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Beverly Washburn.BEVERLY WASHBURN

In the 1950s, talented child actress Beverly Washburn replaced Margaret O’Brien as the screen’s “queen of the criers”. “I am very emotional. I’m told I even cry at supermarket openings.”

Born Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1943, in L.A., the youngster began her career in modeling. Why would she want to be an actress at such a young age?  “I just thought it was fun. My parents got me in it, but didn’t force me. It was like playing pretend.”

Jocko Mahoney was instrumental getting her into pictures. “I met him when I was six, doing a benefit with my sister. She was an acrobat and I would occasionally sing. We were in Long Beach and met there. He asked my mother about me, things like that. My agent had sent me on interviews, but I never got anything. I never had a ‘credit’ to use—saying I had already done a part. A couple of months later, I was at Columbia, to audition for a role in ‘The Killer That Stalked New York’ (‘50). My mother noticed the character, Walda, was described as a brown-eyed girl with long brown hair, and told me I wouldn’t get the part…I wasn’t right, but to do my best. In comes Jocko—under contract to the studio at the time. He walked through the lobby and recognized me. When he was told what we were doing there, he went into the other room and told them, ‘Oh, she’s done this, she’s done that, she’s done everything’ when I really hadn’t done anything! But, they took me on his say-so. It was the first part I ever had, and it had lots of lines.”

Beverly Washburn and her film mother, Bonita Granville, speak with The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) in the big budget feature version of the popular TV seires ('56 Warner Bros.).Beverly is well-remembered for playing the daughter of Bonita Granville and Lyle Bettger in the feature version of “The Lone Ranger”. “We stayed at Parry’s Lodge, on location in Kanab, Utah. Real Indians were used as extras in the movie. Bonita Granville was very nice; but the main thing I remember about the picture was a trick played on Clayton Moore. If you’ve ever seen any ‘Lone Ranger’ shows, you know his outfit was very tight. In the scene where we’re with the Indians, Clayton Moore jumps onto his horse. When he did, those pants split wide open! (Laughs) This isn’t the worst of it. Because the pants were so tight, it made it necessary for Clayton not to wear any underwear, because underwear lines would show. So, when those pants split—at the back, his whole butt stuck out! (Laughs). No one in the crew, cast or anyone, told him, and the director let the camera keep rolling—for a gag. It was hilarious (Laughs).”

Beverly actually worked on television more than feature films. One of her earliest was a “Zane Grey Theatre” with Ralph Bellamy and Gloria Talbott. “But I most remember James Garner, because I thought he was really cute. I had a crush on him.”

There were two appearances on “The Texan” with Rory Calhoun. “I had a really fine role in one of them. Rory was a really nice man. He and I danced in one of them. I liked him a lot.” Michael Pate was also in that episode. “Michael was just great; I liked him as an actor.”

Perhaps Beverly’s most famous TV appearance was her second on “Wagon Train”, “The Tobias Jones Story.” “Lou Costello was a doll. I loved working with him. It was his first dramatic appearance—away from his comedy partner Bud Abbott, and he was so nervous. But so nice. At the time, an article came out on the show and he mentioned me in the story—he said, ‘There was a little girl in the show, Beverly Washburn, and without her I couldn’t
have done it.’ That was so nice. Actually, because of the comedy things, Lou was used to ad-libbing and not following the script. But on this he had to follow the script. There was no free reign. He had a hard time memorizing those lines. When he would go up on his lines, he would stare at the camera and say ‘So how are you, Ward?’ (Laughs). He was cute. There’s a scene where Lou is drunk, and I am to push him into the wagon. Lou said, ‘The way to do it is..I’ll push my biscuits right up into the wagon.’(Laughs).”

An earlier appearance on “Wagon Train” was the premiere episode, “The Willy Moran Story” with Ernest Borgnine. “I was a big fan of Ernest Borgnine before doing this; I had good rapport with him.” As for other cast members, like Marjorie Reynolds and Andrew Duggan, “A lot of actors and directors you meet, they do the job and leave. When you are little, it doesn’t mean anything—then later, you look back and think about who all you met and worked with and wish you had known just who they were when you were with them.” As to locations: “Most of the ‘Wagon Trains’ were shot on the soundstage, but, we did go on location to Iverson’s Ranch, and also Lake Sherwood.”

As to Ward Bond: “He was great; he gave me an 8 x 10 which says, ‘To Beverly, the finest little actress.’ Ward Bond did have a foul mouth (Laughs) and the schoolteacher—from the Los Angeles Board of Educators—they called them welfare workers then—she threatened to pull me from the set because of the swearing. They reprimanded Ward. She had every authority to pull me from the set, but fortunately she didn’t, as it would have caused a lot of trouble—delays, wasted money, that sort of thing.” About Robert Horton: “He was cute, very nice to me.”

One of Beverly’s most famous roles was in Disney’s classic “Old Yeller”. “That was fun to do—although I knew it was a sad movie. One of the greatest enjoyments was getting to be on the Disney lot, going to school with the Mouseketeers. The school was in a big red trailer on the lot. I didn’t think I’d get the part, because Disney had so many kids under contract. But I read for it, and got it! I’m still friends with a lot of the kids I met during that film.”

The most famous film Beverly did was the classic western, “Shane”. “I was 8 years old and I got very ill—they thought I had polio; but they didn’t replace me. They used a double, Gretchen Steinbrook, for the long shots—I was sick for a week and a half with a high temperature—it turned out to be a strong form of flu.” Dealing on “Shane” with another child star, Brandon De Wilde, was no picnic for the youthful actress. “Brandon was a brat! So precocious. He didn’t like girls, and he would pull my pigtails and chase me around the set.”

About “Shane” he-man star, Alan Ladd: “The movie was shot on location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Alan Ladd and I both went up the chair lift to the top of a mountain. I went down the lift by myself, but Ladd was too scared to come down! Finally, they sent a helicopter to rescue him; he was too chicken to go down. The cast and crew never let him hear the end of it! (Laughs). Jean Arthur was reclusive, not a whole lot to say, but Ellen Corby, who played my mother, was a doll, and Edgar Buchanan, my father, was very nice. We took a train to get to Wyoming. It was a great experience.”

Beverly appeared on a “Fury” episode that turned out to be one of her most memorable adventures. “Bobby Diamond and I are still friends. He’s an attorney now. But as for the show, it was the most dangerous time I ever had. I was running away and there’s a scene where I fall down a cliff. The horse brings a rope to rescue me to safety. It was a fake mountain—but two stories high. My double was a midget—she had on this wig and duplicates of my clothes. She climbed up the steps to the top of the mountain, then refused to do the stunt. They were so upset, so angry. The director asked me if I’d do it. I was too afraid to say no—because I thought he’d get mad at me. I didn’t want to, I was scared—but I didn’t tell. My mother asked, ‘Do you want to do it?’ and the welfare worker said, ‘No, absolutely not!’ The director said, ‘It’s fun.’ I knew it would hold up production and the director told the welfare worker, ‘She wants to do it.’ She asked and I was afraid to say no. So, I finally climbed to the top of the mountain. They rolled the camera—the director said, ‘Take your time, then jump.’ I was petrified! Finally, I did it but it was terrifying! The crew applauded and I was so glad it was over with. Later, I realized I should never do something that even a professional stunt person wouldn’t do. After all, I was given a double to ride on the pony in ‘The Lone Ranger’ and I could ride!”

In the mid-‘60s, Beverly starred in what is now a cult film, “Spider Baby”. “I liked it because the part was good, and I got to play somebody unlike me—she kills people and stuff like that. Also, I got to meet Lon Chaney Jr., which was exciting. But the film had no budget, I think they spent six dollars on it! (Laughs).”

As to her favorite director, she immediately responds, “Herschel Daughtery. He did a lot of ‘Wagon Trains,’ and so many shows. Whenever he directed and there was a part for me, I got it—without even having to read. Unfortunately, he’s since died.”

The bubbly, warm, friendly Beverly Washburn keeps in touch with many of her friends from her acting days. “Jack Benny I kept in touch with until he died.  I did one of his early live TV shows, then a couple of his radio shows. Later, I traveled with him (and Iris Adrian—that wonderful, wise-cracking blonde) in a vaudeville-kind-of act. I also did several of the ‘Loretta Young’ shows. When she did the later ‘New Loretta Young Show’, she picked me to be one of her daughters. She was a very special person. Sharon Baird, from the ‘Mouseketeers’, is a good friend; and Annette Funicello is an angel, so sweet and so giving. Very down to earth—her medical problems with M S are such a shame. I also keep in touch with Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran from ‘Old Yeller’.”

Beverly relates all her movie and TV experiences in her new book REEL TEARS, $19.95 from Bear Manor Media.

Beverly’s Western Filmography


Movies: Shane (‘53 Paramount)—Alan Ladd; Lone Ranger (‘56 WB)—Clayton Moore; Old Yeller (‘57 Buena Vista)—Fess Parker; TV: Fury: Joey Sees It Through (‘56); Zane Grey Theatre: Stars Over Texas (‘56); Wagon Train: Willy Moran Story (‘57); Wagon Train: Tobias Jones Story (‘58); Wagon Train: Cassie Vance Story (‘63); Texan: No Tears For the Dead (‘58); Texan: Badman (‘60).