Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reel Tears by Beverly Washburn

Beverly Washburn with David Vaughan. Reel Tears: The Beverly Washburn Story. Albany, Ga.: BearManor Media, 2009.

Beverly Washburn did not come from an acting family, although she had an uncle in vaudeville. She, though, became a child actor with non-entertainment industry parents. She could cry on cue, which was a skill in demand for child actors. Her earnings enabled her to grow up in a larger house. Her pay often was $250 a week. Yet, when she grew up, she discovered her parents had lost most of her earnings through unwise investments.

Washburn’s first performance, at age 6 in 1950, was in the movie “The Killer That Stalked New York”. She recalls the audition and her mother explaining to her beforehand that she probably wouldn’t get the part but that she still do her best. She got the part.

After that, she received a role in “Superman and the Mole Men”, portraying a girl in bed who screams when the mole men enter her room. She found her co-stars playing the mole men were cute and did not realize they would scare movie goers.

Several more TV and film jobs followed. By 1952, she would be cast in “The Greatest Show on Earth” without having to audition. Her co-star Bing Crosby asked her to appear with him on a telethon where her character had to cry. She impressed people with being able to spontaneously cry real tears.

Washburn recalls working with Alan Ladd, who had a fear of heights. His fright was so bad that he refused to return on a chairlift that had brought him up a mountain. A helicopter had to rescue him.

Washburn worked with Jack Benny. He liked her and kept In touch with her and her family. He put him on his radio shows and traveling live shows.

Washburn met Sammy Davis, Jr. , who commented upon meeting this young girl, “I’ve got cufflinks bigger than you.”

Once while traveling with the Jack Benny show, Ida Mae McKenzie was brought on suddenly to join the cast. Sensing her nervousness, Jack Benny successfully calmed her by declaring “well, Ida Mae, go out there and give it your best. Show and if it doesn’t work…fuck it!”

Washburn was cast, in 1955, in the CBS series “Professional Father”. It ran for 26 weeks. The show was broadcast live. Washburn had to ad lib once while a costar’s entrance was delayed by a stuck zipper. The director thanked her for her quick thinking.

At age 19, Washburn was on the TV series “The New Loretta Young Show”. The shaw bas been released on DVD as “Christine’s Children”.

Washburn appeared on “Leave it to Beaver”. She fake dated Tony Dow for the publicity.

As an adult, has castings dwindled. Washburn worked as an extra for income. She was thrilled to receive a two line speaking part on “Murder She Wrote”. Her career was revitalized when a movie she had filmed, but was never released, “Spider Baby”, finally was released and developed a cult following.

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