Of the dozens of child actresses to grace the silver screen, many critics proclaim the most talented was Edith Fellows, who is as fine a singer as she is a thespian! Born May 20, 1923, in Boston, Edith debuted in a Charlie Chase silent, “Movie Nights” in 1929. She then appeared in dozens of pictures in a wide range of genres. She had her own series, the “Five Little Peppers” while under contract to Columbia.
There are a few excellent Westerns in her repertoire: “We shot ‘Rider of Death Valley’ way out on location in Calabassas. It was hot. Tom Mix, however, left no impression. I loved Tony—Mr. Mix put me up on top of Tony and rode me around. That was a thrill! Lois
Unlike Tom Mix, it was Richard Dix who really made an impression. “I’ll never forget what a most warm person he was. My earliest memories of him are on ‘Cimarron’. I was at the dinner table and I sat on someone’s lap. Later, Dix was off the set, pacing up and down, learning his lines. He got to a spot and went blank. Well, I gave him his line. He came over to me, smiled and said ‘Thank you.’ He was wonderful. A lot of people would have gotten angry, but not Richard Dix. He didn’t mind a little girl prompting him on his part!”
Asked about “Law and Lawless” with Jack Hoxie, she retorts, “I did that?” When Boyd Magers gave her a copy of the film to screen, Edith proclaimed, “I must have had amnesia. After watching it, I don’t recall a thing. I don’t know Majestic Studios. I do remember the name Jack Hoxie but not that I was in a picture with him. Actually, we had no scenes together. He was a bad actor, a little overweight. This movie wasn’t released—it escaped!”
About her two Westerns with Gene Autry, “Heart of the Rio Grande” and “Stardust On The Sage”, Edith recalls, “Gene Autry is a real camp, a great tease, a great practical joker. You had to be on your toes around him! There’s a scene in ‘Heart Of The Rio Grande’ where I’m supposed to be bucked off a horse. They loosened the ground and had a two-step ladder so I could roll off. Well, Gene put horse stuff on the ground! I didn’t know he was doing it—the crew knew it. When the makeup person turned me around to powder me—that’s when Gene did his deed. Well, he had a beautiful rawhide makeup case. So I found some of Champion’s manure and put it in Gene’s cold cream jar! He loved it! He’s a good guy—a real OK person. I liked playing the games. I have devilment in me—we acted like two kids. However, on the second picture, he didn’t kid around as much. Gene was quieter and I don’t remember pranks. I guess he tested me and knew he couldn’t get away with anything. A neat guy to work with.”
One of the Pepper pictures, “Out West With The Peppers”, sounds as if it were a western but Edith says, “It wasn’t. It had some logging sequences in it and a rescue on a raft. I was disappointed in all of the Pepper scripts. Andy Hardy was doing well at MGM and Columbia wanted to do the same. But they didn’t live up to my expectations. I was released from Columbia in ‘41 after spending six years there. It was like my home. It was a small lot. You could walk from one side to the other in three minutes. I knew everybody—they were like family. It was heart-wrenching when I had to leave. It took a long, long time to get over the hurt.”
Asked about her work in early television she recalls, “I didn’t do any Westerns. I did do four ‘Tales of Tomorrow’ and an ‘Armstrong Circle Theatre’ called “Gentle Rain’ (‘52), but it was a comedy. I was living on a farm and Cliff Robertson and Whit Bissell were fighting over me. That was kind of fun.”
At 88, Edith died on June 26, 2011, in L.A.
Edith’s Western Filmography
Movies: Cimarron (‘31 RKO)—Richard Dix; Rider of Death Valley (‘32 Universal)—Tom Mix; Law and Lawless (‘32 Majestic)—Jack Hoxie; Heart of the Rio Grande (‘42 Republic)—Gene Autry: Stardust On The Sage (‘42 Republic)—Gene Autry. TV: Father Murphy: The Robber (‘82).