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TV Westerns: An American Love Affair

Time Cover March 1959
When the popularity of television exploded in the late 1940s and 1950s, westerns quickly became a staple of small-screen entertainment. William Boyd, the star of the Hopalong Cassidy movies, made a huge fortune buying up the rights to the films and offering them to TV stations for broadcast. The earliest western series made for TV were The Lone Ranger (1949-57), The Cisco Kid (1950-56), and The Gene Autry Show (1950–56). Many theatrical B westerns were also aired on TV alongside these shows. In time the Hoppy-Gene-and-Roy kind of western was superseded by new “adult” series of westerns like Cheyenne and Wyatt Earp. Soon family westerns joined the prime time schedules across all the networks.

TV Western Placemats LRES FOR WEB
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The Museum’s exhibit entitled TV Westerns: An American Love Affair provides an overview of the TV western culture, highlighting the most popular series and providing biographical history, pictures and memorabilia from this great period. A brief introduction is below. You can CLICK HERE for a more comprehensive review.

In the beginning…

Edwin S. Porter's western, The Great Train Robbery in 1903, captured the imagination of audiences on the silver screen and initiated the “western” genre.In mid-30’s radio extended the adventure and excitement into the living rooms of American families.

Westerns became a defining genre of American film culture, a nostalgic eulogy to the early days of the expansive, untamed American frontier which marked the borderline between civilization and the wilderness. Some would say that early TV western series helped define America as a nation; teaching the values of honesty and integrity, of hard work, of racial tolerance, of determination to succeed, and of justice for all. They were, in a sense, modern morality plays where heroes, strong, reliable, clear-headed and decent, fought their adversaries in the name of justice. At the show's end - moral lessons had been taught and learned.

Saturday morning “B” Westerns at the Cinema dominated the 30s and 40s and the introduction and mass appeal of television provided the forum for introducing a reformatted versions.

Hopalong Cassidy TV Image

As television became popular in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, TV westerns quickly became an audience favorite. The juvenile market, for whom the ultimate hero was the cowboy, transitioned to the smorgasbord of free TV westerns versus that offered on the Saturday Silver screen. Most of the very early TV Westerns offered morality plays for the juvenile audience.  Their plots were usually quite simple---good versus bad, black hat versus white, heroes riding wonder horses---and right always won out over wrong.The first TV Western premiering on June 24, 1949, Hopalong Cassidy, played by William Boyd, and his horse Topper, rode across the small screen and into the homes of western film lovers in the form of the reformatted Cassidy theatrical films (1935-44) that were cut down to less than an hour’s running time each. Soon Hoppy would be joined by made-for-TV series like The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, The Gene Autry Show and Wild Bill Hickok

As those kids grew older their tastes changed leading to the development and creation of adult TV westerns.  These new programs appealed to a both an older, and younger audience.

TV Westerns reigned supreme in the Fifties and Sixties with about 120 of them in production, depending on how you define a Western. The peak year for television westerns was 1960, with 30 such shows airing during prime-time. Top rated shows included, Gunsmoke, Rifleman, Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel and Bonanza to name a few.

In its issue of April 30th, 1959, Time Magazine reported that “Last week eight of the top ten shows on TV were horse operas. The networks have saddled up no fewer than 35 of the bangtail brigade, and 30 of them are riding the dollar-green range of prime night time (from 7:3o to 10 p.m.).


    Westerns “Grow Up”

Wyatt Earp Life LegendIn the mid-Fifties (1955-1956 Season)The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp premiered on ABC September 6, 1955, and was the first successful "adult" Western.Later that same week, September 10, Gunsmokepremiered on Saturday night beginning its 20-year run on CBS and a few days later on Tuesday September 20, Cheyenne, the first hour-long TV western, premiered.Soon afterwards,Sugarfoot(1957 to 1961) andMaverick(1957 – 1962) followed.

As fast as you could say, "they went thataway, pardner" the airwaves were filled with Westerns. Other leading adult westerns of the era includedHave Gun, Will Travel, Tales of Wells Fargo, Laramie, Wagon Train, RawhideandThe Rifleman.

Family Westerns

The Rifleman (1958-63) andBonanza (1959-73) were among the first TV Westerns to have a “family” as the core of the show. Previous westerns had numerous characters but no family unit.Bonanza followed in the footsteps of The Rifleman featuring not a relatively young father and his adolescent son but an older father (Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright) with three adult sons who are half-brothers to each other.During the long run of Bonanza in prime time, a number of other 60-minute family western series were launched, such as Daniel Boone (1964-70), TheBig Valley (1965-69), which starred Barbara Stanwyck as a female Ben Cartwright, and The High Chaparral(1967-71). All of these series were filmed in color, as was The Virginian (1962-71), and each ran 90 minutes. Another 90-minute series,Cimarron Strip (1967-68), starred Stuart Whitman as a U.S. Marshal but proved prohibitively expensive to produce and was canceled after one season.  Another popular family western wa sLittle House on the Prairie (1974 -1983) starring Michael Landon.

Late Sixties Bring Change

By the Sixties, the Westerns, led by ratings winner Bonanza, begin broadcasting in color and, in the case of The Virginian broadcast in a 90-minute time period each week.Others, like High Chaparral  and The Big Valley are typical of Sixties TV Westerns.

But the world was changing. There was the war in Viet Nam. Sometimes even good guys seemed to wear black hats. Or maybe there is such a notion as too much of a good thing and audiences tired of the old fashioned horse opera.
Traditional Westerns began to disappear from television in the late 1960s and early 1970s as color television became ubiquitous, 1968 was the last season any new traditional Westerns debuted on television. By 1969, after pressure from parental advocacy groups who claimed Westerns were too violent for television, all three of the major networks ceased airing new Western series. The two last traditional Westerns on the air,Death Valley Days and Gunsmoke, ended their runs in 1975. This may have been the result of an ongoing trend toward more urban-oriented programming that occurred in the early 1970s known as the "rural purge," though only two Westerns (NBC's The Virginian and The High Chaparral) were canceled in the peak season of the purge in 1971.Bonanza ended its run in 1973.

While the traditional Westerns mostly died out in the late 1960s, more modernized Westerns, incorporating story concepts from outside the traditional genre, began appearing on television shortly thereafter. New shows fused Western elements with other types of shows, such as family drama, mystery thrillers, crime drama, and even outer space with Star Trek. Creator, Gene Rodenberry, acknowledged in early interviews that in creating the first Star Trek he was inspired by Westerns such as Wagon Train.The Wild Wild West,which ran from 1965 to 1969, combined Westerns with heavy use of steampunk and an espionage-thriller format in the spirit of the recently popularized James Bond franchise. The limited-run McCloud,which premiered in 1970, was essentially a fusion of the sheriff-oriented western with the modern big-city crime drama popularized by Clint Eastwood’s feature film,Coogan’s Bluff.

Hec Ramseywas a feature-length western who-dunnit mystery series in Sunday night rotation with McCloud and other non-western seriesColumbo and  McMillan and Wife.Little House on the Prairie was set on the frontier in the time period of the western, but was essentially a family drama.Kung Fuwas in the tradition of the itinerant gunfighter westerns, but the main character was a Shaolin monk, the son of an American father and a Chinese mother, who fought only with his formidable martial art skill.The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams was a family adventure show about a gentle mountain man with an uncanny connection to wildlife who helps others who visit his wilderness refuge.

The 1990s saw no new western series but a number of stand-alone TV movies and mini-series, notably the Lonesome Dove cycle. The networks found success filming original Western movies on their own. Like Louis L'Amour's Conagher starring Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, Tony Hillerman's The Dark WindThe Last Outlaw, The Jack Bull etc. A few new comedies likeThe Cisco Kid, The Cherokee Kid, and the mentioned gritty miniseries Lonesome Dove, followed by several sequels and a TV series.

With the growth of cable television and direct broadcast satellites, reruns of westerns have become more common. Upon its launch in 1996, TV Land carried a block of westerns on Sundays. Today, westerns can be found on many cable stations and digital networks. Thanks to such technology, and to DVD, one can see hundreds of westerns from every period of film and TV history in the comfort of one’s home seven days a week.

Western TV Series - By Alpha Order

Adventures of ChampionTHE ADVENTURES OF CHAMPION (1955-1956)

Starring: Barry Curtis, Jim Bannon

The exploits of Champion, a wild stallion who befriends twelve year-old Ricky North in the American Southwest in the 1880's. Although Ricky, who lived on his Uncle Sandy's ranch, had a magnetic attraction for trouble, he was always rescued by the Wonder Horse, aided by the boy's other bosom companion, German shepherd dog, Rebel.

The Adventures of Champion television series takes its name from the famous singing cowboy's beautiful horse, Champion, a mustang running with a wild herd in the American Southwest of the 1880s.

Ricky North (Barry Curtis), who like any boy, has a nose for trouble and adventure, lives on a ranch with his Uncle Sandy (Jim Bannon) and his faithful German Shepherd, Rebel. Ricky and the wild stallion develop a bond, and while Champion runs free, only Ricky can summon him with a whistle from the remuda. Time after time, Ricky, Champion and Rebel are faced with danger and risks that arise on the frontier, and it is Champion, a horse of great intelligence and speed, that often saves the day! No matter what scrapes Ricky manages to get himself into, the Wonder Horse and Rebel are on hand to save the day. 

Adventures of Kit Carson

Juvenile - Syndicated

Starring: Bill Williams, Don Diamond & John L. Cason

The Adventures of Kit Carson is an American Western series that aired in syndication from August 1951 to November 1955, originally sponsored by Coca-Cola. It stars Bill Williams in the title role as frontier scout Christopher "Kit" Carson. Don Diamond co-starred as "El Toro", Carson's Mexican companion.

The Adventures of Kit Carson was intended for children, and presents a fictionalized version of Carson and his life. In the series, Kit Carson roamed the West with his companion El Toro, seeking to help those in need. Kit rode a horse named Apache.[1]

One of the more popular of the many Wild West adventure series targeted at kids to be released during the 50's. This program followed the lonely life of rugged frontiersman Kit Carson and his Mexican friend, El Toro, as they roamed the southwest righting wrongs and bringing outlaws to justice.

“The Adventures of Kit Carson” played on TV like mini-B-western features. Starting in 1951, when B-westerns were still playing at theatres, and starring Bill Williams who had been seen in plenty of western films.

The Adventures of Kit Carson, proved a popular Western in the early 1950s, geared for the children's market, although there was very little historical fact in this series about the real Kit Carson, famous Indian Scout and explorer of the Western Frontier. Kit Carson and El Toro, his Mexican sidekick, roamed the Wild West, traveling from Wyoming to Texas during the 1880s, chasing desperadoes, tracking wild game, drinking coffee by their campfire, and delighting youthful audiences. This, of course, was historically inaccurate, since the real Kit Carson died in 1868 at age fifty-nine. At the time he was an Indian agent at Fort Lyon, Colorado.

The Adventures of Kit Carson is an American Western series that aired in syndication from August 1951 to November 1955, originally sponsored by Coca-Cola. It stars Bill Williams in the title role as frontier scout Christopher "Kit" Carson. Don Diamond co-starred as "El Toro", Carson's Mexican companion.

One of the more popular of the many Wild West adventure series targeted at kids to be released during the 50's. This program followed the lonely life of rugged frontiersman Kit Carson and his Mexican friend, El Toro, as they roamed the southwest righting wrongs and bringing outlaws to justice.  There was absolutely no connection with the historical character.  


Starring: Lee Aaker, James Brown, Joe Sawyer, Rand Brooks, Rin Tin Tin

It starred child actor Lee Aaker as Rusty, a boy orphaned in an Indian raid, who was being raised by the soldiers at a US Cavalry post known as Fort Apache. He and his German shepherd dog, Rin Tin Tin, helped the soldiers to establish order in the American West.


Wild Bill HickockTHE ADVENTURES OF WILD BILL HICKOK (1951 – 1958)
Juvenile - Syndicated (CBS & ABC)

Starring: Guy Madison, Andy Devine & Sam Flint

The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok is an American Western television series which ran for eight seasons from 1951 through 1958. The Screen Gems series began in syndication, but ran on CBS from 1955 through 1958, and, at the same time, on ABC from 1957 through 1958. The Kellogg's cereal company was the show's national sponsor. The series was also exported to Australia during the late-1950s.

The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok starred Guy Madison as the legendary Old West lawman (in real life, also a gunfighter) United States Marshal James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, and Andy Devine as his comedy sidekick, Jingles P. Jones.

As Wild Bill, Guy wore a fanciful, fringed buckskin shirt, a reverse draw brace of six-guns, rode an Appaloosa (Buckshot) and had overweight Andy Devine (1905-1977) as his gravel-voiced sidekick Jingles P. Jones (“Hey Wild Bill—Wait for me!”)

The TV series was nominated for "Best Western or Adventure Series" in 1955.

Wild Bill Hickok's sidekick, Jingles, would always introduce him as "The bravest, strongest, fightingest U.S. Marshall in the whole west!

There was a real-life Wild Bill Hickok. He was the Marshall of Abilene, Kansas. He also had worked as a Union scout during the civil war, an Indian scout for Colonel Custer and even as a pony express rider!

Jingles' horse was named "Joker" and "Buckshot" was ridden by Wild Bill Hickok.

Annie OakleyANNIE OAKLEY (1954-1957)
JUVENILE - Syndicated (ABC ran reruns from 1959-1960 & 1964-1965)

Starring: Gail Davis, Brad Johnson & Jimmy Hawkins

Annie Oakley is an American Western television series that fictionalized the life of famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley. It ran from January 1954 to February 1957 in syndication, for a total of 81 black and white episodes, each 25 minutes long. ABC showed reruns on Saturday and Sunday daytime from 1959 to 1960 and from 1964 to 1965.

TV’s first female heroine was Gail Davis.

The show starred Gail Davis in the title role, and co-starred Brad Johnson as Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins, as Annie's brother, Tagg

In the series, Annie Oakley rode a horse named Target, Tagg's horse was Pixie and Lofty's was named Forest. Annie and Tagg lived in the town of Diablo, Arizona, with their uncle, Sheriff Luke MacTavish, who was usually away whenever trouble started. It would then be up to straight-shooting Annie and her "silent suitor" Lofty Craig to rescue law-abiding neighbors and arrest outlaws.[3] Often Tagg would be told to stay in town and out of the way, but through disobedience, the need to relay important new information, or being captured by outlaws, he would end up in the middle of the adventure.

Annie always wore the same fringed cowgirl outfit, of which 15 or more copies were made throughout the show's production. Her hairstyle was braided pigtails.

Bat MastersonBAT MASTERSON (1958-1961)
Adult – NBC # Episodes (107)

Starring: Gene Barry, Allison Hayes & Allen Jaffe

Bat Masterson is an American Western television series which showed a fictionalized account of the life of real-life marshal/gambler/dandy Bat Masterson. The title character was played by Gene Barry and the half-hour black-and-white shows ran on NBC from 1958 to 1961.

The show took a tongue-in-cheek outlook, with Barry's Masterson often dressed in expensive Eastern clothing and preferring to use his cane rather than a gun to get himself out of trouble, hence the nickname "Bat". Masterson was also portrayed as a ladies' man who traveled the West looking for women and adventure.

The black derby, fancy vest, black jacket, and elegant cane were his trademarks. Miniaturized versions were marketed to children as tie-in products during the run of the show.

The "derby" Gene Barry wears is incorrect. If you look at real photos of Bat Masterson you'll see that the brim on Gene's hat is too large. They tried to roll the sides more to make it seem smaller, but it still just looks like any old cowboy hat with a rounded crown.

The theme song was sung by Bill Lee, a member of the Mellomen.

The series was loosely based on Richard O'Connor's 1957 biography of Masterson.[3] This was highlighted by the book's front cover being shown at the end of the closing credits with an onscreen notation "based on".

The show was so successful that during its three year run on NBC was Nominated for 2 Prime-Time Emmys for Outstanding Actor in a Prime-Time Series (Gene Barry), and also for Outstanding Editing in a Prime-Time Series(Richard L. Van Enger). Also during its run, Bat Masterson brought along a lot of successful writers to go along with the incredible stories in each episode.

Bonanza TvBONANZA (1959-1973)
Family - NBC

Starring: Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon

Bonanza was a 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 continues to air in syndication.

The show is set around the 1860s and it centers on the wealthy Cartwright family, who live in the area of Virginia City, Nevada, bordering Lake Tahoe.

The title "Bonanza" is a term used by miners in regard to a large vein or deposit of ore, and commonly refers to the 1859 revelation of the Comstock Lode discovery, not far from the fictional Ponderosa Ranch that the Cartwright family operated.

In 2002, Bonanza was ranked No. 43 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,and in 2013 TV Guide included it in it’s list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time. The time period for the television series is roughly between 1861 (Season 1) to 1867 (Season 13) during and shortly after the American Civil War.

During the summer of 1972, NBC aired reruns of episodes from the 1967–1970 period in prime time on Tuesday evening under the title Ponderosa.

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 lived on a 600,000+ acre (937+ square-mile) ranch called the Ponderosa on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada.[5] The vast size of the Cartwrights' land was quietly revised to "half a million acres" on Lorne Greene's 1964 song, "Saga of the Ponderosa." 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 was considered an atypical western for its time, as the core of the storylines dealt less about the range but more with Ben and his three dissimilar sons, how they cared for one another, their neighbors, and just causes. "You always saw stories about family on comedies or on an anthology, but Bonanza was the first series that was week-to-week about a family and the troubles it went through. Bonanza was a period drama that attempted to confront contemporary social issues. That was very difficult to do on television.

The opening burning map of the Ponderosa Ranch was illustrated without compass points, which caused the map to appear to be incorrectly oriented (i.e., Reno appeared to be west of Carson City_. David Dortort, choosing not to redo the map, added the compass points. Many have suggested that the compass points are pointing in the wrong direction (slightly north-northwest), but in reality the compass points are aligned with Magnetic North instead of True North.

In the opening sequence, when the actors ride on their horses towards the camera and are introduced, the order in which they are introduced is never consistent - this was most likely done to prevent a single actor from becoming the "main" star of the show.

The Cartwright's one-thousand square mile Ponderosa Ranch is located near Virginia City, Nevada, site of the Comstock Silver Lode, during and after the Civil War. Each of the sons was born to a different wife of Ben's; none of the mothers is still alive. Adventures are typical western ones, with lots of personal relationships/problems thrown in as well.

Any time one of the Cartwrights seriously courted a woman, she died from a malady, was abruptly slain, or left with someone else.

Brave EagleBRAVE EAGLE (1955 – 1956)
Adult - CBS - 68 Episodes (B&W)

Starring:  Keith Larson, Kim Winona, Anthony Numkena (stage name – Keena Nomkeena)

Keith Larsen starred as Brave Eagle, a peaceful young Cheyenne chief

The Brave Eagle show presented the white man’s expansion across once sacred Indian land, during the middle of the 19th century, from the Indian’s point of view. Brave Eagle was a young chief, of a friendly Cheyenne tribe, who wanted more than anything to have peace with the encroaching white man.  At times this was not feasible, and from time to time, Brave Eagle and his warriors had to take to their bows and arrows to defend the tribe and their ancestral lands. 

The episodes center upon routine activities among the Cheyenne, clashes with other tribes, attempts to prevent war, encroachment from white settlers, racial prejudice, and a threat of smallpox.   Young Keena was Brave Eagle’s foster son and Morning Star was the lovely, young Indian maiden, in whom Brave Eagle showed some romantic interest.

This was the first series where an American Indian was the lead character.

Broken ArrowBROKEN ARROW (1956 – 1958
Adult - ABC

Starring:  John Lupton, Michael Ansara      

Broken Arrow was one of the few westerns to portray Native Americans in a positive light.

Tom Jeffords is an army officer who was originally assigned the task of getting the mail safely through Apache territory in Arizona. He was so fed up with the Apache Wars, that he rode alone into Cochise’s camp to talk peace.  He was not of the popular opinion that the Apaches had to be wiped out to achieve peace, and he gained Cochise’s respect and trust with his bravery.  Cochise agreed to let the mail riders go on their routes across Apache land, unmolested.  This first step on Cochise’s part led to an uneasy peace throughout the Arizona Territory, with Tom Jeffords signing on as Indian agent for the Chiricahua Reservation.  The bond of trust grew so much between Jeffords and Cochise that Tom became blood brother to Cochise.  Together they fought renegades, both red and white.

Broken Arrow was a thought provoking series.  It showed that when men, be they red or white, were treated with dignity and trust, they could live in harmony in the hostile Arizona Territory.

BroncoBRONCO (1958 – 1962)
Adult – ABC
Spun-off fromCheyenne (1955)

Starring:  Ty Hardin, Robert Colbert, Mike Road

Broncois aWesternseriesonABCfrom 1958 through 1962. It was shown by theBBCin the United Kingdom. The program starredTy Hardinas Bronco Layne, a formerConfederateofficer who wandered theOld West, meeting such well-known individuals asWild Bill Hickok,Billy the Kid,Jesse James,Theodore Roosevelt,Belle Starr,Cole Younger, andJohn Wesley Hardin

After the end of the American Civil War, former Confederate army captain Bronco Layne seeks his fortune in the lawless

TheBroncocharacter was created as a clone of Cheyenne when Clint Walker walked out on that show for a year in a contract dispute. For the 1958-59 TV season, the program was renamedThe Cheyenne Showand featured reruns of Cheyenne episodes alternating with episodes of the newBronco. It was not until Clint Walker's return to Cheyenne for the 1959-60 TV season that the network decidedBroncocould survive on its own, giving it a new timeslot (alternating with Sugarfoot) and finally giving the show its own theme song.

CheyenneCHEYENNE (1955-1963)
Adult - ABC

Starring:  Clint Walker, Clyde Howdy, Chuck Hicks

Cheyenneis an Americanwesterntelevision seriesof 108 black-and-white episodes broadcast onABCfrom 1955 to 1963. The show was the first hour-long western, and in fact the first hour-long dramatic series of any kind, with continuing characters, to last more than one season.

After the Civil War, nomadic adventurer Cheyenne Bodie roamed the west looking for fights, women and bad guys to beat up. His jobs changed from episode to episode.

In one episode he might be a ranch foreman, in another, a Deputy Sheriff, an Army Scout or an Indian Fighter, but at all times, Cheyenne was a loner.

Cisco KidTHE CISCO KID (1950-1956)
Juvenile - Syndicated

Starring:  Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carrillo, Troy Melton  

The Cisco Kid is a half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, The Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho. Cisco and Pancho were technically desperados wanted for unspecified crimes, but instead viewed by the poor as Robin Hood figures who assisted the downtrodden when law enforcement officers proved corrupt or unwilling to help. It was also the first television series to be filmed in color, although few viewers saw it in color until the 1960s.

The Cisco Kid and his English-mangling sidekick Pancho travel the old west in the grand tradition of the Lone Ranger, righting wrongs and fighting injustice wherever they find it.

Diablo was The Cisco Kid's horse. Loco was Pancho's horse.

The Cisco Kid was an immaculate dresser, in fancy embroidered shirts and silver-studded gunbelt.  He was an adventurer, accompanied by his loyal, though bumbling sidekick, Pancho, on their travels throughout the early southwest.  Cisco was a charmer wih the ladies, but all they got was an adios.

Davey CrockettDAVY CROCKETT (1954 – 1955)
Family - NBC

Starring:  Fess Parker, Buddy Ebsen, Jeff York

Legends (and myths) from the life of famed American frontiersman Davey Crockett are depicted in this feature film edited from television episodes. Crockett and his friend George Russell fight in the Creek Indian War. Then Crockett is elected to Congress and brings his rough-hewn ways to the House of Representatives. Finally, Crockett and Russell journey to Texas and partake in the last stand at the Alamo.

Death Valley DaysDEATH VALLEY DAYS (1952 – 1970)
Family - Syndicated

Starring:  Stanley Andrews, Robert Taylor, Ronald Reagan

Western stories and legends based, and filmed, in and around Death Valley, CA. One of the longest-running Western series, originating on radio in the 1930s. The continuing sponsor was "20 Mule Team" Borax, a product mined in Death Valley.

The stories were supposedly based on true incidents in Western history.

Frontier DoctorFRONTIER DOCTOR (1958 – 1959)
Family - Syndicated

Starring:  Rex Allen,

Frontier Doctor follows the exploits of a small town physician, Dr. Bill Baxter, who rides in a buggy with his black bag and encounters more than his share of trouble as he aids many who cross his path. Operating from the fictitious town of "Rising Springs", Dr. Baxter often finds difficulty with his patients, such as the outlaw Butch Cassidy.

Rex Allen’s “Frontier Doctor” depicted the adventures of physician Bill Baxter (circa 1890’s) in the town of Rising Springs, AZ. In those times the role of medical doctor went beyond dispensing medical advice, birthing babies and treating gunshot wounds. The town doctor was looked upon as the moral backbone of the community.

Dr. Baxter never carried a gun (or sang as Rex had done in films) but didn’t hesitate to pick up and use, when necessary, someone else’s pistol in an effort to uphold justice, protect his patients and prevent further bloodshed.

Zane Grey TheaterFRONTIER JUSTICE (1958 – 1961)
Adult     -

Starring:  Lew Ayres, Melvyn Douglas, Ralph Bellamy

Frontier Justice is a CBS television Western anthology series which had thirty-one telecasts over the summers of 1958, 1959, and 1961. It was a repackaging of episodes from CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater


FuryFury (1955 – 1960)
Juvenile - NBC

Starring:  Peter Graves, Bobby Diamond, William Fawcett

The story begins with two young boys fighting on the street. As the winner of the exchange, Joey Clark, walks away, the loser attempts to throw something at him, but the object goes through a nearby window. The store owner quickly pins the blame on Joey, who has been labeled a troublemaker from past incidents. Rancher Jim Newton witnesses the incident and follows along as Joey is taken before the judge to clear the boy's name. After learning that Joey is an orphan, Newton takes him home to his Broken Wheel Ranch and begins adoption procedures.

The frequent introduction to the show depicts the beloved stallion running inside the corral and approaching the camera as the announcer reads: "FURY! The story of a horse and a boy who loves him."     

A typical plot involved a guest star who falls into mischief, was rebellious or disorderly, and got into trouble but is subsequently rescued by Fury. In most episodes, Fury allowed only Joey to ride him, but occasionally others were allowed the honor of mounting Fury if they had done a good deed for the horse. One of the original conceits of the show was that Fury remained a 'wild' (untamed) horse, who wouldn't allow anyone but Joey to ride him or even come near him. In several episodes people would see the calm interaction between the horse "and the boy who loved him," and assume that the horse must be broken --- but when they tried to put a saddle on him, Fury would rear up and attack them!

Narrator: This is the range country where the pounding hooves of untamed horses still thunder in mountains, meadows and canyons. Every herd has its own leader, but there is only one Fury - Fury, King of the Wild Stallions. And here in the wild west of today, hard-riding men still battle the open range for a living - men like Jim Newton, owner of the Broken Wheel Ranch and Pete, his top hand, who says he cut his teeth on a branding iron.






Gene Autry 2THE GENE AUTRY SHOW (1950-1956)
Juvenile - CBS

Starring:  Gene Autry, Pat Buttram

Gene's role changed almost weekly from rancher, to ranch hand, to sheriff, to border agent, etc., bringing justice, song and his horse Champion to the old Southwest.  Gene's usual comic relief and sidekick, Pat, was played by Pat Buttram, who managed to get into some silly predicament in each episode.  During the first season, Gene's sidekick was played by Chill Wills twice (as Chill) and by Fuzzy Knight four times (as Sagebrush). These two actors even wore Pat's costume.

His trademark theme song was “Back in the Saddle”.

Gene Autry was elected into The Cowboy Hall Of Fame and is one of the most reered of the Silver Screen Cowboys.

GunsmokeGUNSMOKE (1955 – 1975)
Adult - CBS

Starring:  James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver

Marshal Matt Dillon is in charge of Dodge City, a town in the wild-west where people often have no respect for the law. He deals on a daily basis with the problems associated with frontier life: cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, standover tactics, and land fraud. Such situations call for sound judgement and brave actions: of which Marshal Dillon has plenty.

Dodge City, known as the Sodom and Gomorrah of the plains, is a typical frontier city of the late 1800s with typical problems ranging from rumored Indian raids to bank and stage robberies, cattle rustling, and family feuds. All of these must be dealt with within the law and that task falls to Matt Dillon, US Marshal (James Arness).

Dillon is a man who prefers the use of logic over the use of the gun but the nature of the people passing through Dodge doesn't always leave him that choice. Aided by various assistants and deputies over the years (played by Dennis Weaver, Burt Reynolds, and Ken Curtis), he does his best to keep the lawless element out of his town and his territory. Matt often solves his crimes through keen observation and deduction, an innovative approach for the times.

At 20 years and 635 episodes, Gunsmoke is the longest-running American prime-time drama television series to date.

Have Gun Will Travel 2HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL (1957 – 1963)
Adult     - CBS

Starring:  Richard Boone      

This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin" taking his name from that of the foremost knight warriors in Charlemagne's court. He is a gentleman gunfighter who travels around the Old West working as a mercenary gunfighter for people who hire him to solve their problems for them. Paladin may charge steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000 per job, but will provide his services for free to poor people who need his help.

He prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients when possible. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs and, under his real name, was a dueling champion of some renown. Paladin is a former Union cavalry officer, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a veteran of the American Civil War. Paladin’s permanent place of residence is the Carlton Hotel, a luxury hotel in San Francisco. In San Francisco he lives the life of a successful businessman and cultured bon vivant, wearing elegant custom-made suits, consuming fine wine, playing the piano, and attending the opera and other cultural events. He is an expert chess player, poker player, and swordsman. He is skilled in Chinese martial arts and is seen in several episodes receiving instruction and training with a Kung Fu master in San Francisco. He is highly educated, able to quote classic literature, philosophy, and case law, and speaks several languages. While at work on the frontier, Paladin changes into all-black western-style clothing.

Paladin's primary weapon is a custom-made, first-generation .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver[6] carried in a black leather holster (with a platinum chess knight symbol facing the rear), hanging from a black leather gunbelt. He also carried a lever action Marlin rifle strapped to his saddle, and a derringer concealed under his belt.

Paladin gives out a business card imprinted with "Have Gun Will Travel" and a drawing of a knight chess piece. A close-up of this card is used as a title card between scenes in the program.





HopalongHOPALONG CASSIDY (1949-1954)


Starring:  William Boyd

Bill "Hopalong" Cassidy was usually clad strikingly in black (including his hat, an exception to the western film stereotype that only villains wore black hats). He was reserved and well spoken, with a sense of fair play. He was often called upon to intercede when dishonest characters took advantage of honest citizens. "Hoppy" and his white horse, Topper, usually traveled through the west with two companions—one young and trouble-prone with a weakness for damsels in distress, the other older, comically awkward and outspoken.

The first significant Western to appear on network television was The Hopalong Cassidy Show, which began in 1949. It starred movie-cowboy legend William Boyd as Hopalong, a character he had played in sixty-six movies between 1935 and 1948. In the Hopalong Cassidy Show on television, Hoppy was still owner of the Bar 20 Ranch and had a sidekick, Red Connors, who was the perfect foil for Cassidy, who, unlike most cowboy heroes, dressed all in black and, with snow-white hair, cut quite a figure atop his horse Topper. William Boyd died September 12, 1972.

LaramieLARAMIE (1959-1963)


Starring:  John Smith, Robert Fuller, Hoagy Carmichael

The two Sherman brothers and a drifter, Jess Harper, come together to run astagecoachstop 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 theAmerican Civil Warof having aided theConfederates. After Jess Harper finds on Sherman ranch land the wreckage of aUnion Armygold wagon stolen by Confederate raiders, Slim sets forth with the officer accused of helping the Confederates, portrayed byFrank Overton, and an Army major, the real culprit played byJohn Hoyt, to clear Matt Sherman's name. The gold dust in question had long ago been scattered by the wind.

It is the 1870s in Wyoming Territory. Slim Sherman and his 14-year-old brother Andy try to hang on to their ranch after their father is shot by a land grabber. They augment their slight cattle ranch income by serving as a stagecoach station near Laramie.

The brothers were helped by their father's long time friend named Jonsey who was their cook and house keeper and helped run the relay station. One day a stranger and drifter named Jess Harper rides onto the ranch and Andy Sherman takes to him immediately. Jess and Slim quickly form a dislike for one another and almost come to blows. The arrival and departure of a gang of outlaws interrupts their fight. At the urging of young Andy Jess helps Slim subdue the leader and the gang. Slim asks Jess to stay on and work at the ranch. Which Jess reluctantly accepts. Thus began the saga of the unforgettable friendship of Jess and Slim played brilliantly by Robert Fuller (Jess) and John Smith (Slim) that was unmatched by any series of the time or since.

Laredo1LAREDO (1965-1967)

Starring: Neville Brand, William Smith, Peter Brown, Philip Carey

Laredo combines action and humor with the focus on three fictitious Texas Rangers. Reese Bennett, played by Neville Brand, is older than his two partners. Chad Cooper is played by Peter Brown, Joe Riley is portrayed by William Smith.  Reese was previously an officer of the Union Army during the American Civil War. Originally from New Orleans, Chad was in the Border Patrol during the war, and joined the Rangers to search for gunrunners who had ambushed fellow border patrolmen. Joe was a gunfighter who was at times on the wrong side of the law. He joined the Rangers to obtain protection from a sheriff. Chad and Joe tease Reese about his age: he was in his forties.

Rustlers, bank robbers, and their own wild schemes: a band of Texas Rangers keeps getting in and out of trouble, under the jaundiced eye of Captain Parmalee.

LawmanLAWMAN (1958-1962)


Starring:  John Russell, Peter Brown

Dan Troop leavesAbilene,Kansasfor the town ofLaramie,Wyoming. He is offered the town marshal's job after the previous marshal, David Lemp, is murdered. On the way into town, he meets Johnny McKay, who is placing a tombstone on Lemp's grave. Johnny mistakes Dan for a crook, but they meet up later again at the cafe owned by Lemp's widow Dru, played byBek Nelson, where Johnny works as a dishwasher. Dan puts a sign in the window of the marshal's office that reads, "Deputy Wanted." Johnny applies for the job, but Dan turns him down, because he believes that, at the age of nineteen, Johnny is too young. Dan later comes across Lacey Hawks, played byEdd Byrnes, in the Bluebonnet Saloon. Lacey tries to coax Dan into a gunfight, but Dan arrests him instead. Lacey promises Dan that his two brothers Flynn, played byJack Elam, and Walt, played byLee Van Cleef, will come after him. Johnny tells Dan that Flynn is the one who killed Marshal Lemp, and that the whole town saw him do it, but were too afraid to stand up to him. He again volunteers to help Dan take them down, but Troop refuses. Johnny tells him that he cannot take both remaining Hawks Brothers alone. Dan goes out to face them, anyway. Dan shoots Flynn, but then hears another shot from behind him. Dan sees Walt fall dead, and then turns around to see Johnny standing there with a rifle in his hand. Dan motions for Johnny to follow him back into the office and then takes down the "Deputy Wanted" sign.[

During the course of the first season, Dan teaches Johnny the fundamentals of law enforcement. Frequently, while Dan is pursuing outlaws, Johnny remains behind to guard the town. However, in seasons two through four, Johnny becomes more involved in the action and carries some entire episodes by himself. During the first season, the episodes maintain a serious tone. However, when Lily arrives at the start of season two, the scripts include more comedy and some romance. Johnny called Dan "Mr. Troop" or "Sir" and Dan usually called Johnny "Boy".

Life and Times of Wyatt EarpTHE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (1955-1961)


Starring:  Hugh O’Brian

The first season of the series purports to tell the story of Wyatt's experiences as deputy town marshal ofEllsworth,Kansas(first four episodes) and then in the largerWichita, Kansas. In the second episode of the second season, first aired September 4, 1956, he is hired as assistant city marshal ofDodge City, Kansas, where the setting remained for three seasons. The real Earp was in Dodge City for no more than a year - from 1878 to 1879. Though he was technically the "assistant" or "deputy" marshal in Dodge City, the series treats him as "the" marshal. The final episode set in Dodge City aired on September 1, 1959; beginning the next week the locale shifted for the last two seasons to the southwest about Tombstone,Arizona Territory.

Lone Ranger 1750 1350THE LONE RANGER (1949-1957)

Starring: Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels

The fictional story line maintains that all of a patrol of six Texas Rangers are massacred, except for one. The "lone" survivor thereafter disguises himself with a black mask and travels with Tonto throughout Texas and the American West to assist those challenged by the lawless elements. A silver mine supplies The Lone Ranger with the name of his horse as well as the funds and bullets required to finance his wandering life-style.

So let's talk about the story behind this mysterious masked man. His mask is what separated him from all the other TV cowboys. He was the guy who always saved the day and left the grateful townfolk asking "Who was that masked man?"

Well, this guy was part of a posse of Texas Rangers who were chasing after some desperadoes when they were ambushed in a canyon and all were left for dead. But what the bad guys didn't know was that one of those Rangers, John Reid, survived and crawled off safely to a nearby waterhole!

In short order along came a friendly Indian named Tonto. Because John Reid had once helped him, Tonto nursed him back to health and vowed to help this "lone ranger" (yep! that's how he came by his name) avenge the deaths of the other 5 posse members and any other wrongs that needed avenging.

John Reid became "Kemo Sabe" (which means "Trusty Scout") to Tonto and, of course, the "Lone Ranger" to everyone else.

Not wanting the desperadoes to know that one of the Rangers had survived their ambush, John Reid "buried" himself along with the other 5; one of them was his brother Dan. Then, with Tonto's help, he tamed the beautiful white stallion that he named "Silver", put on the mask, got him some pretty snazzy looking duds, too, and set out to get the guys who killed all of his friends (which they did by finally cornering the outlaw Butch Cavendish).

They were now a team, along with their faithful horses "Silver" and "Scout", and went around righting wrongs in the old West!

Every week the Lone Ranger would save the day for a rancher, a prospector, or maybe the school marm and, after being properly thanked by all, he would ride off calling out the familiar "Hi-Yo Silver, away!"

MaverickMAVERICK (1957-1962)

Adult - ABC -

Starring: James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore

Bret and Bart Maverick (and in later seasons, their English cousin, Beau) are well dressed gamblers who migrate from town to town always looking for a good game. Poker (5 card draw) is their favorite but they've been known to play such odd card games as Three-toed Sloth on occasion. The show would occasionally feature both or all three Mavericks, but usually would rotate the central character from week to week.

 The Mavericks were poker players fromTexas who traveled all over the American Old West and on Mississippiriverboats, constantly getting into and out of life-threatening trouble of one sort or another, usually involving money, women, or both. They would typically find themselves weighing a financial windfall against a moral dilemma. More often than not, their consciences trumped their wallets since both Mavericks were intrinsically ethical.

Bret Maverick is the epitome of a poker-playing rounder, always seeking out high-stakes games and rarely remaining in one place for long.  He was vocally reluctant to risk his life, though he typically ended up being courageous in spite of himself. He frequently flimflammed adversaries, but only those who deserved it. Otherwise he was honest almost to a fault, in at least one case insisting on repaying a questionable large debt (in "According to Hoyle").

None of the Mavericks were particularly fast draws with a pistol. Bart once commented to a lady friend, "My brother Bret can outdraw me any day of the week, and he's known as the Second Slowest Gun in the West." However, it was almost impossible for anyone to beat them in any sort of a fistfight.

Though Garner was originally supposed to be the only Maverick, the studio eventually hired Jack Kelly to play brother Bart. The two brothers were purposely written to be virtual clones, with no apparent differences inherent in the scripts whatsoever. This included being traveling poker players, loving money, professing to be cowards, spouting intriguing words of advice their "Pappy" passed down to them, and carrying a $1,000 bill pinned to the inside of a coat for emergency purposes. There was however, one distinct—but accidental—difference between the two. Garner's episodes tended to be more comedic due to his obvious talent in that area, while Kelly's were inclined to be more dramatic.

The episodes featuring both Garner and Kelly were audience favorites, with critics frequently citing the chemistry between the Maverick brothers. Bret and Bart often found themselves competing for women or money, or working together in some elaborate scheme to swindle someone who had just robbed one of them.

My Friend FlickaMY FRIEND FLICKA (1955-1960)
Juvenile – CBS

Starring: Johnny Washbrook, Gene Evans, Anita Louise

My Friend Flicka starred native Canadian Johnny Washbrook as Ken McLaughlin, a boy devoted to his horse Flicka, Swedish for "girl", but actually an Arabian sorrel named Wahana. Gene Evans played the authoritarian father Rob McLaughlin, a former U.S. Army cavalry officer. Anita Louise was cast as the gentle-spirited mother, Nell. Frank Ferguson portrayed Gus Broeberg, the loyal Swedish ranch hand.

Set in the beautiful ranchlands of Montana at the turn of the century, the show dealt with the struggles of the McLaughlin family and their attempts at making a living from the land.  They were also often involved in the problems of their neighbors and friends and the always unpredictable western weather.  And there was always the obligatory sprinkling of villains thrown in to spice up the story line.

OutlawsOUTLAWS (1960-1962)

Starring:  Barton MacLane, Don Collier, Bruce Yarnell, Slim Pickens, Judy Lewis, Jock Gaynor

The adventures of a marshal and his young deputies in a section of Oklahoma infested with bandit gangs, gunmen and robbers.

The Outlaws approached the struggle between the lawmen of the Old West and the desperadoes they chased; however, each episode was seen through the eyes of the outlaws they were pursuing that week.  The locale was the Oklahoma Territory of the 1890’s when such infamous gangs as the Daltons and the Jennings Bunch made it one of the most lawless of all the west’s unsettled frontiers.

Range RiderRANGE RIDER (1951-1953)

Juvenile – Syndicated

Starring:  Jock (Jack) Mahoney, Dick Jones

The Range Rider, had a reputation for fairness, fighting ability, and accuracy with his guns and was known far and wide, even by the Indians.  Never identified by any name other than Range Rider, stuntman/actor Jock (Jack) Mahoney teamed up with 19 year old Dick West (Dick Jones) whom The Rider met in the episode entitled “The Range Rider” (the origin episode which actually aired as the 4th show) as he helped rehabilitate Dick’s gambler father (Leonard Penn). (Oddly, Dick is named Dick Rivers in this “initial” episode.)

Range Rider, on his trusty steed Rawhide, and Dick West, on Lucky, rode the excitement laden video range righting wrongs, battling badmen and helping lawmen/ladies in distress/and beleaguered ranchers fight off outlaw evildoers.

RawhideRAWHIDE (1959-1966)


Starring: Eric Fleming, Clint Eastwood, Paul Brinegar

Set in the 1860s, Rawhide portrays the challenges faced by thedrovers of a cattle drive. 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. Favor was a savvy and strong leader who always played "square" with his fellow men - a tough customer who could handle the challenges and get the job done.

Although Favor had the respect and loyalty of the men who worked for him, a few times, the people, including Yates, were insubordinate under him after working too hard or after receiving a tongue lashing. Favor had to fight at times and usually won. Some of the stories were obviously easier in production terms, but the peak form of the show was convincing and naturalistic, and sometimes brutal. Its situations could range from parched plains to anthrax, ghostly riders to wolves, cattle raiding, bandits, murderers, and so forth. A problem on such drives was the constant need for water, and the scout spent much of his time looking for it, sometimes finding that water holes and even rivers had dried up.

The series was not afraid to face tough issues. Robert Culpplayed an ex-soldier on the drive who had become dangerously addicted to morphine. Mexican drover Jesús faced racism at times (from people outside of the crew). Anger was still left over from the Civil War which had ended only four years earlier, and the "Poco Tiempo" episode reveals that Rowdy's father's name was Dan, that Rowdy came from Southwestern Texas, and that he went off to war at 16 (being later held in a Union prison camp). Trail boss Favor had been a Confederate captain in the war.

RebelTHE REBEL (1959-1961)


Starring: Nick Adams

The series portrays the adventures of youngConfederate Army veteran Johnny Yuma, an aspiring writer, played by Nick Adams. Haunted by his memories of the American Civil War, Yuma, in search of inner peace, roams theAmerican 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 a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun.

Nick Adams played Johnny Yuma as a brooding, troubled man. People close to Adams say he totally identified with the character which provided Adams with his favorite role.

Which brings us to the strange death of Nick Adams in 1968. Ruled a suicide by LA coroners, many feel foul play was involved. Friends Robert Conrad, Forrest Tucker and others were quoted as saying Adams would not have committed suicide.

He was found sitting in a chair. The amount of the prescription drug paraldehyde found in his system is now a matter of debate. This drug when mixed with alcohol and other sedatives can be lethal. But no delivery method was found near the body. No glass, needle etc.

Fueling the mystery were the missing momentos. An avid diarist, Adam’s recorder and the reels were never found. Nor was his typewriter, a cherished gift from James Dean. A miner’s hat given by Adam’s father and kept to remind him of his roots also disappeared. And where was his prized Rebel cap?

We will never know what or who killed him, but Johnny Yuma won’t be soon forgotten.

Restless gunTHE RESTLESS GUN (1957-1959)


Starring: John Payne

Payne played a loner named Vint Bonner, a drifting gun who couldn’t seem to settle down in the post Civil War west.  Bonner would travel from place to place always seeming to wind up in the middle of brewing problems.  A proficient gunman with a considerable reputhemselves.  Vint Bonner was basically a quiet individual, an idealist in a time when it wasn’t popular to be one.  Most often there were no alternatives to gunplay, and each week

Bonner would move on, thus the title of The Restless Gun.tation,

Bonner was always called upon to prove himself and defend others less adept at protecting 

RiflemanTHE RIFLEMAN (1958-1963)


Starring:  Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Paul Fix

THE RIFLEMAN is an adventure series set in the town of North Fork in the New Mexico Territory of the 1880s, where Lucas McCain, a widowed Rancher, raises his young son Mark alone.  Together, they forge a life homesteading a ranch on the outskirts of town.  A Civil War veteran and expert marksman, Lucas is frequently enlisted to help the town Marshal Micah Torrance preserve law and order, as a weekly parade of bandits, scoundrels, ne'er-do-wells, sad saps and the occasional victim of misfortune rides into North Fork or appears at the McCain ranch bringing trouble or looking for help or a second chance.  Armed with a customized Winchester rifle, Lucas upholds law and order on the edge of the wild frontier, dispensing justice with wisdom and compassion.

Facing the challenges of being an only parent, Lucas strives to be a good role model for his son, while compensating for the absence of a mother.  He balances firmness with tenderness and discipline with compassion and humor.  Under the warm guidance of his father, Mark learns the meaning of bravery, courage and the importance of tolerance and understanding.  Mark also learns from his father the physical skills necessary for a youngster to survive in the wild but beautiful western frontier; however, as the boy learns from his father, so too the father learns from his son.

In each episode, Lucas demonstrates his deadly proficiency with his rifle, using it to defend his family and the townsfolk of North Fork.  Lucas teaches Mark that the rifle is to be used only as a last resort.  Guided by a strict code of ethics, McCain prefers reasoned dialogue and compassion to gunplay, but when action is the only recourse, he handles the rifle with restraint and a cool head.  The Rifleman's actions are informed by a sense of fair play and deliberate, measured judgment.

Roy RogersTHE ROY ROGERS SHOW (1951-1957)

Starring:  Roy Roger, Dale Evans, Pat Brady, Trigger, Bullet 

The show starred Roy Rogers as a ranch owner,Dale Evansas the proprietress of the Eureka Cafe in fictional Mineral City, andPat Bradyas Roy’s sidekick and Dale's cook. Brady'sjeep, Nellybelle, had a mind of her own and often sped away driverless with Brady in frantic pursuit on foot. The Jeep was first called LuLubelle in the 1952 series. 
Animal stars were Roy'sPalominohorse,Trigger, and hisGerman Shepherdwonder dog, Bullet.

Like Rogers’s and many other Western films of the 1930s through 1950s, the series featured traditional cowboys and cowgirls riding horses and carrying six-shooters in a contemporary setting where they coexisted with automobiles, telephones, and electric lighting. No attempt was made in the scripts to explain or justify this strange blend of 19th-century characters with 20th-century technology. Typical episodes followed the stars as they rescued the weak and helpless from the clutches of dishonest lawmen, claim jumpers, rustlers, and other "bad guys."

Sheriif of CochiseSHERIFF OF COCHISE (1956-1958)
Adult– Syndicated

Starring:  John Bromfield, Stan Jones

This was a contemporary western in today’s rugged wild west.  The emphasis was on high speed car chases and fisticuffs rather than stand in the middle of the street shootouts.  All the modern methods of law enforcement, including car radios, fingerprint analysis, helicopters and roadblocks were brought into play as Frank Morgan, the Sheriff of Cochise went into action.

While this sounds like a western, it actually was a contemporary police drama set in Cochise County, AZ. Stories seemed to be strangely similar to HIGHWAY PATROL.

Tough Sheriff Frank Morgan was eventually promoted to U.S. Marshall and given the entire state of Arizona to keep under control (the series title would subsequently change to U.S. MARSHAL and remain in syndication until 1960).

Sky KingSKY KING (1951-1962)

Starring:  Kirby Grant, Gloria Winters, Ron Hagerthy, Ewing Mitchell

The opening scene with an air-to-air shot of the sleek Songbird banking sharply away from the camera and its engines roaring, while the announcer proclaimed, "Out of the clear blue of the Western sky comes Sky King!" was very dramatic. The short credit roll which followed was equally dramatic, with the Songbird swooping at the camera across El Mirage Lake, California, then pulling up into a steep climb as it departed.

Sky King was a former military pilot who used his airplane to patrol the skies of his Flying Crown ranch and neighboring areas. He was frequently called upon to rescue someone in distress.

King and his niece Penny (and sometimes Clipper, King's nephew and the brother of Penny) lived on the Flying Crown Ranch, near the fictitious town of Grover, Arizona. Penny and Clipper were also pilots, although they were inexperienced and looked to their uncle for guidance. Penny was an accomplished air racer, rated as a multiengine pilot, whom Sky trusted to fly the Songbird.

Mitch, a competent and intelligent law enforcement officer, depended on his friend Sky's flying skills to solve the harder cases.

Many of the storylines would parallel those used in such dramatic pot-boilers as Adventures of Superman with the supporting cast repeatedly finding themselves in near-death situations and the hero rescuing them with seconds to spare. Penny was particularly adroit at falling into the hands of spies, bank robbers (the best place to hide stolen loot apparently being in the desert of Arizona), and other ne'er-do-wells.

Sky never killed the villains, as with most television cowboy heroes of the time, though one episode had him shooting a machine gun into his own stolen plane.

SugarfootSUGARFOOT (1957-1961)

Starring:  Will Hutchins, Jack Elam

Correspondence-school law graduate Tom Brewster travels west to seek his fortune. Unfortunately, his "cowboy" abilities leave a lot to be desired and earn him the nickname "Sugarfoot" which is one step lower than a "Tenderfoot."

Tom’s main goal was to obtain his law degree.  To meet his objective, this travelling law student kept up his studies with a correspondence course through the mail.  While travelling the unsettled western frontier in search of adventure, Brewster often has the opportunity to practice law and defend the rights of citizens in the corrupt towns he passed through.

There was always plenty of gunplay and bare knuckle fights and when the need arose, Tom admirably took care of himself and any pretty girls that happened to be in the vicinity.

Tales of Wells FargoTALES OF WELLS FARGO (1957-1962)

 Starring:  Dale Robertson, William Demarest, Virginia Christine, Jack Ging

Agent Jim Hardie shifts over its history from being mostly an agent helping Wells Fargo cope with badguys to being the owner of a ranch near San Francisco who still does some agent work.

Jim was a troubleshooter for the company, whose assignments ranged from helping employees out of personal jams to functioning as an unofficial lawman by fighting criminals who preyed on Wells Fargo shipments and passengers.

In the fall of 1961, Tales of Wells Fargo moved to Saturday nights and was expanded to a full hour. Also expanded was the regular cast. Although still a Wells Fargo agent, Jim Hardie was now also the owner of a ranch just outside of San Francisco. He had acquired a young assistant in Beau McCloud and a ranch foreman named Jeb Gaine. The ranch next door to his was owned by Widow Ovie, who lived with her two attractive daughters, Mary Gee and Tina. Ovie had her eye on Jeb as a possible second husband, despite his lack of interest.

TexanTHE TEXAN (1958-1960)

Starring:  Rory Calhoun, Regis Parton, Duncan Lamont

Calhoun played Bill Longley, a Confederate captain from the American Civil War who on his pinto, Domino, roams the American West but stops to help people in need. A fast gun and the enemy of all lawbreakers, this "Robin Hood of the West" seems to appear nearly everywhere in the post-war years, not just in Texas. 

Rory Calhoun’s version of Bill Longley, “The Texan”, took great liberties with the truth about the bigoted real life Longley who killed his first man when he was 15 in 1866 and was eventually hung in 1878 at 27.

Longley, as conceived and played by Calhoun, was a fast gun, a loyal friend to the downtrodden and mortal enemy to lawbreakers.

Tombstone territoryTOMBSTONE TERRITORY (1957-1960)

Starring: Pat Conway, Richard Eastham, Quintin Sondergaard

Tough sheriff Clay Hollister keeps the law in Tombstone, Arizona--"The Town Too Tough to Die"--with the support of his faithful deputies and the editor of the local newspaper.

This program took place in the boom town of
Tombstone, Arizona Territory, one of the Old West's most notorious towns and the site of the shootout known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Located south of Tucson, Tombstone was then known by the sobriquet "the town too tough to die."

The series did not deal with real characters in the history of Tombstone in the 1880s, such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, or the Clanton Gang. It was about fictional characters in the American Southwest. Conway played Sheriff Clay Hollister. Eastham, the only other actor besides Conway to appear in all the episodes, played Harris Claibourne, editor of The Tombstone Epitaph (an actual newspaper that still exists in limited form). Eastham also narrated the series in a deep baritonevoice,[2] describing each episode as an actual report from the newspaper's archives.

VirginianTHE VIRGINIAN (1962-1971)

Starring:  James Drury, Doug McClure, Lee J. Cobb


Wagon TrainWAGON TRAIN (1957-1965)

FAMILY – NBC (1957-1962) ABC(1962-1965)

Starring:  Ward Bond, Robert Horton, John McIntire, Robert Fuller, Michael Burns

Stories of the journeys of a wagon train as it leaves post-Civil War Missouri on its way to California through the plains, deserts and Rocky Mountains. The first treks were led by gruff, but good-at-heart Major Seth Adams, backed up by his competent frontier scout, Flint McCullough. After Adams and McCullough, the wagon train was led by the avuncular Christopher Hale along with new scouts Duke Shannon and Cooper Smith. Many stories featured the trustworthy assistant wagon master Bill Hawks, grizzled old cook Charlie Wooster and a young orphan, Barnaby West.

The series, as a serial anthology; told, the not well chronicled story of the million-plus, very ordinary people, from all over the world (not just the Eastern United States); who, trekked in Conestoga wagons (pulled by horses or oxen), from the then “frontier” cities/towns of Pittsburgh; Cincinnati; Chicago; Saint Louis, and Independence (Missouri); to specifically form and settle into communities and new lives, as individuals; individual families; or, groups of families, representing a particular racial, religious or ethnic character. Their treks brought them to settle the area from Nebraska, to what would become the States of Oregon, Washington, and California.

The global part of this migration began as a trickle, of just America’s own Easterners; after the Louisiana Purchase and before the Mexican War. But the global influx really got started after the concurrent events of the disruptive revolutions in Europe of the Revolution of 1824 and the Revolution of 1848; and the California Gold Rush of 1849. This last event was the world’s first; that modern systems of communication (telegraph networks, mass circulation newspapers, scheduled ocean voyaging, and systems of post roads and postal communications), ensured that accurate notice of the event and its impact; were, within a year, spread all around the world; regardless of the remoteness or distance involved.

But the migration was completely individualized by each person(s); and/or their families or family groups. And the most organized portion of the whole trip; was the wagon train “trek” itself, which was in fact a private business venture in with no government; and no regulation. It was a true story, and it was one where the nature of the historical facts, made it ripe for storytelling.

Wanted Dead or AliveWANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE (1958-1961)


Starring: Steve McQueen, Wright King, Olan Soule

Josh Randall (McQueen) is a Confederate veteran and bounty hunter with a soft heart.[3] He often donates his earnings to the needy and helps his prisoners if they have been wrongly accused.

Randall carries a shortened Winchester Model 1892 carbine called the "Mare's Leg" in a holster patterned after "gunslinger" rigs then popular in movies and television.[4] Randall can draw and fire his weapon with blazing speed. Three Mare's Legs were used in the series, differing in the shape of the lever and the barrel.

Although Randall is a bounty hunter, he doesn't chase and capture only men on wanted posters. He also settles a family feud, frees unjustly jailed or sentenced men, helps an amnesia victim recover his memory, and finds missing husbands, sons, fathers, a fiancée, a suitor, a daughter who had been captured many years earlier by Indians, an Army deserter, a pet sheep, and even Santa Claus. This variety, as well as his pursuit of justice and not just money, contributed to the show's attraction and popularity.

WhiplashWHIPLASH (1960-1961)

(British/Australian Television Series)

Starring:  Peter Graves, Anthony Wickert

Set in the 1860s, the series is a Western filmed in Australia, and stars Peter Graves as Christopher Cobb. The series is loosely based on the life of Freeman Cobb, founder of Australia's first stagecoach line, Cobb and Co.

It traced the exploits of American Chris Cobb as he fought gunslingers, robbers and swindlers, while he tried to establish the Cobb and Company Stagecoach Line. Cobb and Co. was the first stage line on the Australian continent, and as such, it’s owners had to overcome all manner of obstacles never before faced by such an endeavor.  Cobb did not carry a pistol and often used bullwhips (hence the name Whiplash) and boomerangs to settle disputes and in his apprehension of the villains. 

Yancy DerringerYANCY DERRINGER (1958-1959)


Starring: Jock Mahoney, X Brands, Frances Bergen

The titular character, Yancy Derringer, is a gentlemanadventurer and gambler. He is a former Confederate Army captain who has returned to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. The state is under Union control and martial law. The atmosphere is similar to Germany after World War II with a strong military presence and oversight. The atmosphere is forbidding, filled with trepidation and mourning — but life goes on. The time period is the southern Reconstruction Era.

Widely respected by all parts of New Orleans society, as a southerner who never surrendered, Derringer is recruited by the Federal City Administrator, John Colton, to work as a secret agent at no pay, and only Colton knows of his special role. Often at the beginning of an episode, Colton, a former Union Army colonel, asks Yancy to help solve New Orleans' present threat and, often at the end of the episode, he arrests Yancy for breaking the law to do it. Yancy agrees to be Colton's "huckleberry," because Yancy felt the United States should be one nation again. Huckleberry was just one of many unique southern slang terms creator Richard Sale brought into use during the show. One slang definition of Huckleberry is man, guy, or fellow, as in "I'm your huckleberry."

Yancy owns a riverboat, the Sultana. His weapons of choice are a four-barrel SharpsDerringer handgun carried in his hat, another up his left sleeve in a quick-draw mechanism, and a knife in his belt. He is an expert marksman. He also carries a cane with a hidden sword and is said to have iron fists: one punch and his opponent remains unconscious for a day. (The belt buckle with a derringer was never one of Yancy's props.) Yancy dresses elegantly, most often in a white suit with a long coat, ruffled white shirt, a silk vest, a sash instead of a belt, a black string tie (a style of bow tie), and a white, flat-topped straw hat with curled brim.

Yancy's sidekick, Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah, is a silent Pawnee American Indian who communicates only by hand gestures. Pa-hoo-Ka-Ta-Wah is Pawnee for "wolf who stands in water" (as mentioned in the first episode). Although Pahoo is short on talk, he is long on action. Beneath a blanket wrapped about his body, he carries a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun loaded with split buckshot, which he wields in emergencies. Most of the time, however, he uses a throwing knife sheathed on his back.

Yancy and Pahoo live at the family plantation, Waverly. Yancy's recurring love interest is Madame Francine (played by Frances Bergen, mother of Candice Bergen), the strong-willed, beautiful owner of a members-only gambling house in New Orleans. Her real name is Nora and she is actually Irish. Bridget Malone (played by Margaret Field, mother of Sally Field) is an Irish lass recently arrived from Ireland, originally endangered by the ship's crew but rescued by Derringer. 

Miss Mandarin, Mei Ling, a former love interest and close friend of Yancy, is the proprietor of his favorite place to dine, the Sazerac Restaurant. Yancy also sometimes dines, usually al fresco, at the Charter House restaurant, whose specialty is French cuisine, and gambles at the Blackjack Club. Most of Yancy's out-of-town associates stay at the King Louis Hotel. Yancy had a brother David who was killed in the Civil War, and his father Yancy, Sr., also died during the war.

ZorroZORRO (1957-1959)


Starring:  Guy Williams, Gene Sheldon, Henry Calvin, George J. Lewis

The only son of Don Alejandro returns to 1820s California to fight the corrupt local military. He plays the foppish dandy by day and the masked swordsman Zorro who slashes "Z"s everywhere by night. His horses (black and white) are Tornado and Phantom.

For most of its brief run, Zorro's episodes were part of continuing story arcs, each about thirteen episodes long, which made it almost like a serial. The first of these chronicles the arrival of Zorro / Diego to California in 1820 and his battle of wits with the greedy and cruel local Commandante, Captain Enrique Sánchez Monastario. After Monastario's final defeat, in the second storyline, Zorro must uncover and counter the machinations of the evil Magistrado Carlos Galindo, who is part of a plot to rule California. The third story arc concerns the leader of that conspiracy, the shadowy figure of "The Eagle", revealed as vain and insecure José Sebastián Vargas. It's revealed that the plot to gain control of California is so that he can turn it over to another country, implied to be Russia, for a huge profit. 

Season two opens with Diego in Monterey, the colonial capital, where privately collected money to bring a supply ship to California is consistently diverted to a gang of bandits. Diego stays to investigate, both as himself and as Zorro, and becomes interested in Ana Maria Verdugo, the daughter of the man organizing the effort. Once Zorro defeats the thieves, he enters into a rivalry with his old friend Ricardo del Amo, a practical joker who is also interested in Ana Maria. Ana Maria in turn is in love with Zorro. While in Monterey, Zorro and Sergeant Demetrio López García also get involved in a dispute between the peons and a repressive Lieutenant Governor. Diego is on the verge of giving up his mask to marry Ana Maria, but Don Alejandro talks him out of it. Zorro (and Diego) says goodbye to Ana Maria and returns to Los Angeles, where he gets involved in a series of shorter adventures.

Zane Grey TheaterDICK POWELL’S ZANE GREY THEATRE (1956-1961)

Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, sometimes simply called Zane Grey Theatre, is an American Western anthology series. It was originally based on the short stories and novels of Western author Zane Grey, but as the episodes continued, new material was included.



The Range Rider, had a reputation for fairness, fighting ability, and accuracy with his guns and was known far and wide, even by the Indians.

Never identified by any name other than Range Rider, stuntman/actor Jock (Jack) Mahoney teamed up with 19 year old Dick West (Dick Jones) whom The Rider met in the episode entitled “The Range Rider” (the origin episode which actually aired as the 4th show) as he helped rehabilitate Dick’s gambler father (Leonard Penn). (Oddly, Dick is named Dick Rivers in this “initial” episode.)

Range Rider, on his trusty steed Rawhide, and Dick West, on Lucky, rode the excitement laden video range righting wrongs, battling badmen and helping lawmen/ladies in distress/and beleaguered ranchers fight off outlaw evildoers.

The fictional story line maintains that all of a patrol of six Texas Rangers  are massacred, except for one. The "lone" survivor thereafter disguises himself with a black mask and travels with Tonto throughout Texas  and theAmerican West  to assist those challenged by the lawless elements. A silver mine supplies The Lone Ranger with the name of his horse as well as the funds and bullets required to finance his wandering life-style.

So let's talk about the story behind this mysterious masked man.  His mask is what separated him from all the other TV cowboys. He was the guy who always saved the day and left the grateful townfolk asking "Who was that masked man?"

Well, this guy was part of a posse of Texas Rangers who were chasing after some desperadoes when they were ambushed in a canyon and all were left for dead. But what the bad guys didn't know was that one of those Rangers, John Reid, survived and crawled off safely to a nearby waterhole!

In short order along came a friendly Indian named Tonto. Because John Reid had once helped him, Tonto nursed him back to health and vowed to help this "lone ranger" (yep! that's how he came by his name) avenge the deaths of the other 5 posse members and any other wrongs that needed avenging.

John Reid became "Kemo Sabe" (which means "Trusty Scout") to Tonto and, of course, the "Lone Ranger" to everyone else.

Not wanting the desperadoes to know that one of the Rangers had survived their ambush, John Reid "buried" himself along with the other 5; one of them was his brother Dan. Then, with Tonto's help, he tamed the beautiful white stallion that he named "Silver", put on the mask, got him some pretty snazzy looking duds, too, and set out to get the guys who killed all of his friends (which they did by finally cornering the outlaw Butch Cavendish).

They were now a team, along with their faithful horses "Silver" and "Scout", and went around righting wrongs in the old West!

Every week the Lone Ranger would save the day for a rancher, a prospector, or maybe the school marm and, after being properly thanked by all, he would ride off calling out the familiar "Hi-Yo Silver, away!"



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