Vivian Coe (aka Vivian Austin) was Miss Los Angeles and Miss Hollywood after being born in Hollywood. The talented actress/dancer/singer landed a contract with WB in the ‘30s while still a teenager and appeared in many bit roles. She married millionaire playboy and auto dealer Glenn Austin at 17. As he was a polo player, she learned to ride, preparing her for her leading lady role in Don Barry’s “Adventures of Red Ryder” serial (‘40). Tommy Cook, Little Beaver in “Adventures of Red Ryder”, remembers Vivian as “a lovely Earl Carroll debutante, a dancer at his showcase on Sunset Blvd. and Gower, very attractive and she was a good friend of my mom’s, Fern Cook, who lived to be 101. I was only 10 years old, so my mom had to be there with me. She and Vivian had a very nice friendship. My mom was one of the good stage mothers.” Vivian nearly died of kidney failure in the late ‘40s followed by debilitating eye problems causing blindness. Her husband died in ‘67 and she met Dr. Ken Grow, a Palm Springs doctor, who was able to restore some of her sight. They were eventually married, but he died in ‘93. The valiant Vivian carried on, always with an optimistic outlook, but eventually, at 84, died of natural causes August 1, 2004, in an L.A. hospital.
Linda Stirling is considered the last of the great ‘Serial Queens’, appearing in six of Republic’s best cliffhangers from ‘44-‘46.
Modeling led to Republic and the title role in “Tiger Woman”. “I was the last person in the world for that part. I’m not an outdoor girl, I couldn’t ride…my idea of fun was to go to nightclubs and dance. But I looked sort of like an outdoor girl and Republic needed someone right away for ‘Tiger Woman’. The part had
Obviously, making serials was hard work. “We generally did the serials in a month. There was always pressure because all the shooting had to be done before dark. It wasn’t galmorous, believe me! Working hours were long. I was often up at 4am and at the studio by 4:30 for makeup. My hair had to be set and dried each monring so it would exactly match the film already shot. We had to be ready for the first take at 8am sharp, and it generally took about an hour to get to location. We seldom got back to the studio before 8pm. I never seemed to get to bed before 11 or midnight. Then up at 4. I was so tired during a fight sequence aboard a spaceship in ‘Purple Monster Strikes’ that when I was supposed to be knocked out while a fight went on, I fell asleep. But Republic was like a big family.”
Linda experienced at least one dangerous ‘close call’ in her career. “We were on the process stage making ‘Manhunt of Mystery Island.’ In those days, they’d have the process screen behind us moving and we were standing still. It was supposed to be over this huge gorge, miles down. The cameras were set, it was the take-out for the chapter ending. The evil guy was cutting the ropes. The leading man, Richard Bailey, was beside me. But, as I turned around, it was Tom Steele standing next to me. All of a sudden they said, ‘Action,’ and Tommy said, ‘Stay with me, let me get under you’…all this is being whispered while we are falling about 10 feet to the ground. I’m sure I would have hurt myself if he hadn’t protected me. Tommy got up and started to charge the director—Spence Bennet—I thought Tom was gonna get him. He was so mad…he was livid. He said, ‘You coulda killed her. She doesn’t know how to do this kinda thing.’ He was really angry. It was a kind of silly thing for them to do, but we got late, hurried. Spence Bennet was busy jumping up and down, which he loved to do when he was upset, and wasn’t paying any attention. They just forgot to send the double up.”
Duncan Renaldo worked with Linda in “Tiger Woman”. “Duncan was a sweetheart and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. Stories all the time. Sometimes he’d be finishing the tag line as we were walking up to shoot the scene. (Laughs) He was irrepressible. He was already part of moive history and knew practically everybody in the business. I really was an eager little actress dying to do it right. Duncan and George J. Lewis were very helpful. They were showing me where the camera was because I had no idea. ‘Don’t look there…look over here…they won’t see your face, they’ll see your profile.’”
Over the years, much has been said and written about Allan Lane’s demeanor. Some say he could be difficult. Linda co-starred with him in “Tiger Woman” and chuckles, “Difficult isn’t exactly a fair word. He was very tense, very uptight, very eager and very professional. I think one of his problems was, he wanted to be perfect. But under the conditions we were working, you can’t really be perfect. You can always do it better. The only thing you had to watch out for was his moves. Because once the camera started rolling, he wanted to be in front of the camera. And if you were too close to him, you just got bumped, so he could get the whole face—and I’d wind up with only my shoulder or part of my head showing. Time and time again, the director would say, ‘Cut! Allan, move over, give her some room.’ But he’d keep edging over. My hips would be black and blue. (Laughs)”
Linda did two serials with Clayton Moore, “Crimson Ghost” and “Jesse James Rides Again”. “Clayton was very professional, very serious when he was working, very relaxed and cool when he wasn’t. He didn’t clown around a lot when he was getting ready to do a scene. Afterwards okay…and earlier. But when he was working he gave his all, lots of energy, lots of vitality.”
Born in Hawaii, August 2, 1911, Norman (Rusty) Wescoatt held three world records as a swimmer and was a professional football player and wrestler before coming to films in 1947 as a member of Columbia serial producer Sam Katzman’s group of stock players. The big, burly Wescoatt regularly got roughed up by smaller adversaries in 16 Columbia serials beginning with “The Vigilante” in 1947. Rusty’s also in “Sea Hound” (‘47), “Superman” (‘48), “Tex Granger” (‘48), “Congo Bill” (‘48), “Batman and Robin” (‘49), “Adventures of Sir Galahad” (‘49), “Cody of the Pony Express” (‘50), “Pirates of the High Seas” (‘50), “Atom Man Vs. Superman” (‘50), “Roar of the Iron Horse” (‘51), “Mysterious Island” (‘51), “Captain Video” (‘51), “King of the Congo” (‘52), “Riding with Buffalo Bill” (‘54) and “Perils of the Wilderness” (‘56).
Wescoatt also worked for Katzman in several Jungle Jim thrillers; “When the Redskins Rode” (‘51) and “Brave Warrior” (‘52). Following his serial days, Rusty was seen regularly on TVers such as “Kit Carson”, “Gene Autry”, “Wild Bill Hickok”, “Hopalong Cassidy”, “Roy Rogers”, “Sky King” and “Tales of the Texas Rangers”.
Towards the end of his time in Hollywood, Rusty snagged two semi-regular roles…as the bartender on Robert Culp’s “Trackdown” (‘57-‘59) and as the slightly crafty but somewhat dimwitted Sgt. Holcomb on “Perry Mason”. Rusty left the business in ‘65 and died September 3, 1987.