The Heroine of "SAVAGE SAM"


Two new stars shine in Walt Disney's newest full-color movie, "Savage Sam." One, of course, is "Sam," the dog of the title role. The other is pretty seventeen- year-old Marta Kristen.

The story of "Savage Sam" is laid in the barren plains and rugged wasteland of the pioneer west. Sam is a gentle black and white hound who is devoted to two boys, Travis and Arliss Coates, played by Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. Sam is savage only when he is fighting for those he loves, and in the movie, Sam is kept very busy, defending his young masters. Blue-eyed Marta Kristen, as Lisbeth Searcy, is the heroine of the exciting story, which features renegade Indians, the United States Cavalry, wolves, storms, stampedes, and wild riding across the western plains. Marta's role in the movie is full of action and adventure, but her real-life story is almost as exciting and heart-warming as is the movie of "Savage Sam.

Marta was born in Oslo, Norway. When she was only two months old, the tiny blonde girl was placed in an orphanage. Marta lived there for more than four years. She was one of many children who had no parents and no home except the orphanage. Then a wonderful thing happened: Marta became the adopted daughter of on American father and mother who had never seen her.

Dr. and Mrs. Harold Soderquist lived far across the sea from Oslo, in the United States. Their home was in Detroit, Michigan, where Dr. Soderquist still teaches.

He is a professor at Wayne State University. The Soderquists had a nine-year-old son, Dan, whom they had adopted five years earlier. They wanted to have a daughter, too. From faraway Norway, they were sent a picture of little Marta, who was then about four and a half years old. When they looked at her picture, they knew that Marta was just the little girl they wanted.

Dr. and Mrs. Soderquist mode all the necessary arrangements for the adoption. In a few months, the little girl set out on a wonderful new adventure. She was put aboard a giant airliner, which flew her across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. There she was welcomed by her new parents, who took her on another journey to her new home in Detroit.

America was a strange new world to the little girl. Living in this country was different, the food was strange, and most of the people spoke a language she could not understand. Having lived all of her short life in Norway, Marta, of course, spoke Norwegian. She could not speak nor understand a word of English. None of these difficulties amounted to much, however, because she now had a mother and father and brother of her own.

Marta learned English very quickly. She learned American ways and wore American clothes. By the time she started school, she looked, spoke, and acted very much like the other little girls in her class. She learned other things quickly, too. Her interest in acting was apparent very early. When she was ten, she and two other children wrote a play, in which Marta starred. By the time she was fourteen, she was acting in a real theatre--the Will-O- Way Theatre in Birmingham, Michigan. There she had parts in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" and Louisa M. Alcott's beloved story, "Little Women."

During Marta's fifteenth summer, the Soderquists went to California for a vacation trip. One day in Santa Monica, Marta was with some friends in a luncheonette eating a hamburger when a man introduced himself as a producer. He asked Marta if her parents would permit her to try out for a part in a movie. At first, she thought he was joking. This sort of thing happens in stories, she thought, but not in real life. He was not joking, however. Marta's parents found he was a real producer, and Marta tried for the part. Although Marta did not get the part, she was not disappointed. An actors' agent who sow the tryout became interested and found her a part in a television show. Her first role was in "The Loretta Young Show." Next she acted in two Alfred Hitchcock productions and two episodes of "My Three Sons."

About this time, Walt Disney was looking for a young actress to play the part of Lisbeth Searcy in "Savage Sam." It was one of the most exciting moments in Marta Kristen's life when she was chosen for the role.

In the story, three pioneer youngsters, Lisbeth Searcy and the two Coates boys, Travis and Arliss, are captured by a bond of renegade Apache Indians, led by a Comanche Indian brave. The boys' uncle; Beck Coates (played by Brian Keith), sees the capture from a distance. He fires his rifle and wounds the Comanche, but the uncle's horse is shot from under him before he can chase after the Indians.

With their bound captives, the fleeing Indians ride over fifty miles of wild country before they make camp for the night. In the darkness, Travis leads the youngsters in an attempt to escape, but they are caught. As the Indians prepare to punish Travis for the attempted escape, they hear Savage Sam baying on their trail. Thinking that the dog is guiding a rescue party, they break camp and flee.

In daylight, the children are almost saved when a squad of United States Cavalry pursues the renegade Indian band, killing one brave. The soldiers, however, do not know that the Indians have stolen the children. When the Indians break up into separate groups and ride for the hills, the soldiers don't follow them.

During all the excitement, Travis tries to escape once more. He is caught again and left unconscious on the desert plain. When he comes to, he sets out to trail the Indians on foot. Sam finds Travis, almost exhausted, at a waterhole. Together, the boy and dog follow the trail of the Indians and their two young captives.

The story becomes even more exciting when Uncle Beck Coates appears, leading a band of rugged Texans, one of whom is Lisbeth's father, Bud Searcy (Jeff York). Surprise attacks, storms, and cattle stampedes keep the motion picture screen filled with action. At one point, an Apache is about to ride away with Lisbeth bound onto the saddle in front of him, when her father takes careful aim and shoots the Indian from his horse without harming Lisbeth. The Texans and the Indians continue to fight, but the children are rescued.

Walt Disney's "Savage Sam" is Marta Kristen's first movie. For her, the role of Lisbeth Searcy is a dream come true. A few years ago, Marta could not have imagined that some day she would be the heroine of a movie and be rescued by a band of gallant Texans and a black and white hound with the very American name of Sam.