Dale Robertson was stationed in California with the U.S. Army in the 1940s when he and several of his buddies decided to have professional photos taken to send home to their mothers. Robertson's photo was posted in the photo shop window, which attracted the attention of Hollywood movie scouts.
Soon, the Oklahoma native, who enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was wounded twice in action, launched a Hollywood career as an actor in Western-themed movies and TV shows.
His career took off after he appeared in "The Fighting Man of the Plains," starring Randolph Scott, said his wife, Susan Robertson of Rancho Santa Fe. When he doffed his cowboy hat on screen, girls who attended the film's premiere screamed with delight.
"That's when he really got noticed," said Susan.
Dale Robertson died in 2013 at age 89 after a career that spanned more than 40 years, from the late 1940s through the early 1990s. He appeared in some 30 films. His two most famous TV series, "Tales of Wells Fargo" and "Iron Horse," ran in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Later in his career, he appeared in such well-known series as "Dynasty" and "Dallas." His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue.
Shortly after Dale Robertson's death, Susan began writing a book, titled “Bucking Hollywood,” about his life story, which was published in January by Page Publishing, Inc. The book, filled with tales about Robertson's career and Hollywood, is richly illustrated with photos, ranging from movie stills, to shots of Dale Robertson at his ranch in Oklahoma, where he retired after his acting career.
Dale and Susan were married in 1980, the fourth marriage for the actor and outdoorsman. She was a flight attendant on American Airlines, and the couple met when Dale was flying between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.
Susan said that when Dale boarded the plane, she immediately knew who he was because she and her family had been fans of "Tales of Wells Fargo" when she was growing up.
In the series, which aired from 1957 through 1962 on NBC, Dale played Wells Fargo agent Jim Hardie, who was a sort of detective on horseback. Each week, he was sent to different spot along the stage coach route investigating any trouble that occurred.
In another series, "Iron Horse," Dale played Benjamin P. Calhoun, a gambler who won a struggling, unfinished railroad in a high-stakes poker game. The series chronicles his efforts to get the railroad completed and into service.
After the couple married, they moved to Oklahoma and lived on a horse farm, where Dale could indulge his passion of breeding and training horses. "I loved it. I was a horse person myself," said Susan. For a time, Dale commuted back and forth between Oklahoma and L.A. as he appeared in various TV series.
Dale became an expert horseman as a young man, learning to ride and train horses on his family's ranch near Oklahoma City. Later he attended the Oklahoma Military College and boxed in professional prize fights to earn money.
"He was a real man's man," said Susan.
Later, when Dale's health began to fail, Susan moved her husband to Rancho Santa Fe, to be closer to the support of her sister and brother-in-law, who also live in the Ranch.
Dale died in February of 2013 after a battle with lung cancer.
Susan said her husband loved to tell stories about his Hollywood days, and she scribbled down notes over the years, which helped when she began to write the book.
According to Susan, Dale chafed at some of the changes he saw in the movie and television industry, decrying what he called "gimmicks" in the place of good stories. According to published accounts, he also objected to the sexual content that crept into many TV shows.
"He didn't compromise himself in the film business or in life. He was his own man," said Susan. "He didn't want to do anything that a family couldn't sit down and watch."
Dale's work can be seen currently on STARZ Encore Westerns, where two back-to-back episodes of "Tales of Wells Fargo" air each day at 2 p.m.
Susan Robertson’s book, “Bucking Hollywood,” can be found on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, book stores and more.