His father was director, William Witney; his mother was actress, Maxine Doyle. Director John (Jack) English, his father’s best friend and partner on all of those Republic serials, was his godfather. Actress Virginia Carroll was his godmother. Her husband was actor, Ralph Byrd – TV’s original Dick Tracy – but to young Jay Dee he was simply “Uncle Ralph.”
The picture business in the 40s – 60s was like family – real family – so Jay Dee had many “uncles” growing up including Davy (Sharp), Roy (Rogers), Jim (Davis), Rex (Allen), Slim (Pickens) and many others. All the kids knew each other, played together and some went to the same schools. It was a great time to grow up.
It was only natural that Jay Dee would step into Hollywood. He worked on many TV shows and feature films, including Bonanza, Laredo, The Virginian, Mission Impossible, Hondo, Gomer Pile USMC, Man From UNCLE, Dragnet, The Graduate, The Steagle, Misery . Now, after a 40 year hiatus from the motion picture business, he is returning to his roots and keeping his father’s legacy alive. He has created a website www.williamwitney.complus a Facebook page and has published some of his Dad’s scripts and screenplays. He is currently producing short memorabilia videos and producing behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, voice over's and other projects with producer, William Winckler (son of child actor, Bobby Winckler, who also worked with William Witney).
Jay Dee, joins us this year as we celebrate The Lone Ranger’s 80th anniversary. (He will be part of the panel & Q &A with Ed Hulse after the screening of Hi Yo Silver on Friday TBD in the High School Auditorium.
And on Friday afternoon (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM) and on Saturday morning (10:00 AM - 12:00 Noon) you can visit with Jay Dee – “One on One” in the museum. Jay Dee will be sitting in the North wing, in front of the exhibit he helped curate of his father’s career. He’s got lots of great stories and ready to answer any question comes his way!
About William Witney
An interviewer once asked director William Witney the secret to making good Westerns. "It's really very simple," he said. "Make sure you have good headlights on your car." At the look of puzzlement on the interviewer's face, Witney explained (with that ever-present twinkle in his eye), "because you go to work in the dark and you come home in the dark." He knew what he was talking about. This man, who would become known for his fast-paced and action-packed serials and features, started making movies in the '30s. "Back then," Witney once said, "we'd start in the morning before the sun came up, shooting with flares."
Over the years, Witney built a legacy that continues to this day. Although his hey-day in motion pictures was in the'30s, '40s and '50s, in television from the mid-'50s through the '60s and his last film was in 1982, film-makers are still being influenced by him, more than a quarter of a century later. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have admitted that Saturday afternoon serials inspired the Indiana Jones movies. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown) calls William Witney a "forgotten master." Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1915, Witney began in the picture business as a messenger boy for Mascot Pictures, which shot its interiors on the Mack Sennett lot, later home to Republic Pictures. He mimeo’d scripts, helped gather props, did script continuity on the set and even learned editing. The first serial he helped cut was The Miracle Rider with Tom Mix.
With a 40-year career Witney directed or co-directed 24 serials, 64 features and hundreds of episodes for such diverse television series as Lassie, Sky King, Zorro, Mike Hammer, M Squad, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Tales of Wells Fargo, Laramie, The Virginian, Alfred Hitchcock, Daniel Boone, The Wild Wild West and High Chaparral. (The serial titles included such now classics as The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Captain Marvel, The Perils of Nyoka, three Dick Tracys and Zorro's Fighting Legion, (a Steven Spielberg favorite).
Jay Dee's Schedule
Hi Yo, Silver!
High School Auditorium
Friday @ 9:00 AM
Admission by Festival Button Only
In a special program on Friday morning celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Lone Ranger serial, the 1940 edited feature version of The Lone Ranger, will screen at 9:00 AM. Following the screening there will be a discussion about the serial’s making. The participants will include film historian Ed Hulse and Jay Dee Witney, son of William Witney, co-director of the serial and a previous guest at the Lone Pine Film Festival. Since Hi-Yo Silver was last screened here, Ed has come into possession of documents related to all aspects of production, including the original contract between Republic Pictures and George W. Trendle, owner of the Lone Ranger property. Heretofore unreported information gleaned from these documents will be presented exclusively for Film Festival attendees. Jay Dee will offer anecdotes from his dad about the serial’s making and let us know how important a role this classic film played in Bill Witney’s career.
Under Western Stars
High School Auditorium
Friday @ 11:00 AM
Admission by Festival Button Only
A Special second "80th Anniversary" screening will be at 11:00 AM following the Lone Ranger. Ed and Jay Dee Witney will introduce Under Western Stars (1938), Roy Roger first feature film, with brief remarks about the film’s production by Ed and Jay Dee, who will talk about William Witney’s association with Roy Rogers. Julie Rogers, Roy & Dale’s granddaughter will be on hand to provide comments from the family’s side as to Roy’s career.
After the screening and discussion, Jay Dee will be in the Museum at the William Witney exhibit from 12:00 Noon to 2:00 to answer your questions in our new “One on One” format.
William Witney: In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door
Learn more about Jay Dee & William Witney @ http://williamwitney.com
Books from Jay Dee will be in the Museum store. He will also be autographing books- see Museum or Ticket office for schedule.
In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door
Deadly is Winter