Call Me LUCKY A. ‘1.xart in Hollywood ot ktkti, 133 , Robert Hinkle li: tir Foosr.fml Swveux. Jr Sulu NCI 1 it International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower neck our site for monthly calendar REVIEW Hollywood, Texas BY JOSH ROSENBLATT Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood By Robert Hinkle and Mike Ferris University of Oklahoma 273 pages, $24.95 Shadows 6, Light: Journeys With Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood By Gary Kent Dalton Publishing 400 pages, $21.95 Robert Hinkle’s career started in earnest in the spring of 1955, when the selfdescribed “two-bit” actor from Brownfield, Texas, got a phone call from the Famous Artists Agency asking him to sit down with George Stevens, the director of Shane, A Place in the Sun, and Gunga Din. Up to that point, Hinkle was one of thousands of extras and B-movie stuntmen wandering the back lots of Hollywood looking for jobs on cheaply made Westerns and war pictures. His first break came in 1952 when he doubled for the star of a low-budget rodeo movie called Bronco Buster, a role that gave a kid raised “dang near spitting distance from Lubbock” a taste of life in the movies. With his wife by his side and armed with little more than “guts and BS,” Hinkle headed off to Hollywood and brought some of Texas with him. The early years were spent as “Cowboy A” or “Cowboy Number 3” on TV shows and in Republic Studio B pictures. Then came the phone call. Stevens was directing an adaptation of Edna Ferber’s cattle-and-oil epic Giant and wanted to see Hinkle. Hinkle was sure Stevens wanted him to star as Jett Rink. He put on his cowboy “uniform” and drove to Warner Brothers. Hinkle didn’t end up playing Rink. James Dean did. Stevens wasn’t interested in Hinkle’s acting ability at all; he wanted Hinkle’s voice. Aiming to make his film as Texan as he could, the director had decided his star, Rock Hudson, needed to speak with a real Texas accent. The only real Texan anyone could think of was Hinkle. In his memoir, Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood, Hinkle brings us back to Hollywood in the 195os, when a true Texan was apparently an exotic creature. Hinkle was smart enough to harness that exoticism and combine it with his natural-born abilities as a storyteller. He helped sell Hollywood on the idea of the largerthan-life Texan, and convinced the right people that only he could help Hudson, Dean and Elizabeth Taylor find their inner swagger. It’s a gift for self-aggrandizement that hasn’t gone away, as Call Me Lucky is nothing if not a tale of bluster and outsized romanticism. It’s also a tale that will sound familiar to anyone who knows there’s nothing Texans love more than talking about the thousand and one things they assume set Texas apart from the rest of the world. Nowhere did Hinkle’s skills as an anthropological guide come in more handy than with Dean, a Method actor who wasn’t just interested in dressing or talking like a Texan but wanted to become a Texan 24 hours a day for as long as Giant was shooting \(Stanislaysky meets Sam the Eliza Doolittle to his Henry Higgins, a study in cultural transformation. Hinkle taught the young star how to speak, how to dress, how to hunt rabbit, how to ride a horse, how to mosey, even how to play country songs on the guitar. Does this “dialect coach” occasionally let his own B.S. get the better of him? Did Hinkle really supply the famous line Jett used on Leslie to drive Bick into a rage \(“You always did look pretty. You pretty suggest the hand gesture Dean would use to refuse Bick’s offer to buy him out in one of the most powerful scenes in the movie? Who can say? But there’s no doubting the impact Hinkle had on Dean and the movie. Giant practically oozes Texas. Call Me Lucky lies in sharp contrast to another new book about a man who moved to Hollywood with hopes of cinematic glory, but who ended up a stuntman and a B-movie actor before finding his place in the movie business. Gary Kent’s Shadows and Light, for all its Hinkle-like fascination with oddball characters, movie stars and Hollywood thrills, couldn’t be further in tone from the light-hearted, slap-on-the-back, good-ol’-boy folk-isms of Call Me Lucky. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 30, 2009
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