“Do you think you could teach Rock Hudson to talk like you do?”
The question came from famed Hollywood director George Stevens, and an affirmative answer propelled Bob Hinkle into a fifty-year career in Hollywood as a speech coach, actor, producer, director, and friend to the stars. Along the way, Hinkle helped Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Carroll Baker, and Mercedes McCambridge talk like Texans for the 1956 epic film Giant. He also helped create the character Jett Rink with James Dean, who became a best friend, and he consoled Elizabeth Taylor personally when Dean was killed in a tragic car accident before the film was released.
A few years later, Paul Newman asked Hinkle to do for him what he’d done for James Dean. The result was Newman’s powerful portrayal of a Texas no-good in the Academy Award–winning film Hud (1963). Hinkle could—and did—stop by the LBJ Ranch to exchange pleasantries with the president of the United States. He did likewise with Elvis Presley at Graceland. Good friends with Robert Wagner, Hinkle even taught Wagner’s wife Natalie Wood how to throw a rope. He appeared in numerous television series, including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Dragnet, and Walker, Texas Ranger. On a handshake, he worked as country music legend Marty Robbins’s manager, and he helped Evel Knievel rise to fame.
From his birth in Brownfield, Texas, to a family so poor “they could only afford a tumbleweed as a pet,” Hinkle went on to gain acclaim in Hollywood. Through it all, he remained the salty, down-to-earth former rodeo cowboy from West Texas who could talk his way into—or out of—most any situation. More than forty photographs, including rare behind-the-scenes glimpses of the stars Hinkle met and befriended along the way, complement this rousing, never-dull memoir.
|Publisher:||University of Oklahoma Press|
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About the Author
From the rodeo to the studio, Robert Hinkle's career has spanned the latter half of the 20th century. Whether acting, directing or producing. Texas Bob has touched the lives of many of the entertainment industry's marquis names. His own eclectic accomplishments can be attributed to a passion for living, a talent for entertaining others, and flair for the dramatic.
In 1952 after 30 months in U. S. A. F. he left behind a rodeo future calf-roping/bull-dogging career to try his hand at acting in Hollywood. As forsaking rodeo lights for studio lights, Hinkle confesses: "I didn't have that little extra something that it takes to be a world champion cowboy like my friend Larry Mahan." His acting debut came after crashing the Universal Pictures studio lot during the filming of "Bronco Busters" Bob's western appearance and demeanor caught the director's eye and landed him a role as a cowboy stuntman.
Hinkle's authentic screen presence led to many other roles over the years, including these "Hud" with Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood in "First Traveling Sales Lady." Starring Ginger Rogers in the last motion picture Howard Hughes produced. He had roles in well known TV westerns such as "Wagon Train," "Gunsmoke," "Wyatt Earp," "Wells Fargo," "Tombstone Territory," "Bonanza," "Annie Oakley," Trackdown," "Wichita Town," "Walker Texas Ranger," and many more.
The 1955 production of the classic movie "Giant" marked a turning point for Hinkle. Bob was the movie's dialogue director and technical director, and as such helped create the role of Jett Rink for James Dean. Bob's easy-going manner and down-home drawl made him the perfect candidate to coach Rock Hudson, Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Mercedes McCambridge and Dean to "talk Texan." Dean later presented his friend Hinkle with an Oscar for his contribution to the film's towering success.
On the production end, Hinkle's most notable inspiration was director George Stevens and his ability to elicit extraordinary performances from the cast of "Giant." Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.
In 1960 Universal Pictures released the motion picture "Old Rex" a family movie about a boy and his dog which Hinkle wrote, directed and produced. Other notable productions included "Born Hunters", a short subject which led to a contract with Paramount Studios.
Hinkle also brought his experience from "Giant" along with his own productions to the set of "Hud" in 1962. Bob did for Paul Newman what he had done for James Dean by coaching Newman, Patricia Neal and Melvin Douglas to be Texans, Neal and Douglas won Academy Awards for their roles.
Hinkle also received critical acclaim for creating and directing the pig scramble in "Hud." At various times he wore the hats of technical advisor, second-unit director and associate producer, positions which he enjoyed as much if not more than acting.
Beginning in the 1960s Hinkle's talents branched out to other facets of entertainment industry. In 1964 he signed an unknown singer named Glen Campbell to a series of country music specials with Jeannie Seely and Henson Cargill called "Hollywood Jubilee." That same year he became the Personal Manager for character actor Chill Wills.
In 1968 a young unknown stunt performer, named Robert Craig Knievel, asked Hinkle to help make him a household name on the magnitude of Elvis Presley. For the next 3 years Hinkle developed and promoted "Evel Knievel" as he became the world's best known showman-daredevil.
In 1970 Hinkle became the Personal Manager for Marty Robbins, Bob and Marty stayed a team until Robbins's death in 1982. It was actually Robbins who first dubbed Hinkle as "Texas Bob."
In 1972 Hinkle combined his film productions roots with country music background by producing and directing "Country Music", released by Universal Studios and starring Marty Robbins and Sammy Jackson. This was followed in 1973 by "Guns of a Stranger," starring Robbins and Chill Wills.
In 1982 he pulled out all the stops when he produced and directed a motion picture entitled "Atoka," in which 100,000 people got together for a picnic with Willie Nelson, Larry Gatlin, Don Williams, Freddy Fender, Hoyt Axton, David Allen Coe, Freddy Weller, Red Steagall and Marty Robbins as host.
Later as General Manager of Network One in Nashville, Hinkle produced numerous TV shows, music videos and national commercials.
In addition to Hinkle's entertainment pursuits he also managed to find time to become a licensed pilot, dabbled in Real Estate in California, and opened two restaurants in Tacoma, Washington. Both were called Texas Bob's Bar B Q. He later opened Texas Bob's Porterhouse in Moses Lake, Washington.
His most memorable achievement, however, goes back to winning a bet with a buddy in 1950. Hinkle bet $20.00 that he could get a date with the Queen of the Rodeo in Moses Lake.
After introducing himself to Sandra Larson he dedicating his bull ride to her along with a tip of his hat from the center of the arena, Sandra not only went to the dance with him that night but married him a year and half later! The Hinkle's raised three children and now live back in Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Call Me Lucky
A Texan in Hollywood
By Robert Hinkle, Mike Farris
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESSCopyright © 2009 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University
All rights reserved.
A Texan in Hollywood
Mr. Stevens, to tell you the truth, I've been going to a speech coach to try to lose this damn accent.
For a west Texas cowboy turned two-bit actor, the phone call from an agent at Famous Artists Agency that early spring day in 1955 seemed like the stuff of fantasy. "Are you available to meet with Mr. George Stevens?" she asked.
George Stevens, the producer and director of Shane and A Place in the Sun. Of Gunga Din, for crying out loud. A man who was a legend in Hollywood, whose career started before I was born. The man who was currently casting for his next production, a big-screen adaptation of Giant, Edna Ferber's sprawling epic about Texas cattlemen and oil barons. Was I available to meet with that George Stevens?
Hell yes, I was available!
I had been at his office just yesterday for a quick meeting, sent over by my agent. He had barely acknowledged my presence, not even getting up from his desk to shake my hand. "I'm not going to start casting the smaller parts for another month," he said. "Right now I'm concentrating on the leads."
With that, he dismissed me. But now, scarcely a day later, he was calling me back to his office. So the reason for today's meeting was obvious: he needed a bona fide Texan to play the role of Jett Rink opposite Rock Hudson's Bick Benedict and Elizabeth Taylor's Leslie Benedict. After all, Giant wasn't just words in a book or a script for me. I had grown up in west Texas with the likes of Bick Benedict and Jett Rink and Uncle Bawley and Bale Clinch. I had worked ranches like the Reata and had eaten west Texas dirt most of my life. I knew the characters in Giant. Hell, I was a character in Giant.
Oh sure, Stevens had already cast James Dean in the role of Jett, but in my opinion no way could he breathe life into the character the way I could. Besides, Hollywood was awash in rumors about Dean. East of Eden had just been released as a rousing success, and he was now filming Rebel Without a Cause. He'd be dropping out of Giant any day, and every young actor west of the Rockies and a few east of them was lining up to read for the part. But none of them could match me for pure west Texas. No sirree Bob! That part had Bob Hinkle written all over it. I was about to be discovered. I'd go down in Hollywood history. They'd be talking about me in the same breath as Lana Turner getting discovered in Schwab's Drugstore.
I dressed in my cowboy "uniform": starched jeans with creases in them (what every real cowboy would wear), a freshly starched white shirt, my best boots, and a Stetson 100—the best western hat you could buy at the time. I topped it off with my gold and silver rodeo trophy belt buckle.
It was a beautiful day, clear blue skies with a cool breeze. As I drove from my home in Studio City to Warner Brothers in Burbank, with snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance surrounding the San Fernando Valley, visions of adoring fans and signing autographs danced in my head. I mentally spent the money I was sure to earn, not only from my role in Giant but also from all the parts likely to be thrown at my feet after my unforgettable performance. No more "Cowboy A—Bob Hinkle" or "Cowboy Number 3—Bob Hinkle" at the tail end of film credits rolling to empty theaters. Nope, my credits were going to start reading "Starring Robert Hinkle." A new Texas legend was about to be born.
George Stevens's office was toward the rear of the Warner Brothers lot, near the trademark water tower. I entered and announced myself. The outer office was furnished western style, with plenty of leather, and sketches of the characters from Giant adorned the walls. The day before, his secretary had been cordial enough, but now it seemed as if I had been bumped up to the "be nice to this guy" list.
She buzzed the intercom. "Mr. Stevens, Mr. Hinkle is here."
Now, that had a nice ring to it. "Mr. Hinkle." Up until then I had played only bit parts or done stunt work in westerns, but the winds of change were a-shifting and good fortune was about to blow my direction.
Mr. Stevens hustled out of his office, all smiles and handshakes. He was about fifty years of age, a little shy of six feet, and well fed. With his thick hair combed straight back and his open expression, he seemed like a guy a feller would like. He pumped my hand as if we were long-lost buddies who hadn't seen each other in years.
"How you doing, Bob? Great to see you again. Come on in."
As he escorted me into his office, he turned to his secretary. "Get Fred Guiol and Henry Ginsberg over here as soon as possible."
Fred Guiol was the screenwriter for Giant, and Henry Ginsberg was Mr. Stevens's producing partner. There was only one possible reason he could want them to meet me: I was about to officially become the next Jett Rink. I wondered if Mr. Stevens could see my heart pounding through my shirt or maybe even hear it. It was sure pounding in my ears—ka-thump ka-thump.
He led me into his wood-paneled office, also furnished with lots of leather. I took a seat across from his massive oak desk that was covered with papers. While he rustled through the stacks of paper, looking for what I just knew had to be a contract, I studied the pictures of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean on the wall behind him. Gonna have to replace that one of Dean, I told myself.
About that time, Fred Guiol and Henry Ginsberg arrived. Fred looked like a mirror image of me, decked out in cowboy duds right down to his hat and boots. Tall and thin, he was a Randolph Scott–type character. Ginsberg looked like a stereotype of the Jewish movie executive: small, neatly dressed in a suit and tie. I found him to be quite the gentleman.
Mr. Stevens made the introductions, then said, "This is the guy I was telling you about."
The two men looked at me as if scrutinizing every detail: my leather-beaten face, my six-foot-plus frame, the way I carried myself. Then they nodded. The volume and the intensity level of my heartbeat kicked up a notch. KA-THUMP KA-THUMP. The anticipation was killing me. "Just give me the contract and let's get this rodeo on the road," I thought. Didn't say it, of course. I didn't want to appear too anxious. After all, that might cut the legs out from under my agent's negotiating position.
Mr. Stevens started to speak. In my mind, I already knew what the words would be: "Welcome aboard, Mr. Rink."
Funny thing, though, these are the words that actually came out: "Do you think you could teach Rock Hudson to talk like you do?"
I sat there for a moment, stunned, trying to process what I had heard. "You want to run that by me again?" I asked.
"Do you think you could teach Rock Hudson to talk like you do?"
"Mr. Stevens, to tell you the truth, I've been going to a speech coach to try to lose this damn accent."
All three men broke into laughter. I laughed with them, but damned if I knew what the hell was so funny.
"No, no, don't do that," Mr. Stevens said. "We want you to teach Rock to talk the way you do. We'll put you on the payroll as dialogue coach, and you'll work with the actors and be on the set every day. You'll have a job for the entire production."
My mind was busy wiping "Starring Robert Hinkle" off the slate. No Schwab's-Drugstore-discovery for me. No fame and fortune. No mansion in Beverly Hills. No signing autographs and adoring fans. But it was still a hell of an opportunity to be part of one of the biggest Hollywood productions in history.
"Well, how about it, Mr. Hinkle?"
"Hell yes, I can teach Rock Hudson to talk like a Texan."
George Stevens arranged for a limousine to take me directly to Universal International Studios to see Rock Hudson. Rock had made a number of movies, catapulted to stardom by his role opposite Jane Wyman in the remake of Magnificent Obsession, just as the same role had done two decades earlier for Robert Taylor. Now under contract at Universal, he was working on the story of Col. Dean Hess, called Battle Hymn.
Mr. Stevens's instructions were simple: "Just talk to him for a while and see what he thinks about your accent." In other words, go over there and be yourself. I believed I could handle that. I'd been handling it for twenty-four years.
I realized I had to adjust my thinking. Maybe I wasn't going to be Jett Rink and maybe I wasn't going to be a star, but things had still taken a turn for the better. I'd heard it said a hundred times that in Hollywood it's not what you know, it's who you know. In my few short years there, that had proven to be as true an adage as anything I had ever heard. I had gotten into my first movie purely by accident but stayed in the business because of people I knew.
A black limousine pulled up and the driver got out, wearing a black tuxedo topped off by a little black cap. I had never seen so much black. I headed for the door. The driver hustled toward me pretty fast, and my first thought was that I was about to get in somebody else's car. We did a little two-step until I figured out this was the right car, so I opened the door and got in. I found out later that the driver was going to open the door for me, but what did I know about limousine etiquette? Hell, if there was anything I could do, it was open my own car door.
I settled into the back seat, and the driver pulled away. I leaned deep into the plush leather and eyed the amenities, which included a small bar and a telephone for talking to the driver. Man, I felt like I was sittin' in high cotton! As we cruised through Toluca Lake toward Universal, I stared out the window at the beautiful houses with their well-manicured lawns. "One of these days," I told myself, "I'm gonna own one of them."
After we turned onto Lankershim Boulevard, we pulled up to the front gate in the middle of Universal Studios—the same gate where I had been unceremoniously turned away three years earlier until Chill Wills came to rescue me. But that's another story.
The driver rolled down his window as the guard approached. "We got Mr. Hinkle to see Mr. Hudson," the driver said.
There it was again: Mister Hinkle. I didn't think I had an ego back then, being merely a two-bit actor and stuntman in westerns, but that was starting to sound pretty good. And when the guard checked his clipboard and said, "Yes sir, take him to Stage Twenty-seven. Mr. Hudson is waiting," I thought I really sounded important. Mr. Hudson was waiting for me. No more turning away Bob Hinkle at the front gate. Boy, if my folks could see me now.
We pulled onto the lot, and the driver started wending his way to Stage 27, which was pretty far back on the lot, close to the western street sets. I'd worked there a few times in B westerns and TV shows, and I wondered if I'd see some of my cowboy buddies. I'd just wave at them as we drove by. I imagined the looks of shock on their faces, wondering what ol' Hinkle was doing in a limousine on the lot.
We drove past the studio cafeteria, Alfred Hitchcock's offices, a few dressing rooms, then past wardrobe and stopped in front of a big white warehouse-looking building that said "Stage 27." A red light and a sign stood guard over the garage-type door, declaring "Do Not Enter When Light Is Flashing." Now experienced in the ways of limousine riding, I waited for the driver to open my door. If I was going to be a Hollywood limousine-riding big shot, I'd at least try to act like one. I was determined that this wasn't going to be my last limo ride.
The driver opened the stage door for me—man, I could get used to this—and we walked inside. The assistant director met us at the door. "Mr. Hinkle here to see Mr. Hudson," the driver said.
You never saw a production shut down so fast. The director, Douglas Sirk, stopped everything. A tall, good-looking guy dressed in a full colonel's U.S. Air Force uniform headed my way. It took me a minute to figure out that it was Rock. He had been expecting me, and I guess I must have looked about like he figured, standing there in my western clothes.
He greeted me as if we were old friends, then led me to his dressing room near the set. He picked up a copy of the Giant script that was lying on the desk, flipped over a few pages, pointed to a line of dialogue, and asked, "How would you say this?"
I looked at the script, then rattled it off in my now-good-as-gold Texas accent. Forget that speech coach. Talking like a Texan was starting to ring the cash register.
Rock listened as I spoke, then gave it a shot on his own. It wasn't bad, but it sounded more southern than Texan. "What do you think?" he asked.
"Well, a Texan wouldn't say it that way. You've got to drop your g's in the 'ing' words and bear down more on your r's." I gave him another sample of my good-as-gold Texas talk. I watched his face as he listened, taking in every nuance of not only my accent but also my pronunciation—flattening my a's, rounding my o's, and dropping my g's. "Barbed wire" became "bob wahr," "oil business" became "awl bidness," "fire" became "far." One syllable became two, and two almost became separate words—"guitar" became "gui-tar" and "police" became "po-lice." The cadence slows lazily. Texans don't just say the words; they linger over them like they're old friends, worthy of a cup of coffee. It's the journey, not the destination, that's important in a conversation.
Rock nodded, excitement working its way onto his face. He gave it another stab or two, and I was amazed at how quickly he picked things up. It wasn't long until he had moved closer to Texas. He was not quite there yet, maybe in Arizona or western New Mexico, but definitely out of Hollywood.
After we talked for a bit, he called George Stevens on the phone. "George, this will be perfect. I really like this." And I could see that he meant it.
After he hung up he said, "George wants to see you in his office."
He walked me to the limousine, where he shook my hand and we said good-bye. I settled into the limo, unable to keep a self-satisfied smile from my face. I knew I had just been tested, and I knew I had aced the exam.
Texas Bob Hinkle had arrived on Giant.
"Think you can turn him into a Texan?" George asked when I got back to his office.
"He picks it up pretty quick. Besides, he's tall and good-looking—just like most of us Texans."
George nearly busted a gut over that one, but I didn't think it was so funny. No brag, just fact.
"I think you're gonna be all right," he said, then he closed our meeting with a bit of business. "Go down to the personnel office and give them your Social Security number, your address, and anything else they need. You've already been on salary all day."
About that: just what was my salary going to be?
"When you work as an actor, how much do you make?" he asked, as if reading my mind.
That was a hell of a question because it left room to maneuver. There's what I typically made when I worked; there's the average of what I made, taking into account all the days I didn't work; and there's that five hundred dollars I once made for a week's work. That last number sounded pretty good to me, even if it had been for only one week. He didn't have to know that, though. I figured it was a good starting point for negotiating.
"Well, I made five hundred dollars over there at Paramount," I said.
He chewed on that for a moment, then nodded. I geared myself for his counter. "Well, that's what I'm going to give you over here," he said. "Five hundred a week sound okay?"
Damn right it did! I knew the picture was going to run six or seven months, and at five hundred dollars a week I'd make more in half a year than I normally made in two years. I hoped I seemed calm on the outside, but on the inside my emotions were on a wild bull ride. "Yes sir, that's just fine with me."
He turned to his secretary. "We need to set up an office for Mr. Hinkle. Find out if Alan Ladd's dressing room is occupied."
Alan Ladd? Old Shane himself? Yep, that sounded mighty fine to me, too. Not only was his dressing room one of the biggest and best on the lot, but I had been a big fan of his ever since I first saw Shane. It seemed as if things just couldn't get any better for this old cowboy.
Alan Ladd's dressing room was everything I had hoped it would be. Located in a bungalow one street left of the main entrance, just down a ways from George Stevens's office, it was more of a guesthouse than a dressing room. There was a small bedroom with a double bed, a good-sized living room that could be fixed up to seat eight or ten people, a bathroom, and a tiny kitchen. A desk had been set up in the living room. About the time I got there, some guy from the prop department brought in a tape recorder, legal pads, pens, and pencils—everything a good dialogue coach would need. I even got a pass to drive onto the lot. Can you believe that? All I had to do was drive up to the gate, and they'd wave me right on in.
As soon as I had the office set up, I called my wife, Sandy. She had just delivered our second son, Brad, on February 28—just one day after Elizabeth Taylor gave birth to her second child, Chris—and was still not feeling well. It had been a particularly difficult delivery, and I thought this bit of good news might cheer her up.
Excerpted from Call Me Lucky by Robert Hinkle, Mike Farris. Copyright © 2009 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsList of Illustrations,
Foreword by George Stevens, Jr.,
Part I. I'd Rather Be Lucky,
1. A Texan in Hollywood,
2. The Sky's the Limit,
3. Breaking into Hollywood,
Part II. The Making of Giant,
4. Rebel Without an Accent,
5. Oh, Give Me a Home,
6. Howdy, Friends and Neighbors,
7. Potpourri, Giant Style,
8. That's a Wrap,
9. Oh, Bury Me Not,
Part III. New Opportunities,
10. Texas Connections,
11. Finally, a Big Hit in Brownfield,
12. Robert Hinkle, Producer,
13. Making New Texans,
14. Do I Get Credit for Those Oscars?,
15. Life Is Good,
16. Jumping, Singing, Suing, and Gambling,
17. Some Memories Never Die,
18. Going Home,
Robert Hinkle Filmography,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Call Me Lucky" is the name of the book but in real life call me lucky was a big part in the life of Bob. Born in the Great depression and lived a life of poverty for many years. He was the Huck Finn of his home town, always into something mischievous and yet got blamed for everything bad that happened there, eventhough he did not do them. A case of Bob being lucky was the fact that Bob's mother had the position of running the town hotel and when and if a cowboy movie star or some star in a stage play came to town the only place for them to stay was at the hotel, therefore Bob got to meet them first hand and I am sure that this is part of the reason that Bob had the desire to go to Hollywood and become a "Star". It seemed like that around every turn was the luck that took him to the next step to accomplish what he wanted. All of Bob's life is not filled with luck and as you read the book you will understand what I am talking about. I have watched the Biography channel on Television and enjoyed it. I have a feeling that Bob's life story would be an interesting story for a show on The Biography channel, showing how a young boy can go from being thrown out of the local movie house to going to Hollysood and becoming a friend to many of the stars of his time. He then became so popular in his home town that he was invited up on the stage of the movie house that has banned him. Many places in the book it shows the influence that he had in the movie "Giant" and on the life of James Dean as well as other movies such as "Hud" before moving on to producing and directing his own movies and other endeavors.
He grinned as well. "Excited, are we? Sure. Where to?"
Okay meet me next res
"You're in luck, baby. I can provide you with your needs." He smiled.
This was an incredible book. It is great for anyone who is a Texan, wants to be a Texan, wishes they were a Texan, or is trying to become a Texan. It is West Texas through and through. It's funny and insightful. Shows a lot about the way Texans think and believe. I highly recommend it.
I found this book very down to earth and honest in the telling. It really made you feel like you were right there on location with the actors and everyone else that it takes to make a movie happen. I am so glad that Mr Hinkle decided to share all of his personal experiences with the public. Things like this should not be lost and should be put in writing so that everyone can at least think they share a small part of thoses experiences through reading his book.