Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Ramblin' Rhodes: 60 years ago, stars were caught shining in Augusta

DENNIS ROYLE//FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lauren Bacall (from left), Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn arrive at London airport on July 8, 1951, from Africa, where they were filming The African Queen.
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It must have been an interesting week for local residents 60 years ago with Jayne Mansfield, Ernest Tubb and Lash LaRue making appearances and The African Queen being shown for the first time in Augusta.

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Jayne Mansfield arrives at the Shape international service club near Paris, France, on Oct. 11, 1957, to visit NATO servicemen. The actress lived on Damascus Road in Augusta for a time.  FILE?ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE?ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jayne Mansfield arrives at the Shape international service club near Paris, France, on Oct. 11, 1957, to visit NATO servicemen. The actress lived on Damascus Road in Augusta for a time.

Mansfield was living in an apartment on Damascus Road with her first husband, U.S. Army Lt. Paul Mansfield, when she modeled for the Gascar Camera Club of Augusta at its annual Augusta Photo Carnival held on May 28, 1952, at Julian Smith Casino.

“Mrs. Mansfield is 19-years-old and has a background of professional modeling experience, dramatics and television interests,” The Chronicle noted.

She and her husband had moved to Augusta from Austin, Texas, where she had studied drama at the University of Texas at Austin, did nude modeling for art classes, sold books door-to-door and worked evenings staffing the desk at a dance club.

The Pennsylvania native also had become involved with the Austin Civic Theater.

When her husband was called up to the U.S. Army Reserve for the Korean War and was assigned to what was then Camp Gordon, she continued her theatrical studies. She would catch a city bus from Damascus Road to downtown Augusta with her young daughter to take ballet lessons from Alexis Dolinoff and voice lessons from George Craig.

Three years later, she would be on Broadway in the musical Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? followed by film stardom with the comedy The Girl Can’t Help It in 1956 and the film verison of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in 1957.

The soon-to-be classic movie The African Queen co-starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn opened in Los Angeles in December 1951 and New York City in February 1952.

It would not be until June 1, 1952, however that Augusta movie fans got a chance to see it when it came to the Miller Theater on Broad Street.

Much of it was filmed on location in Uganda and the Congo in Africa, but about half of the movie was filmed in England, including the scenes in which Bogart and Hepburn are seen in the water. They were filmed in tanks at Isleworth Studios in Middlesex.

On the same day movie fans were watching The African Queen at the Miller, die-hard country music fans a few blocks away were enjoying matinee and evening performances of country music legend Ernest Tubb at Bell Auditorium with local music heroes Claude Casey and Peanut Faircloth.

Tubb already had cemented the foundation for his lengthy career scoring his major hit (I’m) Walking The Floor Over You in 1941. The Lone Star State native was nicknamed “The Texas Troubadour.”

Five years before his Augusta shows, Tubb had opened the first of his Ernest Tubb Record Shops in Nashville in May 1947 and in September of that year had headlined the first-ever Grand Ole Opry Show held in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

He would come in and out of Augusta throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including appearances with his Decca Records duet partner Loretta Lynn. She had made her connection with Patsy Cline by dedicating a song to Cline during a broadcast at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop just across from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

As if seeing Mansfield, The African Queen and Tubb were not enough to enjoy this week 60 years ago, cowboy movie fans on June 3, 1952, got to see their hero Lash LaRue making four stage appearances at 2:30, 5, 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. at the Modjeska Theater.

Alfred “Lash” LaRue was just 12 days shy of his 31st birthday when he demonstrated his bull whip skills while wearing his signature black outfit.

The cracking of his 18-foot-long bull whip put the fear in many a bad guy in the popular western movies LaRue starred in throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s.

Supposedly, it was LaRue who gave bull whip lessons to actor Harrison Ford for his Indiana Jones movies.

LaRue would thrill fans with his personal appearances at movie theaters and western film conventions for decades – as well as being an evangelist on the rodeo circuit – before dying in California in 1996.


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