Carroll Calling

Doug Carroll

You never know what you may learn on vacation.

Did you know the late Dukes of Hazzard TV star, Denver Pyle, was not born in Denver but Bethune, Colorado? Did you know the late singer and songwriter, John Denver, wasn’t from Colorado nor anywhere near the Mile High City?

Perhaps that’s the Colorado equivalent of me having two granddaughters named August and November who were born in July and April, respectively. I’m not sure, but nothing surprises me after learning what comes next.

Our recent trip out west turned into a real education and all thanks to an article in a small Colorado weekly newspaper.

The story featured actor Fred Stone, an early 1900's Broadway and silent film star, who earned a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. The writer pointed proudly to the fact Colorado natives occupy 12 stars on the Hollywood walkway.

Leading the way for Colorado of course is Denver with four stars, including comedian and actor Tim Allen for motion pictures, actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr., motion pictures, and big band leader Paul Whiteman with two stars, one for radio and another for recording artist.

The newspaper account piqued my interest because of a personal mission I have to preserve the historic connection between Hollywood and/or national entertainment venues and Vincennes. I believe the oldest community in Indiana should have such a branch on its historical family tree, so to speak.

Here starteth the lesson I mentioned earlier.

Denver, population 705,439, has nothing on Vincennes, population 17,729, when it comes to a link with Hollywood. If you wish to take this lesson one step more, Colorado cannot hold a candle or clapperboard for that matter to the Hoosier State when it comes to Hollywood as well.

The oldest community of Indiana boasts four stars and three recipients just like Denver, but a far superior per capita rate, as you can imagine.

There’s the Vincennes Renaissance man, Red Skelton, leading the way with stars for television and radio. Skelton was born in 1913 as you readers know and now stars in his own fabulous hometown museum near his birth home on Vincennes’ north side.

Skelton worked for more than 70 years in show business with over half that time spent in Hollywood. He starred for 20 years in his own TV show and spent 13 years with his own gig in radio.

He easily could have a third star for motion pictures since he appeared in more than 40 feature films right alongside most the huge stars of the 1940s and 1950s. Oh yes, and his stage work as a top vaudevillian in the mid to late 1930s should have earned him a star for live performance.

His talents for painting, writing and composing music are worthy of Hollywood Boulevard treatment too, but the Walk of Fame has only five categories: motion pictures, television, radio, recording artist and live performance/theater.

Next up for the Vincennes walk of fame fraternity is a true lady — leading lady, that is, dear readers.

Silent film actress and star, Alice Terry, is on the walkway for motion pictures.

Born in Vincennes in 1900, Alice Taaffe, departed her hometown around age five as her father, Matthew, looked for more opportunities out west to open a barber shop. After a brief stay in St. Louis, the Taaffes moved on to Los Angeles.

Matthew Taaffe started a successful business but perished in a February 1907 Los Angeles streetcar accident at age 39. The tragedy almost caused his widow, Ella Thorn Taaffe, to return home to Vincennes with her children but she decided to stay put for the opportunities the bustling city offered the family.

Alice made her first film as an extra in 1915 and eventually would star or co-star in 29 silent film features. She changed her name to Alice Terry in 1919 after meeting future husband and popular director, Rex Ingram.

Terry was the leading lady in the first film to star the legendary Rudolph Valentino, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” during 1921. Later that year she starred with Valentino in the film, “The Conquering Power.”

Also, Terry was the leading lady in silent movies with popular leading men Roman Novarro, Ivan Petrovich and Lewis Stone.

Last but certainly not least of the Vincennes walk of fame group is cowboy western movie star Buck Jones.

Born Charles Frederick Gebhart in Vincennes in 1891, Buck left Vincennes as a child but never failed to mention the Hoosier city as his birthplace.

Jones was one of the greatest stars of the Hollywood “B” westerns and appeared in nearly 170 silent and sound films. At the height of his stardom, the Hoosier could count more than five million admirers among the members of the Buck Jones Rangers fan club during the Great Depression.

He was voted by film fans as the “Most Popular Cowboy Western Movie Star” of 1936.

Unfortunately, his career was cut shot at age 50 when he perished during the 1942 infamous Cocoanut Grove night club fire in Boston that killed 492 people. Jones was starring as “Buck Roberts” in the western movie series, “The Rough Riders,” at the time of his death, and ranked third in the cowboy popularity poll compiled by Box Office magazine, which based its ratings on movie attendance.

As for Indiana itself along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 42 Hoosiers have 39 stars when you count the marker for the Jacksons of Gary. Michael and Janet Jackson have their own stars as well.

Indianapolis and Gary lead the way with six natives earning stars, South Bend has four and Vincennes three. Terre Haute and Evansville both can claim a pair of natives with stars along the famed pathway.

Here endeth the lesson.

Doug Carroll can be reached at stangle1975@cinergymetro.net.

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