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Racing, acting icons present memorabilia to Melody Ranch Museum

"TV" Tommy Ivo, William Smith honored for work in SCV

Posted: May 8, 2011 9:28 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2011 9:28 a.m.
Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum are, from left, Daniel Veluzat; Tom White, cousin of “TV” Tommy Ivo and creator of the new Ivo and Smith displays; Andre Veluzat and brother Renaud, studio co-owners; William Smith and wife-collaborator Joanne Cervelli-Smith; and Clare Williams, widow of stunt legend Jack Williams. Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum are, from left, Daniel Veluzat; Tom White, cousin of “TV” Tommy Ivo and creator of the new Ivo and Smith displays; Andre Veluzat and brother Renaud, studio co-owners; William Smith and wife-collaborator Joanne Cervelli-Smith; and Clare Williams, widow of stunt legend Jack Williams.
Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum are, from left, Daniel Veluzat; Tom White, cousin of “TV” Tommy Ivo and creator of the new Ivo and Smith displays; Andre Veluzat and brother Renaud, studio co-owners; William Smith and wife-collaborator Joanne Cervelli-Smith; and Clare Williams, widow of stunt legend Jack Williams.
Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum with part of the museum's new William Smith display are, from left, Joannne and William Smith; Renaud and Andre Veluzat; Tom White, who assembled the display; and Daniel Veluzat. Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum with part of the museum's new William Smith display are, from left, Joannne and William Smith; Renaud and Andre Veluzat; Tom White, who assembled the display; and Daniel Veluzat.
Pictured at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum with part of the museum's new William Smith display are, from left, Joannne and William Smith; Renaud and Andre Veluzat; Tom White, who assembled the display; and Daniel Veluzat.
A display featuring images of “TV” Tommy Ivo filming various productions including TV shows and movies was added to the rare artifacts in the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum. Many of Ivo's on-screen appearances were filmed at Melody Ranch. A display featuring images of “TV” Tommy Ivo filming various productions including TV shows and movies was added to the rare artifacts in the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum. Many of Ivo's on-screen appearances were filmed at Melody Ranch.
A display featuring images of “TV” Tommy Ivo filming various productions including TV shows and movies was added to the rare artifacts in the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum. Many of Ivo's on-screen appearances were filmed at Melody Ranch.
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Two new displays of classic memorabilia were added to the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio's museum extensive collection during the recent 34th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at the storied movie ranch.

One new display commemorates celebrated Hollywood character actor William Smith, and the other child-actor-turned professional drag racing pioneer and icon "TV" Tommy Ivo.

Both Smith and Ivo appeared in numerous movie and TV scenes shot at Melody Ranch from the ‘40s through the last decade.

Studio co-owners Andre and his brother Renaud Veluzat - a lifelong hot-rod enthusiast -- are also longtime fans of the two legends.

The Museum
On the ranch in a huge Quonset-styled building adjacent to the studio's biggest soundstage, the Melody Ranch Museum is jammed floor to ceiling with pieces of sets, props, stunt vehicles, celebrity photos, lobby cards, Western bars, collectible merchandise and other artifacts from film and TV productions shot on the storied lot in Newhall from the 1940s to the present.

Westerns, war movies, gangster melodramas, sci-fi epics, horror movies and even music videos have all been filmed at Melody Ranch, so it's not uncommon for a visitor wandering around the lot to see a full-size half-track personnel carrier and a golf cart parked out next to a "crumbling" adobe cantina. Find out lots more about the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio Museum at www.melodyranchstudio.com/museum.html.

William Smith
One of film's best-known character actors, athletes and intellects, William Smith has more than 300 big-screen and TV credits covering the gamut of tough-guy roles. Many of them - more than even he can remember - were shot at Melody Ranch.

With Western credits including "Laredo," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "The Shooter" and the "Daniel Boone" and "Death Valley Days" TV series, Montana-born Smith is also a horseman, stuntman, bodybuilder, Russian language translator, spy plane pilot, boxer, masters-level scholar (cum laude), college professor, poet, author, champion arm-wrestler and more.

Among his hundreds of non-Western roles, Smith is perhaps best-known as the ultra-villainous Falconetti character in the epochal 1970s mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man." More recent films include "Conan the Barbarian," "Red Dawn," "Eye of the Tiger," "The Outsiders," "The Shooter," "Hawaii 5-0" and "Maverick."

In 1995 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award from the Academy of Bodybuilding and Fitness, and 15 years later was inducted into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame.

Smith has been honored by the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures as an honorary member (2000); the Golden Boot Award (2003); and the Silver Spur Award (2008).

Smith turned 78 in March. His latest book, "The Poetic Works of William Smith: The Words and Images of a Hollywood Legend," is an acclaimed collection of his creative verse and prose on a variety of subjects, edited by Joanne Cervelli-Smith.

For more information, see Smith's entry at the Internet Movie Database.

"TV" Tommy Ivo
Equally significant is a new Melody Ranch Museum display that spotlights the colorful career of child-actor-turned pioneering, award-winning drag racing showman and speed-racer icon "TV" Tommy Ivo.

Ivo appeared in close to 100 motion pictures and more than 200 television programs in the 1950s and early '60s, including Disney's "Mickey Mouse Club," "My Little Margie," "The Donna Reed Show" and "The Danny Thomas Show."

At about the same time, his interest in drag racing got serious. Eventually producers told him to quit racing so he wouldn't get hurt. Instead, he quit showbiz, and pursued his true passion full-time.

In the 1960s and '70s Ivo was a drag racing pioneer and icon whose exploits filled the pages of gear-head bibles like Drag Racing, Hot Rod and Super Stock. Peers and racing fans alike considered him a godfather of the sport. Ivo paid it forward by mentoring other young speed-obsessed enthusiasts coming up behind him, like Don Prudhomme, later a legend in his own right, nicknamed "The Snake."

Ivo, also a pioneer of funny car racing, abruptly retired from racing in 1996 at age 60, but his legend continued to grow. He was inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2005, and in his acceptance speech, told the roomful of devotees that to be chosen by his peers for this award was better than winning an Oscar.

Coinciding roughly with his 75th birthday in mid-April, Motorbooks has just published his memoir, "'TV' Tommy Ivo: Drag Racing's Master Showman," collaborating with noted automotive writer Tom Cotter. The book is packed with Ivo's fascinating stories and archival photos.

For more information, visit www.tommyivo.com.

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