Thursday, April 7, 2016

Interview with Roberta Shore: From Disney to The Virginian

Fifty years after she put her acting career on hiatus, Roberta Shore still draws crowds at fan conventions. That will happen when your most famous role was playing Lee J. Cobb's daughter on an iconic television series. It helps, too, if you starred with Annette Funicello in classic Disney fare such as The Shaggy Dog (1959) and The Mickey Mouse Club serial "Annette." I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Shore at the 2016 Williamsburg Film Festival.

Café:  How did you get the part of Betsy Garth in The Virginian?

Roberta Shore at the 2016
Williamsburg Film Festival.
Roberta Shore:  I was under contract to Universal Studios. They used to hire a bunch of young actors and actresses in case they needed a small part. I was originally hired for a new TV series that Bob Cummings was making. It was horrible and only lasted about two weeks. From there, they put me in The Virginian.

Café:  Did you know it was going to be a regular part?

RS:  I did. But I wasn't very good with horses. I had one lesson on a horse before we started the series. They had to get me a double because I was not a good horsewoman.

Café:  Were there unique challenges to filming a 90-minute weekly series consisting of 30 episodes a year?

RS:  Sometimes, we would be doing two or three shows at a time because we were only allowed five or six days to shoot them and that didn't include the weekends. There were times when I would run onto one set and say "Hello, Daddy" and then go to the next stage, change shirts, and do another scene. It was very challenging. We put in a lot of long, long hours.

Roberta with Lee J. Cobb.
Café:  What was it like working with Lee J. Cobb?

RS:  I loved him. He was my favorite. He was professional, kind, and witty. He could just look at me and make me laugh. I really loved him as a father image.

Café:  How well did the cast get along off screen?

RS:  Everybody got along just fine. I was the youngest. I was 18 or 19. So, they teased me a lot because they thought I was very naive. I wasn't as naive as they thought I was (laughs). But I played along that I was.

Café:  Do you have a favorite episode?

RS:  Probably the Robert Redford episode that I did ("The Evil That Men Do"). He was right out of Broadway and I think it was one of the first TV shows he had done. He was just really nice. Betsy had a crush on his character, but he was an ex-con. He was a bad boy, so it didn't work out.

Roberta and Annette.
Café:  What was it like playing the "mean girl" opposite Annette Funicello in  The Mickey Mouse Club serial "Annette"?

RS:  It was kind of fun, but I really got a lot of nasty fan mail for a couple of years following the series. I was really known as a snob.

Café:  You also appeared with Annette in The Shaggy Dog. How well did the two of you get along?

RS:  We got along fine. Everybody did.

Café:  In addition to The Virginian, you also appeared in TV series such as Wagon Train, Maverick, and The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. Which of those was the most rewarding experience for a young actress?

Ricky Nelson and Roberta Shore.
RS:  Probably Ozzie & Harriet, because Ricky Nelson was the most gorgeous human being on Earth (laughs). And nice, really nice. The Nelsons were a nice family and it was a fun show.

Café:  Why did you decide to retire from acting after you left The Virginian?

RS:  I decided to get married. I moved from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and never wanted to come back. I had a couple of children and I have five grandchildren. Having grandchildren and children is the best part of my life.

Café:  Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to share with our readers?

RS:  On the 22nd of April, we're doing Cowboy Up for Vets in Swanton, Ohio. The whole Virginian cast is going to be there. There's Jim (Drury), Gary (Clarke), Randy (Boone), Clu Gulager, Sara (Lane), Diane (Roter), Don Quine, and L.Q. Jones. It will be a really fun festival. From what I understand, I believe it will be Jim Drury's last festival. We're all getting old (laughs).

Café:  Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me.

RS:  You're welcome.


  1. What a pleasure it was to read your interview with Roberta Shore.

    I've never seen that TV Guide cover before and as a huge fan of "The Virginian" it was a real treat.

  2. I agree, that TV GUIDE cover is gorgeous! I loved this show growing up and was delighted to read this interview with Roberta.

    I often see Clu Gulagher at classic film screenings here in the L.A. area which always gives me a thrill. :)

    Best wishes,

  3. Great piece! I've been a fan since I saw the "Annette" serial on Disney Channel's "Vault Disney."

  4. What a sweet interview! I enjoyed reading that one of Miss Shores's favorite people to work with was Lee J. Cobb. I hope the cast of "The Virginian" has a great reunion in a few weeks and can enjoy reminiscing about their experiences with Mr. Cobb.

  5. How nice to see Roberta Shore still active at conventions! I grew up watching Shore as "Franceska", the little French girl, in The Shaggy Dog and as I got older I was amazed to see just how many television shows she appeared in. For years I thought she was a French actress!

  6. I began watching The Virginian not too long ago and I fell in love with Roberta Shore :) I searched and I came across with this interview. I am so happy knowing that she is still active. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I plan to watch 8 seasons of The Virginian and will brag to all my friends about it.

  7. I have just watched the Virginian on UK tv so looked up Roberta shore. I prefer the actors from this time, LJ Cobb was fantastic specially in 12 Angry men, I bet Roberta had a great time working with these actors and I bet she has some great stories to tell.

  8. I don't know why but I just watched the Annette series. I don't remember that seeing that series when I watched the Mickey Mouse Club. I assume it was on there. I forget just how young those actors were. Tim Consodine was the only one old enough to drive. Roberta was just 15 in 1958 when that series was on. Yet we see her driving in a car. Maybe they used a double but it didn't look like it. The woman who played Mrs. Consodine was going into his senior year in the show. The woman who played his mother was 54 at the time. I suppose she could have had a child at 37. But she looked like she was 70. She played Mrs Rayburn on Leave it to Beaver.

  9. after adoring and watching her for years on INSP reruns,I saw her in close-up, when her and the judge go to Chicago. I decided to find out who this beautiful little doll is. I was confident that she'd still be beautiful, and I was right! she's considerably older than I, which is a bit of a relief, as I'm not a cradle robber. love you, Roberta. best to you, going forward.

  10. I like the Virginian show and all the actors and actresses I watch it every day* but have not seen or heard of the other programs until now when I read about Roberta I need a new Sky Tv box but don't want to get it because I will lose all my recorded programs, including the Big Valley which I love, especially Heath