Raised Among the Stars, Edward Albert Proves That Even a Hollywood Son Sometimes Shines

updated 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

This is the story of a kid who grew up in Hollywood surrounded by glitter and big-name stars and turned out okay. Oh, he sowed some wild oats and got into the usual teenage trouble, but the point is he didn't end up on the junk heap like a lot of Hollywood kids. He didn't overdose, he didn't freak out, he didn't fade away. Edward Albert, 32, whose father, Eddie, is the well-known character actor and former star of Green Acres, is a lot like his dad: decent, hardworking, seemingly well adjusted, and an actor too. What's more, his dad, unlike a lot of Hollywood parents, encouraged his choice of career. Says Eddie Sr., 75: "Being in an acting family, it was natural for him to go into the family business. If I'd been a banker, he might have done the same."

As it happens, one of Eddie's old buddies, George C. Scott, tried hard to talk his friend's son out of acting. Edward signed on as a production assistant for Scott's film Patton in 1969, and Scott, who had never met the kid before, took him aside to pound some sense into him. "He said," recalls Edward, then only 18, " 'If one of my kids wanted to be an actor, I'd throw him off a cliff.' " At the time Scott and young Albert were on a bender with other crew members and they wound up in a bar where, Edward says, "the last thing I remember was a stuntman who fell backward off the stool. Scott leaned over him, slapped the stuntman's face and yelled, 'If you die, I'll never speak to you again!' "

Despite Scott's boozy advice, Edward has become the second Albert to star on TV. In NBC's The Yellow Rose, a contemporary Western about the loving members of the Champion family, he plays a half-breed stepbrother who occasionally ends up in jail. "I love the fact that the show is not about intrafamily feuding," he says.

Albert himself grew up without family friction. "I had an extraordinary childhood," he says. Frequent house-guests of Eddie and Margo Albert, who herself had a "short but glorious" acting career, included some of the leading lights of show business—Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Sir Laurence Olivier (Edward's godfather). Young Albert remembers Gary Cooper playing "High Noon" with him in a hotel garden in southern France, Gregory Peck comforting him when he fell off a potty, and "Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte slipping into my bedroom and singing wonderful songs until I went off to sleep." Or the time, on a stream in England, that he and Olivier fell off a boat and Vivien Leigh, then Olivier's wife, came to the rescue, ministering to their bruises—"I think that was the first time I fell in love," says Edward. Or once, when he was 5 and his father and Brando were shooting Teahouse of the August Moon in Japan: "I was getting bored and, I think, being a real pest. I remember Brando coming and sitting on the bed and cutting out the most exquisite paper fish, with detailed scales and fins. Then he took a hotel pen and a piece of string and made a fishing pole. He attached a magnet to the string, put paper clips on the noses of the fish and left me there to play for hours." They later had a falling-out over something Edward said in a book about Brando, but Edward still values the friendship. "The effect he had on me," he says simply, "is my property."

How could the son not follow in his father's footsteps after all those experiences? Well, he almost didn't. Edward enrolled at UCLA in 1969, got a scholarship to Oxford, was thrown out after he turned up with a magnum of Dom Pérignon after hours in a girlfriend's dormitory at one of the women's colleges, then made his way through England as a photographer and drummer. By then he had been in one movie, Fool Killer with Anthony Perkins, but he had not yet gotten the acting bug. The bug bit in 1972, in Butterflies Are Free with Goldie Hawn ("a charmed film"), and to avoid being typecast, he decided to become a character actor like his father. For the next six years he appeared in a number of TV shows, in Hamlet on a Philadelphia stage and in such less than epic movies as Galaxy of Terror and The House Where Evil Dwells, which still haunt him on cable.

After Butterflies, Edward lived for a while with Rita Coolidge (who later married Kris Kristofferson), the daughter of a minister friend. Since 1979 he has been married to Kate Woodville; they were wed by Rita's dad. With their 3-year-old daughter, Thaïs, the couple live on a 12-acre ranch in the hills of Malibu, where they raise horses, grow vegetables and battle the occasional brushfire. As for the future, Edward Albert still sees his father as an example: "I hope I am like him at his age," he says, "still happily married and doing both stage and screen roles and still having a marvelous life."

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