Remembering Will Wright

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Here is another character actor from the early days of movies and television series: Will Wright.

Wright was born in San Francisco in 1894. He worked as a newspaper reporter before he went into show business. He was truly a star of stage, screen, radio and television. His most famous film role was that of the corrupt city official Dolph Pillsbury in “All the King’s Men” (1949) with Broderick Crawford in the starring role (on a personal side, the book written by Robert Penn Warren was required reading at my Dallas high school, St. Mark’s, in the late 1960s).

He appeared in more than 4,000 radio shows as well, including “The Jack Benny Program.” When Benny went to television, Wright appeared on his TV show as well.

He was primarily cast in westerns as an old and, at times, argumentative curmudgeon. He was a guest star in shows such as “Bonanza,” “Cheyenne,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “General Electric Theatre,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Ozzie & Harriett,” and countless others until his death in 1962.

This week’s clip has Wright in a comedic role in an episode of “I Love Lucy.” Entitled “Tennessee Bound,” this is one of the finest episodes of the entire series. Directed by William Asher and written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr., Wright plays the sheriff of Bent Fork, Tennessee, a town that the Ricardos and Mertzes are driving through on their way to Hollywood. After getting lost at a gas station and dealing with a quirky attendant (played by Aaron Spelling), Ricky decides to make up for lost time, takes the wheel of the car, and speeds through Bent Fork, only to be arrested by the sheriff, played by Wright. Tennessee Ernie Ford, who had made a few appearances earlier on the Lucy show, appears in this episode to free the gang from the jailhouse (Wright appeared one other time in 1952 on an episode called “The Handcuffs” where Ricky and Lucy play around with an old set of handcuffs from Fred but the key is lost!).

Premiering on the CBS Television Network on January 24, 1955, enjoy this clip from the final scene of “Tennessee Bound” and let the laughs begin!

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