Tag Archives: Johnny Crawford

Fuller, Crawford, and Grey Flannel

In my continuing passion for finding extras in old movies, here’s an interesting connection between favorites Robert Fuller and Johnny Crawford.  They were both extras in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) starring Gregory Peck.  Fuller appears as a soldier in a scene at a field medical station.  This scene also features DeForest Kelley; both actors went on to play well-known television doctors.   Johnny Crawford plays a boy in Italy delivering a box of groceries.  His older brother, Robert Crawford Jr, co-starred in Laramie with Fuller three years later.

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Johnny Crawford in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Johnny Crawford in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

This entire movie is on YouTube.  Crawford’s moment is at 0:29:50, and Fuller appears at the 0:49:45 mark.

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Happy Birthday, Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors was born on this day in 1921.  He starred in my favorite TV western, The Rifleman, with Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix.  Connors passed away in 1992, but The Rifleman and the character he created are as popular as ever.  There’s even a reboot of the show in development, but Connors left some awfully big shoes to fill.   For his fans, Chuck Connors will always be the definitive Lucas McCain.

Mark (Johnny Crawford) and Lucas (Chuck Connors) celebrate a McCain birthday.

(click for larger, sharper version)

Related posts:  Happy Birthday, Cowboys!    The Rifleman

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Rest in Peace, Joan Taylor

Actress Joan Taylor passed away on Sunday at the age of 82.  She played store owner Milly Scott in seasons 3 and 4 of The Rifleman.  As a love interest for widower Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), she brought mature intelligence and warmth to this classic western.

Joan Taylor on The Rifleman with Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix

Joan Taylor on The Rifleman with (clockwise from top) Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix

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The Elusive Billy Hughes

I’ve spent the last three months doggedly pursuing my goal of watching all 168 episodes of The Rifleman (1958-1963).   With the help of a good friend willing to DVR and send along various episodes, I am down to just one (Heller).  I will be sad when there are no new ones left, but at least the episodes are worth watching repeatedly.  That’s why the series has been in continuous syndication for over 49 years.  I now appreciate the character actors who worked in the classic westerns of the period, and I’m fascinated by several of them.  I’m starting here with the youngest.

Billy E. Hughes Jr. (November 28, 1948—December 20, 2005) was a young actor whose father and uncle were both stuntmen in Hollywood.  Hughes was a small but sturdy boy who was cast in his first movie partly because he could carry a large dog (Ole Rex, 1961).  After a bicycle accident, a broken front tooth made him look like a real kid, so it became part of his distinctive appearance.  Hughes was an emotive, natural actor with an interesting blend of vulnerability and grit.  He had guest roles in many television series and did a handful of movies, mostly low budget productions involving other members of his family.   Hughes appeared in three episodes of The Rifleman in the later seasons: Long Gun from Tucson, Day of Reckoning, and most memorably, The Sidewinder.  He was also in three episodes of Gunsmoke: Milly, Reprisal, and Us Haggens, the episode that introduced the character of Festus (Ken Curtis).

Hughes may have found himself in the business because of his family, but he came to believe that he was born to act.  After a leading role in My Six Loves (1963) with Debbie Reynolds, many more offers starting coming in, and his career was set to take off.  Sadly, his family was going through difficulties, and Hughes was sent to live with his grandmother.  She wanted to get her grandson away from everything Hollywood, so she refused jobs on his behalf and threw away the scripts that were sent.  By the time Hughes was old enough to make decisions for himself, it was too late.  The entertainment business has a very short attention span, and most child actors are unwanted once they grow up.  Billy Hughes found satisfaction in his adult life from raising his son, but he acknowledged in his interview in the book Growing Up On The Set that he suffered from depression and a lack of direction.  He died in his sleep at the age of 57.

I refer to him as elusive because his work is so hard to find.  His three episodes of The Rifleman are not included in the 50 shown on hulu.com, and only a clip from Long Gun from Tucson is currently available on YouTube.  Only one of his movies, Stakeout!, is available on DVD, and it has serious quality issues.  Ole Rex is almost impossible to find in any form, although lobby cards can be found occasionally for sale on ebay.  I have not been able to find any of his other television appearances besides the three Gunsmoke episodes, which are all available on YouTube.  When I watch Billy Hughes in what little there is see, I can’t help wondering what he might have achieved if he’d been allowed the chance.

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Other links:

IMDb page    wikipedia page      in memoriam page      riflemanconnors.com page

Note: The book Growing Up On The Set by Tom and Jim Goldrup is the invaluable source for the biography and background information used in this post. To avoid confusion, the episode from The Rifleman which is described in the interview with Hughes is identified as Day of Reckoning.  It was actually Long Gun from Tucson, directed by Joseph H. Lewis.  The scene with Johnny Crawford is shown in two stills in the slideshow above.

Update: Various TV appearances and the movie My Six Loves pop up on YouTube in various forms, often to disappear again because of copyright issues. Keep searching. I’m pleased and a little proud that the comment section here has become such a lovely tribute to Billy Hughes, with comments from both fans and friends. Be sure to read  them!

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Sweepin’ The Clouds Away

I’ve been listening to my Johnny Crawford Orchestra CD, Sweepin’ The Clouds Away, an album of vintage dance band arrangements from the 20s and 30s.  I decided to learn more about the bands and orchestra leaders that Johnny Crawford mentions on his facebook page, since I’d never heard of most of them.  I love the old photographs from that era, so I was inspired to put together this little video.  It’s much better viewed at YouTube, in full screen mode.

 

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Photoshop: Before and After

I’m always mentioning what I do in photoshop.  It’s time for a little demonstration.  Here are some before and after versions.  I don’t usually save the originals once I’ve done corrections, so putting this together was a challenge!  I use version 7, which is old but effective.  How these look on your computer will depend on your screen and how it is balanced, but hopefully the “afters” will be much improved.

Here’s an example of cropping and improving contrast:

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

No matter how good a movie looks on DVD, the stills can always be better.  The original here was a few seconds before the one I used in my post for A Little Princess:

Liam Cunningham in A Little Princess

Liam Cunningham as Prince Rama in A Little Princess

I enjoy working with images from The Rifleman, because there’s no worry about color balancing.  It’s fun to restore the contrast, but I have to be careful not to wash out the lighter parts.  It’s also fun to remove unwanted elements using my favorite tool, the clone stamp:

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Old family photos fade.  With my Epson scanner, I can scan them and restore the color and contrast quite a bit:

Christmas Party, 1970

Christmas Party, 1970 (I'm on the far right in red)

I’m certainly no expert at photoshop, but I have a great time learning new tools and techniques.  As I learn, I’m tempted to go back and fix the images in older posts, especially since getting a new laptop with a different screen.  I just have to resist the urge!

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My Year End Wrap Up 2011

Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011.  I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months.  It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions.   I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March.  I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks.   These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.

Best Books:  Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens.  I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading.  My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school.  The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category.  The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward.  The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.

Best Television:  The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny.  The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)  NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon.  In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries.  I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman.  Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.

Best Twitter:  Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter.  He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page.  I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him.  Sorry, Gube.  West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches.  Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out!  Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.

Best Movies:  I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen.  I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category!  At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork.  I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.

Best DVDs:  I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked.  I really need to get over this habit!  While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender.  I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½.  I did love The King’s Speech.  I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.

Best StreamingDa Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television.  The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming.  I tried a month of streaming only.  It was a disaster.  Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload.  Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only.  Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust.  One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.

Best TheatreLes Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre.  I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.

Best Music:  I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford.   Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical).  Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again.  The worst music this year?  Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Gack.

Best Music Video:  It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it.  I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.

Best Entertainment News:  Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself.  It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball.  If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now.  2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.

Entertainer of The Year:  Last year was easy.  This year, it’s difficult to choose.  Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November.  I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser.  He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos.  Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume.  Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment.  I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey.  Congratulations, guys.  There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks.  I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!

Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire in the Les Mis concert; Ian Tracey as Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Next: What I’m excited about in 2012.  Happy New Year, everyone!

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