February 18th, 2016
Don Collier, The Long Way ‘Round
Vintage reprint article
The boy who discovers at six or seven, or eight – that the one thing he wants to do in the world is to become an actor bears no resemblance to actor Don Collier, who this season is sole star of “Outlaws,” seen Thursdays at 7:30 ET on NBC-TV. Don was born and grew up in Van Nuys, Calif, within shooting distance of the Hollywood studios, but “Acting?” he says. “Never even thought about it.”
Don, whose name then was Donald H. Mounger, was interested in football and stuff like that; joined the Navy as soon as he picked up his high-school diploma; and in 1946, when he was discharged, headed for Oregon to work on a ranch. That’s how much he thought of the gold in those Hollywood hills.
The ranch bit didn’t work out, and neither did a job in an Oregon sawmill. Late in 1947 he found himself in Seattle, broke and discouraged. In order to eat regularly, as much as anything else, he joined the Merchant Marines as a seaman, but after one trip, to Japan, he was called home by the illness of his only sister. That ended his seagoing.
At the time, his parents were working on the huge San Fernando Valley ranch of actor Francis Lederer, and for the first time it occurred to Don that acting couldn’t be such a bad way of making such a good living. He asked Lederer for help and, after six months’ coaching, the star got him small parts in three movies. Then came a lull when Don was “At liberty,” as being without a job is called in show-business circles.
From where Don sat, it looked as if mining the gold in those Hollywood studios might take too much time and effort. He joined a high-school tam-mate and took up an athletic scholarship at Hardin-Simmons University, in Texas. By the following year – 1950 – he had transferred to Brigham Young University to study geology, working with the college drama group when he wasn’t out looking over the rocks.
This didn’t hold his interest long, either. In 1951 he went back to Southern California; was married; and in the years that followed became the father of three children – Pamela, nine; Diane, eight; and Don, Jr, six.
A man with a wife and family to support can’t pick up and leave whenever the spirit movies hm. For the next five years Don operated a fish and poultry business. That wasn’t very successful and, deciding to give acting another real try, he signed up with a drama coach, working by day as a surveyor while he want to class nights.
In 1959 he joined the Valley Playhouse in Los Angeles; appeared in a production of “The Tender Trap,” where he was seen by an agent, and began to get TV and movie parts. Last year he was tested and turned down for two other series, but as a result of one got the “Outlaws” role.
Some tow and a half years ago, his marriage collapsed and later Don met up with Joanne Gray, a childhood sweetheart who had also gone through an unsuccessful marriage. They tied the knot in January, 1960, and settled down in Van Nuys with a quartet of children – Don’s three and Joanne’s son Dave, who’s the same age as Don, Jr. Steven James made the foursome a quintet on December 10, 1960, and the stork was expected to make another landing early this winter.