The passing of Mitch Ryan occurred recently but in the midst of such harrowing headlines as Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the stubborn pandemic and record-setting inflation, the death of a veteran character actor may not get much media attention. However, to this writer it certainly bears attention as I got to know the man, albeit briefly, and found him to be warm, personable and most of all, one hell of an actor. My experience with the man had been blogged about previously here, as well as here,
I was extremely fortunate to get him to go on the record with me about his friendship with Lee Marvin as he proved to be a most valuable source concerning Marvin’s final days, having visited him in the hospital on the last day of his life, all detailed here in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
His passing at the ripe old age of 88 has been chronicled sufficiently on entertainment news websites, citing his work in such films Letha Weapon(1987) and 1960s TV’s “Dark Shadows.” However, I thought he was hysterically funny as the deadpan dad of Greg on TV’s “Dharma & Greg.”
However, the performance I felt was his personal best was the tragically poignant ‘Shorty’ in the criminally underrated Monte Walsh(1970).
(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.
Here’s a spoiler alert warning if you haven’t seen the film but if you have, consider this a rarely known anecdote defining the brilliance of both Marvin and Ryan. The film’s finale consists of former friends Monte (Marvin) and Shorty (Ryan) facing down each other in a gunfight for Shorty’s murdering of Chet (Jack Palance). According to Ryan, it was Marvin’s idea that just before they were to draw on each other, Ryan should drop his arms and open his hands, as an admission of guilt for killing Chet. Director William Fraker clearly liked the idea and did a close-up of Ryan’s hands a split second before Marvin draws on him. What follows is an even more poignant moment as Marvin cradles the dying Ryan in his arms and gives a touching requiem to his fallen comrade. See it again with this new perspective and it just might get even better than you may have remembered it.
And so with the passing of Mitch Ryan the world has again become a little less interesting place. Thank you, Mitch, for your time, generous nature, but most of all your extremely impressive talent.
(L-R) My girlfriend Barbara poses with Mitch Ryan, her hero from “Dark Shadows” at my book signing at Larry Edmunds. Right after I took this, photo, Ryan kissed her cheek (!)
Clint Walker’s passing occurred a year ago and as such, karma had a say in such things. I was browsing at a used bookstore a day or two ago and came across a copy of SCREEN WORLD 1959, the annual journal of films on a given year. I was missing that particular one so I picked it up, opened it to peruse and came across this page first…..
First page I came to in SCREEN WORLD 1959.
Pretty amazing timing considering I came across it almost a year to the day of Clint Walker’s passing. Consequently, he’s been on my mind a lot, lately. At the time of Clint Walker’s passing last year, I did blog about it. Since then, some interesting things have transpired.
To start with, I was most fortunate to meet Walker the first time at the the Beverly Garland Hotel (GREAT lady, by the way) at one of her Hollywood Collector Shows back in the 1990s. He agreed to be interviewed for what eventually would become Lee Marvin Point Blank and his stories on making The Dirty Dozen (1967) and the follow-up of sorts, Small Soldiers (1998), were priceless! His anecdotes on Trini Lopez on both projects are unintentionally hilarious.
Clint Walker tangles with Lee Marvin in THE DIRTY DOZEN.
A few years back I had the idea of interviewing him again, but this time it would be about his entire career for Filmfax Magazine. I discovered the best way to contact him was to connect with Deb Elsie, who handled his online presence. Once we spoke and she then contacted him, I took no small amount of pride, in this exchange from her: “He told me to give you his phone number and in all the years I’ve known him, he’s never told me to give someone his phone number. …..Dwayne, I’m super excited about this!!! Especially since it wasn’t that long ago Clint said he wasn’t interested in doing any more interviews. I know he trusts you and so anything you need, I’m here to help.”
The interview went well, I sent it to Filmfax, and liked the response it garnered upon publication. When it came out, I received much praise from his fans via social media and something I never expected. Author and historian Jeff Thompson read it and contacted me about something Clint Walker had said concerning a TV-move he made for Dan Curtis. Curtis, the creator of the cult TV show Dark Shadows (among MANY other things), was chronicled in several books by Thompson who had not known Walker’s input on the project entitled, Scream of the Wolf, that is until he read my interview. He contacted me….
Original TV Guide ad for Dan Curtis’ SCREAM OF THE WOLF (1974).
“I am finishing up the revised second edition of my first book THE TELEVISION HORRORS OF DAN CURTIS for McFarland. I would like to quote your interview in my book thusly:
Jeff Thompson’s original work on Dan Curtis to be updated and released later this year with quotes from your truly’s interview with Clint Walker.
In a 2017 Filmfax interview, Clint Walker (1927-2018) revealed that he almost did not get the part. He explained, They wanted Jack Palance for it, but he wanted more money, and they didn’t want to pay it. So I said to my agent, “Let me talk to them.” I wanted to be the heavy. I said, “If you get Jack Palance, he’s a very fine actor and all, but people are going to know immediately that he’s the bad guy. With me, they’re not going to think of me in those terms until the last minute.” [Scream of the Wolf] was interesting.”
It just goes to prove you never know how one’s work may be perceived, or for that matter, live on beyond inception. I look forward to seeing Jeff’s book, and when it comes to work living on beyond inception, few have done so as well as the canon of work of Clint Walker. He was often a good guy on small and big screen alike but more importantly, he was a good guy in real life. Farewell Cheyenne.
Clint Walker as Cheynne Bodie, The way he would want to be remembered. R.I.P.