Monday, November 02, 2009

THE GOSSIP COLUMNIST  ISBN  978-0-615-37758-2
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites

The Hollywood Star also did actor profiles as well as specialty articles, autopsy reports, movie reviews and much more than gossip. We did a few nostalgia items as well. The following was a short item about a cowboy actor of the late forties, and early fifties. My favorite cowboy actor.

Sunset Carson was born in Plainview, Texas, November 12, 1927. (When this interview took place he was 49 years old). He was in motion pictures at the old Republic Studios in Hollywood when he was 16 years old. At that time he was 6', 4". As he aged he grew to be 6', 6". He was surely the tallest star to ride across the silver screen. Prior to his film success at 16, he had traveled with rodeos and had 
competed in 40 rodeos by the time he was "12 years old." Since he was tall for his age, some fibbing had got him into the competition. He won every known riding contest that was possible for a teenager to enter, bronco busting, bull-dogging, calf roping and trick riding. He was so good he was invited to join the circus by Tom Mix.

After spending some time as a featured attraction with the Tom Mix Circus, he got itchy feet and decided to go to South America and try his luck with Argentine cowboys who are considered the finest in the world. Sunset was so good that he won the "all around champion cowboy of South America for two consecutive years, 1941-1942."

When Sunset returned to the States, he enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse. From a newspaper clipping that had his picture, he landed a screen test for the memorable part of Texas in the Sol Lesser production, "Stage Door Canteen." Republic Pictures was quick to sign him to a contract. But, before he was able to do much acting at Republic, he did a stint for Uncle Sam. After service, he only weighed 150 pounds and the studio told him to put on some weight.

Sunset was disillusioned and only got a few bit parts in Hopalong Cassidy movies. Warner Bros. became interested in him but Republic quickly stepped in and put him to work in a series of westerns. He was soon rated number 8 in the top ten cowboy stars.

Sunset left the movies for a while and traveled with the Clyde Beatty Circus. He also did personal appearances on television shows. He then completed a personal tour of the world and had five Command Performances to his credit for performing for the King and Queen of Siam. In Tokyo, Sunset did a series of charity shows for typhoon victims. His fan club numbered over 20 million kids. He spent three years in Spain, Egypt, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hawaii, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Mexico and all of the 48 states.

Sunset was living at Granite Falls, North Carolina when I interviewed him via phone. He was planning on producing and starring in a series of westerns at Carson City where he had built 29 buildings which included the Carson Palace Saloon. There was to be live blue grass music on Friday nights, country western square dancing on Saturday nights; Gospel singing and Sunset Carson's vintage movies on Sunday.

SUNSET CARSON standing at the end of Carson City after the construction was nearly completed. Nobody living near that area today knows anything about it. But, Sunset wasn't lying.

The movie he intended on filming there was called, "Hell Road of Black Horse, " for Columbia Pictures. Johnny Cash's "Blue Train," theme song was to be used in the movie and John Wayne was going to introduce it, with Sunset playing the lead.

Carson City is located at Chimney Rock, North Carolina, (where ever the hell that is). And during the Summer there was to be wild west shows with trick shooting exhibitions, etc. (This didn't mean shooting the "tricks" we know here in Hollywood-smile).

Sunset is a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Kentucky and in 1947 he finished in second place behind Gene Autry in a national poll of the most popular cowboys.

Carson City was built on the side of a mountain 1, 490 feet high, has a 1,600 seat chair lift taking tourists to the top. There's a 300 foot waterfall and a 3,000 foot clift behind the town.

If you are like me, you can remember seeing this handsome guy during the late forties in those B westerns that were so popular. He was the most handsome western actor around. I remember the first time I saw him and when he looked towards the camera and smiled, I flipped.....and I was just a kid! But, he was the type of person that hits you instantly, (like Colin Farrell), both men and women and "young boys," liked him. I would sit through his movies over and over. I wasn't the only one fond of him. Prior to talking to him many people were asking, "Whatever happened to Sunset Carson?" Well, I wondered too and after watching the Tom Snyder Show with Don" Red" Barry and Chill Wills and hearing them mention Sunset, I decided to trace him down, and I did.

He had some personal problems here in Hollywood. He was a very heavy drinker and was once shot in the stomach by a gal who was in love with him, (crazy way to show affection). Sunset had a son and two daughters and was a grandfather for a fourth time. I'm sorry he passed away before I got the chance to meet him. But he is still remembered.

Sunset planned on having a Cowboy Convention there once a year, where tourists and visitors would see personalities like, Ben Johnson, Don" Red" Barry, Rory Calhoun, Pancho, Chill Wills, and Sunset's side-kick, Frog and many more. Now most of those he had wanted to appear there, are also gone. So sad.

(Note: When I published this story in the Hollywood Star it was from a conversation with Sunset and from publicity material he had mailed to me regarding his tourist attraction. I recently tried to phone Carson City at Chimney Rock, North Carolina. I phoned the Sheriff's department, etc., and nobody knew anything about Sunset's cowboy city on the side of a mountain. They didn't even remember who Sunset Carson was? Whether or not it was completed, or even started, I guess nobody will ever know. But, it sounded like a good idea to me. I only wish I had been able to meet him before he passed on.) The above photo shows it was for real. What happened to it?

 Sunset at the age of 49.

 I found this ad.  Says Sunset Carson and Calamity Jane on each show.

( Robert Mitchum was a male hustler.