Monday, May 9, 2011

Dick Jones Revisits ‘Virginia City’

Dickie Jones (bandaged) with Errol Flynn in Virginia City.

Dick Jones was one of Golden Age Hollywood’s busiest kid actors. At age four he began his career as the “World's Youngest Trick Rider and Trick Roper,” performing roping and riding tricks in “B” movie cowboy star Hoot Gibson’s rodeo. In the early ‘30’s he appeared in a few “Our Gang" shorts and by decade’s end had amassed dozens of credits in both "A" and "B" productions, such as John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln and Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (both 1939). In 1940 Jones gained movie immortality as the voice of Pinocchio in Walt Disney's animated classic; later that same year, he appeared in Virginia City, a western starring Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart that filmed scenes on location in Sedona. In a 2005 chat, Jones remembered Flynn’s pet tricks, Bogart’s quick exits, and Curtiz’s ‘goobers’––Joe McNeill

JM: Did you stay in Flagstaff while filming Virginia City?

DICK JONES: Oh yeah, I remember it real well. I just about ate myself to death with trout. I loved it. I actually came back to Flagstaff later that year to do The Outlaw.

What can you tell us about the personal appearance you made at Flagstaff’s Orpheum Theater while filming here?

I don’t remember it at all. I probably did a trick roping act, because that was the only thing I knew. (Laughing) I could strum a ukulele but that wouldn’t have been much!

Do you have memories of working with Errol Flynn in Virginia City?

The one thing I can remember was that he had this standard-sized schnauzer. He had that dog trained. [Flynn] had this swagger stick and he’d be slapping his boot with it, then he’d stop to talk to somebody and he’d slap them on their boot with that swagger stick. Then when he walked away the dog would come up and lift its leg up on them. I think [co-star] “Big Boy” Williams almost wanted to kill him!

I really enjoyed working with Errol Flynn. I worked with him again on Rocky Mountain (1950); that was my favorite of all the films I ever made. [Flynn] was one of the best journeyman actors. He knew his trade and worked his craft real well. What he did afterwards, that’s another story.

What do you remember of Humphrey Bogart?

I worked with him again after Virginia City, but he was very quiet and didn’t mess around with kids. It was always very much just work; you’d come in, the director would say ‘I want this, I want that,’ we’d rehearse our lines together one time, then boom – we’d do it and that’s it. I’d go back to school and he’d go back to his dressing room. So I didn’t spend much time with him. I’d have liked to.

What about Michael Curtiz, Virginia City’s director?

I loved him; he was a great director and I got along with him fine. I remember he’d say [in Hungarian accent], “I got to vait for der ‘goobers.’ “ He wanted to match the scenes and have the clouds look the same. And sure enough, ten, 15 minutes later, he’d say, “Here comes der ‘goobers,’ ” and we’d say, OK, let’s go do it.

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