The unconventionally persistent journey of ‘Gentle Ben’ heroine Beth Brickell

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Yippee what a knockout! “When ‘Gentle Ben’ was cancelled in 1969, I wanted to rid myself of my mother image and that’s the reason for the sexy photo that I took,” confirms former actress Beth Brickell. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell
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Utterly ravishing in red is Actors Studio alumna Beth Brickell circa April 2012. The passionate Scorpio, incidentally the eighth astrological sign in the Zodiac, was born on November 13. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell / IMDB

The Beth Brickell Interview

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“When my family lived in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, my dad worked as a custom bow maker for Ben Pearson Archery Company,” says Beth Brickell. “He was a four-state archery champion. He made me a child’s bow and arrows when I was about seven or eight years old. This photo was taken after we each won our division in a Pine Bluff city tournament.” Image courtesy of Beth Brickell
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Circa July 1955 at William Speer Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the magnetic Elvis Presley’s earliest photo sessions. Signed to innovative producer Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, the shirtless “Mystery Train” rocker was only 20 years old. Photography by William Speer / Elvis Photo Shoot Sessions
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Julie Harris embraces a brooding James Dean in director Elia Kazan’s classic “East of Eden,” distributed to cinemas on April 10, 1955, less than six months before the rising 24-year-old rebel’s shocking demise in a high speed car collision involving his beloved silver Porsche 550 Spyder. Photography by Jack Albin / Warner Bros.
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Sans makeup, 25-year-old Grace Kelly, coincidentally a fellow Scorpio born one day ahead of Beth Brickell on November 12, is captured rising from the Caribbean waters of Jamaica while on holiday with her sister Peggy Kelly. This breathtaking shot was published in the June 24, 1955, issue of Collier’s magazine. Photography by Howell Conant
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Clint Howard, Dennis Weaver, and Beth Brickell of the 30-minute family adventure series “Gentle Ben” warmly anticipate the pilot episode “Hurricane Coming,” which debuted at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evening, September 10, 1967, via CBS. Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive
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The August 10–16, 1967 issue of TV Guide magazine spotlighted Dennis Weaver, Beth Brickell, and Clint Howard gamely feeding bottled milk to Bruno the good-natured 700-pound, 7-foot-6-inch black bear. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell / NTVB Media / CBS Interactive
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Publicizing the September 10, 1967, debut of CBS’s “Gentle Ben,” leading lady Beth Brickell bravely grasps an alligator’s snout on location at Ivan Tors Studios in Miami, Florida. Full disclosure — according to Brickell, the alligator’s mouth was taped shut which may explain why she was so eager to wrestle the rugged reptile! Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive
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Beth Brickell and genuine role model Dennis Weaver convincingly portray husband and wife team Ellen and Tom Wedloe in Ivan Tors’ top rated “Gentle Ben” circa 1968 on location in the Florida Everglades. Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive / IMDB
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Emily McPhail [Beth Brickell], the unsatisfied wife of visiting Deputy Marshal Wade McPhail [Ron Hayes], may be slightly delusional, but she’s determined to win back Little Joe Cartwright’s [Michael Landon] heart at any cost in “Emily,” a soap opera-inspired, albeit well-acted “Bonanza” episode broadcast on March 23, 1969, the 25th script produced during the venerable western’s 10th season. Image Credit: Bonanza Ventures / NBCUniversal / screengrab
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Almost unrecognizable as the oppressed Dilsey Brennan compared to her glamorous “Bonanza” costarring turn two years earlier, Beth Brickell makes her second and ultimately final visit to the family sagebrush saga in “A Single Pilgrim,” the 15th episode of “Bonanza’s” 12th season unleashed on January 10, 1971. Image Credit: Bonanza Ventures / NBCUniversal / screengrab
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The seventh episode of “Gunsmoke’s” 19th season is “The Widow and the Rogue,” with Beth Brickell cast as sudden prairie widow Martha Cunningham who takes a shine to sly petty thief J.J. Honegger [James Stacy] at the episode’s denouement. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures / CBS Interactive / screengrab
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Marshal Nightingale, may I have this dance? A German lobby card proclaiming Kirk Douglas’s second directorial effort, “Posse,” a must-see Western distributed with minimal fanfare on June 4, 1975, and costarring Beth Brickell. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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A year before she disappeared, Maud Crawford serves punch in 1956 at the Arkansas governor’s mansion to girls attending Arkansas Girls State. Crawford was a steadfast counselor and one of the founders of the organization which made it possible for high school girls to go to Little Rock for a week annually to learn how state government functioned. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell
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On September 27, 2014, Beth Brickell hosts an autograph signing for “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford” at the Tate Barn Sale in Camden, Arkansas. Photography by Jayne Munnerlyn Spears / Courtesy of Beth Brickell
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The multi-faceted Beth Brickell successfully conducted Democratic fundraising efforts in 1992 for Bill Clinton’s primary presidential campaign and served as the campaign manager for Blanche Lambert Lincoln’s first U.S. Senate run. The above shot appears to have been snapped sometime in the late 1970s. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell
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Saturday night, March 2, 1957, was cold in Camden, Arkansas, with pouring-down rain and fog so thick people said it was like pea soup. Maud Crawford, civic leader and the only female attorney ever to practice law in the town of some 16,000 people, sat stringing beans in her living room in front of the TV with her vicious Dalmatian guard dog that she called Dal beside her. Her husband, Clyde, had left their stately colonial home following supper to drive downtown to see a movie. When Clyde returned home later that evening, the outside lights were on both porches, and Maud’s car was in the driveway with the keys in the ignition where she always left them. When he went inside, all the lights were on downstairs, the TV was going, a pan of beans was on the dining room table alongside several legal files that Maud had brought home from the office, and her purse was on a living room chair with $142 cash and a couple of checks inside. Dal stretched lazily with no sign of upset, and Crawford had disappeared from the face of the earth. No trace, clue, motive or body was found by the original police investigation. Twenty-nine years later, filmmaker Beth Brickell, who had grown up in the town, returned home from Hollywood to discover the case had never been properly investigated and that townspeople were still afraid to talk about it. She stayed on for 16 months to unravel what happened to Crawford. The result was a 19-article investigative series that appeared over a five-month period on the front page of the Pulitzer Prize winning state newspaper, The Arkansas Gazette. Brickell’s revelatory series was published as “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford” on November 2, 2014. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell / Luminous Films
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The second edition cover of “William and Mary Brickell: Founders of Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” penned by Beth Brickell and published on December 13, 2011. Beyond the streets and buildings that bear the name Brickell is the rich and storied history of William and Mary Brickell who founded the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale with Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler. Brickell reveals the history of this dynamic couple from William’s early years in Ohio, adventures in the California and Australian gold rushes, marriage to Mary in Australia, their clashes with Flagler and John D. Rockefeller in Cleveland during the robber baron days of the oil industry, and eventual settlement in the wilderness of South Florida. This never-before-told story reveals both triumph and suffering as these two pioneers braved a Florida wilderness to help create two of the Sunshine State’s most glamorous cities. Image courtesy of Beth Brickell / Luminous Films
Click to watch an intimate Memphis Film Festival panel discussion held at Sam’s Town Resort in Tunica, Mississippi, featuring Beth Brickell, “Airwolf” star Alex Cord, Robert Fuller of “Emergency!” fame, and Wyatt McCrea, grandson of “Ride in the High Country” protagonist Joel McCrea. Festival coordinator Ray Nielsen moderates the lively 70-minute discussion from June 10, 2016. Video Credit: The Atsuko Yamaguchi Collection
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“Joe, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you that I was married.” Former lover
Emily McPhail [Beth Brickell] may be a tad deluded, but she’s determined to win back Little Joe Cartwright’s [Michael Landon] heart in “Emily,” a soap opera-inspired, albeit well-acted “Bonanza” episode broadcast on March 23, 1969. Image Credit: Bonanza Ventures / NBCUniversal / screengrab
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Battered mountain house wife Dilsey Brennan [Beth Brickell] flees her timid husband [John Schuck] and rotten scoundrel of a father-in-law [Jeff Corey] with a sympathetic Hoss Cartwright [Dan Blocker], who was wounded earlier when Schuck mistook him for a deer in “A Single Pilgrim,” broadcast during “Bonanza’s” 12th season on January 10, 1971. Image Credit: Bonanza Ventures / NBCUniversal / screengrab

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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