SAM NEWFIELD (Producer/Director)
As we ponder the making of "Wolf Dog", we might put ourselves in the place of the Hollywood elder statesman, filmmaker Sam Newfield. He is widely celebrated as the "Most prolific feature film director of the American sound era".
One wonders if it was ultimately Newfield's decision to use Markdale's Paul Hutton as actor Tony Brown's screen double. Young Paul's similar height and frame allowed him to take Brown's marks, so the technicians could set up and stage scenes, possibly allowing the youthful actor crucial moments to rehearse and memorize lines. Probably in reward for his services, Paul was immortalized in a cameo appearance elsewhere in the movie.
Newfield had some 210 Hollywood feature films (see our Facebook threads) to his credit, as well as a dizzying array of short films and television shows. The "Wolf Dog" assignment had him assume the dual role of producer/director and marked his return to Canada, after directing TV episodes of "Hawkeye, The Last Of The Mohicans" for Toronto-based Normandie Productions the previous year. Canada was as far as one can get from his hometown New York and 1950's era Markdale might have been the most distant point culturally he'd ventured to through his work.
"Wolf Dog" was the second-to-last feature project of his long and storied career, the first of a two-film contract with the Canadian counterpart of Regal Films and the assignment that brought him to the quiet Ontario village of Markdale. After filming here, the crew continued on to Fergus and Toronto.
What might he have thought about the throngs of starstruck folk who descended on the "hub of Grey County", many of whom hoped to immortalize themselves as walk-thru extras? Had the village's rustic charm touched him, or was he itching to get to work on his career signoff piece, "Flaming Frontier"? Whether Newfield's experiences were good, bad, or indifferent, the magic legacy of Hollywood had an audience with this small Canadian village, engraving indelible memories that would last a lifetime.
ALLISON HAYES (Ellen Hughes)
It had to be the thrill of a lifetime for the late Mabel Douglas, wife of late Markdale businessman, Loren Douglas. She was hired as an on-location hairdresser for Allison Hayes, a Hollywood "B" starlet in the heady days of a career at it's apex. Allison had been cast as Ellen Hughes in the 1958 film "Wolf Dog," co-starring with Jim Davis, Austin Willis and youth actor, Tony Brown. She was probably used to the adulation of filming on location, but one has to wonder how a female Hollywood celebrity on the rise could have reacted to the rustic crudeness of late-1950s Markdale.
Her stunning beauty in 1949 experimental color broadcasts on local television led to her becoming Miss Washington D.C. She later appeared with Milton Q. Ford in a one-hour TV program which regularly featured her practicing a personal hobby: dog training. She was soon discovered by Universal International and agreed to a movie contract.
In 1958, the same year "Wolf Dog" was released, Allison appeared in the B sci-fi thriller "Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman."While she didn't realize it at the time, "Fifty Foot Woman" was to be the defining moment of her cinematic tenure. Sadly, the remainder of Allison's career was spent in typical Hollywood "movie-factory" works.
She suffered a broken rib from a horseback mishap during the filming of the feature film"Gunslinger,"but recovered to do more movie and TV work in 1957. About this time, she had been prescribed a calcium supplement for a health ailment. The drug had serious side-effects which were later found to be caused by complications from lead-poisoning. It led to leukemia, ultimately the cause of her 1977 death. She was only 47 years old.
Besides "Wolf Dog", Allison had a pretty unique connection to Canada. She was cast in several episodes of the televison show "Perry Mason" alongside good friend, Canadian actor Raymond Burr. She also made a guest-star appearance in TV's "Bat Masterson,"a mythological old-west hero who may have been born in Quebec. Allison played a former RCAF parachuting "para-nurse" in a 1962 episode of "RIPCORD", starring Ken Curtis (Remember Festus from Gunsmoke?) and Larry Pennell.
Perhaps there are other stories that only Mabel's hairdressing chair could tell. For example, would the character "Mabel", played by Allison in the 1965 Elvis Presley film "Tickle Me", be meant as homage to Markdale's Mabel Douglas?
ANTHONY BROWN (Paul Hughes)
Of all the principal actors in WOLF DOG, information on Tony Brown has proved the most difficult for me to get. Chances are Tony left the business as a youth and embarked on a new career path. I have followed up on leads from people claiming to know of Tony's whereabouts, but have never actually made personal contact.
Tony's father, Syd Brown, was a semi-regular on the Pickering-based syndicated TV series, "Last Of The Mohicans". Tony appeared in at least one episode of "Mohicans" before starring in WOLF DOG (The 1956 episode "Winter Passage"). In January 2012, I discovered the 1957 National Film Board short "Fires Of Envy", which featured both Tony and his dad Syd Brown in uncredited roles as residents of a small Saskatchewan town. He also appeared in the title role of the 1963 "Forest Rangers" episode "Lennie" at about age 17. A slightly more mature Tony then appeared as (co-incidentally) "Jim", one of a good bunch of kids keeping bad company, in another B&W NFB offering "The Shattered Silence" (1966), which I happened to catch on Silver Screen Classics Canada in early April 2012.
In the Internet Database, the Tony Brown who appeared in WOLF DOG also appeared in a 1962 Italian film called "Anima Nera" starring Vittorio Nassman and Nadja Tiller. He may also have appeared in a 1989 Australian flick called "The Delinquents."
If you have any information on what direction Tony's career and life took, plus he is OK with us contacting him, please forward the info to me at your convenience. It would be a delight to meet and make contact with him. He is appreciated and we would make sure to honor him accordingly.
UPDATE: I have had recent email correspondence with a high school acquaintance of Tony Brown. Tony left acting entirely and became a commercial pilot, later specializing in helicopters. Could the universe have been giving me hints about Tony, resulting in the depictions of choppers in my mock trailer for Wolf Dog's sequel: "WOLF DOG II: A DOG IN 'NAM"?
DON GARRARD (Lee Trent, Bank Robber)
I found out the power in "Googling" a particular name one weekend in late January '06, when I did a web search on the name "Don Garrard," the actor who played bank robber Lee Trent in WOLF DOG and also guest starred in 5 episodes of LAST OF THE MOHICANS. In WOLF DOG, Trent was the brains of the two bad guys who holed up in the Hughes home and it was subtly implied that the desperate criminal was developing a 'thing' for Ellen.
My search turned up the fascinating information that Mr. Garrard achieved international reknown as a bass singer who starred in the Canadian Opera Company (COC) back in the 1960s. My research has also unveiled that Don is alive and living today in Kenilworth, South Africa. I have managed to make contact with Don through the publishers of his book "Anecdotage", with New Voice Publishing in South Africa. Read Don's recollections of WOLF DOG at THIS link.
LES RUBIE (Sol Alcombs, Druggist)
Perhaps best known as one of the cast of characters who supported "Wayne and Shuster" for over 3 decades. The late Rubie got cast in clueless old goat roles in TV shows, TV commercials and movies, playing them to perfection. Another of the stable of fine actors Sam Newfield had worked with on LAST OF THE MOHICANS.
After a steady, albeit brief stint at MOHICANS, Rubie and fellow actor Don Cullen hitched up with Wayne and Shuster, who once even did a sketch satirizing the mid-1950s adventure TV show that was filmed near Pickering, Ontario. I understand they actually used one of the sets from the series, which was also produced in association with CBC. Rubie also appears with Syd and Tony Brown in the 1957 NFB film, "Fires Of Envy", with John Vernon.
Rubie also co-starred with Vernon, as well as Art Hindle and Trudy Young in the 1971 Canadian classic film, "Face Off", playing a loveable oldtimer. He plays a similar character in another Canadian celluloid classic, "Paperback Hero".
Les was the lead character in the 1979 NFB film, "Bravery In The Field". He became a national phenomenon with his role in a very popular TV ad for REZ Wood Stain. The person who posted the YouTube link for the REZ ad calls it "the OLD COOT commercial". How appropos.
On WOLF DOG Les plays Sol Alcombs, the clueless old pharmacist who unwittingly whomps up a batch of coagulant for one of the bad guys.
JIM DAVIS (Jim Hughes)
Young Ron Wyvill was a bit awestruck. Until now, the tall dark man who was now signing his autograph in the Marigold Restaurant had been just a flicker on the silver screen. Humility had been no stranger to the man slated to play Jim Hughes in "Wolf Dog." Born in 1909 in Dearborn, Missouri, Jim Davis had his first taste of showbusiness as a circus tent-rigger. He also employed his strength as a construction laborer, but dreamed of making movies for a living. Davis worked his way to Hollywood in 1940 as a travelling salesman, occasionally auditioning for roles. He eventually worked his way into an MGM studios contract, following a screen test with Esther Williams.
After 8 years of minor roles, he co-starred with Bette Davis in "Winter Meeting." Though not related, MGM made much of the fact the stars shared the same name. "Wolf Dog" provided a rare cinematic starring role for Davis, as he spent most of the fifties in secondary roles as Western heavies. He also starred in two syndicated TV series that decade, "Stories Of The Century" and "Rescue 8"and made at least 200 guest star appearance in other programs. A huge blow to Davis' life occurred on February 9, 1970, when his only daughter, Tara Diane Davis, died in a tragic car accident.
Davis struggled in the sixties and seventies, until landing the biggest role of his career in 1978: Jock Ewing of the prime-time soap "Dallas." Davis fostered a close friendship with co-star Victoria Principal, who bore a strong resemblance to his late daughter. He remained a key character in the series, until his tragic 1981 death following surgery. Davis requested a picture of both his daughter and Principal be placed in a pocket upon his death and buried with his remains.
Like Allison Hayes, Davis' passing is shrouded in suspicion of due to allegations of medical malpractice. A lot of conflicting information exists about the reason for his death, ranging from brain cancer, to a perforated ulcer. His family is alleged to have filed a lawsuit against the caregivers. A sad end for a man who provided young Ron Wyvill a fleeting glimpse of glory.
In 2012, European fans of Davis created a new memorial website devoted to him. The site is most interesting: The Jim Davis Memorial Page.
AUSTIN WILLIS (Clem Krivak)
The distinguished Canadian actor, Austin Willis is younger brother to the late J. Frank Willis, a pioneer of Canadian newscasting. According to J. Frank, Austin was just a babe in his mother's arms - "in swaddling clothes," as he puts it, when the Halifax Explosion happened in 1917.
The talented Willis juggled acting and broadcasting early on and reached national notoriety performing radio comedy with a couple of other young upstarts, Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. The 1943 Canadian flick "The Bush Pilot" launched his illustrious cinematic career.
Willis became best known as host of the CBC panel show "This Is The Law" and was a highly visible representative of the Royal Canadian Legion in his twilight years, but is remembered for numerous Canadian and Hollywood feature film roles and also made guest appearances on many leading 1960s American TV series such as Mannix, The F.B.I., I Spy and The Rat Patrol.
In my 2004 telephone interview with Austin, he confided that a high point in his career was a brief car ride he took with Peter Sellers in Sellers' Rolls Royce, during filming of the 1959 comedy, "The Mouse That Roared".
Who knows what Willis encountered during his short soujourn to Markdale? One might suspect the handsome actor had offers from delectable young wannabe starlets for "private auditions". Perhaps his best encounters surrounded the thrill of working with such Hollywood luminaries as Jim Davis, Allison Hayes and/or director, Sam Newfield.
JOHN HART (Andy Bates)
Possibly the most famous cast member in "Wolf Dog", John Hart never received an onscreen credit in the film. The California-born actor enjoyed a very prolific career that spanned over four decades. In Wolf Dog, Hart played the role of Krivak's henchman Andy Bates.
Not a quitter, John got himself cast in yet another starring role, this time for a syndicated TV show filmed in Toronto by Canada's Normandie Productions. Playing the role of Nat "Hawkeye" Cutler of "The Last Of The Mohicans", he appeared in this feature with Lon Chaney Jr. During this stint, John met prolific director Sam Newfield and fell in love with Canadian actress Beryl Braithwaite, whom he soon married. Chaney honoured John by being his best man.
As Hart matured and his Lone Ranger fame waned, he managed to work steadily throughout the sixties and seventies. He appeared as the Lone Ranger in TV episodes of "Happy Days" and "Greatest American Hero", as well as the role of a newspaper editor in the 1980s movie "Legend Of The Lone Ranger". (Anyone remember Klinton Spilsbury...?) He even reunited with Wolf Dog co-star Jim Davis for one episode in the prime-time soap, Dallas. It was to be Davis' last appearance on the show, as he soon became too ill to work. Henceforth, the Jock Ewing character was only heard from via letters from South America (Ironically, reference to "letters from South America" is also part of Wolf Dog's plot)! John went into film editing and directing. He even worked behind the scenes for a time on the TV show "Quincy".
Two roles I remember him best in were as a beat cop, who happened along, when "Beaver" Cleaver got stuck inside a giant billboard coffee cup, in an episode of "Leave It To Beaver", also as a police dispatcher in the Disney film, "The Shaggy D.A."
Hart passed away on September 20, 2009. There are many websites devoted to John on the net.
SYD BROWN (Col. Byrneen)
Willowdale, Ontario's own Syd Brown was not only a solid character actor in Canadian movies and TV, but was father to Tony Brown, child star of WOLF DOG. The elder Brown was another veteran Canadian thespian Sam Newfield had worked with on LAST OF THE MOHICANS, whom he dragged off to central Grey County for the soon to be forgotten "B" movie. He plays the kindly Col. Byrneen on WOLF DOG. Syd also appeared with Tony in an uncredited role in the 1957 National Film Board short, "Fires Of Envy", also starring the legendary John Vernon.
JOHN PARIS (Parole Officer Johnson)
Paris appears briefly in WOLF DOG as Johnson, Jim Hughes' parole officer. As this scene was shot indoors at the Queensway studio, near the now-defunct Sunnyside Park (probably Mimico area), Paris probably never made the trip to the location shoot in Markdale. He began to play bit roles in Canadian TV and cinema around this time and later made multiple appearances in the popular Canadian kid's television show, THE FOREST RANGERS.
DARYL MASTERS (Jed, Gas Attendant)
Another of the WOLF DOG actors who appeared in episodes of LAST OF THE MOHICANS and CANNONBALL. Masters died in Toronto on May 24, 1961 at age 48, after working in the National Film Board flick, "The Business Of Farming", co-starring Jim "Scotty" Doohan and a youthful Peter Kastner. His remains lie at the Glendale Memorial Gardens in Rexdale, Ontario.
JUAN ROOT (Bill Hawkins, Bank Robber)
Juan Root was apparently involved with the Winnipeg theatre scene from the late 1930s, into the early 1940s. A "personable young actor" named Juan Root was morning host of the CKNW Radio show, "The Yawn Patrol" through the 1940s and returned to CKNW in 1950 to take over for popular deejay Hal Yerxa.
One interesting anecdote I've read is that Juan's name appears once in the Broadway database and his Broadway career may have opened and closed with a single 1937 production.
A "Juan A. Root" is alleged to have passed away in New Jersey in 1989 - the jury is out as to whether or not these Juan Roots were one and the same.
Juan appeared in the LAST OF THE MOHICANS episode, "Winter Passage", also featuring WOLF DOG co-stars Daryl Masters and Anthony Brown. There is also evidence to suggest Juan once moonlighted for a time as a radio news reporter, recording at least one interview for the CBC radio program "Assignment" in 1957.