Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

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Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:56 am

TVFan:41271 wrote:Famous Hollywood gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper interviewed Chuck in July 1959.  He talks a little about The Rifleman, growing up in Brooklyn, his family, and his career.

A startling sight in bright red cotton pants, a white shirt and red striped collar short sleeved and boots, and a battered checkered soft hat

CC:  I remember when we first met - but I'll bet you don't.
HH:  First time I remember you was in "Big Country" - I thought you the most horrible, sadistic thing - you were almost as bad as Karl Malden in "The Hanging Tree".
CC:  When I saw you on the Perle Mesta TV show I enjoyed you on it.
HH:  We were all bad - it was a bad story.
CC:  I'm an easy audience. First time I met you was on "South Sea Woman" with Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo in the leads- I played second lead.  We talked about baseball and "Casey at the Bat" - that was my second picture - it was in February 1952.  Before that I had a small role in "pat and Mike" with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
HH: I'd sure hate to get in a fight with you - you were a SOB in "Big Country".
CC:  I didn't want to wear a mustache in the picture.  But I dropped in to see Willie Wyler three weeks before shooting started and he said - you be there with a mustache.  So I grew that thing that looked like a mandarin mustache thinking Wyler would think it was so horrible he'd tell me to shave it off - but he said it was just great - just what he wanted.  The picture was a great opportunity for me.  And Greg Peck helped me get the part.
HH:  What else have you been doing?
CC:  I've been busy on the "The Rifleman".  John Wayne tried to get me free to do "The Alamo" - even called 5 times personally.  We start the series again in two weeks - we did 40 this past year.
HH:  What kind of deal do you have?
CC:  I get 10% of it - or any kind of financial gain made as a direct or indirect result of it.  I read in the papers how unhappy Hugh O'Brian and Jim Arness and Clint Walker were - so when I signed a contract I said if it is going to tie me down I want it to be worthwhile financially.  Its the first hero I've ever played.  And I'm lucky people don't completely identify me with the character of Lucas McCain off TV as they do O'Brian with Wyatt Earp.  I'm planning a new format after this one is finished.

When HH remarked about his unusual boots - he said he had to have his shoes specially made - gets them from St. Louis International Shoe Co. and had just ordered 7 pairs.  Said his brown dress up shoes were all worn down or he'd have dressed up to come in instead of this old $6 pair of pants and this beat up old beach shirt.

HH:  How many children do you have?
CC:  Four boys - Mike is 8.5, Jeff 6.5, Steve 6, and Kevin 3.  I've been planning to put Jeff into on of our TV segments - so he'll be in Tension - our third show - with just a few lines.  He doesn't even know yet he's going to do it.
HH:  Won't the other boys be jealous?
CC:  No.  Mike doesn't' care.  He comes on the set and stands in once in a while just for fun.  They're all taking riding lessons now.  I just came back from a trip where we packed in.  I wanted to find out what it's really to ride a horse for some distance.  When you shoot pictures - you're always getting on and off the horse.  We packed in 24 miles over three mountains 8000ft high.  We spent 8.5 hours one day going along ridges with drop offs of thousands of feet.  The only thing you think of at the end of the day is finding a camping spot and getting out of the saddle.  When we finally got out I said to my friend "never again".  But I'm already planning my next trip.  First night up there we caught 64 native golden trout.  We just had the packer, my friend, myself, and a ranger who came by and we ate all those fish - we were really hungry.  It was really a vacation after working 9 months on the series - it got my mind off things.  At one point I came across a rattler on the trail - my horse reared - I got a rock and killed him.  I brought the rattles home to the kids - but my wife wouldn't even touch them.

He mentioned that he and Wyler got along famously - he read for the part of Messala and Wyler liked him but finally decided no matter what he did Chuck would sound too American for the role.

HH:  How did you become a baseball player?
CC:  I started playing baseball when I lived in Brooklyn.  Our family was in poor circumstances - although I didn't realize it until later - we had plenty to eat - corned beef and cabbage and plenty of good soup.  When I was 13 I met a man called John Flynn through a friend of the family.  He asked me to come out for the boys team he had.  They played baseball, basketball, football.  I was very bad at the beginning but he taught me and I caught on quickly.  From 13 to 17 I was with the Bayridge Boys Club - it was in a tenement district.  We had club meetings each week at different fellows houses each week.  We had a secretary, president, and treasurer.  I was secretary and took the minutes of  meetings.  I have them at home to this day.  We never let anybody give us a penny.  We used to get up a dance to earn money.  We had to go out and earn our money.  Jackie Hurley and I wanted to get better uniforms for the our team - and we'd just had a dance recently for some other reason.  This was in 1934 and 1938.  So Mr. Flynn said get the boys of the team to go to their mothers and get pails and scrub brushes and soap and go around and ask people if they want you to wash floors or windows and you can have your uniforms in a few months.  It took us just six weeks washing floors and windows.  He was a great man, Mr. Flynn.  But now days they go to the butcher the baker and everyone else and say you have to contribute for the kids - we were taught to earn it.  Mr. Flynn was a man around 5ft 7 or so, he and his wife couldn't have children.  He was a teller at the Chase National Bank.  His whole life was in taking care of his boys - boys from the Bayridge section of Brooklyn.  All the parents thought he was Mr. God - especially my mother - he could get us to do anything.
HH:  Did you feel a bit mawkish when you went out with pails and scrub brushes?
CC: No - because Mr. Flynn said to do it.  We just grabbed a pail and went knocking on doors.  We got it down to a system - the boy I worked with would to the end of the hall _ I would work in the kitchen.  They paid us .25 or .50 cents - whatever they could afford.  We did it for one lady for nothing.  Another thing - we went to the Sheffield Farms Milk Co. and we'd get the delivery drivers to take us along and help to deliver milk - of course we usually got all the orders that were way upstairs - but we didn't mind.
After we'd earned our uniforms by scrubbing - the Brooklyn Eagle had a new item that said our uniforms cost more those worn by Brooklyn's team - they paid $32.50 and ours were $24.50.  I was the only one who went on to be a professional ball player.  I started to think I could do very well as a ball player.  I was irked that the Dodgers didn't scout me.  So I sat down with Branch Rickey Jr. and talked him into signing me on a contract without seeing me play.  Then I was sent out to Newport, Arkansas, population 5000 when I got out of high school.  We played only night games.  I cashed my check all in $1 bills and took them home and threw them at my mother.  That was in 1941 - it was a class D team and I got $65 a month.  I came out of the Army in 1946.  In 1949 I was with the Dodgers a few weeks but didn't get a chance with them - then I was sold to the Cubs.  That was in 1951.  I had a good extravert year out here - lots of fun.  Lots of the movie people are ball fans.  Billy Grady called me to MGM and said he had a small part in "Pat and Mike" he thought I could do.  He sent me to Larry Weingarten's office with Bob Webb.  I thought they were going to a lot of trouble to be nice to me because I was an important ball player.  Weingarten said "Now we want to do this test just right."  I said, "You don't have to go to all that trouble - I'll be glad to do it for you without a test."  I didn't know they had to test to see if I was good enough.  He probably thought I was a wise guy.
After I finished "Pat and Mike" I was paid $500 for three days work.  I said what the hell am I knocking my brains out playing ball for.  I went to Grady and said, "This is a terrific business.  How about another part in a picture."  He explained it wasn't always so easy.  So I said how about calling up one of his friends.  So he called Bill Gordon at 20th and he gave me a part in a western.  I thought that was terrific and went to Grady and asked what next.  He called Solly Biano and he had me test.  They called it "Sulu Sea" but it was released as "South Sea Woman".  It ran nine weeks and I got $750 a week.  I quit baseball.  It was strictly luck.  If I'd been disappointed I'd still be in baseball.
HH:  Do you go out to see the games?
CC:  Yes --but I can't stand watching baseball.  I get ulcers.  I see what they should do.  I hated second guessers when I played, but I'm a good second guesser now.  On August 1st the Dodger coaches and non-playing members and scouts of the team will play picture starts - Jerry Lewis and Jeff Chandler will play - preceding regular game we'll play 3 or 4 innings.  Jeff Chandler works out with the Giants every time they are in town.
HH:  Where do you live?

CC:  In Woodland Hills - we've got one acre.  We have a pool and the kids have a tree house.  Carpentry is my hobby.  I probably could have it done just as cheap considering the time it takes, but I like it.  I built a slide - a big one 22ft long - that goes into the pool.  Everybody loves it.  The kids love their tree house - I built that too.  I was a Tarzan fan as a kid and always wanted one.  It's all finished with bamboo.  They have a rope to swing up into it and out of it.  And we have a fenced area with rabbits, a sheep, a pig, calf, and a goat and we'd love to find a deer.  We have a Weimariner dog.  
HH.  You've been lucky.
CC:  You're lucky - you can count your blessings with the best of them.  You've had a hell of a life - I can tell by your personality.
HH:  How did you meet your wife?
CC:  She was a model in Montreal.  We met on a blind date after a game one night.  She just became and American citizen 3 weeks ago.  I said to a Sportswriter friend "Get me a date with a nice classy broad." and he came up with my wife.  We will be married 11 years on October 1st.
Chuck's got in mind building special pool slides and pool houses and tree houses for kids - and doing it commercially.  He also says he wants to build his own house from scratch one day and when he does sinks are going to be high enough you don't have to bend over so far causing sacroiliac problems.
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:56 am

Ava:41287 wrote:Thanks for posting this- I sure enjoyed reading it.
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:57 am

ruskin:41305 wrote:Me too, thanks
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:57 am

cowgirl:41308 wrote:Great article TVFan!

I like the part about the sinks!

Thanks for sharing this with us!

Here is a picture of Chuck & Joe Benson building the tree house.

Image
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:57 am

Ava:41322 wrote:
I like the part about the sinks!
I know what he meant- we're all tall at my house, too. He probably also wanted taller chairs.
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:57 am

TVFan:41324 wrote:Glad everyone enjoyed it!
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:58 am

cowgirl:47710 wrote:
I've been busy on the "The Rifleman".  John Wayne tried to get me free to do "The Alamo" - even called 5 times personally.  We start the series again in two weeks - we did 40 this past year.


I wondered why Chuck wasn't in this movie.  This cleared up something I always wonder about.   So many great stars!
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Chuck's Interview with Hedda Hopper

Post by cowgirl » Sat May 20, 2017 10:58 am

jccc:47740 wrote:From Chuck's IMDB quote page, it sounded like he didn't want to do The Alamo. That it wasn't a time scheduling conflict.
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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