Joan van Ark worked with Chuck and Gary Lockwood on an episode of Night Gallery, The Ring with The Red Velvet Ropes. Joan remembers Chuck as gorgeously handsome and unbelievably fit. She also remembers that they filmed for the entire night, all night! Joan was the prize in the winner take all fight between Chuck and Gary. You'll have to watch the episode to see who the winner was.
I was a US Army Huey Helicopter Pilot in 1967 while Chuck Connors was on tour there and we had the opportunity to fly him and his group for several full days from outpost to outpost, mostly in what was called II Corps - from Nha Trang up to north of Quai Nhi and west to the Cambodian / Laos border. He was a fantastic individual; you flew quite a few "celebrities" in the course of your year-long assignment. Many were rude or arrogant - Chuck was the kindest, most considerate I've ever been near. At every stop he would wait for us to get the aircraft shut down so we could walk with him. My co-pilot was Rick Scruggs. Chuck seemed very interested in what WE had to say and less so with the senior escort officers.
I have several photos I took of him firing a 105MM Howitzer and doing other photo-op things. When we dropped him off at the end of the day he insisted that we be the crew to pick him up the next day which the senior officers had to scramble to set-up. At one point we were flying along a river where a bridge had been blown-up and partially dropped into the water. I jokingly indicated to Chuck that I was going to fly under it and he reacted enthusiastically and told his cameraman to get ready. His more Hollywood-like director / producer looked like he was going to faint or have a cow or both. Of course, I didn't fly under the bridge and Chuck had a knee-slapping laugh at his "posse's" faint hearts.
On the last day Chuck took the effort to carefully get our names, ranks, home addresses and parents' phone numbers. He said that the film was going to be used for an interview on a late-night TV show that all our parents watched. Out of the goodness of his heart and his respect for the American Service Man, Chuck Connors had each of our families contacted a few days before the show aired so each could watch. What a gentleman! What ever happened to the Hollywood celebrities who respected the USA? BTW My crew and I were part of the 48th Assault Helicopter Company “Blue Stars”. I ended up flying helicopters in the Army for 34 years.
Chuck Connors was an outstanding individual as I'm sure you know. Rather than stay in the secure major support bases like many "celebrities" chose to do, in the two days we flew him it was obvious he wanted to see Vietnam and our troops for himself. It was an honor to help him meet our troops and personally demonstrate that some of Hollywood was on our side. I'm sure my crew members and all the troops he met appreciate what you're doing to honor a fine American.
Peter Ford, the son of actor Glenn Ford and MGM star Eleanor Powell, had just graduated with honors from USC in 1968 and had been accepted into USC Law School when actor George Montgomery invited him to appear in a movie that Chuck was starring in called The Proud and the Damned. Much to his family’s dismay, Peter decided to do the movie so instead of going to law school, he spent six weeks filming his role in the mountains of Columbia, South America.
After flying into Bogota, Columbia, in October, Peter, Chuck and actor Aaron Kincaid were bused to the remote area where the filming was to take place. They stayed at the Hotel Mesopotamia where Peter recalls that scorpions were not only huge but everywhere. They had to check their boots every morning before going to work. Aaron Kincaid and Peter shared a room but Chuck, as the star, had a private room where he was informed the famous Liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, had slept; Chuck was pretty proud of that. It was a really tough location and there were no phones or television.
Chuck's wife, Kamala Devi, would fly down to the location with all the supplies that Chuck had asked her to bring from the U.S. On one trip, Chuck had asked the other actors what they wanted and it was a supply of bacon as they were just dying to have some. So she brought down a huge slab of bacon and it had to be 10 or 15 pounds of it, Peter recalled. They hit the kitchen and started cooking that bacon right away and consumed it all at one sitting. The food was virtually inedible and besides the scorpions, there was a huge problem with mosquitoes.
Peter also remembers that the Columbian horses were short so Chuck, as tall as he was, arranged to have a taller American horse brought down for him to ride. All the other actors were on the shorter horses and Chuck towered over them on his horse. Chuck, a prankster from the start, took particular pleasure in poking Peter’s horse in the rump to make him move when least expected. When Chuck's agent saw some of the dailies, he called Chuck to say that his make up looked awful, but Aaron Kincaid’s make up was great. Chuck found out that Aaron was doing his own make-up so from that point on Aaron (& roommate Peter) got up an hour early every day so that Aaron could also do Chuck’s make-up. The crew was there over our Thanksgiving Holiday. Of course, the people in Columbia do not celebrate our Thanksgiving; but the hotel, remembering how excited they all were about the bacon, offered to make them a Thanksgiving dinner. It didn’t turn out exactly as Peter, Chuck and the others hoped. Dinner was raw pork and a bowl of popcorn.
There was an accident during the filming. Chuck was crossing a river when his horse fell on him injuring Chuck's shoulder very badly and causing a delay in the filming. They had to fly a doctor in and Chuck had to have cortisone shots in the shoulder so he could finish filming. Peter remembers that the needle used on Chuck's shoulder was as big as a harpoon. As soon as Chuck finished all of his scenes, he had to leave to start filming his next movie, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. In Chuck’s absence, Peter doubled Chuck in a couple of scenes where no close-ups were required. Peter was glad he finally got to ride the big horse. Finally, Peter remembers that Chuck was a great guy, always very friendly and had a wry sense of humor.
I've done many interviews of western stars over the years including John Wayne (the best,) James Arness (still alive and a humble, super good man,) Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, James Garner, and Chuck Connors. ( I missed Randolph Scott, darn it. ) I interviewed Chuck way back in 1973 when he was doing press for Soylent Green. We talked mostly about Soylent Green
and his role as a bad guy. However, I got to ask him about The Rifleman, which he said he loved playing because it offered him a wide range of emotions with a character he grew to know so well. Big guy, big heart. Charlton Heston, who was there that day as well, obviously liked him too." Chuck had the unique ability of playing bad guys and good guys equally well. I loved him in The Big Country and watched The Rifleman every week when I was a kid. In 1996 I met Johnny Crawford in Hollywood. He was appearing as leader of a big band at a nightclub on Los Feliz Boulevard. We talked at great length about Chuck, who was certainly a father figure to him and they remained friends until Chuck's death in 1992."
Arnold Palmer met Chuck at a Pro-Am golf event in 1968 and both men took a liking to the other right away. As a matter of fact, Chuck gave Arnold one of the rifles he used on The Rifleman and Arnold still has that rifle today. He was thrilled when he got it. Here is what Arnold shared with us. "I knew Chuck Connors fairly well and have one of his famous rifles. We were good friends and played a little golf together. I continue to enjoy watching his movies when they appear on television."
Richard Anderson appeared on several episodes of The Rifleman and he was sometimes a good guy and sometimes not. He remembers the set had a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere - due in no small part to Chuck's sense of humor. He said Chuck always knew his lines and was very
generous in his scenes with Richard. Chuck was a good listener. He also moved very well and was good with the props, especially the rifle. Later on, Chuck guest starred on The Six Million Dollar Man with Richard. He told Richard he was looking for a part like this so he wouldn't have to work so hard. A definite misconception on his part according to Richard.
Chuck and Patrick Wayne co-starred in "The Deserter", a 1971 movie that was filmed in Spain. Patrick remembers that when production was halted due to two weeks of rain, it was Chuck who kept everyone's spirits up.
As a young boy, my favorite television show was “The Rifleman.” I not only identified with Johnny Crawford’s character, “Mark,” but I also had great affection for Chuck Connors as “Lucas McCain.” He was the perfect father figure — strong and honest, fair and kind. I was also fascinated with Chuck Connors, the man. I saw him play in a celebrity All-Star exhibition before a Dodger game and was stunned when he hit a long home run over the right field fence, I mean he crushed it! That’s when I learned that Chuck had played briefly with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was an incredibly gifted athlete who also played professional basketball with the Boston Celtics. Not only was he “The Rifleman,” Chuck was also a sports star. He instantly became my hero. Chuck had appeared in two films written by my father, “Hot Rod Girl” and “Death in Small Doses” so I asked my Dad if he could introduce me to my hero. A few weeks later, I went with my father to Four Star studios and we visited “The Rifleman” set. We watched them shoot a fight scene and after it was finished, Chuck came over and visited with us for a few minutes. I just remember how nice he was and that I was thrilled that he shook my hand — real hard!
Fast-forward five years — I’m cast to Guest Star in an episode of a new series, “Arrest and Trial,” starring Chuck and Ben Gazzara. The episode was written by my father, the one and only time I got to act in one of my Dad’s scripts. I was no longer a kid, but I was still intimidated working with my hero, Chuck, the first day. He quickly put me
at ease and made me feel comfortable. Chuck was great to work with. Not only was he a talented and amazingly gifted actor, he was so friendly, giving, and funny. I had quite a few scenes with him and we got to know one another between takes. I shared with him that I had seen him hit the home run in the Celebrity All-Star game. I remember he got a big smile on his face and said, "I really got a hold of that one." He was so wonderful to me that whole week. I will never forget the fun we had and will always treasure the fact that my imaginary hero turned out to be a real hero. I never saw Chuck again, but I do remember how sad I was when I heard he had died. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
"Some years ago, while researching the Newport News Daily Press archives on microfilm at my local library, I ran across a 1946 Newport News Dodger's Team Photo. Chuck Connors was a member of this team. I printed the photo and mailed it to Chuck. A few days later, I received an autographed photo of Chuck in a baseball uniform along with a letter of thanks. It was a thrill to get this from him." Bill Sasser is the coordinator of the Williamsburg Film Festival.
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"I had the opportunity to meet Chuck several times way back in 1980 when his son Jeff's band was the house band at a bar I worked. He would be there to support Jeff on many a night. He was always a gentleman and was always greeted us with a big smile. He would at times hang around after shoot the breeze as if he had known us a long time. His other sons Steve and Mike were often with their Dad. I am grateful for will remember him for the man he was and appreciate the star on the screen."
Although Chuck is no longer with us to share some of his memories, we've asked some of his friends and co-stars to share their memories of working with him. We are very grateful for their generosity in sharing their stories with us.
Photo courtesy of Ken Bording, CW5 Ret. U.S. Army
Photo courtesy of Ken Bording, CW5 Ret. U.S. Army
Joan van Ark
Fred Spanjaard was a 12 year old boy doing some commercial work on TV when he was tapped to be the stunt double for a young boy appearing in an episode of Chuck’s series Cowboy in Africa. The episode was Incident at Derati Wells, and the script called for a young Black boy,
usually played by Gerald Edwards as Samson, to be on a runaway horse calling for help. Chuck's character races to the rescue. However, it wasn't a young Black boy on the horse but it was Fred. Fred was a blonde haired blue-eyed boy who had to wear dark makeup and a turban to look like the character he was doubling. He recounts that he was pretty scared himself and to prevent his falling off, they tied him to the saddle.
He had a great week working on the show and shared this with us: "I must say that Chuck Connors was one of the nicest gentlemen I ever ran into in Hollywood. A kind and thoughtful man, gracious to everyone he encountered no matter what their position, and I was honored to have an opportunity to meet him and work with him, ride a horse much less handle a horse running and jumping over fallen logs."
David is the author of the only biography ever written about Chuck's life, Chuck Connors "The Man Behind the Rifle." Chuck and David became friends and Chuck approved of David doing a biography on him, however Chuck passed away before he actually was able to participate in the work. David has many wonderful memories of his friend, Chuck. He shared some with us for this site. "One of the things I loved about Chuck Connors was his offbeat sense of humor! We would talk on the phone quite often and he always had one of his "characters" ready to play a prank. One day he changed his voice and claimed to be an FBI agent investigating me and another time he was an IRS investigator checking out my faulty tax returns...had me worried for a minute!
Chuck and I were both devoted lifelong baseball fans and we loved to talk about baseball. My Minnesota Twins had won the American League pennant in 1991 and were headed for the World Series to play the Atlanta Braves. I managed to get tickets to the World Series games to be played in Minneapolis and I hoped Chuck would be my guest. It looked like there was a hole in his schedule that October and I extended my invitation through his secretary, Rosie.
The next day, Chuck called to thank me for the kind offer and told me how much he really wanted to come and watch the Twins and Braves battle in the World Series but that travel was getting more difficult for him and he loved sleeping in his own BIG bed, rather than hotel rooms. There was sincere regret in his voice but he declined with apologies.
After the World Series, I sent him a Twins World's Championship baseball cap. Chuck wore it into his local town of Tehachapi and when asked where he had got the cap he told them with a bit of pride: "My friend in Minneapolis sent it to me." Chuck toasted the Twins with a "cold one" and bought a round for a few of his friends at the local watering hole.
And that was Chuck Connors in a nutshell. If he was your friend, you had a true friend indeed. He was a talented man with an impressive body of work in television and the movies but I think Chuck would rather be remembered for the man he was and the fact that he was loved by so many of his fans. And he loved baseball!
I remember what he would always say when asked if he would rather be a great actor or a great baseball player. "You mean, if I could be Clark Gable or Jimmy Stewart, or Stan Musial, 'Stan the Man' of the St. Louis Cardinals?" Chuck would get that wry smile of his and that twinkle in his eyes: "What do you think, man, what do you think?" Then he'd break out that great Chuck Connors' smile and admit: "Musial, of course. If I could have hit like 'Stan the Man'...I'd still be playing ball today."
"Back in the 1980's Steve Connors worked as a broker at Paine Webber in Encino California, as did my wife. During that time Chuck Connors, (he was very proud of Steve) would drop by to visit Steve from time to time. Occasionally, Chuck would bring by a video tape of outtakes. Everything from The Rifleman, Arrest and Trial, Branded, Flipper you name it. He had a wonderful sense of humor amazingly beautiful blue eyes. They weren’t just blue, but a brilliant “steely” blue that lit up the room and he told hysterical stories of his life and filming experiences. One in particular from his Boston Celtics days and a certain jump ball situation that got him thrown from the game, hysterical. He was a good man, one I still think of, and wish his family the best. It was indeed a pleasure to have made his acquaintance. God Bless Chuck Connors."
Photo courtesy of Ken Bording, CW5 Ret. U.S. Army
I remember Chuck's grit in the face of great pain from a pinched back nerve, while on his horse.
Ron Perranoski was an outstanding left-handed pitcher for several teams, especially the LA Dodgers. As a matter of fact, he helped them win the 1963 World Series. Ron was also a friend of Chuck’s and guest starred on an episode of Branded. The episode is called Cowards Step Aside and Ron played one of the bad guys. When I asked him how I could pick him out on the episode, he told me, "It's easy. I'm the one Chuck is chocking." Ron went on to share this memory with us: "It was fun doing the Branded show with Chuck. He was a good sport and made it easy for me. I played golf with him and we were good friends."
Ken Bording, CW5 Ret. U.S. Army
Gigi recalls that she was 16 years old when she read the script for Heller, an episode of The Rifleman and she wanted the role. She did a great job in the show and this is what she remembers. "I remember doing "Heller" because once I read the script, I just HAD to do that role! It was so dramatic! Not a lot of juicy roles for a 16 year old girl but I was eager to do it. I
was very proud of the work. I, of course, had a crush onChuck, he was sooo gorgeous and sooo tall, I came up to his belt buckle!! He was great to work with, totally professional and a very nice person."
Denny Miller starred in an episode of The Rifleman called The Promoter. Denny played a young man who was being exploited by a promoter who was arranging gunfights and betting on the outcome. Mark and Lucas befriend Denny's character and as Denny is helping Lucas load the buckboard, he tells Lucas he could pick up a horse and asks if Lucas wants to see him do it. Lucas declines and continues to load the wagon. However, after rehearsing the way it was written, the first take didn't work out the way it was planned. Denny's character offers to show Lucas how he could lift his horse as scripted but rather than decline the offer, Chuck replied, "Yeah, I'd like to see you do that." It surprised Denny and the entire set erupted in laughter. Years later, Denny worked with Chuck in the series Werewolf and he remembered that both he
and Chuck still laughed about that day on the set of The Rifleman. Denny also commented that Chuck was a terrific athlete.
Alex Cord was gracious enough to share some of his memories of Chuck with us. Alex was an up and coming actor when he was cast in the movie, "Synanon," and worked with Chuck Connors. Alex and Chuck were friends from that meeting until Chuck's death. Alex was one of the close friends who eulogized Chuck at his funeral. Here is what Alex shared about his friend, Chuck Connors.
"Our initial meeting as co-cast members playing characters vehemently antagonistic to each other in SYNANON quickly blossomed into a treasured friendship. I had the bittersweet honor of speaking a eulogy at his funeral. I told this story." "I rode a motorcycle to work most days on location in Santa Monica. Thought I was quite a hotshot on the bike. The coast highway had many good seafood restaurants. I asked Chuck if he would join me for lunch about three miles up the road. My bike was one known as a “crotch rocket.” Being 29 years old and keen to impress Mr. Connors as he climbed on behind me, I said, “Hang on.” I put it in gear and let the clutch fly expecting it to peel rubber and accelerate at breathtaking speed. As the engine roared the bike remained where it was. Good God! Thought I. What is wrong? I turned my head to look at the rear wheel and saw that Chuck had his feet on the ground and was lifting the rear end of the bike off the pavement looking at me with his 64 teeth dazzling smile. A memory I will never forget"
Gregory Walcott was actually in competition with Chuck for the role of Lucas McCain, and he was very disappointed when he didn't get the role. However, he said after he saw Chuck in the role he knew it was perfect for Chuck. Gregory guest starred in two episodes of The Rifleman: The Angry Gun and Tension. He remembers that in The Angry Gun he and Chuck had a fight scene where Chuck is knocked down a steep hill. At the point of the fall, Chuck stood on the edge of the hill, ready to do the stunt himself. The director yelled, "No Chuck! We have a stuntman to do that!" Chuck shrugged, stepped back and let the stuntman take the fall. The director yelled, "Cut and print." Just about that time, Chuck jumped over the edge and rolled down the hill. The director was exasperated, "Why did you do that? You could have hurt yourself!" Chuck shrugged nonchalantly and said innocently, "It's no big deal."
Gregory feels that Chuck in his good natured way, allowed the stuntman to do this stunt to get nice stunt pay. Although Chuck appeared stern in the character of Lucas McCain, in real life he was quite playful and a jokester. Gregory remembers an amusing incident at the Golden Boot Awards. A friend of his walked with his wife over to Chuck's table and the man said, "Chuck, my wife is in love with you," To which Chuck stood up, picked his wife up and said loudly, "Boy, do I love your wife!" Typical of Chuck, who was beloved by the crew and has many admirers.
It is with great pleasure that I write you this note regarding the late, great Chuck Connors. Having grown up in the 60's & 70's in Ohio and later New York watching the Rifleman was my greatest childhood memory. I wish that my son's would of been able to watch it growing up as well but it wasn't really an option. The main reason for my email is to share my connection to Chuck through my grandfather and to give everyone who visits this site more information about Chuck's baseball career.
My grandfather, Dr. Julio Sanguily, was a Cuban doctor and the owner of one of the four Cuban professional baseball teams, (The Almendares, "Scorpions") from 1947-1961 when Fidel Castro stole the team from him. In 1948 Chuck, listed on the roster as Kevin Connors, played first base for my grandfather and they won the winter league championship. There is a photo on the OCC site of the team with Chuck in the middle row just left center, I wish both men were alive today just so I could hear the stories. It's such a nice memory to have, the stories my grandfather used to tell me about people who played for him, Chuck, Tommy Lasorda, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays and the fact that he also worked with Branch Ricki to help bring Jackie Robinson into baseball. So I hope this information can be useful to you or the site because Chuck Connor's was my hero as a kid and we need more people and shows like his in our children's lives today.
I loved working with Chuck Connors. He was a terrific intuitive actor. He had a great, honest, natural quality that made it a joy to play scenes with him. As the star of the series he was warm, humble and had a keen seen sense of humor which are rare qualities to find in such a
I could tell he was loved by the crew that worked with him all season. I think it's wonderful that you have set up a tribute to Chuck, a truly beautiful man both inside and out.
With my best wishes, Julie Adams
I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas in the 50s and 60s and loved the cowboys. Eventually became an entertainment writer for the Tennessean in Nashville for 31 years; and along the way got into compiling entertainment cookbooks such as the All-American Cowboy Cookbook, which features a few recipes from Chuck Connors. I interviewed him one day at the Opryland Hotel and got him to autograph my Cowboy in Africa and Rifleman lunchboxes. He was super nice, very funny. When we finished the interview in a lounge/restaurant and were walking out, two older women came up to us and said to Connors; "Sir, we know you're somebody famous but we just can't remember your name. Who are you?" He held up his big hand with a gold ring on it which bore two diamonds and a rifle etched across it. One woman took a look and said, "You're Clint Walker!" Connors said, yup. you got me. They then asked for his autographs and he signed two pieces of paper with the name of Clint Walker and the women went away happily with proof they had met Clint Walker. Connors later sent me a thank you note for my article and he also had his son Jeff take a photo of us together and he mailed that to me as well. A great cowboy memory, Ken Beck.
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"Along with my dad, Chuck Connors was my childhood hero. "The Rifleman is still one of my favorite shows because of its moral content. (I just wish that the TV people would put on shows like that now.) I had the good fortune to get to meet him in person in Dallas. He was gracious enough to let a photographer take a picture with my five year old son and I. Even in loafers, he towered above me. He was larger than life. "
I will never forget the day I met Chuck Connors. It was some time in the summer of 1991 or 1992. I had taken a ride on my Goldwing Motorcycle down to Santa Monica pier, I parked my bike stowed my gear and turned around to walk towards the pier when I saw Chuck Connors walking down the pier with a video crew. I thought wow there's Chuck Connors, he had long grey hair but I recognized him in second. Well as much as I wanted to meet him I did not want to interrupt what he was doing, so I left him alone and proceeded with walking around and eating lunch. About an hour had gone by and I decided to leave as I had to go to work (I worked swing shift then) I walked back to the parking lot where my Goldwing was and there was Chuck sitting on my bike!
I walked up to him and he said " hi is this your bike?" I responded yes. He told me it was a nice bike and proceeded to get off of it. He stood there and talked with me for a while but I was star struck and I can't remember what exactly we talked about I would imagine it was about motorcycles though. I will never forget at one point as we were talking I accidentally stepped on his foot. I said oh I'm sorry and he just went on talking like it did not even happen. I also recall looking to my right and seeing one of his video crew squatting down and shooting video of us talking. Well it ended all too soon and I remember him saying God Bless as we parted. I can not help thinking and smiling as I watched the opening to the Rifle Man show, you know after he fires the shots he gives that don't mess with me look to the camera, I would tell my wife that he looks that way because I stepped on his foot. Wow, what a great down to earth man, I will never forget him!