(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Remembering Eddie Dew
|Special thanks to Victor Staggs for the following remembrances of Eddie Dew and his family.|
|Our family lived across the street from him in Burbank, California. Our address was 620 North Florence Street.|
Eddie's house was a Spanish style home with a turret entrance and a stained glass window looking out the front. It was on a double lot, and the part not occupied by the house was devoted to a fish pond, a putting green, an aviary, and a collection of exotic fruit trees - pomegranate, pineapple guava, orange, etc.
I don't know much about his early Hollywood roles, because I and my twin brother were born in 1940. After WWII, Eddie and his family (Eddie Jr. and wife Mary) were in a traveling production of "The Red Mill", and returned from their odyssey in a new streamlined Hudson automobile, in 1948 I think.
When Eddie directed the "Living Bible" series, he shot a scene of Jesus Christ meeting John the Baptist at the River Jordan, and everyone he knew got to be extras, including our family. The location was the Kern River outside of Bakersfield. My keenest memory is that children had to go barefoot, and only the adults got sandals with their costumes. So we had to walk on very hot sand with stickers in it. The real high point was the catered lunch.
Eddie brought that episode and one or two others over to our house and showed them to us on his projector. He was always friendly and outgoing, and eager to show off his work. He had a great baritone voice and was the narrator in the movie.
The actor who played Jesus Christ in the series had the stage name of "Sid Christy" (see footnote). We got to meet him too. When Eddie shot the story of Salome the dancer, he used the Passion Play location just off Highland Blvd. in Cahuenga Pass. It made a very convincing set. His wife played Mary Magdelene, and also used the stage name "Mary", so she was easy to remember.
He made one film for Henry J. Kaiser, and had to fly to Hawaii to see Henry J. and find out what kind of film Henry wanted. It was an action-romance film set in Hawaii, with Kaiser's cars appearing in certain roles: the Darrin sports car, a Jeep, and the full-sized Kaiser sedan. It was to run on television to popularize Hawaii and the Kaiser automobiles.
Eddie brought this film over to show us, and we boys thought it was pretty neat. Eddie had a big time telling us about Hawaii, which was considered an exotic destination in those days, and what it was like to make a movie there. I have no idea what the title of this movie was.
In one scene, the fair damsel gets stranded in a rowboat out in a shallow bay when the tide runs out, and the hero must drive out in his snorkel-equipped Jeep to rescue her. Eddie said that the actor didn't even do a rehearsal. He opened the hood and switched the carburetor over to breathe through the snorkel, and then drove out on the coral with much of the jeep underwater. When he drove back onshore with the girl inside, water and fish spilled out all of the door openings.
Eddie did many of the special effects for the "Living Bible" series in his garage and backyard, namely the miniatures and stop-action sequences. He also had a Moviola editor in the garage.
One of his hobbies was leatherworking, and he made two fine tooled leather belts and gave one each to my twin brother and I.
One thing I learned about Eddie and his wife was how much enthusiasm and gusto they put into their movie careers. This must be typical of other actors and movie creators. They do this because they are passionate about it, and they wouldn't want to do anything else.
Eddie's son, Eddie Mac, grew to be a red-haired person, 6' 7" tall or so. He was the center on his high school basketball team. He became a historian and spent his career as a college professor at an East Coast institution.
Mary and Eddie moved from Burbank to Studio City in their later years, and sold their house. It was split into two lots, and a second house was built on the then-vacant part. I am sure the Moorish garden of Allah is no more.
Eddie was one of those who realized the role of movie films in the new medium of television, and worked behind the scenes to make the transition between the old world of matinee movies in neighborhood theaters, and the new reality of the home TV screen.
|Thanks also to Edward M. Dew, Jr. for remembrances of his family and father, western film hero Eddie Dew.|
|I was delighted to have the information you sent regarding my father's cowboy career at Republic and Universal. It was a pleasure to read, and the pictures were wonderful to see.
Regarding the puzzle over his departure from Republic, I really don't have any information for you - I was eight at the time and not privy to my folks' discussions. I do remember many an evening when we prepared photos for fans - with his signature, my mother's addressing, and my stuffing the envelopes. I can also add the surprising discovery that while I was teaching in Merida, a mountain town in Venezuela (in 1982), a postal clerk recognized my name and asked if I was any relation to Eddie Dew. He had been the projectionist in the local theatre forty years before. Wow! What a memory! The same was true of my grandmother's nurse in Lewistown, Illinois, some ten years later. I do remember watching my dad's films both in Hollywood (at the Hitching Post) and in little Lewistown, where such films provided one of the few escapes for local people.
One thing to add to your overview of his life is that his singing voice was so good (shown in a couple of westerns) that he landed better paying roles in a series of musicals put on by the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Company. He performed in "Rose Marie", "Desert Song", "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "Finian's Rainbow", and "The Red Mill". The latter was taken to Broadway where he spent three years in New York and in the road company. (I had quite an adventure as we lived out of a trunk all over America.) He was offered the lead in "Annie Get Your Gun", but turned it down to provide Mom and me with a more stable life back in our home in Burbank, California. He continued to perform in local musicals, but also he tried his luck again in films and TV.
With his friend Nelson Leigh, he made a series films on the Life of Christ. It was all done on a shoestring, but they were really good films. (I see them occasionally as throwaways on TV.) In 1953, Henry Kaiser offered him a job making films for his Kaiser Permanente project (forerunner of our HMOs) and he spent several months in Hawaii with Mr. Kaiser. (I was in college by this time).
From that work he landed the SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON series.
Before his death, he directed perhaps as many as 36 or more episodes of the Lutheran series THIS IS THE LIFE. That, too, is a fine piece of work. The stories were tight, the religious element was downplayed, and the actors were among the best Hollywood could offer. Another surprise for me was to be doing research work in Suriname (the former Dutch Guiana) where I found that THIS IS THE LIFE was a regular on their TV. (Actually, it was offered free to any stations interested in it.)
I was befriended by many thanks to my name and my father's good quality work. I miss him a lot. He became a first rate grandfather before his death (with a brain tumor). Fortunately, I have the recorded score of "Finian's Rainbow" and can listen to his rich and solid voice. One last anecdote. At Pomona College, dad was the champion in the hammerthrow. His league record was broken a few years later by a student at Redlands University: John Raitt. Their careers had more than a few parallels!
Yes, the Staggs Family were our neighbors in Burbank when I was growing up. And "up" it was, to 6' 7", which put me about six inches above my Dad who was already pretty tall. My two sons each have a big full color poster of one or another of Dad's movies.
All the best,
Ed Dew, Jr.