A Day on the Set of a Saturday Morning TV Favorite
In 1955, Uncle George began work on a Saturday Morning Kidís TV Show called, Fury: The story of a horse and the boy who loves him. Once again, I begged my uncle -- this time, not for just the usual set visit, but for an actual acting part on the show.
I had asked my mom, for what seemed like ages, for the opportunity to be an actor. As Iíve written before, I had sought after that chance -- to be in movies and on television -- since I saw my first Western when I was about five. Now, at age 12, Mom had finally given in, saying, ďOkay, if your uncle can work it so you can get a part on the show, I wonít stand in your way.Ē
After several months it was arranged that I would be able to work for one day as an extra on the Fury TV Show. Since I was underage, I had to go to the Los Angeles School Board Building near downtown L.A. to get a work permit. This meant that my school grades had to be average or above and my health in good order. I canít tell you how excited I was during this preliminary to my movie stardom. Oh yeah, I passed with flying colors.
I was told I would be playing a boy scout and the Fury wardrobe man asked my uncle to tell me to bring my own uniform along with a pair of jeans and a school shirt. Knowing that Fury was set in the modern West, I conned Mom into buying me a new shirt. Iíd just have to get along wearing my old jeans and shoes.
The Fury TV Show was filmed on the old KTTV-TV Studios Lot ó located at Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Freeway - when it wasnít shooting at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth. Today, the same studio acreage is occupied by FOX Television.
Mom and I parked and walked to the gate. We were directed to a large sound stage just around the corner -- one of many. After waiting patiently for the red light to go off, we finally opened the heavy stage door. Then came that magical moment -- the darkness, the sharp smell of fresh-cut greenery, the soft glow emanating from the shooting set, a world where I would eventually be spending a good part of my adult life.
I was separated from my mom and herded into a makeshift schoolroom with about ten other kids. We were told to leave our schoolbooks there and were immediately led to some old knockdown, canvas dressing rooms where we changed into our Boy Scout uniforms. After that, we were taken to the makeup department. This was my first time in the makeup chair. It wouldnít be my last.
We shot the few scenes requiring the Boy Scout uniforms before lunch. After that, we changed into our other (school boy) outfits.
At lunch, I found out that the Lassie series was shooting on the stage opposite our stage. Tommy Rettig, the first of Lassieís several child stars, was playing by himself in the alleyway between the stages. Bobby Diamond, the kid star of Fury, with whom Iíd been working all morning, introduced me to Rettig before running off to lunch with his mother. My mom and I had lunch in the studio commissary, where we ran into Sheriff John (for you older Los Angeles readers).
My uncle had told me previously to hone up on my semaphore code and I had studied my Boy Scout Handbook and practiced in front of a mirror for several days before the actual shooting date. After lunch the assistant director called all of the extras together and asked if anyone knew anything about semaphore signaling. My hand shot up and I was picked to play a kid who was doing semaphore with Bobby Diamond. This was called a silent bit, and for knowing the semaphore code, I was paid much more than the other extras. I have thanked my uncle forever.
The Boy Scout segment was filmed close to the last of that yearís season, and I looked forward to working again on the Fury TV Show the following year.
I grew; Bobby Diamond didnít.
My uncle called us at the beginning of the next season and told me that I was just too tall to be working on Fury if I had to stand next to Bobby Diamond, the showís star. But -- my younger brother, Bobby, was now just the right size.
My brother Bobbyís first stint as an extra on the Fury TV Show was as a friend of star Bobby Diamondís character, Joey, in a baseball story.
I went along as an observer this time, as we trekked once again to the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California. The Fury set designer had created a baseball diamond out of the sagebrush and rocks, just this side of the famous Fury barn and ranch house, which took up several acres of the Iverson brothersí Upper Ranch.
Though I had worked on Fury previously, I had not seen the trainer, Ralph McCutcheon, work the horse before. Beaut, the real name of the stallion that played Fury, was probably one of the best-trained horses in Hollywood history. Ralph didnít use hand signals like most trainers. He spoke English to the animal. And Beaut always did what Ralph told him to do.
Concerning the instance I would like to mention, a baseball was hit into right field where, of course, Fury was playing position. McCutcheon listened to director, Sidney Salkow, as he described what he wanted the horse to do. Then Ralph repeated those directions to Beaut. The camera rolled, and the horse did exactly what Ralph had told him to do. He ran to the ball, picked it up in his mouth, then galloped to home and put one of the child actors out at the plate. Just like that. One take. I canít say that about most of the other actors Iíve worked with in my long career.
Brother Bobby was able to work in a few more Fury shows before he, too, grew taller than the showís star. That didnít stop me from visiting the set. Once I got my license, I would drive out to Iversonís every so often to visit my uncle. Since then, I have developed a lasting friendship with Bobby Diamond. Even today, after over forty years, I continue to keep in touch with Attorney Robert Diamond by E-mail