Sterling Price Photo Restoration Gallery ~ Scrape the mud off your boots B4 entering.

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  • Thank you Paula for your post about Robert Taylor. Not entirely accurate but what the heck, just a couple of 'Hollywood type' "wranglers" having a little fun with stretching the truth some. Easily understood back in 1954 ~ but today? Not so easy. :wink_smile:

    Couple of things they were right about though is Ben Johnson and Joel McCrea being two of the best "real cowboys" making Hollywood movies back then. In my opinion BJ was one of the best genuine cowboy horse riders in Hollywood of that period except maybe for Yakima Canutt (who was more of a stunt rider) ~ and a better rider than even John Wayne himself ~ which these two so-called erudite "Hollywood wranglers" linked together with the likes of film actor Van Johnson who I can't remember ever having seen him on a horse, much less even a western movie.

    "Val Valdez" never broke any horses for Bob. Carlos Valdez on the other hand was a very well known and respected horse trainer during that time period and did "train" some of the Taylor's newly acquired horses for use on their new "ranch" in Mandeville Canyon. Whether Carlos actually "broke" any of them first or not would have been before I got there in 1962. After that, no horses were ever "broke" that I was aware of.

    Robert Taylor never thought of himself as being a "cowboy actor". He was an actor who simply starred in several cowboy type "movies" and made it look as though he might have been a "real" cowboy ~ but he wasn't. He was just that good of an actor and that's what really good actors are supposed to do ~ make the rest of us believe that they really are the characters who they portray on screen. John Wayne is another perfect example of this. The "Duke" never was a real cowboy either ~ but many people today find that hard to believe.

    And lastly, that "Bob" Elliott these two Hollywood wrangler characters referred to in that article as being the #3 cowboy ~ didn't exist. It was Bill ("Wild Bill") Elliott who was the real #3 cowboy (according to their own personal standards). Bill Elliott was "best man" at Art & Barbara Reeves' wedding in 1961 and Art Reeves, who was Robert Taylor's full time ranch foreman at Mandeville Canyon ~ was actually the same man who asked and then hired me to work P/T for him and Bob in '62. Without any hesitation I said yes and the next seven years following that evolved into some of the most memorable experiences of my life.

    Sorry for the long dissertation but that's what some old timers like me like to reminisce about and rarely have the opportunity to do so within our own family ~ whereas now, JWMB seems to be the perfect outlet.

  • Dear Sterling, ramble on all you like, I LOVE hearing this stuff and I am sure I am not the only one!

    Van Johnson made one Western -- well, it was a Civil War western. The title is Siege at Red River and I remember seeing it on TCM once and it was a rather interesting film directed by Rudolph Maté. It also stars Joanne Dru and Richard Boone. Watch for it and get back to us on what you think of Van Johnson's riding. :)

    Now about Wild Bill (not Bob) Elliott. I had always read Wild Bill Elliott had grown up around horses and was a skilled horseman. But I've also read a number of interviews with Ben Johnson, who doubled for Wild Bill in lots of his 1940s pictures (not just riding but in a lot of fight scenes) who said that he (Bill) didn't really know how to ride and he (Ben) had to teach him (Bill) what to do on a horse. If you can enlighten me as to Wild Bill's true riding ability, I would be grateful as this kind of discrepancy between the official history and what Ben said in his interviews is driving me a little nuts. To my eyes Wild Bill looks fine on a horse but I'm not a rider so what do I know.

    Thanks! ;)

  • Let's see if I can sort some of this out for you Paula. Author/Commentator Paul Dellinger has written pretty extensively about cowboy film actor Bill Elliott. Below is a cut and paste of just some of what he's written about him ~

    "He was born Gordon Nance, on a ranch in Pattonsburg, Missouri, on Oct. 16, 1903, according to John Leonard's definitive book on his films, appropriately titled Wild Bill Elliott. Nance grew up around horses, riding his first one at age five. His father was commissioner at the Kansas City stockyards, where young Nance saw many actual cowboys riding and roping. By age sixteen, he won first place among those cowboys in the American Royal Horse and Livestock Show. But it was a silent movie he saw at age nine that pointed him in the direction of his career. It was a movie featuring legendary western star William S. Hart, and inspired the young viewer to want to become a cowboy star someday. Many of his later features would use the old Hart storylines of a badman who reforms."

    "In every film I've seen him in prior to the Hickok serial, the thing that stands out the most about the actor named Gordon Elliott is that there is absolutely nothing that stands out or even suggests a "screen presence" of any kind. I don't make "best" lists, but on any list I compile of "my favorite" western actor, Bill Elliott will be somewhere in the top four or five. Always. Actually, he is 3rd. But, aside from Westerns, he also qualifies as one of the most-forgettable actors I've ever seen."

    There might have been some professional "rivalry" between those two back then, Ben and Bill ~ but who knows? For me at least, it's just hard to imagine someone who was practically "born in the saddle" needing "instructions" from anyone on how to ride a horse. :wink_smile:

    If Ben Johnson ever did actually double for Bill Elliott, either riding or in fight scenes, then that must have been by way of insistence of the studio brass. With the kind of early background he had, I couldn't imagine Bill Elliott ever voluntarily letting anyone substitute for him. JMO.

  • Looks like I'm gonna have to clarify what I've written about Ben Johnson doubling for Bill Elliott. I just did a more thorough research on both of these men and apparently Ben did do a lot of doubling for Wild Bill including riding and stunt work. If Ben did say what you said he said about Elliott then maybe it is true. IMPO Bill Elliott really didn't look "rugged enough" to be a movie cowboy ~ he looked too "pretty" and maybe that's why the studio had other "more expendable" actors doubling for him ~

    I had never personally met Bill Elliott and I also need to clarify an error I made earlier about his being "best man" at Art and Barbara Reeve's wedding in 1961. Bill Elliott and Art Reeves were mutual friends and both men were born in Missouri. When Art Reeves told me about Wild Bill Elliott being "best man" at his wedding when I first started working for Art and Bob Taylor in 1962 ~ I had assumed that he was referring to his then present wife Barbara. But as my ancient memory has now re-arranged itself into proper order once again, I had forgotten that Art had been married once before, in Missouri, and that was when Bill Elliott agreed to be his best-man.

    And now of course I've also just uncovered that you've already previously done your own research into what I had previously posted about Bill Elliot's early life and film background. I take my Stetson off to you Paula for being the dedicated film historian that you are. Great website on Shutterfly and a more than interesting body of work. :thumbs_up::thumbs_up: