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Home » Podcast Episodes » 017 ACTORS TALK – GREGORY WALCOTT – ACTING IN HOLLYWOOD – INSIGHTS FROM A CONSUMMATE PRO

017 ACTORS TALK – GREGORY WALCOTT – ACTING IN HOLLYWOOD – INSIGHTS FROM A CONSUMMATE PRO

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by Tommy G. Kendrick

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Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Ritt, Michael Cimino, John Sturges, Tim Burton, Delbert Mann, Raoul Walsh, John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy. These are a few of the directors with whom Gregory Walcott worked in his long, productive career.

If you need a quick refresher, check out Greg’s IMDb page for a list of credits while you listen to the podcast.

Greg and Angela Lansbury

Greg always enjoys hearing from fans.
GREGORY WALCOTT FAN MAIL ADDRESS: PO Box 622 Canoga Park, CA 91305

In 1949 he hitch-hiked from Wilson, NC to Los Angeles, CA hoping to break into the film business. Between 1951 and his retirement in the mid-1990s he appeared in over 300 television shows and over 50 feature films.

And talk about sharing the screen with stars! How’s this for a partial list(in random order) Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood, Sally Field, Fess Parker, Gene Hackman, Lee Marvin, Ben Johnson, Goldie Hawn, Sissy Spacek, Harry Carey Jr., James Garner, Claudett Colbert, Ward Bond, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, and on and on.

Greg as Pope in The Eiger Sanction

On television, he guest starred on what seems like every western series produced between the mid-1050s to the early 1970s: Cheyenne, Alias Smith and Jones, Zane Grey Theater, Sugarfoot, Shotgun Slade, The Rifleman, Colt .45, Overland Trail, Tombstone Territory, Riverboat, Wagon Train, Rawhide, The Big Valley, Danile Boone, The High Chapparral and perhaps most famously in multiple episodes of Bonanza.

Still from Every Which Way But Loose

Talking with Greg in 2010

Greg Walcott and Tommy in 2010

In 1967 he produced and starred in “Bill Wallace of China”, one of the early indie films aimed at a faith-based market. He is also an ordained minister who was a guest speaker in countless churches and conventions across the country.

Greg became a regular player in Clint Eastwood projects appearing in The Eiger Sanction, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Joe Kidd and Every Which Way But Loose. In the podcast, Greg talks about working with Eastwood and his demeanor on the set.

He is a shining example of a Hollywood success story that has a happy ending. He is proof that there are not just good people working in Hollywood, there are great people there. He is Gregory Walcott and he is this week’s guest on Actors Talk.

I’ll let you know now that if you’re looking for information on Plan Nine From Outer Space, or information about its director, Ed Wood, this conversation will not help you out. Maybe another time. But for this time with Greg I wanted to concentrate on some of the projects that better define his talent and his rightful place as one of Hollywood’s best. There is plenty of information available about Plan 9 and while Greg doesn’t mind talking about ‘the worst movie ever made’, it’s not something I wanted to address in this conversation.

Gregory Walcott is also a terrific writer. In 2003 his wonderful memoir “Hollywood Adventures…The Gregory Walcott Story” was published by the Wilson Daily Times. The book is now difficult to find but is often available on Amazon.com.

As one might expect, a quick search of Ebay.com finds a large list of Gregory Walcott film memorabilia available for sale.

Here is a very well written bio that I’ve taken from the Rotten Tomatoes web site. This biography was written by film critic Bruce Eder and I think it provides a good, unbiased third party summary of Greg’s Hollywood career.

Biography as published on the Rotten Tomatoes site:

A top-flight character actor and sometime leading man, Gregory Walcott has managed to bridge the tail-end of the studio system, the heyday of series television, and the boom years of the post-studio 1970s, and carve a notable career in the process. He was born Bernard Mattox in 1928 (some sources say 1932) in Wendell, NC, a small town about 10 miles east of the state capitol of Raleigh. After serving in the Army following the end of the Second World War, he decided to try for an acting career and hitchhiked his way to California.

He managed to get work in amateur and semi-professional theatrical productions and was lucky enough to be spotted in a small role in one of these by an agent. That resulted in his big-screen debut, in an uncredited role in the 20th Century-Fox drama Red Skies of Montana (1952).

With his 6′-plus [6’4″] height, impressive build, and deep voice, Walcott would seem to have a major career in front of him, but the movie business of the 1950s was in a state of constant retrenchment, battling the intrusion of television and the eroding of its audience. For the next three years, he had little but bit parts in films, some of them major productions.

His performance as the drill instructor in the opening section of Raoul Walsh’s Battle Cry (1955) was good enough to get him a contract with Warner Bros. He subsequently played supporting roles in Mister Roberts (1955) and in independent productions such as Badman’s Country (1958), and also started showing up on television with some regularity. And with each new role, he seemed to gather momentum in his career.

As luck would have it, however, Walcott’s most prominent role of the 1950s ended up being the one he received the lowest fee for doing, and that he also thought the least of, and also one that, for decades, he was loathe to discuss, on or off the record: as Jeff Trent, the hero of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Walcott’s work on the magnum opus of writer/producer/director Edward D. Wood, Jr. amounted to less than a week’s work, and he was so busy in those days that one can easily imagine him forgetting about it as soon as his end of the shoot was over. And the movie was scarcely even seen on its initial release in the summer of 1959 and went to television in the early ’60s in a package that usually had it relegated to “shock theater” showcases and the late-night graveyard (no pun intended).

But the ultra-low-budget production, renowned for its eerily, interlocking values of ineptitude and entertainment, has become one of the most widely viewed (and deeply analyzed) low-budget movies of any era in the decades since. As this oddity in his career was starting to gather its fans (some would say fester), Walcott had long since moved on to co-starring in the series 87th Precinct and guest-starring roles in series television.

Across the 1960s, he remained busy and had a chance to do especially good work on the series Bonanza, which gave him major guest-starring roles in seven episodes between 1960 and 1972. In one of these, “Song in the Dark” (1962), Walcott even hada chance to show off his singing voice, a talent of his that was otherwise scarcely recognized in a three-decade career.

By the late ’60s, he had also moved into production work, producing and starring in Bill Wallace of China (1967), the story of a Christian missionary.

During the 1970s, Walcott finally started to get movie roles that were matched in prominence to his talent, most especially in the films of Clint Eastwood. He remained busy as a prominent character actor and supporting player — part of that category of performers that includes the likes of Richard Herd and James Cromwell — into the 1980s.

He had retired by the start of the 1990s, but was called before the cameras once more for an appearance in Tim Burton’s movie Ed Wood. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

1 comments
Brenda
Brenda

This is interesting information because he is part of my geneology as a cousin.  His grandfather and my grandfather are the same.  His grandmother was my grandfather's first wife and my grandmother was his second wife.  Five cousins met for lunch yesterday and were discussing him.  So, this gives us a little more information about him.  I used to hear my mother talk about him and refer to shows or movies in which he acted.

TommyGKendrick
TommyGKendrick moderator

 @Joe Hansard   says: Great show, Tommy! And fascinating interview/conversation with Mr. Walcott. Thanks for sharing!

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