady in several B-westerns of the ‘30s, Barbara Weeks, was born in Somerset, MA, on July 4, 1913. “Somerset is near Boston, and Boston is the town given out as my city of birth.”
Barbara began her career at quite a young age. “You’ve heard the term ‘Stage Mother?’ Well, I think it was coined after my own mother! (Laughs) My parents had divorced when I was only 9 months old.” Her big break came when she landed a job in the chorus of the hit Broadway musical “Whoopee!” starring Eddie Cantor. “I was fortunate because they brought me to California to be in the picture version. I was placed under contract by both Florenz Ziegfeld and Samuel Goldwyn. At the time I was 5'5"—not tall for the usual dancers!” The film version was photographed in Technicolor and was a smash hit. “Lots of future stars were in the movie—Virginia Bruce, Paulette Goddard, Claire Dodd, Ann Sothern. Dean Jagger had a bit part and Marian Marsh was also in it. Incidentally, in the stage version, Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma were in the chorus. Betty Grable had a couple of little specialty numbers in ‘Whoopee!’ and talk about pushy—she and her mother, especially Betty’s mother, made my mother look like a pussycat. The old lady was a cripple, and would make poor Betty rehearse when we weren’t filming. I did like Betty, and I certainly felt sorry for her. It’s so funny, because in ‘Palmy Days’, produced the next year, I had the lead and Betty was still doing Busby Berkeley specialty bits! (Laughs)”
Asked how she came to be in westerns, “Ziegfeld died and Goldwyn tried to get into my pants. I outran the old man, and was sold down the river to Columbia (in ‘32), run by Harry Cohn. Everything you’ve heard about Harry Cohn is the truth, take my word for it! He was a horrible man and so crude. He had no manners, no education, no anything. He was a terrible womanizer. That old buzzard tried me, and when he was rebuffed, he put me in westerns! He thought it was punishment, but I loved it! I loved making westerns. They were so much fun. The outdoors, everything about them.”
Switching between blonde and brunette during her career, Barbara’s first western was actually “Two-Fisted Justice” (‘31) starring Tom Tyler. “Yes, actually that was made before I went to Columbia—it was a little Monogram picture. I remember Yakima Canutt, who was an Indian and who did a lot of stunts. He was a very talented guy. Tom Tyler was the cowboy star…he was a good-looking hunk, but dumb as a duck (Laughs). Luckily, I had learned to ride in Central Park in New York, and I had my own horse, named Flapper, in California. So all the riding scenes were never any trouble for me!”
Weeks was at the top of her game opposite Buck Jones in “Sundown Rider”, “Forbidden Trail” and “White Eagle” in ‘32-‘33. “I had been in love with Buck Jones since I was a child. I was not disappointed when we met. He was wonderful, terrific and so charming. But, the films were shot fast, and the director on them, Lambert Hillyer, literally treated us like slaves—everything was fast, fast, fast! In one of them, set in the desert, I had to wear a heavy woolen outfit. I about died of heat exhaustion. The crew was worried about me, but Hillyer said something like, ‘Oh she’s all right, leave her alone.’ But I wasn’t! Finally, I just said, ‘To Hell with you’ and sat down. The prop men helped to cool me off. I didn’t like Hillyer at all. I do recall Ward Bond was in a couple of them, and Jason Robards Senior was in ‘White Eagle’.”
Also in ‘33, Barbara appeared in “Rusty Rides Alone” with Tim McCoy. “Now that’s what I consider old. Tim McCoy was okay, I guess, but he seemed so elderly to me. Of course, I was only 19 at the time. (Laughs)”
Around this time, Barbara was constantly being farmed out to other studios if she wasn’t appearing in Columbia westerns. “Which was just fine with me—at least I didn’t have to tangle with Harry Cohn! (Laughs)”
It wasn’t until ‘37 when Barbara made her final three westerns, all starring Charles Starrett: “One Man Justice” (a remake of Tim McCoy’s “Texas Cyclone”), “Two-Fisted Sheriff” and “Old Wyoming Trail”. “Charles Starrett was a very handsome fellow—he played football at Dartmouth College. He had a nice wife and children, and they came first. I really didn’t get to know him well...not that he was standoffish, but maybe reserved is the right word. But nice—and so good looking!”
Barbara Weeks was linked, romantically, with many actors in the ‘30s, “But none were serious romances—just studio publicity stuff. I did go out with Big Boy Williams a few times, but it wasn’t serious. He had a thing for Lupe Velez. (Laughs)”
In ‘36, Barbara met Lockheed test pilot Lewis Parker. “He was transferred to Japan for a year, so it wasn’t until December 4, 1938, that we married in Yuma, AZ. He wanted me to retire, so I did—my mother went ballistic, but I really didn’t care. I was fed up with it all, anyway, by that time! For the first time I was free. It was like night and day.” When her husband was transferred to Australia, she was approached to do a film down under (“Dad Rudd, M.P” ‘40). “It was awful, but it got me out of the house. (Laughs)” After World War II, Barbara was widowed. “Lewis was on his way to Egypt, where Lockheed owned some oil wells, but his plane disappeared over the North Atlantic. It took me years to get over that tragedy.”
Barbara then turned to fashion modeling in New York, where she met and married, “A lumber man named William Cox, in 1949. He gave me my only child, Schuyler John Wing Cox, who was born in 1950, but the marriage was short lived. Bill died 20 years ago. I later learned to type and became a secretary, to support myself and my son.” Barbara relocated to Las Vegas, NV. For five and a half years she resided with friends in Vegas until her death June 24, 2003…just short of the 90th birthday party she’d been planning.
Barbara’s Western Filmography
Movies: Whoopee! (‘30 U.A.)—Eddie Cantor; Two Fisted Justice” (‘31 Monogram)—Tom Tyler; White Eagle (‘32 Columbia)—Buck Jones; Forbidden Trail (‘32 Columbia)—Buck Jones; Sundown Rider (‘33 Columbia)—Buck Jones; Rusty Rides Alone (‘33 Columbia)—Tim McCoy; Two Fisted Sheriff (‘37 Columbia)—Charles Starrett; Old Wyoming Trail (‘37 Columbia)—Charles Starrett; One Man Justice (‘37 Columbia)—Charles Starrett.