Thursday, June 15, 2023

Byrnes in Tough Role Now But Still Looks Like ‘Sunset Strip’ Youngster [archived newspaper article.]


San Antonio EXPRESS

October 5, 1968

     Though he has succeeded in changing his “image,” Edd Byrnes still looks – on the surface – almost exactly like the juvenile car jockey that he played in “77 Sunset Strip” a decade ago.

     In his latest picture, “Any Gun Can Play,” the former “Kookie” plays the part of The Brawler, a rough tough Western type who contends with other lawless characters for a shipment of gold.

     It’s one of those “Italian Westerns,” though Byrnes says the bodies are not piled up like cordwood as they are in some movies of this genre. He says its full of action, however, and he likes to appear in pictures where the action is pretty constant, as contrasted with some pictures that have only or two short fist fights or gunfights, “in between a lot of dialogue.”

     “Any Gun Can Play,” which opened Thursday at the Majestic, is actually an Italian – Spanish – German co-production, made on location in Spain and Italy with studio work done in Germany. Byrnes’ co-stars are veteran ex-Texan Gilbert Roland and two newcomers, George Hilton and Kareen O’Hara.

     Byrnes stopped briefly in San Antonio one day this week in the course of a nationwide tour to promote the new picture.

     Asked if he enjoyed such tours, he replied, “Oh, yes, it’s a nice way to get around the country and find out what people are thinking. It’s fun when you can talk to one person by himself, but it’s murder when you have to talk to 10 at once.”

     Edd has been married for six years to a former TV actress Asa Maynor, and they have a six-year-old son named Logan. The lad came by his first name in an odd way.

     “I wanted a girl, so we didn’t have any names picked out.” Byrnes “So he was in the hospital for three days without a name. Then I saw a nurse with a name plate – Mrs. Logan – and I thought, well, that would be a good name for a baby. It’s distinctive, and I wouldn’t want to saddle a baby with a “Junior” so he’d always have to be living up to his father.”

     Byrnes now has two homes in Los Angeles and in Rome. Besides his high fees for making movies, he admits that he makes $50,000 a year in residual rights from the “77 Sunset Strip” series.

     Someone asked why he didn’t retire on this steady income, “Oh I couldn’t live on that,” he replied jauntily.

     A native of New York City, Byrnes still speaks with a faint tinge of Manhattan accent. Byrnes is his real name, but he was christened Edward and was known as Ed until he added the second “d” to make the name more colorful.

     After a varied career of more or less odd jobs, Byrnes became an actor and was cast in a movie “Girl on the Run,” in which he played a psychopathic young killer pursued by a detective Effrem Zimbalist Jr. Jack L. Warner liked the picture and said, “Let’s build a TV series with those two.”

     The result was “77 Sunset Strip,” but Edd was cast as the opposite extreme from a killer – the young parking lot attendant who doubled as a volunteer assistant to the private eye.

     Byrnes lightly denied a publicity writer’s dream that he used to get 6,000 fan letters a day in his Kookie role. “The truth is,” he said, “that I used to sit up nights writing fan letter to myself.”

     Since the Strip series ran its course, Edd has appeared in road companies of several stage plays, the latest being “Star Spangles Girl,” and in several movies. In “Yellowstone Kelly” with Clint Walker, he was “killed” by an Indian arrow.

     “I had a steel plate strapped on my chest where the arrow hit,” he recalled, “but it landed so hard I was really shook up.” Before he recovered from the shock his death throes were made even realistic when the director, off camera, grabbed his leg so hard that it hurt. “I asked him to do it,” said Byrnes, a devotee of realism in action movies. – G.A.     

1 comment:

  1. Edd Byrnes did two other Westerns as well called, "Payment In Blood" with Guy Madison and "Red Blood, Yellow Gold" where he was once again cast alongside George Hilton but this time with Spanish actor George Martin. Edd Byrnes is one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite movies with him in it is, of course, "Grease" with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Great songs and a much greater film. Sadly, three years ago, in 2020, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes died of natural causes at either 87 or 88. I would rather say he was 86 since I believe he was born in Manhattan, New York, on July 30, 1933. He also appeared in TV Westerns such as "Cheyenne", "Lawman", "Maverick", "Laramie", and "Colt .45". But my favorite Western film with Edd Byrnes in it besides "Red Blood, Yellow Gold" is "Yellowstone Kelly" that he did with Clint "Cheyenne" Walker in 1959. Love that film. If I was given a list of all the greatest Western actors ever, I would mention the following names. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, James Arness, John Russell, Ken Curtis, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Sr., Harry Carey Jr., Glenn Ford, Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Buck Taylor, Sam Elliott, and finally, Edd Byrnes. Can't go wrong with a list like that. They are all my favorite actors, but Edd Byrnes really stands out. RIP Kookie.