BEVERLY HILLS —When famed author John O’Dowd who published the definitive book on actress Barbara Payton gifted me with “Reel Tears: The Beverly Washburn Story” I found myself clutching to the book during every waking hour once I started reading it. I did not sleep the night that I read it; I found it so captivating, honest and Washburn’s autobiographical style of writing makes you feel like you are reliving the golden era of Hollywood during the 1950s and ’60s. Tony Dow pens the foreword and it is about the life and career of a woman who was once considered the most beloved and talented child star in television history.
Before Washburn came Shirley Temple, another Hollywood icon who won the hearts of millions when she was a curly-haired little girl at Twentieth Century Fox, my favorite studio for selfish reasons of course. “Reel Tears” gave me genuine tears of delight. A woman who made us fall in love with her during her youth did such an amazing job as an author that you forget she’s actually telling her story and you feel like you are transported to another time.
Ms. Washburn was perhaps Hollywood’s most noticeable family child star in our youth. She was best known as a consummate professional performer who worked with one of many of our favorite stars of the time. We shared a personal friendship with Loretta Young, but Beverly managed to work with her on the set of “The Loretta Young Show,” which today is on DVD around the world. Beverly Washburn also worked with Tony Dow, the legendary Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, George Reeves [Superman], Lou Costello, Bill Bixby, Alan Ladd and Dorothy McGuire, just to name a few.
In “Old Yeller” I never saw a young girl cry so much. I remember that film like it was yesterday. Washburn became famous in Hollywood for being able to cry on cue, but her book is not filled with dirty stories from past icons or sex talk. It’s filled with amazing memories, and her style of writing forces the mind to imagine clearly and while reading the book you say to yourself, “I am living this.” Her book is like a dream, but the best dream you can ever have. You remember it when you wake up, but you can’t grasp the vivid nature you feel you are given with great descriptive skills which no one realized Ms. Washburn was capable of sharing and putting on the pages.
Working with Jimmy Stewart in “The Greatest Show on Earth” meant a lot to the star, but her tales of Clayton Moore and working on “The Lone Ranger” makes every man my age long for those days of the classic westerns. Beverly worked on perhaps one of the top five westerns of cinematic history when she starred opposite Alan Ladd in “Shane.” That film broke the box office at the time and forced western writers and directors to produce a more accurate depiction of westerns and like most of her films, in that one she cried on cue again.
“Reel Tears: The Beverly Washburn Story” is one of the best star autobiographies I’ve ever read and one that I hope will become a feature film. It was refreshing to find a child star who did manage to have a career and come out unscathed, but it’s very honest and something that makes her readers think about the difficulties this business can create.
This is a must-read that is published by Bear Manor and is available nationwide in bookstores and Amazon.com.