Friday, August 21, 2009

RIP William Pullen

[I was just advised of a passing from last December.]

Bill Pullen, 91, remembered as teacher and actor

By EUNICE LEE, staff writer Desert Dispatch

When William Augustus Pullen, better known as Bill, moved to Barstow in 1963, he brought more life experience to the city at age 46 than most people gather in a lifetime.

The steamboat worker turned Hollywood actor had left the Los Angeles area, relocated to Barstow and was trying his hand at a new profession: teaching.

During that time, Barstow Community College, the city's first and still only college, was just starting up. They were looking for someone to head the new drama department. The pieces fell into place.

Pullen died Monday at age 91 after battling generalized weakness due to cancer.

Les Wilbur, BCC president from 1962 to 1965, said Pullen brought a working actor's training as well as experience that served as an invaluable asset to the school.

"He brought a lot to the community in terms of enriching the cultural environment," said Wilbur, Pullen's former colleague and longtime friend.

"Because it's a small college, each appointment is extremely important," said Wilbur, who lived in Barstow until 1992 and then moved to Hawaii for retirement.

Pullen directed two plays every year for almost three decades — a production that his son, also Bill, remembers wasn't an easy task.

"He built the sets, my mom did the costumes, and he hung the lights," said Bill, who lives in Los Angeles.

Students like Sharlene Bradley were among those that benefited from Pullen's stage skills as well as his talent for teaching.

Bradley, who took drama and speech classes taught by Pullen in 1984 as a college junior, recalls one incident where she got back an assignment for speech class marked up with lots of red ink. Bradley said she had felt hopeless and remembers bursting into tears, going to Pullen's office, and telling him, "I'm sorry, I guess I am not going to be able to do this."

But Pullen wasn't about to see his student give up that easily. "He gave me so much encouragement," said Bradley. "That has always stayed with me."

Wilbur agreed: "He was very kind and very empathetic with students and that's one reason why they responded to him," he said.

Growing up, Pullen left home as a teenager and worked on commercial steamers that traveled between Seattle, Wash., and Shanghai, China.

During that time he became fluent in the Mandarin dialect and taught Chinese pilots English during WWII while stationed in Roswell, N.M.

Pullen got into acting while attending college at UCLA. A classically trained stage actor, Pullen also had some success scoring roles in movies, television shows and commercials.

Pullen acted alongside stars like Clint Eastwood, on an old western series in one of Eastwood's first television roles, and Marilyn Monroe, in her only known television commercial for Royal Triton gasoline.

His son said that Pullen's first love of acting was stage performance. Pullen was involved for several years with the Ramona Pageant,

California's longest running outdoor performance, and was even cast as the lead role. The pageant was also where he met his wife, Ann.

He retired from his teaching career at BCC in 1987, at age 70.

Pullen is survived by his son, Bill, and his second wife Deborah.

PULLEN, William Augustus
Born: 11/11/1917, Seatlle, Washington, U.S.A.
Died: 12/8/2008, Barstow, California, U.S.A.

William Pullen's westerns - actor:
The Red Badge of Courage - 1951 (narrator)
The Lawless Breed - 1953 (Joe Hardin)
War Paint - 1953 (Jeb)
Those Restless Redheads from Seattle - 1953 (Rev. Louis Petrie)
Ride Clear of Diablo - 1954 (Tom Meredith)
Canyon Crossroads - 1955 (Harry)
The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (TV) - 1955 (Al, Sloan)
The Cisco Kid (TV) - 1955 (Charlie Ponca, Cheyenne Jones)
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (TV) - 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960 (Deputy Sam Renfro, Cpt. Stewart)
Death Valley Days (TV) - 1956 (Alex Todd)
Hell Canyon Outlaws - 1957 (Tom)
Bronco (TV) - 1959 (Lt. George Bailey)
Yancy Derringer (TV) - 1959 (Major Henry)
Bonanza (TV) - 1959 (Sheriff Sam Toller)

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