With an appearance at the Memphis Film Festival imminent, and a new Western rumored to be on the way, this interview with Alex Cord will bring us up-to-date. Alex is currently riding high on Amazon with his second book, “A Feather in the Rain,” which won awards and gathered acclaim from around the world. He is still as active as ever, running his Facebook page, reading scripts and spending time with his horses each day. I don’t know how he finds time to write books—but he certainly does. Let’s see what else he has been up to lately…
Alex, how does it feel to have “A Feather in the Rain” still reigning high on the bestseller charts?
It feels wonderful, and I’m very grateful to the wonderful readers who continue to keep reading my work, and making it successful.
Rumor has it that you are writing a brand new Western?
I have quite a few projects running at the moment—but yes—a Western is in the works. I can’t tell you any more than that.
Still staying with the Westerns here, 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.
A burning question for me is a simple one– where did your love of horses come from?
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.
You are currently having great success with your writing—but many people reading this out there will know you from your incredibly successful acting career. How did your acting career start? Was it something you always wanted to do?
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 girlfriend and 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.
During those early days, you obviously took a great interest in the literary side of the business. Your love of great writers and playwrights like Shakespeare is well known. How did you go from student of the Bard to professional actor, working at the Stratford, Connecticut Shakespearian Festival?
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.
And then, you took a leap of faith and ended up working in London– how the heck 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.
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?
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.
I guess the early TV work was a huge learning curve. Would you agree with that?
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.
How did you break into the movie world? You went from a jobbing stage and TV actor to playing the brother of Kirk Douglas. That’s quite a journey isn’t it?
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.
Is there any news about the film adaptation of “A Feather in the Rain?”
We are still working on that. It’s a project in process. I hope it will happen soon—I cannot wait to see that book made into a major motion picture.
The first picture that would see you become a movie star was a Western called “Stagecoach.” How did you manage to get the starring role in a film like “Stagecoach” and, how did you approach trying to fill the boots of the “Duke?”
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.
That was the movie that saw you working with Bing in perhaps his last great role. What was it like working with such a huge motion picture star?
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.
I hope we are able to get our hands on your latest Western soon. How do you feel about the other Westerns on the market at the moment?
I like them and read many of the latest Westerns. I try to keep up to date with what everyone is writing, and some of these books blow me away.
And finally—are you looking forward to appearing at the Memphis Film Festival?
I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“A Feather in the Rain” by Alex Cord is currently in the top 100 on Amazon. Have you downloaded your copy of this great love story, set on a ranch? If you would like to find out what readers around the world have been raving about you can download your copy today from Amazon.