"Welcome to The McCain Ranch"
Rudy Bowman as a Townsman in
was known for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) ― She
Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) ― Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
He had well
over twenty-five years in acting and fifty-five credits to his
15, 1890, Kansas
Died: October 29, 1972, Los Angeles County, California
Here's a story on Bowman.....
Grooved aluminum tracks had been laid across the desert for the
camera's rubber tires and huge sheets of shimmering foil were
reflecting the bright sunlight on a patch of sand at the base of
a towering butte.
The quiet voice of the assistant director sounded harsh in the
stillness of Monument Valley in Utah. Actors John Wayne, John
Agar and Ben Johnson, in cavalry uniforms, stepped aside to let
a long-haired, middle-aged extra player pass. They watched him
lie down in front of the camera; then they moved into the scene
with him [segment might be missing here.]
A man stepped in front of the lens and held up a film marker. It
read, "Argosy Pictures", She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.* Scene 137.
Director John Ford. Technicolor." Instead of looking at the boss
cameraman, he turned to gaze at the extra player lying on the
ground behind him. By now everyone else was looking at Rudy
Bowman, too. He must have felt the eyes on him, because he
turned his head and began studying the buzzard[?], reflectively.
This was his moment, the chance he had been waiting for. Would
he be able to put his lines across? He swallowed hard and faced
the camera. Wayne, standing above him, winked. Bowman smiled and
drew a long breath. Director Ford looked at his laced fingers.
"Roll em," he said, almost inaudibly. Bowman set his chin and a
light came into his eyes. Every man there knew his story.
Back in the early 1900's the town-folk of Newton, Kansas, had
taken for granted that handsome young Rudy Bowman would grow up
to be a professional singer or actor. When he took part in
Christmas plays and community sings the boy's regular features,
wavy blond hair and rich soprano voice made him a local
sensation. Rudy believed in himself, too. He used to boast that
he always got what he wanted if he waited long enough. The
bicycle, pony and rifle he longed for had come one way or
another. When he was 24 the girl he wanted became his wife and
the job he wanted materialized. Apparently his philosophy
worked. Then shortly before noon on November 3, 1918, Private
Rudolph Bowman, with seven other men from 89th Division
Headquarters, was crawling on his belly toward some German
artillery near the Meuse River. Suddenly the earth exploded in
front of them. All except Bowman were killed instantly. Bleeding
at the throat, he tried to cry out for help, but he could not
make a sound. Shrapnel had blasted out his vocal cords.
Breathing also was difficult. A section of his trachea had been
severed to form a valve that fluttered shut when he took a deep
breath. Only by holding his breathing to slow, shallow drafts
could he get any air at all. Close to smothering, he thought
several times that death might be a blessing. But each time he
was about to give up something told him to "wait." Rescued two
hours later, he had to wait all night at a first-aid station for
transfer to a hospital. Although he had been 89 days at the
front without relief, he dared not sleep for fear of
suffocating. The next day at a hospital in Barois, doctors
prepared to operate. Nurses had an ether cone ready. Frantically
Bowman motioned for pencil and paper. Weak from pain and loss of
blood, he managed to scrawl: "Controlling breathing. If you use
ether I'll choke." The doctor quickly made an incision in
Bowman's throat and inserted a breathing tube. Thirteen months
and 11 hospitals later the only sound Bowman could make was
that of clearing his throat. Nurses and doctors looked at him
with pity on a routine vocational questionnaire he had written
that he wanted to become an actor. One day Bowman experimented
with his throat-clearing sounds. He discovered he could vary
them by tightening his throat and violently forcing air up from
his diaphragm. Soon he could turn these abdominal grunts into
single, rasping words. Nurses accustomed to the weird noises he
made learned to understand some of them. A surgeon reasoned that
Bowman was talking with the ventricular folds in his throat. He
cut away some of the scar tissue in order to improve the quality
of the tones. Seeing hope for him, the Veterans' Administration
sent Bowman to the St. Louis Institute for the deaf. Daily for
eight months he exercised his diaphragm and throat muscles until
he would fall limp from exhaustion. One day in September 1920,
Bowman walked nervously to the center of the stage of the St.
Louis Armory. He was there to demonstrate his "voice." It was a
freak exhibition, pathetic at best, conducted by the Institute
and the VA. In squeaky, inhuman sounds, Bowman not only
"talked"; he also "sang" "The Holy City." In the audience a
child cried. After the song, Bowman explained, "It's my little
daughter, Bonita. I'm happy she could hear me well enough to be
annoyed." A recording of the song was sent to the Congressional
Library in Washington. The Veterans' Administration described
Bowman's feat as one of the rare instances on record of anyone
talking without vocal cords. The "miracle" led to examination
after examination by doctors. The early '20's found Bowman in
Hollywood. The screen was silent and the
[a section missing
Friendly technicians advised Bowman to give up any idea of a
speaking part. They said his voice, while remarkable considering
his handicap, sounded too much like a grunt. Bowman refused to
quit. He would continue to practice with his voice and wait.
Daily he kept up the terrific muscular strain of trying to talk.
An hour's talking would leave him hoarse for days. Meanwhile, he
was getting more jobs than the average extra because of his
stately appearance. His light-brown hair, worn long at the back,
and his gray mustache and muttonchop sideburns made him a boon
to directors. But he couldn't stop hoping that some day he would
be given a chance to speak a few lines, no matter how
insignificant. He wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything.
Then he met Director John Ford. A wounded veteran himself, and
head of the Motion Picture Chapter of the Order of the Purple
Heart, Ford has made a practice of using Purple Heart wearers
whenever possible. Like almost everyone in the picture industry,
he knew Bowman by sight and had heard his story. As they talked,
Bowman laughingly confessed his longing to speak before the
camera. Something clicked in Ford's mind. He was about to start
a new picture. In it a dying soldier spoke three lines. "Rudy,"
he said, "I think you can do it. Just wait." That was why on
November 3, 1948 30 years after shrapnel "destroyed" his power
of speech 58- year-old Rudy Bowman lay on the desert sand in
front of a motion- picture camera, playing a bit part in a sound
[first part missing]
by muscles and emotion, came Rudy Bowman's
first words for the camera. They were rasping and high-pitched,
but they were spoken as by an old trouper. "Don't bother about
me ... Captain," said the "dying soldier". "I trust ... you'll
forgive my presumption ... but I'd like to commend the boy ...
for the way he handled this action ... " Here Bowman's voice
broke. Tears glistened on his cheeks and splashed on the hot
sand. Wonderful "acting," but not in the script. He swallowed
hard, tightened his stomach muscles again and continued "... in
the best tradition .... of the cavalry."
The voice had been perfect for a dying man. So had the break.
Fred Kennedy, a hard-riding stuntman, growled: "You so-and-so,
you are the first man ever to make me cry."
Bowman got up and walked away to hide his own tears. He had
waited a long time."
Arnold for giving this cowboy his credit due and this great
Character Actors Index Page
Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and wondered who is that guy?
around The McCain Ranch