John Provost, beloved child actor who starred as Timmy in the iconic television series “Lassie,” revealed that one of the show’s most frequently quoted lines about Timmy being trapped in a well was never actually said.
In a lengthy interview with Fox News, Provost shared how he got his start in Hollywood, what it was like to work on the set of “Lassie” and why he decided it was time to end his involvement in the series.
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Provost, now 69, called it a “fluke” that he ended up with a job in Hollywood, as neither one of his parents came from an acting or a Hollywood background.
He was just 2 years old when he was living in Pasadena, California, with his father, who worked as an aeronautical engineer, and his mother, who worked as a seamstress.
His mom was not looking to get her son any Hollywood exposure, but she was hoping for a chance to meet one of her idols, Jane Wyman, when Provost landed his first acting gig.
“My mom read in The Los Angeles Times that Warner Bros. was looking for a blonde boy 2-3 years old to be in this movie starring Jane Wyman, her idol,” Provost told Fox News.
“My mother thought that if she took me on this audition she was going to meet and get Jane Wyman’s autograph. That was the sole reason she took me.”
Out of 200 blond-haired children with their hopeful mothers, Provost was chosen for the part, and went on to act in many more roles before accepting the part of Timmy in 1957.
Provost shared some lesser-known facts about the series, like how prior to joining the cast of “Lassie,” he stayed with Lassie’s owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax on his property to see how well he and the dog would get along.
He developed close bonds with the various dogs who played Lassie over the years, though he was closest with the third dog he worked with. His easy manner with animals shouldn’t be surprising, as his website states that he “understands the relationship between dogs and people implicitly” and has done a lot of charitable work for rescues.
In his interview, Provost also was adamant that despite what people have come to believe, Timmy was never trapped in a well.
“It’s crazy — we do not know where that phrase came from,” Provost said. “It has been used by everybody for years. Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Colbert — it never happened.”
“And when I wrote my autobiography ‘Timmy’s in the Well,’ I read the synopsis of every episode. There was never an episode where I fell in a well. There was somebody who did and Lassie had to go get help. But it never happened to Timmy.
“We just don’t know where that came from,” he said.
Provost credited his parents for helping him escape the trials and troubles that often plague child actors. They never forced him to accept a role or continue with a series. When he eventually left “Lassie,” at age 14 in 1964, it was his choice.
“My parents let me pretty much do what I wanted to do,” Provost said, speaking of his acting work. “I didn’t have to take a job. And I knew a lot of kids whose parents made them.”
“When they got a series, their parents quit their jobs and were living off the children, unfortunately. And my father was designing airplanes. He could have cared less about TV. I was lucky.
“When I left Hollywood, I thought it was good that I did.”
Today, Provost enjoys living in Northern California, where he says fan mail about “Lassie” still floods his mailbox, with people from all over the world writing to say just how much they loved the show.
CORRECTION, July 29, 2019: This article originally stated that Jon Provost left “Lassie” in 1968, which is apparently what he told Fox News in an interview that this article cited. However, Provost left the show in 1964. We have updated the date in the article accordingly.
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