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Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: The original W-L movie star

Editor’s Notebook: The original W-L movie star

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Before there was Sandra Bullock, before there were Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine, before there was Gena Rowlands, there was another future movie star to walk the halls as a student at Washington-[Redacted] High School.

Back in the late 1930s, Forrest Tucker was in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Myer but was still young enough to be taking high-school classes at the Arlington school. I think he graduated in 1939.

By the time the war – you know, the big one – was winding down, Tucker had ended up in Hollywood, where his tall and muscular frame and easygoing manner made him an immediate hit with moviegoers.

In fact, the Northern Virginia Sun edition of March 21, 1945, notes that Tucker was costarring with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan in what would become a classic film of its genre, “The Westerner.”

Tucker’s career would continue until his death in the 1980s; just the other day, scrolling through the channels on TV, I found him in a guest-starring role later in life on the comedy Alice, playing opposite waitress “Kiss My Grits” Flo (Polly Holliday).

He’s perhaps best known for two things:

  • Among the general public, Tucker spent a couple of years headlining the silly but fun comedy “F-Troop” in the 1960s. That show, for those keeping score, also starred song-and-dance man Ken Berry, who shares my birthday (if obviously not my birth year).
  • Among the Hollywood in-crowd, Tucker was known for vying with Milton Berle for the title of the biggest, mmmmm, let’s just say “personality” among male stars in Tinseltown. (Though also a star, Trigger, the horse of Roy Rogers, does not count in this ranking, as it wouldn’t be fair to Tucker and Uncle Miltie.)

[How would people know about this particular fun fact? As I used to say vis-à-vis my friend B—— F—-, who also received a similar blessing from the big guy upstairs, “Hey, if I had what he had, I’d be showing it off, too …”]

TODAY’S LOCAL-MEDIA QUIZ: Does the name “Frank Forrester” ring a bell? If so, give yourself credit for having been around the, cough, “DMV” for more years than I have.

According to the Sun’s local-history column, going back in the archives to this week in 1961 (was that REALLY 60 years ago? Yipes …), Forrester was the weathercaster on WRC-TV (Channel 4) back then. The news item reported that he’d be the featured speaker at the upcoming Franklin-Sherman Elementary School PTA meeting in McLean.

  • Scott McCaffrey
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