Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Whip Wilson (1911 - 1964)

Whip Wilson was born Roland Charles Meyers on June 16, 1911, in Granite, Illinois. He was one of eight children. He had a resemblance to Buck Jones and was given a terrific Hollywood publicity buildup, but this was not enough to make Whip a major cowboy star. However, Wilson did gain some measure of success by starring in 22 B western features, and he made more pictures than Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson, Monte Hale, Rex Allen or Eddie Dean.

Hollywood created a highly fictional biography for Whip and made the following claims: he was born in 1911 on a fabulous ranch in Pecos, Texas; he was a rodeo champion; he had an engineering degree; he was a World War II Marine hero; he was a direct descendant of General Custer; and that he did all of his movie stunts. Alas, none of the claims were true.

Whip was a moderately successful singer before going to Hollywood, and although he sang in a few pictures, he is not considered a "singing cowboy". Scott R. Dunlap, a Monogram Studio executive and a friend of Buck Jones, had been looking for someone like Jones since Buck perished in the Boston Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in 1942. Apparently he saw in Wilson something that reminded him of the great Jones and signed him to star in a Western series.

Also at the same time Lash LaRue was gaining some fame cracking a bull whip in a series at PRC, so Dunlap decided to give Wilson a whip and make him a combination of Lash LaRue and Buck Jones all rolled into one.
To give Wilson experience, Dunlap put him in the 1948 Jimmy Wakely film SILVER TRAILS. The next year Whip got his own series and made his first starring film called CRASHING THRU.

Whip was provided with a huge white horse named Silver Bullet. The name was later shortened to Bullet. And still later the name was changed to Rocket because Roy Rogers was using a dog named Bullet in his pictures.
Many claim the best thing the Wilson series had going for it was veteran comedian Andy Clyde. Clyde had made his mark as a cowboy comic playing "California Carlson" in the long running Hopalong Cassidy series.

But after a dozen pictures, Clyde left the series and was replaced by Fuzzy Knight and Jim Bannon (the last Red Ryder).
Whip Wilson's last starring feature was WYOMING ROUNDUP which was released in 1952. He did work in one more movie when he was hired to do the whip scenes in the Burt Lancaster film THE KENTUCKIAN.

Wilson and his third wife Monica operated an apartment complex after he left the movie industry. Whip died of a heart attack on October 22, 1964. He was only 53 years old. He left only his beloved wife Monica, as they had no children.
Whip Wilson was not a major player in the Western film field, but one still occasionally runs into a Whip Wilson fan. Many who worked with Whip did not necessarily appreciate his work but they praised his kindness and his character.


Post a Comment

<< Home