My good friend Dean Goodine is a Property Master for Hollywood movies and television shows. From the start of his career, when he worked on small budget TV shows, to working on blockbuster academy award-winning movies with major Hollywood stars, Dean has seen it all. I asked Dean if he would share a story from his upcoming book, They Don’t Pay Me to Say No. It’s a story that exemplifies trust.
Finally, almost a decade after Legends of the Fall and Unforgiven, the west called again. This time it was a Turner Movie based on Owen Wister’s classic 1902 novel, The Virginian. Directed by and starring Bill Pullman, and also starring Diane Lane, John Savage, and Dennis Weaver. It was a nice departure from Deadly Dishwashers, Martian Rovers that needed hubcaps, and Penalty Predictors.
Bill is one of the nicest people on the planet to work with, and he brought that to our set. Working on a Western is unlike any other genre because you are out in nature with horses. On The Virginian, we were in the Badlands of Alberta, and Longview.
On a Western, most people carried pistols and rifles. So, one of our jobs in props is when we hand a pistol or rifle to an actor, we have to show them it is completely safe. With a Colt, Remington, or Schofield Pistol, we have to put in dummy bullets, so when you look at the cylinder, it looks loaded. That means clicking the pistol six times so the actor he or she knows that it is safe to point at somebody or just wear it. Even if the actor hands me back a pistol for a minute, I go through the same process when I return it.
When Dennis Weaver handed me his pistol for a minute, as I was handing it back to him, I repeated the process of clicking it to show him it was safe. He asked nicely, “Why are you showing me that again so soon? I know you had it.” I said, “Because it was out of your sight in that time and I want you to be sure it is safe.” He thanked me and told me a story.
In the ’50s, when Dennis was a big player in Hollywood on Westerns on the studio backlot, a prop man gave him his six-shooter for a saloon scene he was in. In between takes, he was bored and did what all actors attempt to do with a six-shooter… he decided to twirl it. He then cocked it and pulled the trigger and… bang!! He shot a bullet into the floor. The gun he was given had real .45 bullets in it, not dummies. He again thanked me for continually showing him his gun was safe. And then he said, “I trust you, and you only have to show me once.”