Talkin’ the Talk: Will Hutchins and ‘SUGARFOOT: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON,’ PART 2

I appreciate these shows a whole lot better now than when I worked on them.

And on with the show!

THE DEVIL TO PAY (12/23/58, d. Lee Sholem). Tom, working as a debt collector, becomes embroiled in the evil doings of corrupt Indian agents.  Taking sides with the Native Americans running the trading post (and its gorgeous proprietress), Brewster becomes the victim of an ancient Arapaho devil doll curse!  “What I remember most about this show was female costar Grace Raynor, one of my all-time favorites.  She had just done Dear Charles on Broadway with Tallulah Bankhead.  And she had a great part in Devil to Pay. A very aggressive Native American, who had the hots for Sugarfoot.  I had to let her down easy – and I wanted to do it in that ‘he just isn’t into you’ way.  You know, the attraction, or lack of, having nothing to do with race.  I have to say that my character didn’t fall in love with every beauty that guest starred with me.  Again, look at a show like Wagon Train.  Robert Horton fell in love every week!  What a fickle guy he was (also very lucky)!  Or, as the Japanese would say, ‘He’s a butterfly.’  But Grace Raynor was easily one of the best leading ladies I ever had.  Of course, working with John Carradine was amazing.  He was awesome to watch.  He’d lay down complicated bits to do, and would perfectly repeat them to match the long shots, close-ups, medium shots, etc.  The consummate movie/TV actor.  You’d watch him perform, and gasp, ‘Wow, this really is an art.’  Compare that to Marlon Brando, who couldn’t care less, and jump all over the screen.  Made it hell for continuity, directors, editors.  But Carradine – what a craftsman.  Tol Avery was another great guy and a great character actor.  I used to say that the character actors drove their pickup trucks to the set, and the stars drove their limos to the unemployment office.  Character actors were always so much more together than the folks they supported.  And why not?  Most of them worked constantly, and, were a generally happy lot.  In fact, the meaner their characters, the nicer they were in real life.

“One day, the great Jacques Tati visited our set – I should have stepped right up to him and said, ‘Bonjour Monsieur Hulot!’ and extended the delightful occasion to the max.  Instead, Hutch, the shrinking violet, satisfied himself just by gazing in wonderment at this genius of visual flick comedy.  On impulse, I pulled a Hulot-ish stunt, hoping Tati would groove with it.  On our set, a Native American trading post, was a barrelful of beans.  During lighting setups, I plucked a handful and tossed ‘em high.  They came raining down onto Roll’em Sholem.  He looked up at the guys on the catwalks and cursed mightily.  ‘Course, I hadda do it again.  Sholem couldn’t have turned redder or madder.  If not Tati, I hope at least M. Hulot was secretly pleased.

“The plot for Devil to Pay was lifted from Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson, not for its lofty roots but because at Warners they knew what was public domain!  It was relatively easy adjusting the South Pacific locales to the West, natives becoming Native Americans, etc.  They did a real good job with it.  I have to say that this is one of my favorite shows.”

THE DESPERADOES (1/6/59, d. Josef Leytes).

A sleepy Mexican town becomes a ticking time bomb when fanatics plan to assassinate Juarez, whose caravan is scheduled to pass through the hamlet.   “As far as I’m concerned, this is one of our two worst shows.  That said, I enjoyed working on it immeasurably because of Abby Dalton.  She was so much fun!  We were joking and jiving around all the time.  And she made the lousy script a joy.  We kind of ripped off Suddenly, the Sinatra movie where he attempts to kill the president.  If I thought about it, I suppose every one of our shows stole the main concept from someplace.  Now Jack Kruschen was in that show.  I hold him in high regard, but I didn’t think he was all that good in this episode (Who would have been?  Can’t think of a soul).   At the time, I didn’t think much of him, but, later on, saw him in The Apartment and other movies, and thought he was just brilliant.

“We spent a lot of our free time posing for publicity shots.  Those great Warners photographers were just terrific.  One of my faves is Abby astride a stubborn mule with yours truly pulling the equine with all his might via a rope around the animal’s neck.  The mule doesn’t budge, and Abby smiles as wide as the Missouri river!

“Honestly, I was having such a ball working with Abby that I didn’t realize how miserable the show was until I saw it.”

THE EXTRA HAND (1/20/59, d. Lee Sholem).

A Russian immigrant seaman, traumatized by a horrific voyage wherein a shark bit off his left arm (!), engages Tom as a traveling companion en route to meet two unscrupulous partners in a silver mine.  “The movie The Boy from Oklahoma is the picture they based Sugarfoot on.  The bad guy of the town was Anthony Caruso, who’s in this episode and, years later was my boss for five years when I worked for the City of L.A.  I wonder if I ever mentioned that to him?  There’s a still of the two of us riding double – with me holding a gun on his back.  It’s one of the most popular stills folks ask me to autograph, mostly because Caruso’s chest is so inscription-friendly big, I could have written the entire scenario on it.  I remember we did a really good fight scene on that show, albeit brief.  But agile and athletic.  Of course, the master of that show was the great Karl Swenson.  I recall having trouble with my lines during a scene on a boardwalk.  Just couldn’t get the words out, and, in my opinion, the final result doesn’t work well – all because of me.  But Karl got me through it with a great trick.  He told me, ‘Now when you say your lines, say them to the tip of my nose.  That’s all you need to concentrate on.’  Sounded crazy, but, damn if it didn’t work.  As for Jack Lambert, let me say this:  that guy was as creepy in real life as he was on the screen.  Maybe creepier.  He scared the shit out of me!  Now I’m not saying he wasn’t a nice guy.  We once went out for dinner, and I couldn’t shake the fact that he might do something violent and horrible to me at the drop of a hat.  He didn’t, of course, but he just had that aura.  He’s the only actor that ever really scared me.  I’m shuddering now!

“The special effects department deserves kudos for this one.  The exteriors were shot on the Lawman street.  They did a good job, roughing it up.  Blowing tumbleweeds and clouds of dust past the camera, hanging cobwebs on the buildings howling wind sound effects, that kind of stuff.”

RETURN OF THE CANARY KID (2/3/59; d. Montgomery Pittman).  Chris Colt (Wayde Preston in a cross-over series appearance) convinces Tom to impersonate his nefarious imprisoned relative to snuff out his remaining gang.  Then the real Canary Kid breaks jail!  “This is the show that slipped between the cracks, and went public domain, due to Warners’ negligence.  I love all the Canary Kid shows, especially the ones Monty wrote and directed.  Saw Canary Kid, Incorporated recently (which he didn’t work on), and liked that one too.  And how great it was working with Raymond Hatton!  There’s a scene where I leave him out in the water.  What a dastardly thing to do!”

MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.  (2/17/59; d. Paul Henreid).  Working as an apprentice to a noted attorney, Tom is shocked to discover that his idol may have had a hand in exploiting workers in the local Polish community.  “Now this show was a thrill to work on if, for no other reason, being directed by Paul Henreid.  Here’s an interesting story.  Most of the music on Sugarfoot was canned, stock library themes, etc.  But on this show, we had an original score composed by Max Steiner!  The only time that ever happened.  And that was because Steiner was great friends with Paul Henreid.  So it was a very special experience.  Naturally, being the cinema fiend that I am, I was in heaven working for Mr. Henreid.  Such a nice guy, and he told me such wonderful stories about his early days as an actor, and then, later on, at Warner Bros., which, of course, entailed working with Bogart on Casablanca.  He told me that they were going over their lines, and that Bogart kept screwing up – either not remembering the dialog or saying them incorrectly.  And Paul Henreid told me, ‘I was so smug, kept saying to myself that I had this scene wrapped up, and, if it keeps going this way, I’ll steal the entire picture.’  Then, when it came time to do the take, Bogart was letter-perfect, which only threw Henreid for a loop.  This perfectly jibes with Bogart’s M.O., pulling someone’s leg – then letting them have it!  I think Sinatra picked that habit up from Bogart.  I remember Paul Henreid introduced me to his daughter Monika, and we went out on a date or two.  I was honored that he thought enough of me to do that.  There was one scene where Henreid wanted authentic violence.  He had me slap my hat hard into the face of the bad guy.  And because there was so much dust on the hat that it would get in his eyes and temporarily blind him.  I hope he got extra pay for that.  This was the first time I ever met Adam West; in fact, I think this was the first show he ever did.  We became great pals (I remember years later that we went down to a film festival in San Diego.  They were showing the Bunuel movie Viridiana.  Then Adam hooked up with that beautiful Israeli actress Ziva Rodann, so that was it for me.  I wanted to go to a bullfight, but didn’t want to go by myself.  I ran into Keir Dullea, and asked him.  I think he thought I was coming on to him, so he politely begged off.  Turned out pretty well though, ‘cause I ended up with Joi Lansing!  This was right before Hey, Landlord, so I went down there to spend a week getting into shape).  Karl Swenson was in this episode too, different character, different accent.  Bern Hoffman, who played Earthquake McGoon in Lil’ Abner, was also in it.  Another great presence.  This was a particularly difficult season for me, as they had fired Carroll Case, our original producer (we were in the Top Ten when Carroll was put out to pasture). Carroll always sought out great scripts.  Well that perk was gone, and they brought in this other guy (Harry Tatelman) and it was all melodramas!  The Canary Kids were my one hold on decent writing!

“I was so impressed by the way German émigré Paul Henreid envisioned the American West.  He, too, went through pains to make the standard Western street look unique.  Henreid and Josef Leytes, who I also loved to work with, kept the cameras moving, which was wonderful – none of that 1, 2, 3, KICK long-shot, medium-shot, close-up cookie-cutter mass-production yawn stuff!  Truly innovative.”

THE GIANT KILLER.  (3/3/59; d. Josef Leytes).  A woman threatens to blow up a hotel unless Tom agrees to help bring to justice the man who drove her husband to suicide. “I specifically remember Patricia Barry, as her husband was Philip Barry, Jr.  Senior wrote The Philadelphia Story, so I was like in ‘Oh, wow!’ mode.  Junior was a writer too, as I recall.  She was a very elegant lady.  Right now, I’m hooked on Perry Mason reruns, and I just saw Patricia in one – and she was terrific.  In Giant Killer, she was out to kill R.G. Armstrong.  You don’t wanna mess with her!  John Litel, I should mention, was also in that show.  Boy, what a wonderful actor and person he was!  Unlike his usual straight-laced screen persona, he was quite a jovial gent.  In a way, charting his career was a mini-history of Warner Bros.  As for Dorothy Provine, she was just fantastic.  I got to know her fairly well.  What I liked about her was that she had a particularly goofy quality.  I found that many actresses are possessed of this behavioral trait – but she refined it to a science.  And I loved that.  She ended up on a series called The Alaskans, just around the time Warners also came up with Hawaiian Eye.  They were so clever!  Dorothy used to paint a lot between takes – when she wasn’t fainting.  You know, all that heavy Arctic clothing doesn’t fare too well when working under hot lights in 90 degree California heat.  Jay North was such a sweet kid.  It was during the shooting of this episode that he found out that he had been picked to star as Dennis the Menace.  Between takes of The Giant Killer, Jay would be rehearsing Dennis dialogue for the pilot.  Very impressive for a little kid, and it just didn’t seem to faze him.  Most grown-up actors I know couldn’t manage that!  I have to tell you that we had a marvelous script girl, Marie Halvey, on the show.  Well, she wasn’t actually a girl – she was in her sixties and had been at Warners off-and-on since the silent days.  She had worked with Lubitsch when he first started out at Warners in the 1920s, and he personally asked for her when he did Heaven Can Wait [1943].  The extraordinary lady wasn’t simply a continuity expert – she essentially was my personal acting coach.  Seriously.  After I’d do a scene, I’d glance over to her.  If she was checking the script and looking down, all was good.  But every now and then, she’d look at me and quietly shake her head.  It was then that I’d plead with the director to go for a re-take.”

THE ROYAL RAIDERS.  (3/17/59; d. Leslie Martinson).  On a southbound train, Tom is approached by a beautiful French passenger who entrusts him with a cache of priceless jewels.  Things get tense when a raiding party from Maximilan’s Mexico violently attempt to appropriate the precious cargo. “This was an especially notorious episode, for me anyway.  I wasn’t too crazy about doing this one, and got into a ferocious argument with Les Martinson.  It escalated to the point where I was supposed to go up to San Francisco with him to do some publicity for the series, and I refused to go.  So when I pulled a no-show, the local press came down on me like the sword of vengeance.  Deserved it, totally my fault.  The cast was really fine on this show:  Helmut Dantine and Joe De Santis come immediately to mind.  I watched Royal Raiders the other day, and shook my head.  ‘What the hell was I thinking about?’  Cary Grant used to say, ‘If only I was Cary Grant.’  Well, if only I was Tom Brewster!  This was a pretty decent show!  Funny thing, especially in TV, once a job is done, you’re essentially dead meat – particularly to producers.  That said, all three Sugarfoot producers, Carroll Case, Harry Tatelman and Burt Dunne, penciled me in for projects long after the last Sugarfoot aired.  That’s a pretty big compliment.  Peter Brooke, who wrote Royal Raiders and other Sugarfeet would also keep me at the top of his list for his subsequent projects.  That meant so much to me.”

THE MOUNTAIN.  (3/31/59; d. Josef Leytes).  Tom tracks wanted felon and his Native American wife to a treacherous mountain lair.  The man, who has been granted a new trial, believes this to be a ruse and puts Brewster’s life in tumultuous danger.  “Don Devlin (who later became a producer) got a showy part in that episode because he knew me – the power of power.  That was fine by me – I thought we were buddies.  Well, a few years later, I ran into him at Madame Pupi’s on the Sunset Strip, a place that we actors used to hang out at when we weren’t working.  I had just auditioned for a part in a Peter Sellers movie.  And Don just ripped into me.  Told me all my shortcomings:  ‘You’re too tense, you can’t relax in front of a camera.’  And so on.  Don’t know where that came from, but you know that old Bing Crosby you’re-dead-to-me cast-off line, ‘Aloha on the steel guitar’?  So be it.  On to more pleasant memories of that show, namely Miranda Jones.  We should have done some more bits of business during that scene in the pit.  I regret that, would have made the narrative and relationship more natural.  I remember thinking she wasn’t an actress playing a part in a western – that she really was that character.  That’s how good she was.  And can’t count out that masterful camerawork by Harold Stine.  Wonderful D.P.  And such a nice guy, too.  He introduced me to Ida Lupino once.  Man, that was a thrill for me!  Don Dubbins and I had a fight in one scene on the mountain of the title – actually a papier-mâché set.  They had built a narrow trail for us to do battle, and the artificially-constructed scenery jutted out sharply.  Let me tell ya something:  papier-mâché hurts!  Well, Leytes wasn’t at all happy with what we were doing, and offered to personally demonstrate how it should be done.  We warned him to be careful, and he ignored us, much to his peril.  He got badly cut and was bleeding all over the place.  Should have been called Blood on the Mountain.”

THE TWISTER(4/14/59; d. Josef Leytes).  An outlaw holds a teacher, Tom and three children hostage while an approaching deadly tornado threatens to level the small community.  “Betty Lynn was such a sweetheart to work with, not merely as an actress – but just a lovely person to be around.  She made going to work every day a pure joy.  Tom Brown, like Frank Albertson, told me all these great stories about working with Will Rogers.  Years later, I ran into him at a supermarket, and he came over to say ‘Hi.’  It was great to see him again, and, I think back now, ‘Jeez, why didn’t [my wife] Babs and I invite him over to the house or something…’  He told me that he was surprised he got the gig on Sugarfoot, since he used to fake Bill Orr out of tons of parts when Orr was an actor.  I remember that during one scene I decided to play it natural, rather than ‘acting.’  Josef Leytes yelled ‘Cut!,’ and started shouting at me to give it more. I reminded him that I had won a Shakespearean plaque in high school for my performance as the Pickpocket in A Winter’s Tale.  On the award was inscribed, ‘To be, rather than to seem.’  He wasn’t impressed.”

THE VULTURES.  (4/28/59; d. Josef Leytes).  A delirious woman, found wandering in the desert, is brought by Tom to the nearest fort for medical attention.  Once inside, Brewster discovers all are dead, save one supposedly traitorous officer.  “I loved working with Richard Long.  Excellent actor.  Faith Domergue was, to me, fascinating.  What’s that line about looking into Putin’s eyes, and seeing his soul.  Well, in a positive way, that was Faith Domergue.  You could look at her forever, deep into those eyes – and, yeah, see her soul.  And a beautiful one it was, too.  I was stunned that Alan Marshall was in the show, as I at that time still thought of him as a big MGM star.  I was so honored that he was on our show.  I can’t reflect too much on Philip Ober.  I mean, he did a fine job, but I don’t remember talking to him that much during the shoot.  I should have.  I should have talked to all of these folks a lot more.  Ah, retrospect!  We filmed a lot of this at the same fort they used on F-Troop.  Have to tell you something, a recent poll of TV westerns, listed F-Troop as 41 on the top all-time greats.  Sugarfoot got 42.  That makes no sense to me.”

THE AVENGERS.  (5/12/59; d. Josef Leytes).  A frightening thunderstorm precipitates an unscheduled nighttime stop in what may literally be a ghost town, understandably unnerving Tom and his fellow stagecoach passengers.  “I think this one comes off great now, not the least due to the fact that it was written by Monty Pittman.  Luana Anders became a friend of mine.  You’re probably right about her part possibly being originally written for Sherry Jackson [Pittman’s step-daughter].  I often dream about doing Sugarfoot episodes with Sherry.  I wish I could have worked more with her.  Luana Anders was a Method actress, and told me (I guess because we became friends she disregarded the Method ‘rule’ and actually talked to me) that she would gauge her emotions by physically tightening her anal muscles. Well, she was an unruly tomboy in that show and one regret that I had was the scene where I teach her how to comb her hair.  I wished we would have been able to improvise on a bit more.  Of course, working with Edgar Stehli, who was in the original Arsenic and Old Lace, was a hoot for me.  I also thought that Vito Scotti was tremendous in this, another fantastic actor whom I would have wanted to work with again.  Always loved Chubby Johnson.  Out of all the movies he made, the one he couldn’t stop talking about was Rocky Mountain with Errol Flynn.  So whenever we’d work together, I’d always find a way to bring up Rocky Mountain – and he’d be off waxing rhapsodic.  You couldn’t stop him once he got started.  Broke me up.  How lucky I was to have been able to work with all these wonderful people!  The neat thing about this show – and, again – kudos to Monty Pittman was that it didn’t cop out in regards to the supernatural element.  It definitely indicated that ghosts do indeed exist.  I have to tell you that this episode has one of the worst unforgivable continuity flubs in the history of the series, if not in all of television! Just so obvious, something so easily corrected – and it made me realize that they ultimately didn’t give a shit.  We’re riding into town, and the guy who gets killed is on the left side of the stagecoach, and the driver is on the right side.  And my solving the mystery of the show in contingent upon me describing where the people were on the coach.  But the way they shot it was completely wrong and makes no sense.  According to my description, the murdered guy should have been on the right side.  Could have been fixed so simply, and they didn’t bother to do it.  Definitely the biggest gaffe we ever had on the show.”

SMALL HOSTAGE.  (5/26/59; d. Anton Leader). Tom agrees to accompany a colonel to a Mexican village to retrieve the body of the latter’s son, killed with his troops in battle.  A subterfuge over a possible heir and a revolutionary uprising involving Juarez transform the solemn journey into a volatile one.  “That was an interesting script, very different.  And, I got to work with the great Robert Warrick!  What a dirty old man!  He told me stories that I’m ashamed to even think about!  Now, when I see him in scores of classic movies, I’m always wondering what was going on off-camera.  Jay Novello was a fantastic guy.  Someone you just loved to talk to.  There was that terrific Mexican actor Rodolfo Acosta!  What a great looking guy, huh?  He should have had a better American career.  Joan Lora had a real thing for me during that shoot – something that Novello and, especially, Warwick were eager to point out to me…and often.  Warwick’s suggestions were…okay, I can’t really get into details [laughs].  By the way, did you know that Joan Lora won a lawsuit against Audrey Hepburn?  Yeah, Hepburn crashed into her car – and Lora got a substantial settlement.  Small Hostage was directed by Anton Leader.  I only worked with him once.  I think it was because he was very slow.  Not a plus for TV, and, very notably, Warner Bros. I really liked working with him though, because it gave me time to digest things, think them out.  I remember pondering about a scene where my female costar and I dance together.  How great would it have been to have one of the Warners choreographers come down and work with us on that segment?  We would have come off as so much more personable. Ha, fat chance! In contrast, the fastest director I ever worked with was Edward Bernds”.

WOLF.  (6/6/59; d. Josef Leytes).  A homesteader, suspected of rustling cattle, is persecuted by a vigilante who wants him hanged.  The arrival of the accused’s gunslinger son blows the conflict sky high.  “I vividly recall having trouble with a scene on a boardwalk in this show.  Couldn’t properly get on a wagon ‘cause the horse kept moving.  And I’m generally a calm, soft-spoken kind of guy – but I couldn’t control myself and started cursing like mad.  And my one memory is that the madder I got, the louder Ted de Corsia laughed.  So I started getting mad at him!  But he wouldn’t let up on me.  A regret I have is that we didn’t steal that final scene from Stagecoach.  Where, after the gunfight, de Corsia’s character emerges triumphant, and the audience would gasp – only to have him drop dead on the floor (a la Tom Tyler in the original movie).  Oh, man, and Virginia Gregg!  I genuinely loved that woman!  I dreamed that she would feel likewise and that we would have dated!  I worked with her on two shows.  Frank Ferguson was sort of a shifty guy.  When we did our first show together in Season One, he kept reprimanding me about looking at him too much.  Jimmy Cagney used to say, ‘Know your lines, stay on your marks and look your fellow actor straight in the eye!’  That’s what I was doing.  Should have quoted that to him.  William Fawcett was another perfect example of the greatness of these character actors.  They really did make it look so easy.  In fact, they did all the work; they had such a presence that all you had to do was simply feed off them.  Watching them do their stuff was a learning experience!  Wright King, Judy Nugent and I had a swell time on that show.  There are some hilarious candids of us cutting up on the set.  I took Judy out once to see an Indian movie, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, and promptly fell asleep.  What a lousy date I was!”

SUGARFOOT: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON.  Black and White.  Full frame [1.37:1]; mono audio.  UPC # 883316884447.  CAT # 12933263.  SRP:  $47.99.

Available exclusively from The Warner Archive Collection:


3 thoughts on “Talkin’ the Talk: Will Hutchins and ‘SUGARFOOT: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON,’ PART 2”

  1. Congratulations, Mel

    Now we can enjoy your insightful and ever so readable strolls down memory lane. (With Joe’s permission)

    Mazel tov. First of many to enjoy.



  2. Absolutely awesome review & this is from a person not into westerns! My dad would’ve loved this series, he was a western/John Wayne fan! This beautifully written review with it’s jammed packed nuggets of intimacies, had me thinking of him through the whole thing. Thank you for this, thus that! You had me at “and on with the show” Keeping in line with the previous comment gluckwunsche Mel!!!


  3. Excellent review – the attention given to the background details always bring his reviews to life, so much so I want to watch the movie all over again!


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