August 2016 interview with WESTERN CLIPPINGS columnist Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins on Dave "Ghosty" Wills WFDU FM radio program "The Vintage Rock and Pop Shop".
Caricatures of the "High Chaparral" cast by noted artist Walter Fornero. (Thanx to Marianne Rittner-Holmes.)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans For Seven Seas Salad Dressing commercial (1973).
Recreation of a classic "Lone Ranger" radio program for the 2013 Gathering of Guns 5 at the Memphis Film Festival. Starring Brace Beemer's grandson Bob Daniel as the Lone Ranger with Don Collier, Rudy Ramos, Dancan Regehr, Tommy Nolan, John Buttram, Tim Considine, David Stollery and Boyd Magers.
Lash LaRue on "David Letterman". Date unknown.
This interview originally appeared in WESTERN CLIPPINGS#79 (Sept./Oct. 2007). Robert Colbert will be one of the guests at “A Gathering of Guns 6” at the Memphis Film Festival, June 12-14, 2014.
ROBERT COLBERT ON WARNER BROS. As told to Tom Weaver
RC: I grew up in the Ojai Valley, and a plateau up on the mountain above us was a meadow filled with wild horses. I’d go up and jump on the back of one of those things and ride him all over that meadow, with no rope or anything. These horses would run under tree branches tryin’ to get me off (laughs), they did every-damn-thing they could, and, boy, did I learn
how to ride a horse! Then when my [TV-movie acting career] came along, one of the first things I did was a Mustang commercial for Ford. There were 27 guys on horseback, in Civil War uniforms, and I led them on a charge where I came over a bluff and we slid down the side of a hill made of shale. I brought the horse’s head up and he slid to the bottom of this hill on his ass, with 20-something guys behind me, all of them with drawn sabers! We hit the bottom of this hillside, whoever was left (laughs), and we raced across this field and came side by side with a guy driving a pretty girl down the road in a Mustang convertible. I was no master, but I had pretty good training with horses. Westerns were all the glory in those days. We had about eight of ‘em at Warner Bros. alone, “Cheyenne”, “Maverick”, “Bronco”, you name it. Westerns, Westerns, Westerns! The Hudkins brothers were all over the place, teaching people how to drive stagecoaches and everything else you could think of. Here I had all these great guys guiding me through this stuff. I was doing croupier mounts, which is where you run up to the rear of the horse, jump up in the air, put your hands on his rump and catapult yourself up into the saddle. Then the horse takes off at a full gallop from that moment. I’d do things like that, the Pony Express mount and so on. You couldn’t buy a vacation like any one of the western shows I did. Just bein’ out there in the wide open spaces with great guys, horses, beautiful women and good food, and then you got paid for it. Not much, but you got paid! We all probably went to the same guy who would make all the saddles and holsters, any color, any design you could dream of. He’d make you a quick-draw holster, whether you wanted to draw with your arm across your belly to protect your guts while you were reaching for your gun, or if you wanted to have double-holsters with speed releases, if you wanted swivel holsters, if you wanted hard leather, smooth leather, if you wanted rawhide, anything. There would be quick-draw contests all the time. We’d have blanks and the whole bit if we wanted (laughs)—that only happened on rare occasions. But when it came to quick-draw, everybody thought he was Tom Mix. Peter Brown was very good. He studied along with Sammy Davis Jr., who loved coming over to Warner Bros. and hanging out on the western sets. Sammy was a cowboy nut. He bought a bunch of holsters, and he got pretty darn good as I understand it. Everybody was good by my standards; there were some that were outstanding, but none of ‘em were actors. One great guy was the stuntman who doubled Charlton Heston in the “Ben-Hur” (‘59) chariot race, Joe Canutt. I knew the guy very well, I hung out with him, he was in my home many times. This guy used to throw on 90 pounds of strap-on weights and run out the back door of Warner Bros. and run straight up a damn mountain I couldn’t have climbed by myself with a cane and somebody pullin’ me on a rope! I haaaated him! (Laughs) No, we all loved him and respected what he did. Just about every week I was in a different Warners show, workin’ constantly, working amongst all these stars and just havin’ the time of my life over there. Even when there was a strike by the writers, Warners gave birth to a guy named “W. Hermanos,” which was Warner Bros. in Spanish, and he wrote a lot of scripts. What Warners would do is, they’d take the script for an episode of, say, “Bronco”, something that had already been shot and shown, and they’d eradicate “Bronco” on the title page and type over it “Cheyenne”. Then they’d replace, throughout the script, the names of the “Bronco” characters with the names of the “Cheyenne” characters. They’d even take a western script, again say “Bronco”, and make it a “Bourbon Street Beat”, a modern-day deal. Now, instead of jumpin’ on a horse, you’d be climbin’ into a taxi! (Laughs) All of a sudden we were redoing old scripts that were all written long before the writers’ strike, and we just kept workin’ as if there was no strike at all. I always wanted to change my name to W. Hermanos, go down to the Guild and collect all those residuals that puppy must have made. (Laughs). There must have been millions waitin’ for this dude down there, that nobody ever got! ^ ^ I was up for a film, “Black Gold” (‘63), a story about the oil fields and roughnecks on the order of that old Clark Gable-Spencer Tracy film “Boom Town” (‘40). I was really looking to do that film, and I felt I pretty much had it in the bag. One day I was sent down to wardrobe. I thought I was going down there for a wardrobe test for “Black Gold”. They started putting me into this cowboy outfit, and it wasn’t until the jacket went on that I realized it was “Maverick”. I didn’t come out lookin’ like Clark Gable, I came out lookin’ like Jim Garner! This was at the time when Jim was fighting with Jack Warner because Jim wanted more money and they wouldn’t give it to him, so he walked. That pissed Jack off, he and Jim ended up in a blood feud. Jim was blackballed in this town for about two years. So now, as I was walking down the main street of Warner Bros. on my way to a screen test or something, everybody was hangin’ out of windows and lookin’, they thought Jim Garner was back on the lot! (Laughs) Turns out they wanted to put me on “Maverick” as a new Maverick brother, a younger brother named Brent. When I found that out, I said, “Jesus, don’t do that! Give me a break, Garner’s the hottest thing in the TV world, I don’t wanna be associated with trying to replace him. You can put me in his boots but I can’t fill his shoes!” Anyway, they did it, and it was okay, I didn’t get damaged too much out of it, and I had some fun working on “Maverick” with Jack Kelly, a real pussycat, a professional, a sweet man with a great sense of humor, and no ego. I always enjoyed any time I ever spent with Jack. At the time of his death he was, of all things, a city councilor or something in Huntington Beach. Here was this actor who’d had definite acclaim, but I guess it was almost a career-ending experience to have done “Maverick”, because I never heard much about him career-wise after that. Or maybe he didn’t want to [keep concentrating on acting]. But it wasn’t because he was overpaid, let me assure you! TW: Once you were one of the stars of “Maverick”, did your weekly paychecks improve?
RC: No, nothing changed. I was under contract to Warner Bros. If “Maverick” had gone for a new season I would have had some bargaining chips. But by that time, the original author, the great guy Roy Huggins, was out of there. The episodes I was in weren’t loaded with humor, as I recall, because we didn’t have the genius of Roy Huggins, the man who created the thing in the first place, helping us at that time. And of course Jim Garner never came back. Jim left, and boy, with lots of chutzpah, which he always had, he ended up suing Jack Warner because I think Jack kinda put out “the word” amongst his cronies that Jim wasn’t real hire-able, and that was a taboo thing to do. That’s my understanding. So Jim sued Warner Bros. and the rumor was that he won $10 million in that lawsuit. Then he did the same thing elsewhere in his career: They were messin’ with him on “The Rockford Files”, Jim was just gettin’ a bad shake on the books, so he sued and beat them too. He never came back to Warners, but he walked away with more money than anybody, including Bette Davis, ever made out of the place! (Laughs) By the way, I must mention Bill Orr. He was in charge of Warner Bros. television, he was God there, and I always loved him because he was fair with me. When I got the Golden Boot Award a couple of years ago (8/10/02), I saw this man, almost a ghost-like figure, sitting in a wheelchair, unrecognizable. It was Bill Orr, and he was also being honored with a Golden Boot that night. He couldn’t talk, he must have had a stroke or something, but he could listen. I went over to him with a lot of love, leaned down and I said, “Bill, I’ve always thought the world of you. You were very instrumental in helping me, putting me under contract to Warner Bros., and so much more. I loved ya then and I love ya now.” He just looked up at me with
eyes that were totally alive—they were just dancin’ around in his head with a feeling of joy, like he almost wanted to reach out and kiss me. He couldn’t hardly move and he couldn’t talk, but his eyes said everything. And I’m delighted to have had that moment, because a few months later he died. Bill Orr was a tough cookie, but I liked him a lot, I just thought the world of him. Having done “Maverick” has gotten me a lot of hugs all down through my life, I get a hug from this person and that person, because I was a part of it, and there’s not ever been one negative thing that’s come of it. So how would one not associate a union like that with pleasure? “Maverick” has always been a little bouquet in my life.
(All cartoons copyright respective owners.)
June 22, 2013, radio interview with Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins on WFDU FM.
The 75th anniverary celebration of Republic Pictures was held Saturday, September 25, 2010,
at Republic’s original site, 4024 Radford Avenue in Studio City, CA, now CBS Studio Center. Republic stars there to help celebrate were
(Front row L-R): Anne Jeffreys, Ann Rutherford, Joan Leslie, Adrian Booth, Coleen Gray, Shirley Mitchell, Jame Withers.
(Back row L-R): Hugh O'Brian, Ben Cooper, Marjorie Lord, Dick Jones, Tommy Cook, Donna Martell, Marsha Hunt, Eilene Janssen, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Jane Kean.
Roy Rogers shows how he blocks his hats.
Roy Rogers Museum Photo Tribute
We’ve established a photo gallery in tribute to Roy and Dale. Click here for a photo tour of the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum.