PRINE TIME - ACTOR HAS MANY ROLES, MANY FANS TO MATCH by John Wooley
Prine Tine - Actor Has Many Roles, Many Fans to Match
Tulsa World - December 6, 1996
Author: John Wooley
The Rocky Autograph Picture Show, with scheduled celebrities Andrew Prine, Brinke Stevens, Melissa Anne Moore, Maureen Flaherty and Karl Lauer
When Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where Holiday Inn, 1010 N. Garnett Road
Admission $4, with children admitted free when accompanied by an adult
In addition to -- and thanks to -- an acting career that spans more than three decades, Andrew Prine has been appearing at some movie and TV conventions recently, chatting with fans, answering questions and signing photos.
What kinds of photos does he sign? It depends on which fans he's around.
"If it's a western show, it'll be (a photo from) some old thing I did with John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart, something of that nature," said Prine in a recent telephone interview from his Southern California home. "I've done `Star Trek' and `Deep Space Nine,' so I do a lot of the `Star Trek' conventions, and those are fun. But mostly what people recognize me for these days is the series `V' (which originally aired in 1984-85); I played Stephen, the head of the alien Gestapo. It's having a second life on the Sci-Fi Channel, and I'm finding that it's very popular -- photos from `V' are the things I sign the most.'
He said he'd have `a little bit of everything,' photo-wise, at Sunday's autograph show, and `a little bit of everything' makes for a pretty good description of Prine's career. One of America's busiest character actors since the mid-'60s, the Florida native broke into the business in a rather spectacular way -- his first real credit was the lead role in Broadway's "Look Homeward, Angel," based on the autobiographical Thomas Wolfe novel.
"I was very, very lucky," he said. "I was just too right for the part. I was this tall, skinny, Southern kid -- who was Thomas Wolfe. They couldn't deny me.
"So, literally, for two years on Broadway I learned to act. Every night, the stage manager came back and gave me copious notes -- I mean, I had to go through that every night. But it taught me how to do the deed. I didn't know (anything). I was just good; that's not nearly enough to sustain a show.
"But that's how young actors are," he added. "Young actors are not necessarily talented in the sense that they can do a wonderful thing with finesse. What they have that we don't have later is the heat. It's the heat that gets you there. It's the desire. You've got to want it worse than somebody else, or you'll go do something else."
After his run in "Look Homeward, Angel," Prine moved to the West Coast, where a job in a new TV series was waiting for him. In the NBC-TV series "Wide Country," he played the younger brother of rodeo drifter Earl Holliman. From there, he went into movies, often playing the same kind of character.
"There were so many westerns then," he recalled, "and I was right for them."
Prine's western films of the '60s and early '70s include such well-remembered pictures as "Chisum" with John Wayne, "Bandolero" with James Stewart, "Texas Across the River" with Dean Martin and "Advance to the Rear" with Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens. But in the late '60s, he was offered the lead in a horror movie called "Simon, King of the Witches." He accepted, and the westerns gave way to horror.
"I could get the lead in horror films," he said. "I couldn't get the lead in straight movies because they would be the grownup guys, usually, unless you were lucky enough to be Bob Redford or Warren Beatty. I was the kid, you know. But they said, `Look, you can have the lead, you can have anything you want, if you'll do this damn movie.'" He laughed. "That was `Simon.'"
The movie made a lot of money for everyone involved, and Prine's work in the lead part got him typed as a bankable horror actor. Over the next few years, he made a number of other fright films, including "Crypt of the Living Dead," "The Evil," "Grizzly," "The Town That Dreaded Sundown ," and an infamous little picture called "Barn of the Naked Dead." It's the first picture that famed director Alan Rudolph ("Welcome to L.A.," "The Moderns") ever did, although Rudolph doesn't exactly advertise that fact.
Prine isn't very proud of the film, either.
"That's the only movie I ever regretted making," he said with a rueful chuckle. "It was just too awful. We had no director, and I took over the first day and ran it until they brought in Alan, who was a young apprentice director, and he got it finished.
"I was seduced into doing it by greed. They paid me an awful lot of money. They paid me the whole budget to do it. And I talked myself into believing I could do something with it." He laughed again. "Now, it haunts me wherever I go."
Prine has continued to guest-star in television series, and to score large parts in small films. One of his most unusual roles came a couple of years ago, when he played a Japanese-American gangster named Kyoshi Jones in a picture called "Chill Factor."
"Half my role was in Japanese, and I would go talk to my cartel, which was all of these older, dignified Japanese fellows they'd hired," he recalled. "On the first take, they didn't known anything. They didn't know the script. I had my dialogue on an idiot board, written phonetically, and I came in and said it. And at the end of the take, these poor Japanese men looked at each other like `What the hell was that? Was he
talking to us?' It certainly sounded nothing like
anything they'd ever heard."
Prine laughed. "Someone surely dubbed me when the picture went to Japan. They used my own voice in the American version, because Americans don't know. but the Japanese people -- they'd know."