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Colleen Miller.COLLEEN MILLER

Colleen Miller, gorgeous star of so many Universal-International flicks of the ‘50s, was born Nov. 10, 1932, in Yakima, Washington. “It was sort of an Indian reservation, although I’m not an Indian. I was on the wrong side of the tracks. I remember seeing, as a little girl, Indian teepees, wood sidewalks, that sort of thing. But in the 4th grade, my family moved to Portland, OR, where I grew up. I had a lot of dance training. In fact, I left Portland to join a ballet company. After three seasons in the chorus, someone saw me dancing and I was signed by Howard Hughes, thus RKO-Radio Studios, where I made ‘Las Vegas Story’ with Victor Mature and Jane Russell. I was at RKO for 3 years and 9 months, then I went to Universal.”

Colleen’s first western was “Four Guns to the Border”, directed by actor Richard Carlson. “He was a good director; he loved the business; he loved acting and actors and was a very feeling director.”

Title card for "Four Guns to the Border" starring Rory Calhoun and Colleen Miller.

A very sexy Colleen Miller with Rory Calhoun in "Four Guns to the Border".As to Rory Calhoun, “Rory was really very good. I knew Lita Calhoun, his wife (aka Isabelita aka Lita Baron), before we made the picture, because she and I took dance class together. I saw Lita three or four times a week, every week.” “Four Guns to the Border” was shot partly on location. “In Apple Valley. It was great, going there—the bus took us up. It was dusty, but fun and exciting. I thought it felt like we were on a real Indian reservation, with the mountains in the background. I would watch Nina Foch. She was good. I admired her in a big way. Nina is a consummate actress.”

As to training at the studios, “I never went to class at Universal. At RKO I had a coach, Florence Enright. She taught classes around the clock, but only for a select few people. Faith Domergue also took from her. When I did ‘Playgirl’ at Universal, they said I didn’t have to go to classes anymore. They felt I knew what I was doing! But at RKO, I had a driver and I was taken to see every play; they educated you.”

Colleen sings in Universal's "Rawhide Years". Also a newspaper ad for the film.“The Rawhide Years” was Colleen’s next western. “Rudolph Maté was the director. He was the most delicious man. Just a joy. I see Tony Curtis fairly often, and Tony says Rudolph is one of his favorite directors. Tony enjoyed the picture and making westerns. Those were fun years.” As to another cast member: “Arthur Kennedy was a good actor. It was neat, watching and then playing a scene with him. The film only took three weeks to shoot, and it was all done on Universal’s back lot!” Producer of “The Rawhide Years” was Stanley Rubin. “He taught me to play chess! He visited the set often, so I got to know him before he married Kathleen Hughes, who was under contract to Universal at the same time I was.”

Newspaper ad for "Man in the Shadow" with Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles and Colleen Miller.The following year there was “Man in the Shadow,” a modern-day western with Orson Welles and Jeff Chandler. “We mostly shot at 1am in the morning! Weird! I don’t know why, but there are a lot of night scenes in the film. Orson must have liked working at night.” Regarding Chandler, “I really felt he was out of it—he was not having fun. He was, however, very personable; and looked great. Tall and handsome. I especially remember John Larch, who was the heavy—and a very good actor. The director, Jack Arnold, I knew socially because I was friends with his wife, Donna Holloway. He gave the movie the best he could, but the script was so bad, so mangled. Orson said he could fix the script but there was no time and he didn’t care. During the shooting, I played gin rummy with Orson and I loved it!”

Miller’s final western, and her last film to date, was “Gunfight at Comanche Creek” with Audie Murphy. “I went on an interview for that, but before I went, my agent wanted to see a still of myself and Tony Curtis in ‘The Purple Mask.’ Isn’t that strange? ‘Mask’ is a period picture, not a western. Frank McDonald, the director, looked at the still and said ‘That’s what I want you to look like.’ We shot that very quick—in only days!” (Oddly, the storyline for “Gunfight…” originated in Whip Wilson’s “Wanted Dead of Alive” and was reused in “Star of Texas” and “Last of the Badmen” as well as “Gunfight at
Newspaper ad for "Gunfight at Comanche Creek" with Audie Murphy and Colleen Miller. Comanche Creek”.—ed.) “Audie played the guitar. I never had any problems with him—or anyone else for that matter. Audie always seemed reserved, though. Once, I did see Audie kick a couple of tin cans viciously. I never socialized with any actor, so I never knew him all that well.” Jan Merlin was a villain in “Gunfight…” “What a good actor; a perfect villain with that child-like face and wonderful sneer!”

Colleen reveals she doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink, “But I paint! I have two children and seven grandchildren—five from my son and the other two by my daughter. I am married to Walter Ralph (of Ralph Markets), and we have a ranch in Northern California, only miles from the Oregon border. We have horses, deer, cattle, a wildlife refuge. We have a ranch manager who keeps us posted on the day-to-day activities. Because there no longer are commercial airlines near there, we have to fly to Sacramento and go up. It’s a long trip, so we don’t go as often as we used to.”

Colleen’s Western Filmography


Movies: Four Guns to the Border (‘54 Universal)—Rory Calhoun; Rawhide Years (‘56 Universal)—Tony Curtis; Man In the Shadow (‘57 Universal)—Jeff Chandler; Gunfight at Comanche Creek (‘63 Allied Artists)—Audie Murphy