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Larry Imber remembers:

(From Old Corral image collection)
Charles Starrett - early 1930s

(Courtesy of Larry Imber)

Above - greetings and a wave from Charles Starrett and his wife Mary. Below are Starrett, his wife Mary and Larry Imber is on the right.

Photos taken March, 1984 at Borrego Springs, California.

Charles and Mary married in 1927.

(Courtesy of Larry Imber)
When I left the service in 1946, I headed for California. I had studied film editing at New York University (NYU), and thought I could make it in LA as an editor. I was very naive. I had no idea about unions or guilds so I ended up as a grip, the lowest job, and non union. I was a 'go-fer', and I did. My company commander in Europe had worked at Columbia Pictures and I was able to get a job, using his name. I ran errands, cleaned up after the Three Stooges, and everyone else, and occasionally went to the Columbia Ranch in Burbank as part of the cleanup crew. With mostly westerns being shot, you can imagine what we cleaned up. I met Dick Curtis,Ted Mapes, Edmond Cobb, Dick Farnsworth and other western charactor actors. I was in heaven! I hated to leave at the end of the day. I got a glimpse here and there of Starrett but never met him ... he was a star.

We now segue to 1981. A friend of mine mentioned me to him. Charlie was now retired in Laguna Beach. It was a small home overlooking the Pacific, and was usually a getaway, but now had become his home. Mary Starrett, his wife, encouraged visitors. By then, Charlie was almost blind and his travelling days were over. I remember the door knocker with DURANGO on it, a gift from a fan.

We hit it off right away, and the next several years were great. Even though I was not a Starrett fan, he was such a regular guy that he instantly won you over. Even my wife, who never cared for cowboy actors, fell in love with him. I told him that I went back to New York after a nothing period in Hollywood, and worked at the home office. I made some extra money viewing his westerns and giving them titles. I was usually the only one in the audience when they ran his B westerns, and that I had no competition. He remembered that they only had production numbers when they were shooting, and he was embarrased when fans asked him about a particular film.

Though he came to Hollywood to be a star, he ended up in westerns, and finally found he enjoyed them ... and had no regrets. He was part of a group of outdoor actors who travelled to Warner Springs, east of Palm Springs, to hunt. (John Hart lives in Warner Springs today.) Glenn Ford, Joel McCrea and others were part of the 'gang'. Years later, he spent winters in nearby Borrego Springs. He loved the crew he worked with. He especially remembered Ted Mapes who was his long time double. He even had nice things to say about Smiley Burnette.

Among his favorite visitors were Victor French and Neil Summers. They loved to talk about the old days and old timers they worked with. I used to take him to restaurants from Newport Beach to Dana Point along the coast. Not eating meat, I introduced him to many fish entrees. He especially liked shark, a new experience for him. He used to call me every week just to say hello. Those were wonderful times, and I was fortunate to meet him in his retirement. I am sure I would never have gotten so close during his working years.

Every Fall he visited his alma mater Dartmouth for a reunion affair. After he retired in the 50's, he travelled all over the world, visiting Starrett machine tool distributors as a 'goodwill ambassador'. He was amazed at how many fans he had from the films he made. His last years were quiet ones except for an occasional visitor. I visited him a few times when he stayed in Borrego Springs. Even flew down with a friend who owned a single engine Cessna. What a surprise when Mary and Charlie were waiting to welcome us at the little airport. There had been a bad snow storm, and power had gone out cutting the airport radio. But we came in anyway.

One day in 1986 he called to say he hoped I could come visit him soon. I was there the next week. He told me he had a chronic sore throat, and it was diagnosed as cancer of the esophagus. He was treated at the same hospital in Laguna that William Boyd went to. The treatments left him sick, but he stuck to it till he couldn't take it any longer ... and quietly passed away.

Charles Starrett had a happy life. He once said that growing up in New England, he could never imagine himself being a cowboy, but he was successful beyond his wildest dreams. He had a long run, was loved by many, and no one had a bad thing to say about him. His twin sons survived him - one was in the Air Force near Palmdale, California, and the other lived in Arizona. Mary passed away a few years later.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of him and his witty conversation. He was one of a kind.

Larry Imber
June, 2000

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