I cant write off five years of my life in just one chapter. Some
sad things happened, a lot of funny things occurred, and I made some life-long friends,
who, though we dont see each other much, are still connected by common threads that
ran through that beautiful time.
Vics and my co-stars were that wonderful mortar that holds a
large structure together, and gives it sheen and patina. As far as Im concerned,
Jack Hogan, who played our B.A.R. man Kirby, was the best actor of us all. Hardly a slouch
in that department was Pierre Jalbert, a French-Canadian who was Caje, and was in
love with acting, although not even a professional actor (at the time). He was an
assistant music editor who tried out for the part.
Besides picking up Hogan as a regular after we started production, our
company was fortunate to latch onto Dick Peabody (also not then a professional actor) who
turned in some truly fine, from-the-heart performances. Tom Lowell (real name Lowell
Thomas after the famous announcer of that name) joined us for several seasons, and
Conlan Carter (whose real love was flying and who became a corporate pilot later on)
joined us as Doc in our second season.
By the end of the third season, our roster of guest stars began to look
like a Whos Who for past and future feature films. Among the actors who appeared
with us: James Caan, Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Eddie Albert, Telly
Savalas, John Cassavetes, Warren Oates, Robert Duvall, Anna Lee, (a former star who later
had a resurrection in a daytime soap), Denise Darcelle, Luise Rainer (the first actress to
win back to back Oscars), Ramon Novarro (who had been a star in silent films rivaled only
by the unforgettable Rudolph Valentino). I cant name them all, Ive already
omitted forty, at least.
Then there were actors, those who may not have made it to the top ranks
of filmdom, yet were of such talent that they must be mentioned here: Lloyd Bochner,
Albert Paulsen, among a host of others. Sal Mineo comes to mind. He did four episodes, I
think. Ted Knight was just getting started in Hollywood; he did three episodes.
In one show, The Volunteer, Ted played a German soldier who
befriends a young French boy (played by Serge Prieur) with a bar of chocolate. Later, the
boy shoots some Germans who are entering his town and the kind soldier turns out to be one
of them. For years after, whenever I ran into Ted, Id remind him of the fantastic
work hed done on that show.
I eventually guested on his series Too Close for Comfort and we
had a grand old time together. Just a few months later, in 1986, he died of cancer.
There was the day I stepped out of my trailer to find a man who
introduced himself to me: Fernando Llamas. "Yes, I know," I said, "and
thank you very much."
"Thank you, very much? For what?" he asked in a charming
"For getting me into pictures," I said.
"I got you into pictures?" he asked, astounded.
I explained how I had gotten the part in Sombrero. We had a good laugh and
became fast friends. He and his adorable wife, MGM super swimming star Esther Williams,
became constant dinner guests at my home.