Alex Cord is a name that has been around the movie industry for some time. From “Synanon” to “Airwolf.” This is a special interview and one that I think the majority of you will find refreshing. Alex is an author– an excellent author who has just finished a screenplay for his book “A Feather in the Rain.” He is also a man who loves learning about social media and has been growing a huge following on Facebook lately.
For Alex it’s a thrill to meet with fans on a daily basis. It’s almost like a large family on his page and I think many are surprised at how interested he is in the every day happenings of his fans.
Q) Great to meet you, Alex. Let me start by asking when you first decided that acting was for you?
A) Good morning, Nick. Being an actor never entered my mind until I was in college studying English literature and discovered that all the pretty girls were in the dramatic arts department. I began to take some of their classes. Voice and diction, history of the theatre, Shakespeare. I was challenged by the Bard and became a serious student because of a great teacher. I had to get up and read aloud to the class. I was extremely shy, fearful, and reluctant at first, but encouraged by Professor Fanny Bradshaw’s praise and genuine belief in my ability, I slowly became more confident and soon found that I could enjoy performing. That wonderful silver-haired lady changed my life. I soon became passionately interested in the artistry of the printed word and the power of it well spoken. A girl friend aspiring actress was going to be in a university production on stage and suggested that I audition for a part. I did and was cast as an old farmer. I did enjoy that applause at the end.
Q) During those early days, you obviously discovered the power of the Bard… How did you get from student of the Bard to professional actor, working at the Stratford, Connecticut Shakespearian Festival?
A) The American Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, Connecticut was holding auditions for their second season. No less than Katherine Hepburn and Robert Ryan appeared in the first season. Again, my girlfriend auditioned and was accepted in a student program with great teachers and parts in the plays. She suggested I try out for the same. With the help of Fanny Bradshaw, I did, and was accepted. A glorious summer followed with parts in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At the end of the summer, I had been asked to join a group of hugely talented actors to perform for the winter in repertory at a prestigious theatre in St. Louis, MO.
Q) And then, you took a leap of faith and ended up working in London– how did that happen?
That led to off-broadway theatre and eventually to a starring role in a play on the London stage in England. A dream had come true. Blessed with astounding reviews at the time of the Annual London Critics’ Awards, I was nominated for the Best Actor Award along with Christopher Plummer in Becket and Albert Finney in Luther. Mr. Plummer won.
Q) You were of course, part of a cutting edge period of Television acting. How did it feel to be working with such actors as George C. Scott? In fact, let me add to that– was George C. Scott considered a great actor, even in his early years?
A) Back in the states, I worked on all the great TV shows. Naked City, U.S. Steel Hour, East Side West Side, with the amazing George C. Scott. He was an absolute joy to work with. Generous beyond, giving me every advantage with the camera. The show was all about my character of a paraplegic. At the end of a very dramatic scene between George and me, the entire crew stood and applauded. An extremely fine memory. We became lifelong friends. Once after a long time not seeing each other we were at the same event. He spotted me first, called my name, and charged at me like a grizzly, flung his arms around me and lifted me off the ground. Another extremely fine memory. From his first appearances off-Broadway, he was considered a “great actor.” Because he was.
Q) I guess the early TV work was a huge learning curve. Would you agree with that?
A) I would. The work in early TV was a great training ground for learning about the camera and the difference between film and stage acting. And of course getting the opportunity to work with legends of the theatre. Burgess Meredith, Luther Adler, Jacob Adler, John Emery, Morris Cornovsky, Dame Judith Anderson, Burt Lahr, Nancy Marchand, Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Q) So, from stage, to TV… How did you break into the movie world? You went from TV/ stage actor to playing the brother of Kirk Douglas.
A) Back in those days they would fly a New York actor out to Hollywood to do a TV show that was made there. The epitome of a gentleman was a gifted director named Richard Quine who had seen me in a TV show and asked for me to do a screen test for a leading role in his new movie, Synanon. I got the part, a great role of a hardcore drug addict who falls in love with the exquisite Stella Stevens. Edmund O,Brian and Eartha Kitt were also in it. Then came, The Brotherhood, with one of the great men of all time, Kirk Douglas. An excellent film directed by the prolific Martin Ritt. A very well written story about the power of the Mafia. I played Kirk’s brother, a super good role and one of the best experiences with another man who became a life-long friend.
Q) Then, came the film that my mother would always call “the Alex Cord” movie. The first picture that would see you become a movie star… How did you catch the starring role in “Stagecoach” and, how did you approach trying to fill the boots of the “Duke?”
A) Stagecoach. What a daunting offer that was. To be forced into attempting to fill the monumental boots of the Duke. Of course I tried to not think about that and approach it as I would any other role. Everyone was very supportive. Ann-Margaret, my dear friend Stephanie Powers, we had done several TV shows together, Slim Pickens was an old cowboy friend.
Q) That was the movie that saw you working with “El Bing” in perhaps his last great role. What was it like working with such a huge motion picture star?
A) The legend himself, Bing. He was a consummate pro. Knew exactly what he was doing and did it so well. I don’t know how much practice he had in life at being drunk but he sure pulled it off on screen. When we finished filming and had gone our separate ways, he had seen a screening of the finished product and took the time to write me the most complimentary letter about my work and how much he enjoyed me and felt that I should be proud. I’m not much for saving things like that but my mother insisted that I have it framed. She was a huge fan of Bing. I arranged for her to have dinner with Bing and me and Stephanie. Bing could not have been more kind, gracious and attentive. A great memory for Mom and another one for me.
Q) Did you ever meet Elvis Presley?
A) Did I meet Elvis Presley? Yes. He was shooting a picture on an MGM lot and I was working there too. I was making a cop picture with the bond girl Shirley Eaton. He had seen “Synanon” and one of his guys came to ask if I wanted to have lunch with Elvis. I had lunch with Elvis Presley.
Q) You are also quite the jazz fan correct?
A) Yes! John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie. I have a Dizzy Gillespie story for another time. I met him in London. I also spent time with Miles Davis. I remember one great time with Miles on a beach.
Q) Let me ask you, you are considered to be one of the top horsemen in Hollywood, and at the same time an award-winning stage actor. How do you compare working with on westerns to working on stage? Which do you prefer?
There is no way to compare working on stage in the theatre with filming a western. They are two totally different worlds. My life as a serious, professional horseman has never done me any good on stage that I know of. It has however done me a lot of good when making westerns.
Q) Where did your love of horses come from?
A) My parents put me on a pony when I was two years old. I still have the photo of me grinning from ear to ear while another kid in the background is screaming to get off. I was born with an inexplicable love for horses that has only grown enormously throughout my life. I was gratefully gifted with a desire to know all that I could about them, a sense of how they think and feel. I have studied with some of the best trainers and teachers in the world in all disciplines and have found that the best teacher of all is the horse. If you are willing to listen. The secret to becoming one with a horse is love. Respect. Earning his trust. Communicating in a way that he understands what you want. A horse can feel a fly on him. You’ve seen them quiver their skin to make the fly leave. If they can feel a fly, how heavy handed does one need to be if the horse understands what it is you want? There is a potent, influential energy that comes from within the horse and those who fall under its spell are the slaves of a grand passion.
Catch Alex on his Facebook page to interact with him– but, right now you need to hear about the brand new Alex Cord novel. “Days of Harbinger”
“Can one man change the way the entire world thinks? Johnny Grant is a world famous movie star with a passionate social conscience and a gift of clairvoyance. Intensely discontent with man’s inhumanity to man, contemptuously critical of corruption in government, greed, selfishness, he’s convinced the human race is headed for self-destruction. Depressed by an insistent awareness of his impotence to affect the changes he feels would improve life for all of us, he hungers for power. Ultimate power. Filming in Australia, he inexplicably vanishes without a trace. Instant news Worldwide. A turbulent, national manhunt ensues. Three days later he returns with an unbelievable explanation. Realizing the fantastic nature of his story, and lacking evidence, he refuses to be put in the position of convincing anyone. Is what he says true or not? Midst a media frenzy, his fame and influence explode in controversy. Will it bring him the power he craves?”