The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Roberta Shore           Apr 7, 1943

The Rival

Roberta was a professional singer under her middle name Jymme before she appeared in the Annette serial. She remained under contract with Disney for a short time after the Mickey Mouse Club ended, but later became an independent actor in a number of films and television shows.

Background

She was born Roberta Jymme Schourup in Monterey Park, California. Roberta, her older sister Madeline, and their younger brother Stan were raised in nearby San Gabriel. Roberta never took singing lessons, but appears to have inherited her talent from her father, who once played in a western band. At age ten she sang at a local supermarket opening, and was noticed by Tex Williams. He suggested shortening her family name to "Shore", and invited her to join his weekly local television show at Knott's Berry Farm. After eighteen months of live performing, she next joined NBC's daily childrens program, The Pinky Lee Show, at the suggestion of the departing singer, fourteen year-old Molly Bee.

Pinky Lee was a hyperactive former Burlesque comedian, whose persona and performance were later parodied by Paul Rubens as 'Pee-Wee Herman'. Jymme started on the live show just as Pinky collapsed on camera in September 1955. A few weeks later, the ratings were hammered by the debut of Mickey Mouse Club, and in early 1956 the show was cancelled. While doing The Pinky Lee Show, Roberta met Joan DeMille, a fiddle-playing singer her own age. The two girls later formed an act for live performances at USO and other venues. Roberta performed on an episode of Playhouse 90 in 1956, did a Matinee Theatre program with Tommy Kirk, and appeared with Bobby Driscoll on an episode of Jane Wyman Theater.

Performance

Roberta first appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club as a Talent Round-Up winner in the second season, singing and yodelling while playing her guitar. (Contrary to rumor, there is no record of her auditioning to be a Mouseketeer.) Just one week later she also starred in a Fun with Music skit called Switzerland, during which she taught the mice how to yodel through a song. She must have stuck in the minds of the producers and casting agents, for she was hired to play Annette's rival in the eponymous third season serial.

Roberta's role as the snobby Laura Rogan was to point up the good qualities of the Annette and Jet Maypen characters. Roberta actually had the most difficult part in the simple teleplay, one she handled quite well, especially considering she was much younger than her co-stars. She had two songs, Readin', Writin', and Rhythym, and Don't Jump to Conclusions, both of which were highpoints of the serial.

Roberta's performance in the serial convinced Walt Disney she would make a good prospect for a film role. Roberta's singing and acting were good, and she was tall and beautiful enough to make a convincing teenage starlet. Walt made the decision to start promoting her, alongside of Annette, as the studio's post-MMC female teen stars.

Aftermath

The Disney Studio had signed Roberta for The Shaggy Dog, filmed in 1958 and released the following year. She again played the rival to Annette, though with a more likeable character. Roberta recorded the movie's theme song and another movie-related song as a 45 rpm release on the Disneyland label. Her final Disney record was a release of songs from the musical Say One For Me (1959), which had featured ex-Mouseketeer Judy Harriet.

Disney had neglected to sign Roberta to an exclusive contract, so she was able to take on a small recurring role for the 1958-59 season of Father Knows Best. By the time The Shaggy Dog became a hit in 1959, Roberta was already doing small bits in a number of films for other studios, including Blue Denim (1959) and A Summer Place (1959). She continued to do personal appearences for Disney, but also had numerous guest singing appearences on The Lawrence Welk Show, and in fact recorded several 45's on the DOT label with the Welk Orchestra.

Roberta's career for the next several years would often intersect that of the ex-mice. While still attending San Gabriel High School, Roberta went on the spring 1960 tour of Australia with Jimmie Dodd and some of the Mouseketeers. Immediately after returning to the USA, she appeared with some of those same Mouseketeers, Tommy Cole and Bobby Burgess, in a variety troupe sponsored by 'Teen magazine. This was an ad hoc group, with an ever-changing membership, that played live venues, like shopping malls and high schools. Within two years she would switch to a competing magazine, Teen Screen, for whom she did radio broadcasts on a syndicated program, T. S. Hop.

Roberta's film career continued to revolve around small parts, often uncredited. She was in Strangers When We Meet (1960), Because They're Young (1960), The Young Savages (1961), and Bachelor in Paradise (1961). She also had a semi-regular stint on The Bob Cummings Show for the 1961-62 season, and appeared in episodes of Wagon Train, Maverick, The Ozzie and Harriet Show, and Zane Grey Theatre. Her most surprising part was a small bit in Lolita (1962).

In 1962, Roberta landed her most famous role, as 'Betsy Garth' on the The Virginian. She would have a three-year run on the top-rated and critically-acclaimed television western, during which she released an LP for Decca with her co-star, folk-country singer Randy Boone. She left the show after marrying Kent Christianson, with whom she had two daughters. They eventually divorced and Roberta married Terry Barber. Her second husband died of a brain tumor in 1987. Roberta then married a theatre arts professor named Ron Frederickson. She returned briefly to acting in 2000 with a stage performance in Salt Lake City, and appears in a special feature for the 2005 Disney DVD The Shaggy Dog.

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