Sharon Leann Wyatt’s autobiography
THE VIRGINIAN (part Two)
This undergarment he not only had to wear for the sake of his image, he also wore lifts in his cowboy boots. That was supposedly to achieve that tall-dark-and-handsome look. He was not a small man, but this took him over the 6 foot mark. Some of these decisions may have been of his own doing, after all, he did have a big pink elephant painted on his dressing room door. He didn’t have one of those cottages, but rather a situation more like an apartment complex.
Jim’s opening scene direction was to ride into town at a full gallop, dismount, and run after the villain who was setting fires in the town. No rehearsal needed! So Clu hid in a doorway behind Linda and I, making remarks about our well rounded feminine hips, and the assistant director called out “background action.” The sound-man called out “speed” and the director called out “action.” Everything was in motion; the whole town came alive with people and horses, wagons and carts, all milling around. The thunder of galloping hooves rounded the corner far off down the street, and one by one, on cue, we all backed away for the rider. The horse came to a stop and Jim dismounted. He started his charge up the street, when the director yelled out, “cut.” We all stopped and waited to see what was the matter. It was James. The director was disgruntled and shouted at Jim, “you run like a woman in a girdle and high heels!” Well of course he did! They would shoot it again, with the same result, and would settle on his double finally doing the scene.
A little later we were doing indoor shots. Linda and I were to work as saloon girls and it would be “same-day” shooting. Which merely means it’s supposed to be the same day. So doing a continuing shot, we entered the saloon, all-agog concerning the action and damage to the town. Then we proceeded to go about our saloon girl duties, according to what the director wanted, serving drinks and being friendly with the patrons. Some dialogue went on between two old codgers, and then James entered. This was to cause a stir among all of us, as he was then to have some exchanges with some extras and then make his way to his mark at the bar, which is right next to where I am supposed to be.
During a five-minute break, James began a conversation with me, and he told me he had been in Calgary for the Stampede. Then he told me he was in a brawl with a wicked cuss, and with this James removed his hat, held it above his head, which was covered with ugly stubble. My face turned red with bewilderment. Jim proudly said, “Can you see what that so-and-so did to me? He jerked just about every hair out of my head.” “And you let him?” I remarked. “Oh, he was big and mean, Sharon.” “My goodness, I find it so hard to believe,” I said carefully. His only answer was, “Well, you have my word on it, hon!” It was an unbelievable story, but I let it go at that and perhaps in some way took it as truth. My gracious, was I naïve, men do have their “lines,” and he had many for his lack of hair. Yes, he also wore a toupee. And honestly a great deal of what men spout to a woman can be ignoring as ridiculous.
I too had the opportunity to put Clu in his place. I and a few extras, and stunt men were between takes and a gelding was at the hitching post. A gelding, like most animals can at times seem obvious to modesty, and when one is around male horses one could be embarrassed easily. In one such situation Clu came up to me, with a twinkle in his eye, believing he had a line that would surely embarrass me. “I use to look like that,” he proudly stated nodding his head toward the gelding. I would take his chin in my hand and said, “Clu I didn’t know you had a nose job.” Those standing nearby barely remain standing for their uproarious laughter. I don’t think Clu ever bothered me again. Another character on the Virginian set was Dick Shane. He was a trick whip artist, and played the rodeo circuit. This particular day he brought his whip with him, and it wasn’t long before he was showing us his stuff. We were a captive audience; after all you don’t walk away from a performer who is handy with a 12-foot whip. We tried to be appreciative of his talent, but he was performing for two who preferred light opera and the ballet. We didn’t dare look at one another during his routine, but with each grunt, grimace, and “eehaa” the bench on which we were seated would shake and bounce. He kicked up so much dust with that infernal whip, and his lunges and parries, that we kept having to fan the air and hope for some relief. Finally he was finished, we showed proper enjoyment, and hoped to never see the whip again.
One more Virginian story, Linda had been called on the set, and in principal wardrobe she was to dance with Don Quine, who played the nephew of the star. Linda was to be his present love interest. However, Linda was in heels and was a good deal taller than Don, and further he couldn’t dance. The rehearsal went poorly, and the assistant director asked Linda if I was working. Linda called to tell me there was a silent bit for me if I could get to UI in a hurry, and if I would stop by her house and get the flats that her mom would be holding at the curb. Like a flash I was out the door, had the shoes, and was rushed through wardrobe, and once arriving Hank Kline, the assistant director grabbed me, and I was to replace Linda. I was so upset; I never wanted to replace my best friend. But the scene was shot, as I gave Don a quick dancing lesson. Hank Kline tried his best to rob Linda of her just dues, but she had done the rehearsal and was never a shrinking violet when it came to what was right. She too would get the money of a silent bit.
(Continued Next Month)