June 7th, 2009
Mark Slade as Blue Cannon in the pilot episode
Vintage Reprint from Sunday, October 8, 1967
Reprint: Sunday, October 8, 1967
Mark Slade almost gave up show business, but then his ship came in. Actually, it wasn’t a ship; it was a horse.
Slade thought he was through as an actor when NBC-TV’s The Wackiest Ship in the Army, in which he played Seaman Pat Hollis, was not renewed last year
“I went to Europe for a vacation and when I came back I went to the see the producer,” said Slade. “I thought of quitting acting and going into production. Two weeks later through, my agent said he had an interview for me with David Dortort about a new Western. I didn’t think much of it. Besides, I wanted to go fishing that day. I said I wasn’t interested, but my agent insisted that I keep the date.”
Slade went for his interview with Dortort, the creator and executive producer of NBC Television Network’s Bonanza and The High Chaparral.
Slade in Wackiest Ship in the Army
as Seaman Pat Hollis
“I waited 45 minutes in the office. I was going to stay only five more minutes and then go fishing, when I was called in. At first Dortort thought I was a real wise guy, until I read for the part. I was told not to go anywhere that day. My agent called at 7:30 p.m. and said I had the part.”
That’s how Slade landed the co-starring role of young Billy Blue Cannon, in The High Chaparral dealing, among other things, with the generation gap between father and son. The series follows Bonanza at 10 p.m. on Channel 8.
“This kid is growing up fast,” said Slade of the character. “He wants to get out on his own but he’s not yet ready to handle it. When he blows up he goes all the way. He has a stepmother. He can’t communicate with his father, Big John (Leif Erickson), but he wants to be like him. Right now, however, he likes his Uncle Buck (Cameron Mitchell) better because he is more colorful. Billy Blue is a character with whom the younger generation can identify.”
Slade is no stranger to rural life: “I lived in Putnamville, Mass. until I was 15 years old. I worked for Pearly Clark’s chicken farm in Danvers. I was out in the coops three days a week. I went to a one-room school house where I had the same teacher for three years.”
Slade, who is single, has two younger sisters and a brother. He had planned on a career as a ventriloquist or cartoonist (he’s a good one) until he substituted for a sick cast member in “The Male Animal,” at Worcester Academy of Dramatic Arts, which he attended to study acting but which he left 18 months later to appear on Broadway in “There Was a Little Girl,” starring Jane Fonda.
Eliza Kazan brought him to Hollywood in 1960 for the feature film, “Splendor in the Grass.” Slade also appeared in the feature “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” On TV, he played in 14 “Gomer Pyle” episodes, “Rawhide,” Perry Mason,” and “Mr Novak.” In the latter he played a baby-faced narcotics pusher which led to his regular role in “The Wackiest Ship in the Army.”
Slade likes horses better than ships. “It’s every young actor’s dream to be in a Western. Since coming here in 1960 I only did one western episode. I had two lines to say. I never thought I’d be given a Western series.”