Whimsey | Movie Extras

We love old westerns, so we were fascinated with this publicity still for the 1939 Errol Flynn movie "Dodge City." In those days, movie extras were paid $5 a day and lunch, so studios could afford to cram their scenes with people, like this one set in downtown "Dodge."

Who was minding the livestock back at the ranch; everybody was in town?! We stopped counting at 44 people when our eye settled on that wagon load of people farther up the street. What was that about? Upon closer examination...

Why, it's a burly stuntman in a dress and wig, and a dozen dummies! Obviously, the script was calling for a horrible accident. We rented the movie just to see what happened, and to see if we could spot these manikins of the Old West. Not there. No manikins. The scene as filmed had a wide shot of real live ladies in the wagon, with a little boy in the drivers seat (no burly stuntman). Then, in a closer shot, the skittish horses bolted loose from the wagon, jerking the boy off the seat and dragging him down the street. (They must have changed the script.) Guess who tore out after the runaway horses and rescued the boy.

The movie was directed by Michael Curtiz. A native Hungarian, Curtiz was known for his difficulty with the English language. During filming of his "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936), director Curtiz ordered up the rider-less equines to be seen in the background during the final charge. His instructions were, "Bring on the empty horses."

What does all this have to do with WBTV? Well, in the three decades after 1949, Channel 3 likely aired "Dodge City" at least 18 times, or about once every couple of years. Can't you just picture (no pun intended) Gil Stamper from his little chair-lamp-table set introducing this movie as "The Best of Hollywood!"

Photo from Jim Scancarelli collection