Don Collier: I was just an extra in Fort Apache and had no dialogue. I met John Ford, but didn't get a chance to know him. I did get to work with Victor McLaglen and what a treat that was. Victor was dear to my heart. I watched him as a kid in the 1930s and I still remember him in that movie where he grabs the machine gun (The Lost Patrol). I loved him in The Quiet Man, too.
|Don Collier at the 2016|
Williamsburg Film Festival.
DC: It was quick. I did one little scene with John Wayne in El Dorado. My part was shot in the Paramount studios, while John Wayne was in Tucson. Jimmy Caan climbed up on a ladder in the studio and delivered the Duke's lines to me. Duke filmed his lines down in Arizona. We were 500 miles apart. That was my experience with Howard Hawks.
Café: What was it like working with John Wayne on The Undefeated, and The War Wagon?
|Collier in The War Wagon.|
Café: What was the premise of your 1960-62 Western TV series Outlaws?
DC: The stories were supposed to be from the outlaws' point of view. It was a good show. The second season, the producers brought in Slim Pickens and he made it a lot better. The first year has Barton MacLane. I remember when he was a lead heavy at Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s. It was a pleasure just to meet the guy. He played the marshal and there were two deputies. Jock Gaynor was one of them. He couldn't do the job and they fired him. He wore his hat rolled up on one side, like Australians sometimes do. They hired another guy and he never worked out. So, the second year, they brought in Slim Pickens and Bruce Yarnell, who was about 6' 7". He was a singer NBC had hired, hoping to put him on a variety show. They had no place for him, so they gave him to us because we needed a deputy. I tell some stories about Bruce in my one-man show. We did Outlaws for two years. NBC "owed" producer Ralph Edwards (This Is Your Life) an hour of prime time. So, in 1963, he wanted NBC to show his TV series The Wide Country (about rodeo competitors). NBC only owned two series: Bonanza and Outlaws. Bonanza was pretty well rated, so NBC decided to cancel our show for the Ralph Edwards one. The Wide Country was bad. I think it lasted one year. After Outlaws, I did several other TV Westerns like Wagon Train, The Virginian, and Gunsmoke. I did The War Wagon and then I joined The High Chaparral in 1967.
|Leif Erickson, Collier, and Cameron|
Mitchell in The High Chaparral.
DC: That is absolutely true. I never cared for Cam too much. He was good at what he did and he could improvise, but he was always trying to steal scenes from you. I never thought that was right. You don't tread on somebody else's feet. He was kind of a loud mouth and a slob. Of course, a lot of us were slobs. He accused me of wanting his part (Buck Cannon). Physically, I would have made a better brother to Leif Erickson than Cam did. But I was tickled to death with the part I had (ranch foreman Sam Butler). I didn't have too much dialogue and could spend more time in the bar. We had good times on that show.
Café: I've read where it was a pretty hard shoot because of the Arizona temperatures.
DC: There's a remedy for that heat. It happens every Friday and it's called payday. If the heat wasn't tolerable, you could quit. So, even if it was 120 degrees, we smiled and kept going.
Café: The High Chaparral was a different Western in that it featured a multi-ethnic family.
|Pernell Roberts and Collier on Bonanza.|
Café: How did you come to join the cast of The High Chaparral?
DC: I had done Outlaws and several Bonanza episodes on NBC. I knew all the guys there. A lot of the crew from Outlaws went with Bonanza after we folded, including our production manager Kent McCray. So, when they got around to casting The High Chaparral, Kent suggested me for Sam Butler. They asked me if I wanted to do the part and I said: "You bet."
Café: Other than The High Chaparral, what were some of your favorite roles?
DC: The ones I did with John Wayne on The Undefeated and The War Wagon. That was the top of the heap right there. Once you climbed that mountain, you knew you were as high as you could go. He was a real icon in the business.
Café: You starred with Robert Mitchum in a couple of movies like Five Card Stud. What was he like?
DC: Robert Mitchum was a great actor. I have a lot of respect for that man. He was one of those guys who had a photographic memory. He could look at the script and then throw it away. He knew it. He seldom had to do two takes. He was kind of a loner. He'd socialize with his driver--they'd go out and drink. But he wouldn't join the groups.
Café: Can you tell us about your one-man show?
DC: The one-man show that Penny McQueen convinced me to do is a lot of these stories about all these shows and how I got into the picture business. I'm not going to tell you much about it--because you've got to come and see the show. It's a pretty good hour-and-a-half and audiences get a lot of laughs out of it. There's some serious stuff, too. It's a lot of fun doing it.
Café: What are some of your upcoming appearances?
DC: The High Chaparral reunion is March 17-20. I've got several more shows this years, which are listed on my website (doncollier.com).
Café: Thanks so much for doing this interview.
DC: It was a pleasure, Rick.