Friday, July 12, 2013

Lost and found: Edward Coch Jr.

by Ryan Fay

For awhile, who played "Junior" in the 1952 Joe Besser solo short Caught on the Bounce was a mystery.

The part was sometimes credited in filmographies to Edward Coch, but that never made sense as that actor was in his forties at the time Caught on the Bounce was filmed. The person we were looking for couldn't have been more than 10 years old at the time.

The break came when the film was released to DVD in 2012 and the actor was billed as "Edward Coch Jr." Once we knew who were looking for, it became a relatively easy search. The end result was good as Coch, the son of late actor Edward Coch, is alive and well and enjoying retirement on the west coast.

The now 69-year-old Coch Jr. almost didn't get the part in Caught on the Bounce, which film historian Stuart Galbraith IV dubbed "the best of the Joe Besser solo shorts."

Coch Jr. in Caught on the Bounce (1952)
threestooges.net
"I wasn't heavy enough," Coch Jr. remembered. "They said they wanted somebody a little chubbier, so my mom made a little pillow for me so I had a little bigger stomach. I came in for a second interview and they said 'that's great.' It worked and I got the part."

The experience turned out to be a positive one for Coch Jr., who was featured throughout the film and received third-billing on screen. As "Junior," he was the son of money-starved parents Joe Besser ("Daddy") and Maxine Gates ("Mommy"). Besser's character needed $2500 to stop the foreclosure of his mortgage, so the family decided to board a train and make a trip to a rich aunt.

"I remember I had a lot of fun," Coch Jr recalled. "Besser was really nice [to me]," adding the future Stooge was like a "second director" who "oversaw the big shots" and "had a lot of input as to what was going on on the set."

Coch Jr. had less fond memories of his on screen mom, Maxine Gates, perhaps best known to Stooge fans as "Tiny" in Muscle Up a Little Closer (1957). "She was kind of aloof, so I didn't relate to her too much," he recalled.

Coch Jr., who plans to view Caught on the Bounce for the first time ever in the near future, reserved his best memories for director/producer Jules White. "To me as a kid, he was the nicest director," he said. "I remember him very well, a very nice man. My mom was there because I was just a little kid and she thought the world of him."

A couple scenes stand out for Coch Jr. Towards the end of the short, Coch Jr. mixed up fudge brownies and chewing tobacco, but ended up eating the chewing tobacco. A pale-looking Coch Jr. can be seen suffering the ill-effects of eating the chewing tobacco.

"I remember when we shot the scene," Coch Jr. said. "[White] said 'that's very good, but you look too sick. Peddle it back a little bit. You looked so sick that it wasn't funny anymore.'"

The other memorable scene occurred earlier in the short. As Coch Jr. was readying for the trip, he put firecrackers in his suitcase. The tip of the firecrackers were left hanging outside the suitcase and they ended up going off when Besser accidentally threw a lighted match on them.

"The prop guy let me keep a whole bunch of firecrackers," said Coch Jr., a fireworks buff.

Coch Jr. said one of the obstacles to filming the short were type of cameras used at the time.

"They used to have these big, bulky Mitchell cameras," he said. "They used to have to build a little train track because the camera was so heavy. There were even scenes on the train where they had to run this track down the aisle and they had to take the train apart - one half, the other half. There was so much to running those giant cameras. Even though [the short] was shot very fast, it took a lot of time for the set-ups."

Caught on the Bounce (working title: Gullible's Travels), was shot in three days, April 28-30, 1952. Just a few days earlier, The Three Stooges used the same train set to film Cuckoo on a Choo Choo, which was in production from April 21-23, 1952. Caught on the Bounce was released in theaters on October 9th, 1952.

OTHER ENDEAVORS

Caught on the Bounce was a small piece of Coch Jr.'s all-encompassing movie business career.

He first appeared in films like the 1945 Bing Crosby vehicle The Bells of St. Mary's (as baby Jesus) and Escape Me Never (1947) starring Errol Flynn and Ida Lupino. He later popped up in LassieRin Tin Tin, and as "Raoul the butler" on classic television show Dallas. In addition, he did stunt, stand-in, and commercial work and also was involved in the political side of the business.

"I pretty much got the merger together between the extras union and the actors union," said Coch Jr., a former member of the extras board who left the business about twenty years ago.

In his several decades in the business, he had brushes with a lot of interesting people. One was Elvis Presley. "I worked at MGM and I had a parking place right next to Elvis with my name on it and everything. But I never took a picture of it," he lamented.

Another was Addie MacPhail, the third and last wife of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. "She always used to talk about that famous thing where Fatty got blamed for raping [Virginia Rappe.]," Coch Jr. said. "[Addie] would go on and on and on in his defense and claim he was innocent. I worked with that woman off and on for 30 years."

A third was actress Movita Castaneda, Marlon Brando's second wife. "I couldn't shut her up," Coch Jr. said. "She talked all the time."

As Coch Jr. reflected on his movie business days, he said, "I didn't want to grow up to be a big actor. It wasn't my thing, but I did do a lot of stuff in the movies and it was a lot of fun... I followed the business a long way."


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