Actors who appeared in classic westerns recall their experiences. As imagined by me.
FOUR LADIES OF THE GOLDEN WESTERN:
LADIES NUMBERS ONE AND TWO:
CLARA: They called us the ‘Schoolmarm Sisters’.
SARAH: We spent our careers playing schoolmarms.
CLARA: Children and chalk dust. We’re your girls.
SARAH: If they wanted the pretty young thing who brought refinement to the West and a flutter to the hero’s heart, I got the job.
CLARA: And if they wanted the hawk-nosed spinster who terrorized children and sent the sidekicks running screaming into the night, they asked for me.
SARAH: You were ‘The Pill.’
CLARA: And you were the beauty.
SARAH: Not really fair, was it?
CLARA: It’s how it was.
SARAH : We shared an apartment back then. The studio’d call and say, ‘We want the pretty one’ and I’d say, ‘Speaking.’ If it was, ‘We want the witch’, and I’d say, ‘Clara, it’s for you.’
CLARA: Different sisters. Different jobs.
SARAH: It’s funny how a beauty and a crone could have been produced by the same parents.
CLARA: And with totally different personalities.
SARAH: And wouldn’t you know it? They’re exactly opposite to our looks. I’m actually the snippy one.
CLARA: And I’m warm and cuddly. Though I always played the Battle Axe.
SARAH: Because of your looks.
CLARA: And you played the love interest.
SARAH: Because of mine.
CLARA: I still get a call now and then. Sarah’s been retired for years.
SARAH: You know what they say. Beauty fades. But homely goes on forever.
CLARA: I’m still working, Dear.
LADY NUMBER THREE:
THE MEXICAN SPITFIRE
“In all the westerns I acted in, I never got the Good Guy. Not once. I was better looking than the ‘rancher’s daughter’, my figure – there was no comparison. But no matter how the Good Guy felt about me – and standing close, you could tell he was interested – he always wound up with that stuck-up, little blondie.”
“If there was a Mexican sidekick, maybe I’d end up with him. He wasn’t handsome like the Good Guy. And he rode a smaller horse.”
“To get the job, you just had to be pretty and be able to make the ‘ch’ sound – it comes from your throat – so you could say the word ‘chwhy.’ You know, like
‘Chwhy you come back?’
They wouldn’t let me say, ‘Why did you come back?’ like a normal person. No. That wasn’t ‘speetfire’ enough. It had to be ‘chwhy.’
“‘Chwhy’ did they make me do that!”
I'm kidding. See, you thought I was serious.
We don't talk like that!
“Sometimes, I, I mean, my character would get mad at the Good Guy, because he throws me over for that skinny little nothing, who treated me like her maid, which, okay, I was, but did she have to act so snooty about it?
‘Conchita, would you fetch me my shawl?’
It made me sick. ‘Fetch it yourself!’
“I’d get so jealous, I’d do an awful thing. I’d tell the Bad Guy where the Good Guy was going, you know, so they could ambush him. I know that was horrible, but – ay, Chihuahua! – he made me so angry! I mean, he made my character so angry. You see that? After all these years, I still identify with her.”
“After I betray him, I feel terrible. I mean, he treated me like a dog, but, you know, I love him. So I run to warn the Good Guy about the ambush. And what happens when I do that? And I mean in every damn picture?
They shoot me!
“I know why they did that. It made things easier. Now the Good Guy won’t have to choose. In my heart, I know he would have chosen me. I mean, look at her and look at me - are you kidding me? The only reason he didn’t choose me is because I’m dead.
“And because it’s the Fifties. They didn’t mix back then.”
“I’ll tell you something. The script may have said it was the bad guys that killed me. But in my mind, it was always the girl.”
LADY NUMBER FOUR:
THE SOUTHERN BELLE
“We filmed in Arizona in the middle of August. Hundred and ten, hundred and twelve. And for me, it was petticoats, petticoats, petticoats. I was just drippin’ – if you’ll pardon my language. And wearin’ that hoop skirt? Well, I couldn’t sit down! They’d have to feed me leanin’ against a cactus.”
“My character’d start out all stand-offish-like. I’d be playin’ the colonel’s new wife, or whatnot, comin’ West to join him at the fort, or wherever, and wouldn’t you know it, our stagecoach’d be attacked by Apaches, or Comanches, or some such.”
“I’d behave like I’m used to better. They’d offer me rattlesnake to eat, and I’d look down my nose and say, ‘I’d rathah stahve.’ But when the battle got goin’, my natural goodness would rise to the fore, and I’d pitch right in, loadin’ rifles, and tendin’ to the wounded.
“Those petticoats came in right handy right there; I’d tear ‘em up and use ‘em for bandages. Wasn’t that clever?”
“I always believed my gradual losin’ of those petticoats had an underlyin’ meanin’, you know? Like I’m droppin’ layers of defenses, separatin’ me from reality. By the end of the movie, I was virtually petticoat-free. Stripped bare, if you will. I’m certain that was symbolic. It’s like I’m sayin’, ‘I’m one of you now. We’re all the same.’
“Do you think that’s true? Or am I readin’ too much into it?”
“Am I really a Southern Belle? Well, let’s see now. Southern Belles are notorious for bein’ single-minded and headstrong and I’d have to plead guilty to that. Southern Belles are also known to be scandalously flirtatious. I don’t rightly know about that one.
“Do you think I’m flirtatious, Mr. Pomerantz?”