Barbara Rush reminisces about leading men


The list of actors Barbara Rush shared the big screen with is impressive.

"I did work with a lot of interesting and talented men," Rush said from Los Angeles. "And actresses, too, such as Jane Wyman. I found the nicest people were actually the biggest stars because they were all so gracious and helpful."

Just considering 1958's "The Young Lions," she worked alongside Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.

"It was a serious war film, but Dean still made me laugh - a lovely man. He would say, 'I don't drink anymore. I don't drink any less, but I don't drink any more.'"

With a career that includes extensive TV and theatrical roles, Rush was prolific on the big screen throughout the '50s including three films with Rock Hudson.

"You couldn't help but love someone like Rock, who had a wonderful sense of humor and just loved to laugh. He was just the funniest actor I ever worked with."

Playing a pair of Indians in the western "Taza, Son of Cochise," Rush's character was named Oona. "Off camera, Rock would call me Oona, dos, tres."

But there were not too many laughs in 1956's "Bigger than Life," where she suffered on-screen abuse at the hands of a drug-crazed James Mason.

"It was based on a true story about a teacher and the side effects he experienced from addiction to the new drug cortisone. James was fascinated by the story and wanted to produce and star in the movie."

Rush was also married to popular leading man Jeffrey Hunter.

"We never really did a film together," she said. "He was always wandering around the world making movies, and so was I. There was a period of about a year and a half when we never saw each other. I told him that was ridiculous, and he agreed. We divorced but remained friends."

Rush also counted the late Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne among her many entertainment friends.

She said, "I remember Bob calling me up one time and saying, 'We're playing one of your old films tonight.' There was a time when I didn't like seeing myself in those early films, but I watched that evening and thought, 'Hey, I was actually pretty good.' If you work with great actors it rubs off on you. I think I gave some performances I can be quite proud of."

And at 90, she still is. She recently completed a short promo - "Bleeding Hearts: The Arteries of Glenda Bryant" - for a new TV series that her niece, "General Hospital" actress Carolyn Hennesy, is pitching to networks.

"I play a kind of vampire - something quite new for me. But it was fun to do."

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns and interviews for more than 650 newspapers and magazines.