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Vol. 1 - No. 3 June, 2019 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
 
TV Westerns That Began in 1959

Many important things happened in 1959; Alaska & Hawaii became the 49th & 50th states, American Airlines launched the very first transcontinental flight, the first missile-carrying submarine was launched, NASA's rocket-powered X-15 made it's first glide flight, Oklahoma ended an excruciating 51-year prohibition, The United States launched 'Explorer VI' into space and sent back the first video of the earth, the Food Stamps program was instituted, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 countries, Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty was released in theaters, the 'Twilight Zone' & the 'Bozo the Clown' made their debuts on TV, Parker Brothers launched the board game 'Risk', and much much more.

In addition to all of these EQUALLY awe-inspiring events in U.S. history, there is something substantially more important and endearing to the hearts of all the people, as it was also determined in 1959 that the average U.S. citizen spent an average of 42 hours per week watching TV; fifteen Western dramas aired on television in 1959.

Being the 60th anniversary of the 1959 television Westerns, I thought it would be appropriate to give a summary of each one, as they all hold a powerful place in my childhood. They are listed here in alphabetical order so as to not give one more prestige than another.


Black Saddle (1959 - 1960)
Black Saddle - 1959-1960Black Saddle is an American Western television series starring Peter Breck that aired 44 episodes on NBC from January 10, 1959, to May 6, 1960. The half-hour program was produced by Dick Powell's Four Star Television, and the original pilot was an episode of CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, with Chris Alcaide portraying the principal character, Clay Culhane.

Series star Peter Breck's character, Clay Culhane, is a gunfighter who becomes a lawyer after his brothers are killed in a shootout, a gunfight in which he himself was seriously injured, but survived. Deciding that his life should take a different direction, Clay hung up his gun and began to study the law. Breck starred along with Russell Johnson (several years before his role as "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island) and Anna-Lisa in the roles of US Marshal Gib Scott and Nora Travers respectively. Other recurring roles were filled by character actors J. Pat O'Malley in eight episodes as Judge Caleb Marsh and Walter Burke in five segments as Tim Potter.

In the episode "Client Neal Adams" (May 9, 1959), James Drury (more than three years before the premiere of his own series The Virginian on NBC) guest stars as Neal Adams, an old friend of Culhane's who has robbed a bank of $8,000. Shot in the back by a pursuing bounty hunter, played by Charles Aidman, Adams asks Culhane for help. Adams claims that the bounty hunter is the brother of a man whom Adams had earlier killed in self-defense. From the start, Marshal Scott doubts Adams' story and questions Culhane's judgment in the matter.

Black Saddle Cast

Bonanza (1959 - 1973)
Bonanza - 1959-1973Bonanza is an NBC television western series that ran from 1959 to 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 431 episodes, Bonanza is NBC's longest-running western, and ranks overall as the second-longest-running western series on U.S. network television (behind CBS's Gunsmoke), and within the top 10 longest-running, live-action American series. The show is set in the 1860s and it centers on the wealthy Cartwright family that live in the vicinity of Virginia City, Nevada, bordering Lake Tahoe. The series initially starred Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon and later featured (at various times) Guy Williams, David Canary, Mitch Vogel, and Tim Matheson.

The show chronicles the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by the thrice-widowed patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene). He had three sons, each by a different wife: the eldest was the urbane architect Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts) who built the ranch house; the second was the warm and lovable giant Eric "Hoss" Cartwright (Dan Blocker); and the youngest was the hotheaded and impetuous Joseph or "Little Joe" (Michael Landon). The family's cook was the Chinese immigrant Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung).

The family lived on a thousand square-mile ranch called the Ponderosa on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada opposite California on the edge of the Sierra Nevada range]. The ranch name refers to the Ponderosa Pine, common in the West. The nearest town to the Ponderosa was Virginia City, where the Cartwrights would go to converse with Sheriff Roy Coffee (played by veteran actor Ray Teal), or his deputy Clem Foster (Bing Russell).

Bonanza Cast

The Deputy (1959 - 1961)
The Deputy - 1959-1961The Deputy is an American western series that aired on NBC from 1959 to 1961 The series stars Henry Fonda as Chief Marshal Simon Fry of the Arizona Territory and Allen Case as Deputy Clay McCord, a storekeeper who tried to avoid using a gun.

Henry Fonda narrated most episodes and appeared briefly at the beginning and ending of most segments. He played the lead in only six episodes in the first season and thirteen in the second. Usually he would give his deputy the assignment and, on rare occasions, would thank him at the conclusion of the episode. Although based in Silver City, the marshal's district also covered several nearby towns. Deputy McCord was a storekeeper who bore arms with great reluctance. Wallace Ford starred as the elderly Marshal, Herk Lamson, with Betty Lou Keim as McCord's sister, Fran, in the first season. Read Morgan joined the show in the second season as Sergeant Hapgood Tasker, known as "Sarge", a one-eyed United States Army cavalry enlisted man stationed in town.

The Deputy Screen Grabs

Hotel de Paree (1959 - 1960)
Hotel de Paree - 1959-1960Hotel de Paree is a Western television series starring Earl Holliman that aired thirty-three episodes on the CBS Friday evening from October 2, 1959, until June 3, 1960, under the alternate sponsorship of the Liggett & Myers company (L&M cigarettes) and Kellogg's.

The show starred Holliman as Sundance, a gunfighter just released after seventeen years in prison. In the first episode, he is in Georgetown, Colorado, where he kills the town villain and is then urged by the citizens to become the marshal. He accepts the job and also becomes a part owner of the Hotel de Paree, owned by two French women, Annette Deveraux, played by Jeanette Nolan, and her niece, Monique (Judi Meredith), relatives of the man whom he had earlier killed. Sundance wore a string of polished silver dollars in the band of his black Stetson, which often blinded his adversaries.

During the run of the series, Sundance dealt with assorted antagonists and maintained flirtations with both of the Deveraux women. Sundance also befriended a local shopkeeper, Aaron Donoger, played by veteran Western performer Strother Martin. The program was filmed at CBS Studio Center. On the evening of the series debut broadcast, October 2, 1959, star Earl Holliman also appeared an hour later in the premiere episode of The Twilight Zone, "Where Is Everybody?", which also aired on CBS.

Hotel de Paree Screen Grabs

Johnny Ringo (1959 - 1960)
Johnny Ringo - 1959-1960Johnny Ringo an American Western television series starring Don Durant that aired on CBS from October 1, 1959, until June 30, 1960. It is loosely based on the life of the notorious gunfighter and outlaw Johnny Ringo, also known as John Peters Ringo or John B. Ringgold, who tangled with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Buckskin Franklin Leslie.

This fictional account has Ringo putting aside his gunfighting ways to become the 27-year-old sheriff of fictitious Velardi in the Arizona Territory. Ringo has two deputies: William Charles, Jr., or Cully, played by Mark Goddard and Case Thomas, portrayed by Terence De Marney, who is also a storekeeper and formerly the town drunk. Case's daughter, Laura Thomas, played by Karen Sharpe, is Ringo's girlfriend in the series.

In the episode entitled "The Posse", Richard Devon plays Jessie Mead, a former Ringo friend who storms into town asking that he be jailed for protection from a pursuing posse, which Mead claims is really a lynch mob. Mead breaks a storefront glass to compel Ringo to arrest him. Actually, Mead has conspired with three others to rob the bank while the townspeople are diverted from their regular activities to pressure Ringo into turning Mead over to "the posse", the members of which are the other criminals. Ringo urges caution, but the irate townspeople want to take the matter into their own hands.

Johnny Ringo Cast

Laramie (1959 - 1963)
Laramie - 1959-1963Laramie is an American Western television series that aired on NBC from 1959 to 1963. A Revue Studios production, the program originally starred John Smith as Slim Sherman; Robert Fuller as Jess Harper; Hoagy Carmichael as Jonesy; and Robert L. Crawford, Jr. as Andy Sherman. Actress Spring Byington was later added to the cast.

The two Sherman brothers and a drifter, Jess Harper, come together to run a stagecoach stop for the Great Central Overland Mail Company after the Shermans' father, Matt, was murdered by a greedy land seeker. The Sherman parents are buried on the ranch. Not until near the end of the series was it revealed that Matt Sherman had been falsely accused during the American Civil War of having aided the Confederates. After Jess Harper finds on Sherman ranch land the wreckage of a Union Army gold wagon stolen by Confederate raiders, Slim sets forth with the officer accused of helping the Confederates, portrayed by Frank Overton, and an Army major, the real culprit played by John Hoyt, to clear Matt Sherman's name. The gold dust in question had long ago been scattered by the wind.

Laramie Screen Grabs

Law of the Plainsman (1959 - 1960)
Law of the Plainsman - 1959-1960Law of the Plainsman is a Western television series starring Michael Ansara that aired on the NBC television network from October 1, 1959, until May 5, 1960.

Law of the Plainsman is distinctive and unique in that it was one of the few television programs that featured a Native American as the lead character, a bold move for U. S. network television at that time. Ansara had earlier appeared in the series Broken Arrow, having portrayed the Apache chief, Cochise. Ansara, however, was not Native American but of Syrian descent.

Ansara played Sam Buckhart, an Apache Indian who saved the life of a U.S. Cavalry officer after an Indian ambush. When the officer died, he left Sam money that was used for an education at private schools and Harvard University. After school, he returned to New Mexico where he became a Deputy Marshal working for Marshal Andy Morrison (Dayton Lummis). He lived in a boarding house run by Martha Commager (Nora Marlowe). The only other continuing character was 8-year old Tess Logan (Gina Gillespie), an orphan who had been rescued by Buckhart.

Law of the Plainsman Screen Grabs

Man From Blackhawk (1959 - 1960)
Man From Blackhawk - 1959-1960The Man From Blackhawk is a Western television series starring Robert Rockwell that aired on the ABC television network from October 9, 1959, until September 9, 1960.

In The Man From Blackhawk, Rockwell plays Sam Logan, an insurance investigator from the Blackhawk Insurance Company. Logan scours the West investigating claims, verifying their accuracy, and seeking to root out fraud and dishonesty. Unlike most of his Western counterparts, Logan dresses like a dude with a suit and a drawstring tie instead of classic cowboy wear. He is also more inclined to use his fists than a gun.

Robert Rockwell in 'Man From Blackhawk'Beverly Garland is cast as Sarah Marshall, with Richard Rust as George Blackburn, in "Logan's Policy", the series premiere (October 9, 1959). Ruta Lee portrays Ginnie Thompson, a young woman due to collect her murdered father's life insurance policy, in "The Legacy" (December 25, 1959).

Not all episodes are set in the American West. Tommy Rettig and Amanda Randolph, for instance, are cast as Pierre and Auntie Cotton, respectively, in "The Ghost of Lafitte" (1960), set in New Orleans, Louisiana, with Robert Foulk as Hoag Lafitte. Gregg Palmer and Walter Burke are cast as Gil Harrison and Tom Abbott, respectively, in "The Harpoon Story" (1960), set in coastal New England. Nita Talbot appears in the episode "In His Steps" (1960), set in the Bowery district of New York City. Child actor Robert Eyer portrays Davey in "The Montreal Story" (1960).


Pony Express (1959 - 1960)
Pony Express - 1959-1960Pony Express is an American western television series about the adventures of an agent in the 1860s of the Central Overland Express Company, better known as the Pony Express. The half-hour program starring Grant Sullivan was created by California National Productions. Pony Express ran for thirty-five episodes in syndication from the fall of 1959 until May 1960.

The series featured two recurring roles: Grant Sullivan as Brett Clark, a roving investigator for the company, and Don Dorrell as Donovan, a young Pony Express rider. The majority of the weekly episodes involved Clark and Donovan solving various Pony Express mysteries.

Pony Express was filmed at Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth in Los Angeles County, California.

Grant Sullivan and Don Dorrell in 'Pony Express'

It was one of several western-themed television shows produced by CNP, including Boots and Saddles (1957–1958) and Union Pacific (1959–1960) and Frontier (1955-1956). CNP created the series for the 100th anniversary of the actual Pony Express.


Rawhide (1959 - 1966)
Rawhide - 1959-1966Rawhide is an American Western TV series starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. The show aired for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959, to September 3, 1965, before moving to Tuesday nights from September 14, 1965, until January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 black-and-white episodes. Spanning seven and a half years, Rawhide was the sixth-longest-running American television Western, exceeded only by eight years of Wagon Train, nine years of The Virginian, fourteen years of Bonanza, eighteen years of Death Valley Days, and twenty years of Gunsmoke.

Set in the 1860s, Rawhide portrays the challenges faced by the drovers of a cattle drive. Most episodes are introduced with a monologue by Gil Favor (portrayed by Eric Fleming), trail boss. In a typical Rawhide story, the drovers come upon people on the trail and are drawn into solving whatever problem they present or confront. Sometimes, one or more of the crew venture into a nearby town and encounter some trouble from which they need to be rescued. Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood) was young and at times impetuous in the earliest episodes, and Favor had to keep a tight rein on him.

Rawhide Cast

The Rebel (1959 - 1961)
The Rebel - 1959-1961The Rebel is a 76-episode American western television series starring Nick Adams that debuted on the ABC network from 1959 to 1961. The Rebel was one of the few Goodson-Todman Productions outside of their game show ventures.

The series portrays the adventures of young Confederate Army veteran Johnny Yuma, an aspiring writer, played by Nick Adams. Haunted by his memories of the American Civil War, Johnny Yuma, in search of inner peace, roams the American West, specifically the Texas Hill Country and the South Texas Plains.

He keeps a journal of his adventures and fights injustice where he finds it with a revolver and his dead father's sawed-off double-barreled shotgun.The Rebel - 1959-1961

Nick Adams was the star and only regular actor of this series. He was involved in the show's design, inception, and writing, along with the producer, Andrew J. Fenady, who appeared twice in the series, once as United States Army General Philip Sheridan in the episode "Johnny Yuma at Appomattox", with George Macready as General Robert E. Lee. John Carradine appeared in two episodes as Elmer Dodson, the newspaper editor in Johnny Yuma's hometown, fictitious Mason City, Texas, who encourages Yuma to keep a journal of his travels.


Riverboat (1959 - 1961)
Riverboat - 1959-1961Riverboat is an American western television series starring Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds, produced by Revue Studios, and broadcast on the NBC television network from 1959 to 1961. Reynolds was replaced by Noah Beery Jr. halfway through the series in the wake of a conflict with McGavin.

In the series, Captain Grey Holden and his crew navigate the vessel called the Enterprise principally, along the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers. Some episodes are set in the eastern end of the American West or in the Midwest. Holden and his men encounter interesting characters along the way, including U.S. President Zachary Taylor, General Winfield Scott and a pre-presidential Abraham Lincoln. One episode focuses indirectly on the Texan Revolution of 1836. Unlike most westerns, which are set after the American Civil War, the story's time frame precedes the sectional conflict, and includes the 1830s and 40s.

Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds in 'Riverboat'Dan Duryea played Captain Brad Turner in the first two episodes, before Darren McGavin replaced him for forty episodes. Burt Reynolds in his television debut role played Ben Frazer in twenty episodes, before reporting disputes with McGavin and being replaced by Noah Beery, Jr., who played Bill Blake. Dick Wessel, as chief stoker Carney Kohler, was cast in forty one episodes, Jack Lambert was cast in twenty three episodes as first mate Joshua MacGregor (having played a different character, Tony Walchek, earlier in the series), John Mitchum co-starred in ten episodes as "Pickalong", the ship's cook, Michael McGreevey was cast in seventeen episodes as cabin boy Chip Kessler and William D. Gordon played first mate Joe Travis in thirteen episodes before his character's death.


Shotgun Slade(1959 - 1961)
Shotgun Slade - 1959-1961Shotgun Slade is an American western mystery television series starring Scott Brady that aired seventy-eight episodes in syndication from 1959 to 1961 Created by Frank Gruber, the stories were written by John Berardino, Charissa Hughes, and Martin Berkeley. The series was filmed in Hollywood by Revue Studios.

The pilot for Shotgun Slade aired earlier in 1959 on CBS's Schlitz Playhouse.

Shotgun Slade had three characteristics that made it unique. The first was Slade's profession. Instead being a marshal, sheriff or wandering gunfighter, Slade was a private detective, hired by individuals to track down criminals, return stolen money, or perform other similar duties.

Another quirk was Slade's weapon of choice. Instead of packing a six gun, Slade carried a combination shotgun that has an upper and lower barrel. The lower barrel fired a 12-gauge shotgun shell, while the top barrel fired a .32 caliber rifle bullet. The idea was that this weapon gave Slade the ability to fire at close and distant targets with the same amount of accuracy. Several western television shows were known for featuring distinctive weapons, such as those on shows like The Rifleman, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Johnny Ringo, and The Rebel, but Slade's shotgun stood out even among the weapons of those other shows. Despite the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the series, Shotgun Slade lasted for only two seasons.

Guy Madison in 'Shotgun Slade'

Wichita Town (1959 - 1960)
Wichita Town - 1959-1960Wichita Town is a half-hour western television series starring Joel McCrea, Jody McCrea, Carlos Romero, and George Neise that aired on NBC from September 30, 1959, until April 6, 1960.

Joel McCrea played Marshal Mike Dunbar, in charge of keeping the peace the booming cowtown of Wichita, Kansas. His deputies were Ben Matheson, played by McCrea's real life son, Jody, and Rico Rodriquez, portrayed by Carlos Romero. Making occasional appearances were the town doctor, Nat Wyndham (played by George Neise), the blacksmith, Aeneas MacLinahan (played by Robert Anderson), and the bartender in the local saloon, Joe Kingston, played in six episodes by Robert Foulk.

The model for shows such as these had already been laid out by other western programs such as Gunsmoke, Lawman, and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, so Wichita Town may not have been unique in its plotting and structure. The two most unusual features about the series were the presence of Joel McCrea, a favorite of Western movie audiences for his performance in such films as Union Pacific, Buffalo Bill, and Ramrod, and the fact that his real life son was in Wichita Town, but did not play his son. Wichita Town was produced by Smirch Company and Joel McCrea's Production company for Four Star Television and aired for a single season.

Joel Jody McCrea in 'Wichita Town'
by Charles Scott and Robert Lanthier of the Reel Cowboys
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