Gunsmoke star William Wellman Jr. once worked alongside the legendary Jack Lambert. And he “was scared the whole show.”
William Wellman Jr. began his acting career as a western star. And when he was just getting into the industry, he played a guest role in two episodes of Gunsmoke. During one show titled There was Never a Horse, the actor played a cowboy named Roy who had a run-in with Lambert’s Kin Creed.
However, Wellman Jr. had no idea that Lambert was on set. As he told A Word on Westerns, he didn’t learn who that episode’s resident villain was until he was mid-scene. And the entire situation was terrifying for Wellman Jr. —but hilarious for us.
When William Wellman Jr. Met Jack Lambert on ‘Gunsmoke’ He was Scared Out of his Mind
While filming Gunsmoke that day, late director Andy McLaglen, told William Wellman Jr., “just walk across the street to the saloon. And the bad guy is going to be coming the other way… And you know he’s a bad guy, and I want you to look, you know, frightened.”
“I thought, ‘okay, I think I can do this,’ he recounted. “So then, I never saw who this person was until the ‘action,’ and I start across the street. And here comes Jack Lambert.”
Lambert was famous for playing sinister Hollywood villains in television shows like Wagon Train and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. And he earned his reputation for good reason. In every role the actor played, he had moviegoers scared out of their minds, including William Wellman Jr.
“Now, I had seen him playing these terrible Nazis in war films and the worst bad guys in westerns. And he scared the hell out of me,” the star admitted. “And as I’m walking, he’s coming right to me. I’m looking at him, and he gives me that sneer, and he goes right by me. And I barely could get across the street.”
Shocked, Wellman Jr. did exactly as McLaglen asked. But he wasn’t exactly in character while filming.
“The director says, ‘cut.’ And he say’s, ‘Bill, god, that was great! You really look scared,” he continued. “I said, ‘I am scared!'”
For the remainder of the day, the then 22-year-old tried his best to stay away from Jack Lambert. As he said during the interview, if Lambert “moved over there,” Wellman Jr. “went over here.”
And though they were Gunsmoke co-stars, the two actors were never formally introduced. And that was William Wellman Jr.’s choice.
“I never talked to him,” Wellman Jr. admitted. “I was scared the whole show.”