August 17th, 2008
Vintage Article Reprint. This article is a reprint from around the time of the 3rd season. The photo quality is poor, since the original images were not in color and have deteriorated over time.
Mad dogs and Englishmen stay out in the midday sun. Not true! For ‘Englishmen’ read N.B.C. film stars, here making High Chaparral, and myself – for Mark Slade had invited me to watch the action in this beautiful, but hot, cowboy film resort.
Mark was not doing a lot in this episode so he was able to take me to see Old Tucson on my arrival. It should be here explained that Tucson is a thriving, but strictly twentieth-century city. Old Tucson is a village twelve miles into the desert which has been restored very authentically by the movie industry.
Mark just loves the old West and he told me as we drove through rocky hills and cacti of how he’d just visited Tombstone.
“My wife had to drag me away from the old diaries and expense accounts of Wyatt Earp that were all there in the museum. I was really fascinated.”
We walked around the village, which is also a tourist attraction, and finished up on the threshold of High Chaparral. I remarked how hot it was.
“Man,” said Mark. “Man, this is a real nice cool day. It’s only eighty-five!”
The next day I was to learn what he meant.
I arose at 6 am, just like Henry Darrow. This was the day I realized that being a movie actor is 75 per cent UNGLAMOROUS AND VERY HARD WORK!
The conditions worked in were worse than anything I’ve experienced. As the heat bore up, the action moved from the desert into Old Tucson to the High Chaparral Home, but it’s only exterior shots of course.
It was a hundred and twenty in the shade.
Nearl all the menfolk of High Chaparral were there, Leif Erickson was soon joined by Cameron Mitchell, and the heat got hotter. So beat if in mind, Henry Darrow is the principal in this episode, and has been before the cameras more than anyone. Every day for two weeks he has risen at 6 am, and finished at 6 pm.
What’s so glam about that then?
The crowds visiting Old Tucson are held back some distance but still they stand and watch until some of them start to faint.
Cameron Mitchell told me: “They are not used to this sun. They are so keen to see us that they forget. They’re not even dressed properly. Every weekend during the summer season there’s an average of twenty-five people who collapse as they watch” Cameron told me how they fought the heat. They have tablets with salt and vitamins, ice water and tea are always on hand, one must stay out of the sun at all times until necessary and always wear a hat.
I felt giddy. Mark Slade soaked a cloth in ice water and put it around my neck and I recovered.
Luckily this was the last day of shooting so we finished in the afternoon. We all headed back to the Hilton Hotel and dived into drinks and the beautiful pool there.
As we flew back Henry Darrow told me: No one knows the conditions that the actors and crews work under here. If you thought this was hot today it was nothing. The hot season is in July just when we are into the height of the series. Last year on one day it was one hundred and thirty in the shade. One of the crew stuck a thermometer in the soil and it read ONE HUNDRED AND SITY NINE! Many of us went under that day.”
All I could say was PHEW!