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Friday July 15, 2016
Michael Forest is another actor that many at the convention will only know from Star Trek. Even after seeing photos of his earlier television appearances, younger attendees, unfamiliar with the shows, may not appreciate his other work. As I browsed through the photos of his many roles in the early westerns (and Zorro), a flood of memories came back. When I was a child, evening television programming was awash with westerns. A half-century has passed and I can still remember the characters he played. They must have made a bigger impression on me than I thought.
|Michael Forest at Shore Leave 38|
Many of Michael's roles were as villains or "Indians" in the westerns. The reason he got so many parts was his height (along with his acting ability, of course). The "good guys" in those westerns were tall. These were stories about big men in a big country—and they needed big bad guys to fight against. James Arness, Clint Walker, and Fess Parker were all very tall. James Arness, for example, is listed at 6'7" (2+ m). Having a fight scene with a person of average height would have looked a bit awkward—perhaps even silly. Michael is listed at 6'3" (but I think he may be a hair taller), so he fit the bill. And even though he is part Native American, that's not what got him his roles playing "Indians." It was his height.
We were getting an autograph on one of Michael's Star Trek photos as Apollo when I made mention of a few old black-and-white photos he had out. That's when Michael said he had some pictures he really liked. He pulled out several portraits from a folder he had behind his table. They were not items he had out for sale. I hadn't planned to purchase a lot of photos at the conference, but when I saw these I knew at least a couple of them were going home with me. Best of all, he related the following story of how they came to be.
After his work in television in the United States, Michael lived in Italy for a while. Italian director Vittorio de Sica asked his personal photographer to take pictures of Michael and other actors/actresses to be used as publicity shots. Michael was surprised when asked to accompany them. He didn't know the director had such an interest in him. They went out into the Italian countryside where the following two pictures were taken (in a barn, Michael told us). It seems that the Italian actors were not pleased with the attention Michael was given, an gave him a bit of the cold shoulder. Michael is still in awe of the work the photographer did. He said, "I didn't look this good. The photographer made me look this good." The scans really don't do the photos justice. "That's not me," he said, gazing at an old image of himself. "That person doesn't exist anymore." This is one of those stories that might never have been heard had he not chosen to show us these pictures. Please do not use or distribute them for commercial purposes without getting Michael's permission.
|Michael Forest in Italy|
|Michael Forest in Italy|
Here are a couple pictures I took of Michael Forest at the Shore Leave 38 convention.
|Michael Forest laughing with one of the attendees at Shore Leave 38.|
I believe that is his wife, Diana, in the foreground.
A few final notes on Michael Forest:
- He has a lot of energy for an 87 year old person. Like Barbara Bouchet, he arrived at the conference early and stayed late. He was more than willing to talk at length about his career or pose for pictures with the convention attendees.
- He comes across as a very humble man.
- He also signs autographs that are readable.
- Michael's Wikipedia page is HERE.
In the meantime, you can read my story, The Song of Aiden, in Human 76 - a post-apocalyptic, shared-world anthology!
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