OLD YELLER’s Beverly Washburn Shares Her One Regret in Life
By Movieguide® Staff
Actress Beverly Washburn was a master at bringing emotions and tears to her roles in classics like Disney’s OLD YELLER.
The veteran actress revealed that she wants to share some of the tips and secrets she learned from over 500 roles in TV and movies and how she navigated childhood stardom in “Beverly Washburn’s Hollywood.”
“It’s funny because it seems like almost every role that I ever did, I had to cry. I guess I’ve always been a little bit overly sensitive so it was easy for me to cry,” the 77-year-old actress told Fox News. “And you just immerse yourself in the situation and what the character was feeling, so I couldn’t help but cry. I pretended that whatever I was filming was actually happening to me and it brought on the tears.
“I just became known as the child actor who cried and made everyone else cry, too! And they were real tears, too. Back then if they needed you to cry for a scene, they would blow something weird in your eyes that would cause you to tear up. Fortunately for me, I never experienced that,” she added.
Washburn recalled how the 1957 movie, OLD YELLER, affected audiences of all ages.
“I never really understood how they showed that movie in grammar school so many times. I always thought it was so traumatic for children to see. I’ve always been an animal lover, so I was thrilled to get the part because we got to work with a real dog,” Washburn said. “His name was Spike and he was a rescue who was taken out of a shelter. He could do all these amazing tricks and was so great. He was really easy to work with. But even now, grown men approach me at conventions and tell me how they can’t watch that film anymore because it destroyed them!”
In addition to her role in OLD YELLER, Washburn had the unique opportunity to work with Walt Disney before he died in 1966.
“Somebody once told me, ‘What’s up with Walt Disney? Did he not like animals? Look at Bambi!’ The truth was he was an animal lover and very nice. He would come on the set and watch us film. He was very quiet and never interfered. He was always a gentleman,” Washburn said. “His philosophy was everybody had a job to do and he let them do it. He would never tell somebody how to do their job. So he would come on set and just watch, smile and say hello to everybody.”
Washburn said one of her favorite actresses she worked with over her multi-decade career was Loretta Young.
“I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve been so blessed that it’s hard to pinpoint my favorites. But I can tell you my top three: Jack Benny, Loretta Young and Lou Costello. I had a personal relationship with them and stayed in touch up until they died,” Washburn said. “Loretta Young was like a second mother. She was just genuine and so down to earth. She had a show called ‘Letters to Loretta,’ which was based on actual letters that fans would write to her. And the screenplay writers wrote stories around them. After a while, it became known as ‘The Loretta Young Show.’
“I did three or four episodes, and we stayed in touch after that. And years later, she was doing another show where she was playing a widow with seven children. She called me personally at home and asked me to be one of her children in the series. And it was such a thrill for me,” Washburn said. “It was a short-lived series, but we stayed in touch until she died. I remember she would do these really sweet things. My husband was sadly dying from cancer and whenever I would go to the mailbox, there was always something from her. I remember one time there was a crystal dove. She would invite us to dinner and we spoke every Sunday.
“I remember one time, she said, ‘Why don’t you and your husband come and stay with me?’ She was in Palm Springs at the time. I thought it was just wonderful, but my husband wasn’t really feeling well. I always thought we would have time, but then she passed away. It was a lesson learned. In life, especially as you get older, you can’t put things off because you don’t know how many chances you’ll get. You only get one life to live and it’s hard to live with regrets. That’s one regret I have.”