"They took pictures of us falling in love!"
Guy Williams may not look like a modern-day John Barrymore, or Rudolph Valentino, but beneath the all-American good looks, thrives the soul of a romantic in the old tradition. Guy’s success as an actor may have taken years of hard work, but as a leading man of the world and the heart, he was an instant success. In the best Hollywood movie tradition, when Guy met Janice Cooper, a beauty from a small town come to the big town (New York), he swept her off her feet. At first it was his good looks and charm, but as they shared their first evening together, she was drawn to his gentleness, his most attractive inner quality, and she knew this was the man for her. Not once did either of them think "no" in their instant awareness of experiencing that miracle known as love at first sight. It all started in full sight of a camera, for Guy was then a professional model. On one fortunate assignment in 1948, he met the lovely Powers model who was to become his wife, a fact which he recognized almost at once.
As Guy tells it, "We were posing for an illustration involving a couple skiing and the big action of the ad came when I had to tighten my ski boots. The photographer shot this sequence about 50 times, and by the time he finished all his shots, I had gotten to know Janice pretty well." A whirlwind courtship followed this fateful meeting between the handsome bachelor and Janice Cooper, a beauty from Bolivar, Tennessee. "She was the most gorgeous girl I’d ever seen," Guy said. "I still remember how staggered I was by her beauty, and I still am, right to this day."
Janice gave her own shocked reaction: "After we finished posing, we had coffee together. I’m sure I haven’t missed seeing him for a day since then, except for his enforced location trips. New York is a cosmopolitan city, Guy, being born and raised there, impressed me. I was just a little Tennessee gal, not used to the big city. Guy seemed to me a most handsome gentleman, with great savoir faire. I couldn’t help falling in love."
After they married and "consolidated our finances," Guy and Janice continued modeling. Then Guy joined New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, which led to work in television productions such as Studio One, the old CBS prestige show. In 1952, he was given a screentest and then signed by Universal-International. He spent the next year in Hollywood playing minor roles, and just before winding up his work at Universal, he was thrown from a horse and suffered a serious injury to his left arm.
Back in New York, disappointed, but by no means discouraged, Guy took on both acting and modeling assignments. He also took up fencing in order to strengthen his injured arm. When, a couple of years later, he returned to Hollywood and tested for Zorro, the Walt Disney series which catapulted him to stardom, his skill with the sword helped clinch the role for him. As a matter of fact, he proved to be almost too good. "Guy was my most difficult pupil," recalled Fred Cavens, veteran Hollywood fencing coach. "He knew too much. I had to make him forget before I could teach him the unique thrusts and parries demanded in film work, for full dramatic effect."
Later, for seven episodes, Guy was a "temporary regular" on Bonanza. His Bonanza stint came after Zorro and before Lost In Space, a period during which he shuttled between Hollywood and Europe for several years. He filmed Captain Sindbad in Munich, and Damon and Pythias in Rome. His Prince And The Pauper, filmed in London, was presented as a three-part TV special. His work schedule in those days allowed him enough leisure time to indulge his love of sailing. "I had a 42-foot ketch, but when Lost In Space started, I was so busy, I got to go out on her only twice, so I sold her," he said regretfully.
The good life
It was characteristic of Guy that he asked me to meet and have lunch with him at the Glen Cove in Beverly Hills, across the street from 20th Century Fox Studio, which was recently cited by a national news magazine for its excellent cuisine. A gourmet’s interest in fine food, not snobbery, makes Guy bypass studio commissaries, noted for nourishing but uninspired fare. This is another of the seeming contradictions in Guy Williams. A casual glance would classify him as a simple "steak, potatoes and apple pie" man. The truth is, he not only appreciates the creations of a master chef, but is a better than average cook himself. The Old World influences of his childhood are responsible. "We were never a peanut butter sandwich sort of family," he said, "although, when I was a kid, I often wished we were. Dinner seemed to take hours and I could never understand how my family could sit so long at tables talking, sipping wine, eating apples and cheese."
*Guy was born Armand Catalano, in the Fort George section of New York City. His parents had come to the U.S. a short time before. Guy’s grandfather, a wealthy timber grower from Messina, Italy, had given his father, Attilio, some land in New Jersey. Attilio eventually settled in New York City and became an insurance broker. He was eager for his son to join him in the business world, but young Armand had other ideas. He loved sports, but not school, so after public schools and graduation from Peekskill Military Academy, he ended his formal education. "I loved math, but everything else was a bore," Guy recalled. Again, a Guy Williams contradiction. He lacks a college degree, but is more knowledgeable than many an Ivy-Leaguer, and pursues such intellectual hobbies as chess and astronomy.
In school, Guy ducked the drudgery of English literature by dropping the course and taking dramatics instead, his introduction to the world of make-believe. After leaving school, he tried a variety of odd jobs, including modeling, which led to Janice and truly changed his life.
In contrast to the instant popularity of Zorro, Guy’s current series started off only moderately well in its first season, then climbed to a comfortable niche in the ratings. Traditionally, the second season of a show is less hectic than the first, but Guy’s six-day work week, plus his personal projects for the future, keep him busy as ever. "There are no motion pictures in the immediate future," he said in answer to a question. "But I’ve written a few scripts, and now a series. It was bought by MGM and one of the networks in interested. Sure, I’d like to get into the production end of the business, but Lost In Space comes first right now. So even if something should happen with this new series, my partner, Bill Blady, would do most of the day-to-day work."
Like father, like son
Guy finds ample time to be with his family, despite the pressure of work. "Janice and I go out occasionally," he said, "but we prefer dining with friends or having a small group of people over, but we don’t have any rigid schedule. Tonight, for instance, I’ll get home fairly early, about seven o’clock, but instead of having Janice prepare a meal, I’m taking her out to a nice little restaurant in town." Does Janice miss the fun and excitement of a modeling career? Guy’s smile was mischievous. "I’m her career," he said, ". . . and the children."
Toni, the youngest, is a doll of 8; she is less blasé about daddy’s TV show than Steve, 13, who was around when Zorro was among the hottest shows on the tube. Guy was asked about his teenaged son. "What is there to say?" Again, that Guy Williams smile, signaling a put-on. "He’s witty, charming . . . he’s a genius, and school is a terrible bore right now. He’s just like his old man! Steve’s a typical teenager, he added candidly. "I don’t understand him at this stage, and I’m sure he can say the same about me. No different from my father and me."
"A funny thing happened the other day. You see, Steve’s been around show business all his life and his attitude is ‘Isn’t everybody in TV? You know . . . so what?" "Well, he came on the set and saw Angela Cartwright . . . and wow! He discovered girls. He got her phone number from the assistant director and called her up, and now they’ve dated . . . lunch, out to the movies. His mother drives them out there and picks them up afterwards. Then Angela invited him to her birthday party, so Steve came to me for some fatherly advice: What kind of Chanel perfume should I get her?’ he asked." Guy reflected for a moment, perhaps on a similar incident in his own youth, then remarked admiringly, "Angela Cartwright . . . well, I must say, he’s got good taste."
Watching Guy as he talks, you get the very definite impression that somewhere in his inter-planetary wanderings while Lost In Space, he came across a time machine that stopped the clock for him, while leaving all the rest of us to the mercy of passing years. Guy is now in his early 40s, but his strong-jawed face is just as handsome as it was back in the early 1950s when he was a hardworking model; his 6’3" frame is as trim and muscular as during the days he swashbuckled across TV screens as Zorro.
In short, Guy Williams appears to be one of those Hollywood rarities, an actor who is successful in his profession, happy in his home life, and most importantly, at ease with himself as a person.
TV Radio Mirror Magazine.|
*There are a few minor inaccuracies in this article concerning Guy's childhood and his parent's background. The actual facts can be read on my main page and other Guy Williams fan sites.