One of the Great “B”-Western Bad Men!
October 26, 1906 - March 1, 1993
Imagine you’re the young leading man in Monogram’s newest monster fest, The Monster Maker (1944) and one day after work you and star J. Carroll Naish are having a conversation about the effects of World War II on the motion picture business. Naish turns to the young leading player, exhales smoke from his ever-present cigarette, and tells the young Thespian that he’ll never stand a chance as a romantic lead with all the handsome soldiers coming back from the war. Become a character actor, Naish advises!
Now, most actors would have taken offence to this non-ego faltering advice, but not Terry Frost. Terry took this idea and turned it into a multiple decade career, with most of his appearances in Westerns. "Hats off to the B Western Bad Man" was Terry’s motto. His reasoning was simple enough—It’s for making our heroes the heroes. He played the heavies for Western stars Lash LaRue, Eddie Dean, Whip Wilson, Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry among others.
Born October 26, 1906 in Bemidji, Minnesota, Frost began acting in Vaudeville in 1929. With 136 film roles and 235 television roles, stage appearances in The Vinegar Tree, The Pleasure of His Company, Come Blow Your Horn, Stalag 17, The Last Mile, Front Page, Accent on Youth, and Three Men on a Horse, he is also an author of an instructional book, Actors Only. He was also the former executive director of drama at the Patricia Stevens Career Colleges of Los Angeles and Pasadena.
After his Hollywood adventures, he worked as a tour guide and traveled the Orient extensively, as well as logging two dozen trips around the world in this capacity.
Frost was active on the convention circuit, and also an accomplished poet. His most requested work is a fictional poem about John Wayne, entitled The Duke, with which he delighted fans at conventions.
Unfortunately for bad-guy movie fans, Terry passed away at the age of 88 on March 1, 1993. He is survived by his wife, Marion Callahan, a noted actress/dancer and vaudevillian, who has worked with Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Geraldine Pager, Donald O’Connor, and Steve Allen.
Terry recalled his show business adventures in 1991 at his and Marion’s spacious Toluca Lake home.
FROST: It's a funny thing growing up as a kid, back in the days when they did everything by hand and by horse; my Dad ran a logging camp. They built a home for him, a tarpaper shack, well insulated, with two bedrooms - one for me and my brother and a bedroom for my parents. I used to hang out in the bunkhouse with the loggers. They'd recite little poems to me and kid around. I'd recite a few of these poems to my mother, and since I was a mischievous kid, my mother got an idea. She bought me books like "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers," and I learned the meter and the diction of these little verses at an early age.
Soon after that, we moved to the big city, where my father ran a saloon. I would haunt the libraries, reading poetry. One of the first pieces I loved, and still love to this day, was The Shooting of Dan McGrew, by Robert W. Servus. I began to discover verses about loggers and miners, and as I became more fascinated began to memorize these verses. I soon had quite a catalogue to choose from for oral recitations or whatever.
As a kid in the city, I sold newspapers. At the time I started, there was a scandal about how the local officials Duluth, Minnesota, were all pimps, whores, racketeers and crooks, reported in The Duluth Ripsaw. Those papers told the history of my hometown. When they'd come out, I'd get 100 at a time and start peddling them around town, to the saloons and whorehouses. Some girl in a whorehouse would talk one of the drunken customers into buying all my papers. You could buy 50 of them for $2.50—a nickel apiece. Then when the drunk passed out, she'd put them outside the back door, I'd pick them up and sell them again!
The whores liked me because I was this young kid who would recite poetry to them. So I ended up occasionally reciting poetry in the main parlor of a bordello, and the hookers would say, "Pass the hat and give the kid some!"
After my father passed away, I left home. My original destination was Spokane, Washington. One of my pastimes was going down into the Hobo Jungles on weekends, and talking with the hobos. In that day it was quite fashionable to catch a ride on the railroad for free—or at least, according to these fellas it was. So I hopped a ride, and although my destination was Spokane, Washington, I wound up in Butte, Montana. I was on the train for two days and two nights; I was 16 years old, dirty and hungry and beat. I didn't know where I was, but I quickly found out.
I went into a pool hall where kids hung out. I knew what a pimp looked like, so I picked out this pimp and said, "Tell me, where's the best house in town?" He looked at me and said, "What do you want to know for?" And I said, "Please, sir, I got a couple of live ones!" He said "It won't do you any good, but it's the "Five Dollar House." So I went there and rapped on the back door. A black girl came to the door, and said, "What do you want?" I said, "I want to talk to the landlady." She went, "You just get out of here—just get out of here right now!" The landlady heard all of the fuss, came to the door and said, "What do you want, son?" I said, "I've been on a freight train for two days and two nights, I'm hungry, I'm dirty and I'm tired! I'll work—I'd just like a place to clean up a little bit and get something to eat." She said, "You come with me."
Now this is a Saturday. This particular bordello happened to have an auditorium, and up on top of this auditorium were rooms. She took me to a room way in the back, and said, "Take off all your clothes and put them right there," pointing to a spot. "Go in there, take a nice bath, and I'll send you in something to eat." I was in the bathtub for at least 35 minutes - oh, I was livin' now! After the bath, I crawled into bed and fell asleep. The madam told me later she sent some food up, but she didn't want to wake me. When I did wake up, my clothes were gone, but there were brand new ones in their place! She had taken the sizes of that crap, and bought me all new clothes - a new mackinaw, new shoes, new socks, new woolen pants, a woolen shirt and a woolen sweater, and a cap. After dinner, she came up, and I asked her, "What can I do to work this debt off?" And she said, "You just rest. But I don't want you to leave this room tonight." She asked me how old I was and I told her the truth, that I was sixteen. And she said, "You know, you're not allowed in a place like this."
About 8:00 at night, I began to hear music, laughter, and hollering and carrying on, and I said, "I got to see what's going on." Now there was a balcony with wagon wheel spokes for the railings, so I opened my door a little ways and crawled out. I peeked through and saw girls playing the piano, girls dancing with guys. I'm watching this, and someone tapped me on the shoulder, and it was the landlady. She says, "You get back in your room!" While I was looking out, one girl tried to recite some poetry - couldn't do it worth a darn! So I said to the landlady, "I heard that one girl recite poetry. Do you know I recite poetry?" She said, "What kind of poetry?" I said, "Just poetry." She said, "Nothing off color, now." And I said, “Oh, no, no!"
About half an hour later the landlady came up and said, "Come on down, I want you to recite some poetry for our guests." So I started off with The Shooting of Dan McGrew. They put a bowl up on top of the piano. After about two poems, "That's fine, sonny, you can go to bed." I went upstairs to my room, and she handed me the bowl! I said, "This is yours, isn't it?" And she said, "No, it's yours."
Now, I knew they took percentages of the girls in these places, and she said, "No, you're different. You keep the men entertained while the girls are busy. I want you to work in between, but you can't live here. You go out and get a room tomorrow, at $5 a week, with maid service and clean linen every week. And I want you to buy yourself some clothes, too. I don't want you to dress like a pimp, now, and don't get smart! You just dress like a schoolboy." The madam asked me if I was raised in a churchgoing family, and I told her I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopalian Church. She said, "I want to see you in church every Sunday, but don't you recognize or talk to me."
After about three months, I decided to move on. That madam was a great lady-- she wrote me a letter of introduction to a couple other of these clubs up in Washington state, and I'd go and entertain there and make money. I even came to Hollywood during that period and looked around for about a month. First thing I did off the train was have a cab driver take me to Hollywood and Vine. I asked the cab driver where I could get a room in Hollywood. He says, "There's rooming houses all over here, back of Vine Street and Hollywood, where you can get a room. I took cabs everywhere I went in Hollywood. After about a month I decided to go back home. On my way back East, I hit all the same joints, but I didn't stay half as long in them.
I went back home to visit my mother, threw $3,000 cash in her lap, and told her to take it easy. She said, "Where did you get this Terry, did you steal it?" I said, "No, Mother, in the big city I work in clubs and they like my poetry." She immediately asked me if I would recite some poetry for the ladies of her church group next week. And so the next day, the paper came out that Terry Frost recited poetry for the Ladies of The Rebecca.
Now through this circuit, certain New York producers saw me. I met with one of these producers in his hotel room, and he asked me if I had ever worked in the theater. I told him that poetry reciting was all I had ever done. This producer said, "I've got a part in this show—It's two blocks away from where you work—I'd like you to come over and read for me." So it ended up that I did my poetry recitations at the club, and the part in the stage play after and in between that. That's how I got started in Vaudeville.
QUESTION: How did you get involved in movies?
FROST: An actor always has to have a second profession to fall back on. When work got a little thin on the stage, I learned the restaurant business. I was a fry cook, a dinner cook, and a chef. See, you could always get a job in the restaurant business if you could handle yourself. I got to be a good restaurant man. I was running a restaurant in Hollywood and a magazine called Pic ran a story about a play I had done called "The Last Mile." Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable had also done the play—one of them on the West Coast and one in New York. That magazine article led to someone in the picture business coming in the restaurant, and offering me work. So, I was working at the restaurant and doing one-day picture jobs. I ended up replacing a lot of fellows, because they wanted people who could get it right in one or two takes. I had plenty of casting directors calling, "Come on over to the lot, I've got a hurry-up job for you. Go up to your dressing room, I'll have your sides ready for you. We're going to shoot this afternoon." A lot of them were bit parts. Some of them had four or five pages, like the first Batman serial with J. Carroll Naish. In those days they never gave you credit for a one-day job, or even a small part. I was in Sam Katzman's Captain Video serial with Judd Holdren, unbilled. I did the Lost Planet with Judd, another bit part. But we worked all the time—the main thing was to keep workin'.
QUESTION: You have worked with some of the greatest character actors in film—John Carradine, J. Carroll Naish, George Zucco, Ralph Morgan. What were they like?
FROST: They were very down to earth people—all of them. The picture that always cracked me up was the one I did with George Zucco, called The Flying Serpent. The ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl—what a riot! You could see the wires on the serpent in the picture. I did The Monster Maker with J. Carroll Naish and Ralph Morgan. Boy, did I pity Ralph Morgan! He had to put all that latex gunk all over his face, the acromegalic makeup. And I said to him, "Geez, Ralph, I pity you with all that makeup on." He said, "Terry, I'll never take another job like this as long as I live!"
John Carradine was aces. He never lost his love of the stage and Shakespeare. But hey, when things got a little rough, he even worked a TV Western with me a time or two. And don't you know, he trained all his kids to be first rate actors.
Now, J. Carroll Naish on The Monster Maker gave me the greatest piece of advice I've ever had in my life. He said, "Terry, when all those boys come back from the war, there's going to be a lot less work for the romantic lead, which is what you're playing in this picture. Get into character work, and you'll never be out of work." I went home and I thought about that, and I decided he was right. So I told my agent I had done plenty of heavies on stage and I thought it was time to direct my career toward character roles, which meant a lot of time playing bad guys—the man with the black hat, the no-good, heavy; the kind of damned things that Carradine, Zucco and Naish were doing. That single piece of advice is what kept me afloat in show business for 26 years.
QUESTION: During this period, you did a lot of work in Westerns, didn't you?
FROST: I did two Tim Holt Westerns, and I thought I could ride. I had ridden a lot of horses, but I had never ridden Western style. And they put me up on horses for those two Tim Holts, and I just hung on! On the weekends between shootings, I would go out to Griffith Park in the Hollywood Hills, rent a horse and learn how to ride Western style. I'd practice things like getting on, getting off—quick mounts. I'd run at 'em and mount, and slowly but surely I learned the riding game. There were a lot of good riders around in those days—cowboys much better than myself. It was a novelty in those days for an actor to become a proficient rider.
The whole time in pictures, I continued with stage work, I came across a guy who did a lot of work for Republic in Westerns and serials called Roy Barcroft, in a play called Flight 13. It was a three-act play, and I had the lead. It was kind of a story like the Airport movies or the Chester Morris picture for RKO called Five Came Back. It's the story of a big airplane that crash lands on water. This played at the Masquer's Club in Hollywood. I was the pilot of the plane, and Roy had a five-minute scene in the third act, trying to romance a young girl, but his romance was not to be, because the plane crashed! An agent saw him in this play, and he went on to do all that work at Republic.
QUESTION: Except for a couple of Republic serials, the majority of your serial work was done for Sam Katzman at Columbia.
FROST: My first Sam Katzman serial was Hop Harrigan with William Bakewell playing Hop Harrigan. We made that serial in Arizona. We used to have a pilot who was one of the guys who ran two or three little airplanes out there. I was introduced to the pilot by a crewman that I had been hanging around with, who had been a parachutist and had crippled himself in a bad jump. He used to tell the story of how he got all banged up. The pilot says, "Hey, when you're not working, I'll take you for a ride up there." So I went for a couple of rides, and we partied in the airplane.
The hotel we stayed in was a great place for a fight—movie or otherwise. They had overstuffed leather furniture. So, one night there were six of us who were on the picture—Rube, Scheaffer (a muscle man who worked for Sam all the time)—he and I and four other guys put on a fight in the lobby of this hotel. We worked it up in front of a pretty good crowd in the lobby. We'd only talked the routines over before we did the stunts. Everybody in the lobby who wasn't in on it was screaming, and they called the police! So we straightened everything up, lickety-split, and when the police arrived we were sitting there. They came roaring in through the front doors, and the first guy they targeted was me. They said, "Who started the fight?" And I said, "What fight?" So eventually the people in the lobby caught on to the fact that we were a motion picture company who were staying at the hotel, and that we had put on the fight for their benefit, and laughed it off.
There was a radio station on the top floor of the hotel that Gene Autry bought at the same time we made the serial Hop Harrigan. This was before he bought KTLA and had Golden West Broadcasters in Los Angeles.
QUESTION: You played a heavy in both of the Kirk Alyn Superman serials.
FROST: We had fun with that. The director on that picture was Spence Gordon Bennett. He was one of the top men from the silent days. Spencer was athletic up into his 90's. His big thing was racquetball. He knew script, he knew story, and he knew how to put serials together for Sam. The relationships on those serials with men like Bennett and Katzman were smooth. Now, Tommy Carr was the second director on that first picture. Tommy had a brother who was an actor, Steve, who also was an actor and dialogue director for the first season of the George Reeves Superman television show. Steve Carr worked with us on the Bruce Gentry serial. Tommy Carr was also an actor and worked with my favorite director who was over at Republic, who I didn't get to work with often enough, John English.
I did a TV pilot with John English over at 20th Century Fox called Hangtree Inn. I played an old man with four sons as my gang of desperados. I taught them all to be bank robbers, and handled them like a tight-reined little gang.
Getting back to Superman, Kirk Alyn was grand to work with. He had to keep a little to himself, to be in character. You gotta remember, playing a comic book character in that silly suit was no easy job. Kirk had a background in dance and modeling, so he knew how to handle himself through the physical stuff. There was one bit where Spencer wanted Superman to bang two of the bad guys' heads together. We had some of the best in the business on this picture—Jack Ingram, Charlie King—and these people all knew the picture fight game. So we worked out this little bit with Kirk where he is supposed to bang our heads together. We would jump up on apple boxes and they'd crank down the speed on the camera so the gag would appear faster when the film was projected, making it look realistic.
I also did two of the George Reeves TV Superman. One episode, which was called "My Friend Superman" involved this little Italian chef who cooked super hamburgers, and at the end of the show Paul Burke and I got pelted with cream pies. I think the producer, Whitney Ellsworth, fattened our pay envelopes a little for that gag, because he was embarrassed. Everyone on that show was top-notch.
QUESTION: You worked with Buster Crabbe on a Katzman serial called Pirates of the High Seas.
FROST: We did that one in about 30 days out on Catalina Island. Buster was swell. We'd go out on a boat out on the isthmus; he'd dive straight off the boat into the sea and be down there for what sometimes seemed like hours. He'd be down there so long it would worry us—no mask, no snorkel, no air tanks, no nothing—just him and his swimming trunks. He'd come up with lobsters and abalone stuffed in his belt, that he'd picked up on the bottom. Another time we were in a club in Avalon. They held the club open especially for the movie company, even though this was Catalina's off season. Rusty Wescoatt, who was in a lot of Sam's pictures, and I bumped into a couple of Coast Guard guys, and over drinks asked them if it was all right to pick up a couple of bugs (lobsters)." With the Coast Guard's unofficial permission we built three lobster traps. These things were a yard square, made out of chicken wire, and we'd go out after dusk and set them every night. Our call was about 6 or 7 in the morning, so we'd get up about 5 and go check the traps. We were getting 15 or 20 bugs in each trap. We fed the cast and crew 3 or 4 entire lobster dinners with our off-season fishing.
The thing that will stick in my mind forever about that show is when we were filming off the isthmus of Catalina. They had three boats—a PT boat, which was the camera boat; a three-mast schooner, and another one that they called the pilot boat. Now, we're having a fight on the three-mast schooner. I get knocked into the drink, and all three ships take off, leaving me in about 20 foot of water, because we're on the isthmus; bobbing up and down in these six foot choppers. I wasn't worried about getting knocked off the sailing boat because there are no propellers and no undertow, but I'm out there treading water, and darn if all three boats don't keep going on—leaving me out there in the drink! So I'm out there, and the first time I go up on one of these swells, I say," Well, I'm going to take this easy." So I did this for what seemed like a couple of hours, but was actually 15 or 20 minutes. I was mad! When they got me up out of the water on the boat, the first thing I wanted to do was murder Sam Katzman! I was darn near frozen! I stated that to cast and crew in no uncertain terms! I was cussin' him till some of the stunt men got me down below. I cooled off and we made up, and darn it if he didn't leave plenty of brandy in my cabin to cut that winter chill on Catalina.
Tris Coffin and I roomed together on this picture. One night we were sitting up talking, having a couple of drinks, telling each other stories, and maybe playing poker, when Sam Katzman breezes by our room, sticks his head in the door—It was about 2 in the morning—and says, "How are you fellas? What are you doing?" So I says, "Well, Sam, we're telling each other lies and having a couple of drinks." "I don't worry about you guys, you always get it done." So he sat down and had a drink with us. Sam was loyal to people he knew—I loved the man. I went down to Columbia towards the end of him making serials. We all used to hang out whether we were working or not together, because we were all like a family. Now I walked into Sam's office and before I could open my mouth, he said "Darn it, Terry! We don't have a thing in this show for you." I said, "That's all right, Sam. You've sent my two girls through college, so I forgive you—but don't forget me on the next one!" And he didn't. Those were the golden days in the movie business. We all took care of each other. We weren't jealous of each other, and would recommend each other for jobs. The picture business today—everyone's a shark—no sense of camaraderie. It's a shame.
You had to be in good physical shape to work these B pictures, because they were fast and furious. Now George Katzman, Sam's brother, died up on the scaffolding—I believe he was Sam's electrician. We had to shut the shooting of the picture down, and Sam was going crazy. Most of the stuff that was written about Sam would lead you to believe that he was cheap, and this was another incident that could be taken out of context. But my belief is, Sam was having fits over the budget to cover his grief over the loss of his brother. The business then and now has always dictated that if you get knocked down, the faster you stand up the faster you get back into the game. This is how Sam dealt with his brother's death.
Another example is Mel Delay, who worked for Sam. Ran his behind off 'til one day he sat down in a chair and turned absolutely black and died of a heart attack.
I always hung out with the crew and the stunt guys. That's how I met Eddie Parker. I was doing a little stunt work over at 20th Century, and had to do a bit with Parker. I had told them that I had done stunt work before, to get the job. Parker and I became fast friends, and he taught me the fight game. We worked really well together. I recommended him to Sam Katzman many times, and he eventually started getting parts on Sam's shows.
QUESTION: Tris Coffin was a good friend of yours, wasn't he?
FROST: Tris was a well-educated man. He had an extensive background on the stage. I saw him perform once in Salt Lake City. His family was in the business. His wife Vera is a beautiful, sweet person. Tris's series 26 Men was produced by a guy I didn't exactly get along with. The show was shot in Arizona, where Tris had a home with his wife Vera. So I get down there to Arizona and I'm in the hotel room by myself, I was just about to go down to dinner, and the phone rings. It's Tris, and he says, "Hi, Tiger, how you doing!" I said, "We're going to see you on the set tomorrow!" He says, "Tomorrow, heck, get a cab and come on out! You're going to stay with me!" So I said, "Aw, Tris, they're paying for me here in the hotel. They're treating me all right." He said, "Get in that cab and come on out here. You're going to stay with me!" I got the cab and went on out, and no sooner had I walked in the door, than he says, "Where's your wife?" I said, "Aw, you know, she's at home." He said, "Well, call her up, tell her to get on an airplane and come on down here and we'll pick her up." So I did. And the whole week we were there we had a ball. He had a beautiful house, with a pool and everything. Now, the producer was furious when he found out that Tris and I were having fun on our off time at Tris' house. He should have kept quiet—It saved him the hotel bill!
I remember Leo Gordon was involved on one of those shows. They also had a kid who was a great gun handler who was in a rodeo act that Tris participated in. So we went to the rodeo as well. One of the nights after the rodeo performance, Tris, Vera, my wife and I were sitting at the table having dinner, and the producer of 26 Men just happened to be there. This guy came to the table and started deriding me. Now, I didn't say anything for a little while, and kept taking this verbal tirade. After about an hour of this, I said to this gentleman, "This is the first time I've ever worked with you, and quite frankly, I don't care whether I ever work for you again." And then he exploded, and started to really cuss me out. Tris is pretty well heated up by this time, and he says to this guy, "This is my friend, a guest at my home! If you want to finish this series, you lay off!" Tris told him off, right there, and for the whole week I was down there I didn't see that producer. Tris was a beautiful guy. I loved him.
QUESTION: You were featured extensively in the Highway Patrol series with Broderick Crawford.
FROST: Well, by that time Brod was drinking pretty regular, but he was a great guy. It never seemed to affect his work. Brod Crawford and I used to rehearse our scenes together, and you know, with him, he never gave you a cue. In the theater, you learned to handle that—you anticipate the other actor. For me, it was no problem. You could tell with Broderick just by watching him, the way he walked and moved, when he'd finish his lines. So, we worked well together. Now, he also had a couple of quarts of vodka in the prop truck, on ice. After every scene, he'd say, "Let's freshen up." So we'd go over to the prop truck, he'd take a drink and hand the thing to me. I'd blow bubbles in the darn thing and give it back to him! Come wrap time, I'd start to have a few, too! He'd get pretty stoned sometimes. One afternoon after one of these days with these long freshening up rituals, he tripped over a cable and sprained his ankle, and he said to me, "Geez, you can handle that stuff!" He thinks I've been drinking drink for drink with him, and the whole time I've been blowing bubbles in his vodka!
I had a great dinner deal with Brod. I used to go to his house for drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the end of the day. One day he says to me, "Where do you live?" And I said, "In the Wilshire District of Los Angeles, near the old Carthay Circle district." Now, the studio gave him a chauffeur to drive him to and from, and basically do anything else he needed to have done while he was filming. There was a cast and crew bus that ran us in and out from the various locations, that ran right by his apartment in the Sunset Towers on the Sunset Strip. So before quitting time, he'd send the chauffeur to go pick up cold cuts and caviar and whatever else. I'd drive my car to his apartment on the Strip, ride up with him either in the chauffeur driven car or on the studio bus. We'd come back on the studio bus and be dropped off at his place and go up and have drinks and hors d’oeuvres. This aggravated my wife, because she'd be waiting dinner. Brod really knew how to lay out a spread, so I'd arrive home having eaten dinner with Brod instead of having dinner at home.
Television was like working for Sam Katzman's companies. You just work as much as you can. Back in those days, we'd do things like Cisco Kid with Duncan Reynaldo, and the Eddie Dean Western show called The Marshall of Gunsight Pass. Those things went live to New York on cable—no film. My wife, Marion Callahan, co-starred in one of those.
QUESTION: Obviously, some of your favorite work was in your Westerns.
FROST: You bet—there's no question about that. I worked with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers on features and their respective TV series. I remember vividly working with Gene, and I was just one of the character actors on this picture. You got to understand, I was never a guy to kiss up to the big shots. I didn't want to have to get jobs that way. The cast and crew came back to this camp that Gene had set up with several cabins—Gene's being outfitted with every modern convenience, as it should have been for the star. Gene was just one of the fellows. He rode in with us on the bus, and there wasn't any of this big-shot-itis stuff.
We had come in from an especially hard day, and as we're getting off the bus Gene taps me on the shoulder and says, "Come on up to Club Nine after you get cleaned up, Terry." I said, "Where's Club Nine, Gene?" Gene said, "It's my cabin!" I said, "Thank you!" From then on, I was accepted in his group.
The other funny thing that stuck out in my mind, we were doing a feature for Gene Autry and Raymond Hatton and I were rooming together. After a hard day's work, we were cleaning up and getting ready to go to dinner, and I asked Raymond if he wanted a drink. He said "Sure," so I mixed him one, and one led to another. I knew Raymond wasn't a drinking man, but I didn't know how easily it would upset his stomach. At this point, he goes into the bathroom, gets violently ill, and loses his false teeth down the toilet! Now we have a double dilemma—not only does Raymond have no teeth, but he did all of his scenes with teeth, so it would be impossible to do any more work with him and match it up with the previous days' shooting. Being as aware of continuity as we were in those days, working on shoestring budgets, I said "Raymond, why did you flush!" He said, "Terry, I just couldn't stand the smell!" I knew we were in for some deep trouble.
I got the idea we should go and talk to Gene Autry's pilot. Raymond lived in Lancaster, so it was a simple matter to fly down and get a spare set of choppers for him and fly back in time for the morning's call, which is what we did!
Another time on an Autry feature, I roomed with Lyle Talbot. It was about the same scenario, only we'd gone to dinner separately. I was having dinner and there was one guy who came in from the bar who was just sort of picking on me because I was one of the actors in this movie company. This guy says to me, "I know Gene Autry's tough, but you guys that play the bad guys aren't so tough." I knew this was going to be trouble the minute I laid eyes on the guy, so I bought him a drink and tried to soft-talk him out of any trouble. I was just trying to get out of there. He keeps drinking, and keeps up the tirade, things like "You're not so tough." So we had another drink, and I said, "It's late, I'm going to turn in. I've got an early call." As I'm leaving the restaurant, he follows me out. I crossed the street, and I noticed the guy following me. Now the whole time, the guy's yakking on about what a wimp I was, and "You movie bad guys ain't nothin' but wimps," and cussin' me. I just kept agreeing with him. We got across the street from the hotel, and I said, "Well, good night, fellow, I'm going across the street." This seemed to set him off, and he was sticking his fingers in my chest and yelling even louder than before. So I warned him off from this physical stuff, and said, "Don't you poke me." He yelled, "Oh, yeah?!" and took another poke at me. So I popped him one right in the head and he went down like a lead monkey. One shot and he was sleeping—the trouble was, I had broken my hand! So I just walked across the street and went up to my room.
I got up to the room, and Lyle is up there, and my hand is turning every shade of purple under the sun. I said, "Lyle, I'm in trouble." He said, "What happened?" I told him about the guy and the incident in the restaurant. As we're talking, my hand goes to the blackest shade of purple and doubles in size. I said, "Lyle, you've got to help me." Lyle said, "I don't know how you're going to ride a horse tomorrow with that hand." I remembered I was wearing gloves throughout the picture, so Lyle and I started playing with the gloves. We slit the gloves and put pieces of rawhide in them to expand the glove to the size of my hand. Lyle, God bless him, sat up with me and helped sew this contraption together so I could get through the next day's shooting. Lyle and I kept this whole incident quiet.
About 4:00 in the afternoon, Gene Autry came up to me, and said, "How are you doing, Terry?" I said, "Well, I'll make it, Gene." He said, "I heard about your deal last night." I said, "Oh, God, I thought I kept that quiet!" He said, "You did, but Bill Bradford had breakfast with the guy you belted this morning!" The guy said to Bill Bradford, "Are you working on this picture?" And Bradford says, "Yeah, I'm the cameraman." He said, "You know, I knew Gene Autry was tough, but I didn't think those other guys were. Believe me, they are!" He had nine stitches in his cheekbone! Gene said, "Well you're hand's not noticeable at all in the picture. You're getting along with it all right." And all that day, all I did was mount horses and shoot guns with that glove that Lyle Talbot and I monkeyed together in that hotel room.
QUESTION: You quit show business in the mid-Sixties. Why?
FROST: I considered acting playing. The greatest job in the world. When I wasn't acting, I was on the golf course playing golf. When we did those last serials for Sam and for Republic, they were making the last serials and the last Westerns. Everything was switching over to TV. I did plenty of TV in the couple of years that I stayed in the business, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, etcetera. I was lucky I worked past 1960, because I managed to get in on that first residual deal. But it all changed, and all of us character actors felt it. I went out on an interview on the old Republic lot, which had been changed into the North Hollywood CBS television production facility. I sat down in front of these two young casting directors, and they asked me what I had done. I asked them if they were familiar with my work. They said no, and I said, "Well, if you're not familiar with my work, there's no sense in going any further with this." I got up, thanked them, turned heel and walked out without a regret.
I got into the travel business, went around the world two dozen times. I feel I got to see Hollywood in its golden age, and rather than be on the way down and desperate, I decided to get out of the game while the getting was good. I led a charmed life—I repeat—a charmed life.