Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
In 1965, when she was 21, Roberta Shore was already a showbiz veteran with acting and singing careers in high gear. There was no reason to believe she wouldn't have a bright future in Hollywood as an adult.
But after three seasons of co-starring on "The Virginian" — one of television's highest-rated Westerns — she quit, breaking a seven-year contract.
Why? To get married.
Invoking a time-honored cliché, Hollywood movers and shakers warned Shore that if she walked off the show, she would never work in their town again. They were right — but it was on her terms, not theirs.
Born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Shore had different priorities, and she never looked back. Well, mostly.
"I did regret giving up music," she says. "Music was my first love. I started out as a singer, and I did a lot of singing back then."
Shore grew up in Southern California, but after leaving the show she moved to Utah, where she's been ever since. "I just love Utah," she says now. "I can't imagine living anywhere else."
In fact, Shore's only return to movie acting after "The Virginian" was with a role in the iconic 1974 LDS short "Cipher in the Snow," produced by the Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio. "After I moved here, they called me out of the blue from BYU Studios and asked me to do it. That film's gone on to win lots of awards and it's shown in schools (as well as churches)."
Aside from "The Virginian," Shore is perhaps best remembered as a bubbly, effervescent teen in the Disney stable, often playing a romantic rival for Annette Funicello.
Yes, that's Shore speaking French and innocently distracting the boys from Funicello in the original "The Shaggy Dog."
But that energetic, upbeat, bubbly effervescence was no act. On the phone now, she's every bit as cheerful and chipper as she was all those years ago — and she doesn't hesitate to throw out that she just turned 67!
That's enough to make a baby boomer feel old … until the lilt in her voice makes you realize that if you really are as young as you feel, Roberta Shore obviously feels quite young.
With Disney, Shore initially auditioned for "The Mickey Mouse Club" but lost out because she towered over the other kids. "I'm only five-three-and-a-half but I was too tall. But then I did a lot of Disney films and voices on cartoons, I did recordings, I toured — but I was never under contract. So I was never a Mouseketeer but I did a lot of work with them."
That includes 15 episodes of Funicello's miniseries, titled simply "Annette," which aired in 1958 on "The Mickey Mouse Club." Shore played against type as a nasty, snooty rich girl, and she also sang a couple of songs.
Shore remembers that all of the Mouseketeers had stage mothers in the classic sense of that term, "and my mother was right in there with them."
When Disney shows were being filmed, the mothers would sit together to watch the day's shooting. "We were all underage, so we had to have a parent there," Shore said with a chuckle. "And they'd get mad if somebody else's kid got a close-up."
Shore is also one of the people you can blame if the song "It's a Small World" gets stuck in your head. A crackerjack yodeler in her youth, she recorded a yodel that is still used on the popular Disney theme-park ride.
But if you really want to turn back the clock, go online and look up Shore on YouTube, where she can be found at age 15, singing in clips from old TV shows. "Oh, yes, my sister told me about that, from those shows I used to do, with Dick Clark and Lawrence Welk and others."
Her first professional job was with Tex Williams. "And you know what I sang?" she asks with a hearty laugh. " 'Smoke That Cigarette'!
"This was at Knott's Berry Farm — when it was still a farm — and we had been sort of following Tex around. And Tex was there with his band and I got up and sang with him and it was "Smoke That Cigarette"!
If that seems ironic for a nice Mormon teen, it should be noted that the novelty song actually carries an anti-smoking message, albeit in a sly, satiric way.
Still, if that's not rebellious enough, Shore also spent a month in London for a small bit in the notorious 1962 Stanley Kubrick film "Lolita." "Oh, it was very controversial. But my parents said that as long as my part was OK, that it was all right. And, of course, that film is nothing compared to what's done today.
"I also had a small role in 'Blue Denim,' another controversial film at the time. And I was in 'A Summer Place,' which people still remember."
Shore also put in TV guest appearances on "The Jack Benny Program," "The Bob Hope Show," "Playhouse 90," "Maverick," "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," and was in multiple episodes of "The Donna Reed Show," "Father Knows Best," "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and "The Bob Cummings Show," among others.
These days, Shore spends a lot of time at Western film festivals around the country, participating in roundtable interviews with surviving cast members of "The Virginian," and meeting and signing autographs for fans. And now she's doing publicity for the show's first DVD release.
Recently she has also been involved with judging the music category of the Deseret News' Sterling Scholars program. "I've done that four or five years in a row now," Shore said.
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