REMEMBERING THE MAN: RICHARD JAECKEL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Boston, 1973.

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was warm. We shot in shirtsleeves in the lobby of the TV station. I couldn’t get a studio and was being urged to get the shoot finished as quickly as possible. The “suits” were unimpressed with Richard Jaeckel. James Coburn was the hot interview on the circuit as “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid” was being pushed by publicists. Richard Jaeckel was very pleasant and friendly even before we rolled the camera.

jaeckel -1He asked about what I did. I gave him a snapshot biography back to my radio days and shooting my own film at a previous TV station. He grinned and said it was good to be working with a “grunt”. The rapport was established.

I mentioned having interviewed Gregory Peck a decade earlier, how well we got along. Jaeckel segued into working with Peck in one of his earliest films, “The Gunfighter” (1950).

As Jaeckel talked, I nodded for my cameraman to begin shooting. He smiled. He’d been shooting since Jaeckel and I began swapping war stories. The interview flowed smoothly.

It was more like a conversation between friends than an interview to promote a film. We chatted more than 10 minutes before I mentioned “Pat Garrett” and Jaeckel again smiled, saying he’d forgotten he was supposed to be promoting the film.

He discussed working with the quirky Sam Peckinpah and scene-stealers like Chill Wills. I asked about Bob Dylan, also in the film. Jaeckel’s smile got bigger as he recalled the folk singer’s kid-like behavior working with “movie stars”.

About 20 minutes later, we wrapped the interview. I asked Jaeckel what was next on his schedule. He said he was free for the afternoon. I suggested a pub near the station might be fine for lunch. He quickly agreed.

Drinks and meals ordered, Jaeckel and I began a three-hour conversation touching on family, movie making and the business of promoting movies. We found a common thread in our roots in New York, in our frustration with management and “the suits.”

I mentioned how I was always “the kid” at every stop in my career. He nodded and jumped in with stories about working with Richard Widmark, John Wayne, Karl Malden and Richard Boone in some of his very early movies. He said they all treated him well but he was always called “the kid”.

richard-jaeckel-dirtydozen-7Jaeckel broke into guffaws when I asked about working with character actors like Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Lambert — all well established screen villains. He said they were the easiest and nicest people to work “jobs” (films) in the business. Jaeckel slid into a brief note about his son, Barry who was a rising tennis player. I quoted some stats which prompted a very pleased grin and a final round of drinks. We ended the afternoon with him picking up the tab, saying he had really enjoyed the day and would check me out on the tube before leaving Boston.

The next evening, just after the 6 pm newscast, I got a call. It was Richard Jaeckel. He’d caught me doing a news piece.

“Good job, Kid”, he said.

“Thanks, Kid”, I replied. We both laughed and wished each other well.

More

“Chisum” is a goodie directed by Vic McLaglen’s son, Andrew. Jaeckel had made it 3 years before “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.” It was, he said, fun working with Wayne and a many from the John Ford stock company.

BanacekS1During our lunch,  Jaeckel recounted the off-camera sparring between vets like Bruce Cabot, Ben Johnson,  Forrest Tucker and Duke Wayne versus “kids” like Andrew Prine, Geoff Duel and Christopher George. There were drinking contests with the old guys daring the younger guys to match them shot-for-shot of the hard stuff. The old guys won.

Jaeckel said by the time he made “Chisum” he was regarded as a “tweener” by Wayne and his buddies. He wasn’t harassed like “the kids” but wasn’t quite accepted by the old guys.

Jaeckel said Bruce Cabot was a mean drunk and was reprimanded by Wayne, who himself wasn’t always friendly when he was loaded. Ben Johnson was a friendly, easy-going guy who wasn’t intimated by Wayne who tried to goad his old pal. Christopher George who I met on another occasion confirmed Jaeckel’s stories.

Another Meeting

The second meeting with Richard Jaeckel occurred when “Banacek” was shooting in Boston. We used to have a charity softball game on Boston Common. This time, it was the media all-stars versus George Peppard, the “Banacek” crew and the Playboy Bunnies.

Kegs of beer were set up for both benches. The drinking began before the game and never stopped. Before the first game, the flacks were introducing Peppard to media folks. Jaeckel was a guest star on the “Banacek” series. He pulled Peppard over and introduced me as his buddy, a “grunt” who knew his stuff a holdover from our initial meeting.

Peppard grinned broadly, shook hands and led us behind the bench where he had a carton of his private stock of “the good stuff.” I don’t remember much about the game. I do recall we did justice to the carton of the good stuff. The following day, Peppard –notoriously difficult with the press — turned up for an interview I hadn’t scheduled.

Richard Jaeckel was his driver.

25 thoughts on “REMEMBERING THE MAN: RICHARD JAECKEL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

    • Thanks, again, Tish. Check out Gene Freese’s bio, “Richard Jaeckel, Hollywood’s Man of Character”
      McFarland Press. Paperback. Great read!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Judy. There were so many great memories of meeting the Hollywood folks. I’ve been following “Feud: Bette and Joan” on FX and LOVING it. I met Gary Merrill once and, over Bloody Marys, he dished some delicious dirt about Davis and Crawford. I guess that’s another piece for me to write.

      Back to Jaeckel: Gene Freese has an excellent bio, “Richard Jaeckel, Hollywood’s Man of Character”. McFarland Press. Paperback. It’s a wonderful read with some eye opening info about how hard Jaeckel worked at his craft.

      Like

    • Thanks, Rick. I have a couple of Peppard related stories I haven’t shared and will soon. I wish Peppard had handled his problems better. Too short a career.

      Like

    • Judy, thanks. Jaeckel was a VERY hard working actor. His career was the definition of Hollywood ups and downs. No addictions. Just the whims of Hollywood. Jaeckel worked until he couldn’t physically work.

      Check out Gene Freese’s bio, “Richard Jaeckel, Hollywood’s Man of Character”. McFarland Press. Paperback.
      It’s a great read and gives insight into how hard Jaeckel worked to sustain his long career.

      Like

  1. Great fun reading. Thanks, Garry. I think it’s unanimous that we all want more. I remember Richard Jaeckel as mainly a bad guy in movies. How off am I? I just looked up his bio and he was born in Long Beach, NY where my own kids were born and raised!

    Like

    • Mostly he was a bad guy … or typically, a kind of nice bad guy. One of the early good-bad guys. Mostly westerns, though Garry knows more than me about that. This guy was a hard worker. He never made a ton of money, took whatever jobs he got, was there on time. Hit his mark. Was nice to the rest of the crew. And he never stopped working, probably because he couldn’t afford to. Surprisingly, except for the really BIG stars, a lot of actors work hard, get decent roles, but don’t get rich. We think they do, but it’s not true.

      Everyone thought WE were rich, too. I always wanted ask people if we were that rich, why did we drive an early cheap Hyundai? And live in the least expensive neighborhood in Boston? But, they had heard about those millions of dollars Garry earned. Why ruin it for them?

      Liked by 1 person

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