HELLO AMERICA!—No matter how you look at it, Russ Tamblyn was an extremely lucky young kid in having an opportunity to work with some of the most exciting, talented actors of his day. He was born in Los Angeles in 1934, a perfect time to absorb all the high life, glitter and YES, opportunities which were available to him.
When I first met Russ during the early 1950s, it was easy to relate to each other because I had appeared with Paul Whiteman on his TV show in Philadelphia and had much radio experience on the famed Childrens’ Hour for CBS-WCAU as well. So, it was easy and fun relating to each other. Russ was actually discovered at age 10 by actor Lloyd Bridges for the play “Stone Jungle” and Russ as I was signed to perform on radio and in L.A. based musical revues. He was billed as “Rusty Tamblyn” then, the tousle-haired scrapper played a student extra in his first film “The Boy With Green Hair” which starred another child actor and friend of mine, Dean Stockwell. Having taken up dancing and acrobatics from age 6, Tamblyn marked his abilities with his very first TV appearance on the “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Eventually, Russ won the starring role in the film “The Kid From Cleveland (1949), he was signed by MGM as a juvenile actor. Later, he was schedule to appear in popular family-oriented comedy “Father of the Bride,” and its sequel “Father’s Little Dividend.” The studio spotted his potential and took full advantage of it.
Demonstrating exceptional athleticism in one of MGM’s best, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” which also highlights another one of my close friends Ruta Lee he demonstrated exceptional athleticism and timing. However, this film marked the fading of the musical as we had gotten to love. However, Russ was given a starring role in a low-budget film “The Young Guns” which received excellent reviews which turned his career in a favorable position. The actor as well as Lana Turner, Hope Lange, Diane Varsi and Arthur Kennedy received Oscar Nominations. Russ scored beautifully in the title role of “Tom Thumb” which really was a stepping stone in his being cast as “Riff” in “Westside Story.”
“My life turned in a total different direction” he explained,” once I appeared in this wonderful, powerful film which touched the hearts of millions of people around the world. The music, the story, the characters which the audience could identify with is still impacting young people and, yes, the world. If I was able to appear in only one film, “Westside Story” would be it!”
The actor’s last co-starring roles were shot overseas with the British-produced chiller “The Haunting” with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. “I loved working with Harris and Claire, they were powerful actors who knew exactly how to make a character real and sometimes terrifying. I watched in awe whenever they were in front of the camera.”
As so many other actors of his era he has taken on choreographic duties and managing his actress/daughter Amber Tamblyn who is recognized for her performance in “Joan of Arcadia.” “I have no complaints,” he said. “I was lucky as hell to be given the chances I go and I’m still around to talk about it. And yes, I still miss all those guys who made Westside Story magic time!”