first movie

For this summer issue, I decided to write about the first film I ever did. It was 1950  and I was sent on an audition to Columbia Studios for a role in a movie called “The Killer that Stalked New York.” The cast included Evelyn Keyes, William Bishop and Dorothy Malone.

I had been on countless auditions, but hadn’t yet been cast since I had no experience. How could I get a part without experience and how could I get the experience if nobody would give me a part?

This one however was meant to be. As luck would have it, I had met Jock Mahoney a few months earlier at a benefit at the Veteran’s Hospital in Long Beach, California where my sister was performing as an acrobat to entertain the veterans.

I tagged along, got up and sang, and I met Jock. He happened to be under contract to Columbia Studios.

Fans will remember him from The Range Rider and also Yancy Derringer. Well, at this audition, as my mother and I were waiting to go in to meet the casting director, none other than Jock Mahoney walked into the lobby. He remembered me from the Veteran’s Hospital and asked my mother why I was there.

He then went into the casting director’s office and told them that I had done “this and that”—none of which was true! I then read for the role—and between my reading and Jock’s fibbing, I got the part!

I was thrilled and once I had that speaking part under my belt, I was then able to segue into other roles since I now had “experience.” I’ve always been grateful to Jock Mahoney for helping me get that break.

In the top photo, that’s me with Evelyn Keyes, admiring her brooch. In the scene, she gives it to me; I hug her and catch smallpox.

In this photo, that’s me in the hospital, just before I die on screen!

Wow, my very first film and I die in it!

Evelyn Keyes can best be remembered for the role of Suellen O’Hara in the 1939 classic movie “Gone with the Wind.” She also had quite the reputation with men, having once been quoted as saying: “I always took up with the man of the moment, and there were many such moments.”

She had romances with Anthony Quinn, David Niven, Kirk Douglas and even Mike Todd—who left her for Elisabeth Taylor. Evelyn was married four times; her last husband was Artie Shaw.

Although I was too young at the time to really know who she was, I look back now and feel very blessed to have worked with her.

Until next time, remember that laughter is the music of the heart, and warms the soul.


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