15 July 2015

Imported from the USA: Guy Madison

Handsome American leading man Guy Madison (1922-1996) appeared in 85 films, on radio, and television. In the 1940s, he started as a fresh-faced dreamboat. He became a hero to the Baby Boom generation as James Butler Hickock in the television series Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1951-1958). After the Hickok series ended, Madison became a star of the European cinema.

Guy Madison
Dutch postcard.

Guy Madison, Old Shatterhand
German postcard, no. 8 (1-56). Photo: CCC Produktion / Constantin. Publicity Still for Old Shatterhand (Hugo Fregonese, 1964). Caption: "Captain Bradley ist der Anführer eines Siedlertrecks, der nach Westen will." (Captain Bradley leads a group of settlers, who want to go west).

Major heartthrob material

Guy Madison was born in 1922 as Robert Ozell Moseley in Pumpkin Center, California, and was reared in nearby Bakersfield. His father was a machinist on the Santa Fe Railroad. His younger brother, Wayne Mallory, would later become a Western actor too.

As a young man Robert worked as a telephone lineman, but entered the Coast Guard at the beginning of the Second World War. While on liberty one weekend in Hollywood in 1944, he reportedly attended a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast and was spotted in the audience by Helen Ainsworth, an assistant to Henry Willson.

Willson was the talent agent for producer David O. Selznick at the time. Selznick wanted an unknown sailor to play a small but prominent part in the Home Front morale-booster Since You Went Away (John Cromwell, 1944), and promptly signed Robert Moseley to a contract. Selznick and Willson saw major heartthrob material in the blond, boyishly handsome sailor. They concocted the screen name Guy Madison (the 'guy' girls would like to meet, and Madison from a passing Dolly Madison cake wagon). Later, Willson would do the same for such other handsome film hunks as Rock Hudson (born Roy Scherer), Tab Hunter (Arthur Kelm), and Troy Donahue (Merle Johnson).

Madison filmed his three-minute bowling-alley sequence with Jennifer Jones and Robert Walker in Since You Went Away on a weekend pass and returned to duty. The film's release brought an avalanche of fan letters (43,000 pieces) for Madison's lonely, strikingly handsome young sailor, and at war's end he returned to find himself a star-in-the-making.

Madison was signed by RKO Pictures in 1946 and began appearing in romantic comedies and such dramas as Till the End of Time (Edward Dmytryk, 1946), starring Dorothy McGuire as a war widow, uncertain whether she should or could make a second start with Madison. Despite an initial woodenness to his acting, Madison grew as a performer, studying and working in theatre. However, his career seemed to evaporate by the end of the 1940s.

Guy Madison
Italian postcard by Picturegoer, London, no. W. 233. Photo: R.K.O. Radio. Publicity still for Till the End of Time (Edward Dmytryk, 1946).

Guy Madison
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. W 815. Photo: R.K.O. Radio.

Numerous beefcake photographs

Guy Madison was the subject of numerous beefcake photographs while building a film persona.

He played leads in a series of programmers, such as the American Civil War film Drums in the Deep South (William Cameron Menzies, 1951), before being cast as legendary U.S. Marshal Wild Bill Hickok in Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, with Andy Devine as the trusty and funny sidekick Jingles.

The show ran on television from 1951 to 1958 and on radio from 1951 to 1956. Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok made Guy Madison a household name and earned him a new crop of fans, especially among children. Soon, Madison's visage began appearing on cereal boxes, toys, and other promotional items. Sixteen feature films were released by Monogram Pictures between 1952 and 1955 that consisted of combined episodes of the series.

His popularity as Hickok led to a starring role in the 3-D film The Charge at Feather River (Gordon Douglas, 1953), whose success gave him a new lease on life in Hollywood. He was cast as a tight-lipped action hero in Westerns like The Command (David Butler, 1954) and The Last Frontier (Anthony Mann, 1955) with Victor Mature.

Madison was also the executive producer of the Western Reprisal! (George Sherman, 1956) in which he played a half Indian who poses as white.

Guy Madison
German postcard by ISV, no. A 46. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Guy Madison
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 684. Photo: Warner Bros.

Karl May

After the Hickok series ended, Guy Madison found work scarce in the USA and travelled to Europe. There he made around 90 films.
He first found work in Rome in Peplums like La Schiava di Roma/Slave of Rome (Sergio Grieco, Franco Prosperi, 1961) with Rosanna Podestà, and Rosmunda e Alboino (Carlo Campogalliani, 1961) opposite Jack Palance.

He became a popular star of the European cinema after successes as the Karl May Western Old Shatterhand/Apaches' Last Battle (Hugo Fregonese, 1964) opposite Lex Barker, and made a surprising number of popular Spaghetti Westerns in the mid to late 1960s. These included 7 winchester per un massacre/Payment in Blood (Enzo G. Castellari, 1967) with Edd Byrnes, and I lunghi giorni dell'odio/This Man Can't Die (Gianfranco Baldanello, 1968), with Rik Battaglia.

He left Italy in 1970 and temporarily settled in Texas, later returning to Los Angeles. In Hollywood, he appeared mainly in cameo roles, such as in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (Michael Winner, 1976). His last film appearance was in Red River (Richard Michaels, 1988) with James Arness and Ty Hardin. But this TV movie didn't compare with the 1948 classic by Howard Hawks on which it was based.

Later that year, Madison was in a serious auto accident that damaged his lungs. A variety of health problems limited his work in later years, and he died from emphysema in 1996. He was 74.

Guy Madison married his first wife, beautiful and haunted actress Gail Russell, in 1949. Russell's alcoholism helped bring an end to the marriage in 1954. From 1954 till 1964, he was married to model and actress Sheila Connolly, with whom he had four children, Bridget, Dolly, Erin and Robert. His best friend was actor Rory Calhoun who was later named 'godfather' to Madison's eldest daughter Bridget.

Lisa Gastoni and Guy Madison in Il vendicatore mascherato (1964)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 258/69. Photo: publicity still for Il vendicatore mascherato/Gentlemen of the Night (Pino Mercanti, 1964).

Guy Madison in Since You Went Away (1944). Source: DoddiGS (YouTube).

Trailer Old Shatterhand/Apaches' Last Battle (1964). Source: cronosmantas (YouTube).

Sources: David Shipman (The Independent), William Grimes (The New York Times), Bridget Madison (Guy Madison Offical Site), Jim Beaver (IMDb), Brian J. Walker (Brian's Drive-in Theater), Terry (Gay Influence), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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