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An Interview With…
        - Virginia Vale
        - Mary Ellen Kay
        - Marie Harmon
        - Helen Talbot
        - Peggy Stewart
        - Caren Marsh
        - Eleanor Stewart
        - Audrey Totter
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Peggy Stewart with Bill Elliott.PEGGY STEWART

“Bill Elliott was one of my pets, I just adored him. He had a very dry sense of humor. There was a lot of playing going on at Republic. (Laughs) We all teased and played and had a wonderful time. Bill had this wonderful wry sense of humor, but he couldn’t laugh. He had this high pitched little—hee, hee, hee—and that meant he was hysterical. Bill was so kind and courteous to everybody on the set. One thing about him I loved—he had a charisma about him. At the Christmas parties they’d open up one of the big stages…come in, have a drink, they’d have a band and everything. You could be further away than the doors back there, with your back to the door, and you knew when Elliott came into the room. It’s nothing he said or anything else…he was just—tall, quiet—tall in the saddle. By the way, he and Jock Mahoney could ride with a glass of water on their heads and never spill a drop.

Peg and Roy Barcroft in "Son of Zorro" serial ('47).But Roy Barcroft, he was a dirty old man! (Laughs) Oh boy—what a wonderful guy he was. Ladies wardrobe was across from a couple of dressing rooms where the men like Roy, LeRoy Mason, Bob Wilke, Kenne Duncan had their dressing room. One day at lunchtime, Roy said something that made me think, something about a skirt I was gonna be wearing on this particular picture. I said, “How’d you know that? I only fitted the damn thing today.” He said, “Yeah, I know.” Well, across (from the ladies dressing room) in a board, he’s got a little peephole. (Laughs) We all lived close, Roy and Tom London and I…and Linda (Stirling) too, actually. We were all in the neighborhood there. If something happened to the car…we may not all be on he same show but we’d have generally the same time call…so we’d say, “Hey, gimme a lift.” Roy came by one morning on his motorbike. That was my lift to the studio—and it was raining. I thought—Oh boy, there goes the hair. But I was gonna wear a fall anyhow, so it didn’t make any difference. Another time—Roy took me down to Emerald Bay, near Laguna. We went snorkeling. It was the first time I’d ever tried it. Saw some lobster traps and what have you. At his house, Vera, his wife, offered me some wine one evening. I said, “I’d love some.” So Roy went out to what he called ‘the serial room’…kind of out onto the patio. He raises up this huge hunk of cement. He had a wine basement down there. He called it his serial room. (Laughs) I loved him!

Once when I was working on Mr. Autry’s picture—“Trail to San Antone”—they had a dressing room on the set. My God—that’s unheard of! I don’t think any of us ever had a dressing room on the set. Anyhow, I went into the dressing room and laid down to take a quick nap while the rest of ‘em were working. I just left the door open. When I wake up there’s this frog sittin’ on my chest. Not a live one, one of those rubber jobs. I jumped 40 feet! I looked out to see if anybody had seen me. Of course they had but they all looked the other way, not letting on, to wait and see what my reaction would be when I came out on the set. But I played it so cool, I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing one darn thing. (Laughs) The other thing—(Bud) Thackery, the cameraman, was guilty of this—if you had a closeup out on location, just before you got ready to roll…Buddy would have something he wanted to whisper to you, “Be sure now you hit that reflector…Chambers is on you with that reflector…” and the whole time he’s talking to you he’s pouring water in your boots—or putting gravel in your boots. (Laughs)

Before we had honey wagons, they used to put the toilet paper on the back of the prop truck. If you had to go you’d find a good bush for yourself and grab the t.p. God, I can’t count the times there’d be no t.p.—or they’d t.p. the prop truck. (Laughs) Usually, being the only female on the set…Tooney…he didn’t dislike women but women were not allowed in his wardrobe truck. Well, that meant no place for us to change. I thought I had won the Academy Award one day when Tooney said to me, “You can change your skirt in the truck.” He said go over to the rear. I went to the rear of the truck and could hardly stand up. I’m standing on steel ‘one steps’ that belonged to the stuntmen…amongst all the trick saddles of the stuntmen. (Laughs) I’m all in a cockeyed position trying to get into this skirt…but Tooney, of all people, said I could go into his wardrobe truck!

Sunset Carson teaches Peggy to shoot.As for Sunset Carson, I absolutely adored him. We had a rapport as soon as we met. The thing I liked most about him is, he never did really lose his innocence. From his toes to his ears he had a great innocence. He wasn’t an innocent, but he had childlike innocence that was very lovable. He was like a big bull in a china shop. For a man that rodeoed, I never knew anybody so accident prone in all my whole put together. He was so tall, he was awkward. He had a singsong—ever hear that in his pictures? (Laughs) Director Tommy Carr asked Tom London and myself, “Can you help him out a little bit?” So we had Sunset count the dots between his lines (Laughs) and then it took him awhile to not move his lips while he was doing it. (Laughs) What a wonderful guy. I don’t know if he ever knew my name was spelt P E G G Y. He always pronounced it like it was P-A…PAGGY. Once we were out on location, stagecoach comes down the hill…Sunset stops it. He’s looking at the stage for…whatever. He throws a rock at the lead horse and says, “Wind them wheels.” (Wind being pronounced by Carson like air in motion—ed.) Tommy (Carr) says, “Cut. Sunset it’s wind themwheels.”(Wind—correctly pronounced, meaning to tighten—ed.) Sunset says, “Well damn, it’s wind in my script.” (Laughs) (“Bandits of the Badlands”—ed.) Another one—in “Code of the Prairie”, Tom Chatterton was playing Bat Matson. We kept telling Sunset before the scene it’s Matt Bastardson. Sunset would parrot whatever he had to say. We did about six takes on this—Sunset goes in and says, “Matt Bastardson”. Director Spence Bennett was really impatient, because, jeepers, to do six takes on a Western was absolutely—you don’t do that! Get it in two or forget it and move to the next scene. So I told him, really, its “Bat Matson”. This time Sunset got it right—you can see Spence go, “Whew—we got past that.” Sunset says, “Yeah, he’s up in the hills chasing them smurfugglers.” (Laughter) Gotta love him!

One of the ones I loved the best, I can’t remember the title. It was with Sunset. I wore chaps, that’s why I liked it (“Days of Buffalo Bill”—ed.). Ella Raines had done “Tall In The Saddle” and I just loved that picture. I loved her character, the kinda gal she played. Mine was an imitation of that kind of character. Gun shootin’, wearing chaps, running her own ranch and all of that. But it’s incidents I remember better than the whole picture. We did a Red Ryder where they used an electric car, that was lots of fun.

Peggy Stewart with Allan Lane.But now we get to Allan Lane! That was the most boring man I have ever in my life worked with. Allan was nice as Linda said—but even after you got to know him he was boring. The ego of the man was just fantastic. I think what made you so mad is that he’d snooker you into wasting a half hour on trying to help him solve his wardrobe problems…or his toupee problem or some other problem. And you swear you’re not gonna get trapped into his problem again—but, son of a gun, here we’d all be…the cameraman would talk, then somebody else would give another opinion… Allan holding forth, all on Allan again. Should he wear the dark shirt and light pants or the light shirt and dark pants. What happened was—before I went to Republic we belonged to Lakeside Golf Club...my Mom, my sister, myself. Mom comes home one night and she has a date. The gentleman comes to pick her up and it was Allan. I didn’t know him at the time, didn’t even know who he was, but he was very nice. Several years later, I’m now at Republic. One morning Allan was on the lot walking toward the western street. I was coming in through the gate and I happened to yell to him, which we all did in the morning to each other; and most of us had nicknames...I yelled, “Hi Bubblebutt!” (Laughs) He reprimanded me very heavily—but nicely. He said, “I don’t appreciate that at all and I wish you wouldn’t call me that.” Well, Joe Rubella, the prop man, and some of the rest of the crew heard about it and had a director’s chair made up with Allan’s name on it, but on the back it said “Bubblebutt”. I thought I better make up for this somehow, but I made another mistake. I said, “You know what? A couple of years ago you dated my Mom.” Needless to say, there was a certain coolness playing with Allan. (Laughs) But Allan was so serious, he never let up on it. I think the humor, the fun and the playing that we did do…we worked hard, yeah, but that levity helped to ease things and made the whole thing a lot of fun to do, made us a close family and let us know each other and help each other so much. I find today in working, the biggest thing that’s missing is that humor. Everybody’s working for his check, you’ve got no time to play…no time to really know each other. It’s too bad.

Interestingly, the only real talk I had with (studio head) Herbert J. Yates was when I didn’t want to do a serial. They were either gonna suspend me or…I asked for my contract. I must have been in his office easily an hour, maybe an hour and 15 min. and he was as kind and sweet as he could be, telling me how cold the world was out there and that I was making a very big mistake.

Peggy's sister, Pat, with husband Wayne Morris.Did you know my sister, Patricia, was married to Wayne Morris? Wayne was a ball. What a wonderful guy. He belonged to what I called the big guys. There was a group of guys…Big Boy Williams, Grant Withers…all the big guys that pal’d around a lot together. Wayne was under contract to WB. His two good pals over there were William Holden and Arthur Kennedy. They left Warners together and split up into the three branches of service in WWII. Wayne went to the Navy. He was in Hutchinson, KS, training for bombers, I believe it was. He stood about 6'4"…big boned man. My uncle had been out on the Wasp, but it was sunk. He came in…he’d never met Wayne. My sister had married while he was overseas. So he was going through Hutchinson to meet him. He asked Wayne if he wanted to be a fighter pilot with him. Wayne said yeah and my Uncle Dave said, “Lose twenty five pounds.” He lost twenty five pounds…and I tell you, to see that hunk of a man fold himself up and get inside that little ol’ cockpit of an F-4F! (Laughs) So my uncle and Wayne went out to sea together during the war. When Wayne came back his career was just sorta so-so…he did some stuff in England, a series of some kind. David became Captain of the Bon Homme Richard aircraft carrier. When they would come into San Francisco, they’d ask if Wayne would come up and see his wing man and some of the old gang aboard ship. But he never would do that. Finally, he decided he would go this one year. They all went to dinner and had a wonderful time the night before. Dave took the ship out beyond the line and was doing some maneuvers for Wayne. Dave is up on the bridge, looks down and sees Wayne grab the railing and start slowly sinking. They called surgeons right away…and opened him much faster than ever could have been done if he’d been home, but he just didn’t make it. (Morris was 45 when he died in 1959—ed.)

I can tell you, I loved my work in the Westerns…it was like being paid to play.”

 

Peggy’s Western Filmography


Movies: Wells Fargo (‘37 Paramount)—Joel McCrea; Tucson Raiders (‘44 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Sheriff of Las Vegas (‘44 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Silver City Kid (‘44 Republic)—Allan Lane; Stagecoach to Monterey (‘44 Republic)—Allan Lane; Cheyenne Wildcat (‘44 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Code of the Prairie (‘44 Republic) —Sunset Carson; Firebrands of Arizona (‘44 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Utah (‘45 Republic)—Roy Rogers; Oregon Trail (‘45 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Bandits of the Badlands (‘45 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Rough Riders of Cheyenne (‘45 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Marshal of Laredo (‘45 Republic)—Bill Elliott; California Gold Rush (‘46 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Days of Buffalo Bill (‘46 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Sheriff of Redwood Valley (‘46 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Alias Billy The Kid (‘46 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Conquest of Cheyenne (‘46 Republic)—Bill Elliott; Red River Renegades (‘46 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Stagecoach to Denver (‘46 Republic)—Allan Lane; Vigilantes of Boomtown (‘47 Republic)—Allan Lane; Trail To San Antone (‘47 Republic)—Gene Autry; Rustlers of Devil’s Canyon (‘47 Republic)—Allan Lane; Dead Man’s Gold (‘48 Screen Guild)—Lash LaRue; Frontier Revenge (‘48 Screen Guild)—Lash LaRue; Ride, Ryder, Ride (‘49 Eagle Lion)—Jim Bannon; Desert Vigilante (‘49 Columbia)—Charles Starrett; Fighting Redhead (‘49 Eagle Lion)—Jim Bannon;      Black Lash (‘52 Western Adventure)—Lash LaRue; Kansas Territory (‘52 Monogram)—Bill Elliott; Montana Incident (‘52 Monogram)—Whip Wilson; Gun Street (‘61 U.A.)—James Brown; Way West (‘67 U.A.)—Kirk Douglas; The Animals (‘71 Levitt-Pickman)—Keenan Wynn; Donner Pass: Road to Survival (‘78)—Robert Fuller (TV Movie); Adventures of Nellie Bly (‘81)—Linda Purl (TV Movie); Capture of Grizzly Adams (‘82)—Dan Haggerty (TV Movie). Serials: Phantom Rider (‘46 Republic)—Robert Kent; Son of Zorro (‘47 Republic)—George Turner; Tex Granger (‘48 Columbia)—Robert Kellard; Cody of the Pony Express (‘50 Columbia)—Jock Mahoney. TV: Gene Autry: Peacemaker (‘50); Cisco Kid: Cattle Quarantine (‘51); Cisco Kid: Counterfeit Money (‘51); Cisco Kid: Oil Land (‘51); Wild Bill Hickok: Pony Express Vs. Telegraph (‘51); Cisco Kid: Lodestone (‘52); Roy Rogers: Ghost Gulch (‘52); Roy Rogers: Doc Stevens’ Traveling Store (‘54); Have Gun Will Travel: The Outlaw (‘57); Wyatt Earp: The Underdog (‘58); Wyatt Earp: How to Be a Sheriff (’59); Yancy Derringer: Panic In Town (‘59); Gunsmoke: Fawn (‘59); Gunsmoke: Old Flame (‘60); Hotel de Paree: Hard Luck For Sundance (‘60); Rebel: Burying of Sammy Hart (‘61); Gunsmoke: Long, Long Trail (‘61); Have Gun Will Travel: The Brothers (‘61); Gunsmoke: The Promoter (‘64); Gunsmoke: Help Me, Kitty (‘64); Daniel Boone: A Rope For Mingo (‘65); Hondo: Hondo and the Commancheros (‘67); Paradise: The Bounty (‘91).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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