Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ripcord (1961)



After the success of underwater adventure series Sea Hunt, not to mention TV programs about helicopter pilots (Whirlybirds) and twine-engine airplane pilots (Sky King), a series about the then-infant sport of skydiving might seem like the next logical step in television thrills. But the origins of Ripcord, which ran for two seasons from 1961-63, seem to have been less calculated, at least according to the account given in a lengthy 2011 article about the series published on parachutistonline.com by Hal Streckert. Credit for the creation of the series is not crystal clear. Imdb.com credits long-time stunt coordinator Harry Redmond, Jr. with the show's creation, while the Wikipedia article about the series lists Redmond as co-creator with parachutist James Carl "Jim" Hall. Streckert's article says that the series was the "brainchild" of Hall and fellow jumper Dave Burt, based on an interview Streckert had with Hall. In Hall's account, Burt was scheduled to do a promotional stunt jump for Coca Cola in Acapulco, Mexico in 1958 but was injured a few days earlier and was forced to call Hall to fill in for him. With little time for preparation beforehand, Hall missed his landing spot on the beach and instead plunged into the water near a yacht where a going-away party was being held for Hollywood producer Marvin Greenberg. Hall wound up being pulled out of the water onto the yacht and later had a business meeting with Greenberg where they agreed to develop a pilot for a TV series, which was eventually sold to Ivan Tors Films, the same company that was then producing Sea Hunt.

To pull viewers to the edge of their seat and explain the series title, many episodes began with this narration:
"This is the most danger-packed show on television. Every jump, every aerial maneuver is real, photographed just as it happened, without tricks or illusion. All that stands between a jumper and death is his ripcord."

The jumps on the show were in fact real, but not made by lead actors Larry Pennell and Ken Curtis, of course, though Curtis did admit in an interview years later that he and Pennell made some experimental jumps of their own in secret so that they could understand and get the feel of the equipment for their scenes on the ground. The identity of the real parachutists who made the jumps captured on film also seems to be in dispute. Hall told Streckert that the jumpers included Bob Henry, Bud Kiesow, and Vern Williams, whereas the on-screen credits at the end of several episodes list Ben Chapman and Paul Gustine, and the Wikipedia author credits Bob Fleming and Joe Mangione. In any case, according to the Streckert article the personnel changed from Season 1 to Season 2, and despite numerous technological advances made by in-air camera man Bob Sinclair, an accident in Season 2 in which two planes collided caused the production company to begin using more stock footage to avoid risk.

Streckert's article provides some interesting background on co-creator Hall, including his "hobby" of parachuting into remote locations in Mexico in search of lost gold from the Spanish conquistadors. This hobby provided the basis for several 1961 episodes, including the pilot "The Sky Diver" in which Ted McKeever and partner Jim Buckley are paid by a mining company to jump into a remote site in the Mexican Sierra Madre mountains to deliver a unique geiger counter to a team of mining engineers. In order to add suspense to an otherwise unremarkable plot, an unscrupulous prospector gets a look at the geiger counter when McKeever and Buckley are delivered to a waystation before making their jump and decides to steal it after the Ripcord boys have made their delivery, necessitating their return to get it back and rescue the mining engineers. In "Death Camp" McKeever and Buckley are scheduled to jump into a uranium mining camp in Western Canada, only to find that all the miners have been murdered by greedy prospectors who have decided to eliminate their competition. In "Darb" the boys are at the beck and call of eccentric archaeologist Dr. Gustav Merrill, who uncovers a rare ancient Aztec relic and plans to illegally bring it back to the United States rather than turning it over to the Mexican authorities. But while these episodes may have had a real-life inspiration in Hall's own prospecting adventures, others are a bit more far-fetched, perhaps none more so than "Radar Rescue" in which the boys are guided through impossibly thick clouds by a B-52 bombardier, who guides them down like bombs from an altitude of 20,000 feet in order to save a crashed private pilot and his young daughter only to find that the survivors are actually alright after all.

Other episodes tried to introduce current topics or themes that couldn't even be considered tangentially related to skydiving. Juvenile delinquents had been a popular bugaboo in film and television for at least a decade, but Ripcord decided to take them above the clouds in "Airborne," which features a spoiled young punk named Frank "Digger" Dilworth attempting to impress Ripcord student jumper Suzy Thomas by claiming that he can become an expert jumper in a fraction of the time it has taken her. Dilworth exposes his own bluster when he fails to do 10 pull-ups during training and then panics once he is about to make his first free-fall jump, resulting in his dangling precariously from the plane's guide line in mid-air and having to be rescued by McKeever, who cuts the line, grabs Dilworth, and pulls his ripcord during free fall to save his life. Afterward Dilworth is chastened and admits he was all talk, an admission that finally wins Suzy's admiration. The show enters the world of Cold War espionage in "Top Secret" when McKeever and Buckley are persuaded by clueless FBI agent Carl Sexton to prevent his scientist father from defecting to the Cubans, only to realize afterwards that the whole plot was an undercover operation that they have managed to spoil by butting in. The episode "Chuting Stars" briefly references the young NASA Mercury space program when the boys' friend and Air Force Warrant Officer Frank Pierson shows them some film footage of prototype jumping equipment and a Mercury space capsule, only months after Alan Shephard made the first U.S. manned suborbital space flight.

The series also wasn't above borrowing heavily from other TV drama genres, most notably in "The Condemned," which plays out like an episode of Perry Mason when McKeever and Buckley must solve a murder mystery to save the wrongly accused husband of the murder victim. Kidnapping is also a popular plot device, showing up in the aforementioned "Chuting Stars" when McKeever and Buckley enlist Pierson's team of Air Force stunt jumpers to find an abandoned and diabetic socialite who has been kidnapped and then left to fend for herself in remote mountain terrain. "Counter-Attack" combines kidnapping and corporate espionage when they are hired by a man who turns out to be the kidnapper eager to get his hands on electronics material intended for his kidnap victim but currently held by one of the victim's employees.

But much like Sea Hunt, though the heroes found themselves in precarious situations each week, they emphasized the paramount importance of safety. Delinquent Digger Dilworth in "Airborne" gets an earful about the necessity of proper training and practice. "Air Carnival" is a denunciation of a stunt pilot who plays too fast and loose with the boys' safety in order to give an air show audience a few thrills. And the previously mentioned bombardier Bill Kirk, also a student jumper at Ripcord Academy, is banished from the facilities when he deliberately fails to open his chute during a test jump just to see their emergency maneuvers in action. The emphasis on safety and the "Don't try this at home" message was key in Ripcord's marketing strategy to drum up interest in the still-young sport of skydiving. According to Streckert, the Parachute Club of America nearly doubled its membership during the program's run from 1961-63. Like many adventure and western programs of the era, the show also had a number of marketing tie-ins for the youth market in the form of comic books, board games, and an especially popular plastic parachutist figure with attached chute that could be thrown in the air and then glide slowly back to earth. If Hall's initial intention in developing the series was to increase interest in his sport, he certainly succeeded, even if the program never made the top 30 in the ratings (a tall order considering that it was a syndicated show). However, the authenticity of the actual jumps, particularly the crash in Season 2 in which fortunately no one was injured, may have contributed to the show's cancellation, as Streckert notes. The series producers may have eventually had to heed their own advice about not taking unnecessary risks in the sport of skydiving.

Though no specific credit is ever listed for the Ripcord theme, the score for each of the first 7 episodes is attributed to Stanley Wilson, then head of creative activities for NBC's Revue Studios. Wilson was born in New York City, the son of Russian and Austrian immigrants, and gave his first recital on trumpet at age 5. After briefly attending City College of New York to study medicine, he dropped out to pursue a music career and by age 16 was playing with notables such as Bobby Hackett. He studied orchestration with Nathan Van Cleave and played in the bands of Eddie Brandt and Herbie Holmes before moving to California with two of his uncles, one of whom, Joseph Ruttenberg, went on to become an Academy Award-winning cinematographer. After playing for a few years with the Freddie Martin orchestra at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, Wilson joined the MGM music department after World War II before moving to Republic Pictures the following year. There he scored dozens of low-budget B films such as Daughter of the Jungle, Ghost of Zorro, King of the Rocket Men, The Invisible Monster, Flying Disc Man From Mars, Insurance Investigator, Radar Men From the Moon, Zombies of the Stratosphere, and Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders. In the mid 1950s he began working on drama anthology TV programs such as Studio 57 and The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse before moving over to series like Crusader, The Restless Gun, and Broken Arrow. He was nominated for a Grammy for his work on the soundtrack album to the crime drama series M Squad and is credited with helping integrate TV soundtracks by hiring composers such as Count Basie, Benny Carter, and Juan Antonio Esquivel to work on Revue productions. He is also credited with adapting Charles Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" for use as the theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He stayed busy composing and/or serving as music supervisor for dozens of TV series through the remainder of the 1960s but died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 52 on July 12, 1970 shortly after giving a presentation on composing for television and film at the Aspen Music Festival. A scholarship was endowed at UCLA in his honor for a student in brass and composition, and in 2013 John Williams (who worked for Wilson on M Squad) and Steven Spielberg successfully lobbied to have one of the streets on the Universal Pictures lot named after him.

Both seasons have been released on DVD by TGG Direct.

The Actors

Larry Pennell

Lawrence Kenneth Pennell was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, but his family moved several times during his early childhood, including to Niagara Falls, NY before eventually settling in Hollywood. Though he was the newspaper delivery boy for the Paramount Pictures studio near his home, he was more interested in sports as a star baseball player for Hollywood High School, from which he was recruited to play for USC by legendary Trojans coach Rod Dedeaux. At age 19 he was drafted by the Boston Braves major league team and sent to Bluefield in the D-level Appalachian League, where he set a league record for RBI with 147 in 1948. He was moved up to C-level Modesto the next season and then advanced to B-level Evansville, Illinois, though the higher-level competition dropped his batting average to .196. After spending the 1950 season at Jackson in the B-level Southeastern League, Pennell served in military counter intelligence in the Korean War during 1951-52 before returning to play another season at Evansville in 1953. In between baseball seasons Pennell had become more involved in acting in his hometown of Hollywood, so when his contract was acquired by the Brooklyn Dodgers following the 1953 season, he decided to make the move to acting full time and signed a contract with Paramount. Though choosing not to move to Brooklyn for baseball, he ended up going to New York anyway to study acting  under Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler. His film debut came in the 1955 biopic of abolitionist John Brown Twelve Angry Men. He went on to secure supporting roles in such major films as The Far Horizons with Charlton Heston and Fred MacMurray and The FBI Story with Jimmy Stewart and was given lead roles in B-grade films like Hell's Horizon and The Devil's Hairpin. His television career began in 1956 on drama anthology series such as General Electric Theater and Studio 57 before moving on to guest spots on series such as West Point, Tombstone Territory, and The Millionaire. His big break came when he was cast as parachutist Ted McKeever on Ripcord in 1961.

Following Ripcord's two-year run, Pennell landed a series of one-off guest spots on shows like The Outer Limits, The Virginian, and Wagon Train as well as an occasional film role (Our Man in Jamaica), but in 1965 he made the first of 10 appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies as Elly Mae Clampett's movie actor boyfriend Dash Riprock, the role for which he is best remembered today. After another spate of TV guest spots and occasional film roles, he landed another semi-recurring role as Keith Holden in the penultimate season of the long-running Lassie series in 1972-73. The rest of the 1970s continued his pattern of occasional TV and film work before appearing 4 times as Street in the 1979 series Salvage 1. The following year he made the first of three appearances playing Clark Gable in the TV movie Marilyn: The Untold Story. He played Gable again in the feature film Another Chance in 1989 and a third time in a 1993 episode of Quantum Leap. TV and film roles decreased during the 1980s, but in 1991 he appeared as Hank Pulaski on the long-running soap opera General Hospital. He appeared in the Elvis-is-still-alive spoof feature film Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002 and after a few more credits over the next several years had his final role as Charles the butler in the 2011 feature The Passing. He passed away at the age of 85 on August 28, 2013.
 

Ken Curtis

Born Curtis Wain Gates in Lamar, Colorado, Curtis grew up on a ranch in Muddy Creek until age 10 when his father moved the family to the county seat Las Animas so that he could run for sheriff. Typical for the time, the family lived in the jailhouse and Curtis' mother cooked for the prisoners. One regular customer was a man named Cedar Jack who would cut cedar trees for local farmers, then come to town, get drunk, and wind up in jail. Curtis later said that he based his Gunsmoke character Festus Haggens on Cedar Jack. But before he took up acting, Curtis began in show business as a singer. After high school, Curtis studied medicine at Colorado College before leaving to pursue a music career. When Frank Sinatra was the featured singer in Tommy Dorsey's big band, Curtis was hired as a possible for replacement should Sinatra decide to pursue a solo career, which he did in 1941. Dorsey convinced Curtis to adopt the stage name Ken Curtis, but when Dick Haymes was hired as the band's featured singer in 1942, Curtis left and joined the band of Shep Fields. After serving in the Army during World War II, Curtis resumed his singing career and was invited by Johnny Mercer to sing on his radio show, where he performed the song "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" in honor of that week's star Jo Stafford's latest single. The performance was impressive enough to land him a contract with Columbia Pictures in 1945, for whom he appeared as a singing cowboy in several feature films over the next 5 years, often as a character whose first name was Curt. In 1948 he was the host and featured singer on the radio program WWVA Jamboree, and the following year he joined the western group The Sons of the Pioneers, singing lead on their hit "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky." His marriage to director John Ford's daughter Barbara led to roles in many of Ford's productions in the 1950s including Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, Mister Roberts, The Searchers, and The Horse Soldiers. In 1959 he also tried his hand at movie producing, resulting in two extremely low-budget monster films The Killer Shrews (in which he also appeared) and The Giant Gila Monster. Other than a 1957 appearance on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and a 1959 TV movie, Curtis' TV career didn't really kick off until 1959 when he appeared twice on Have Gun -- Will Travel and Gunsmoke followed by guest spots on Perry Mason, Wagon Train, and again Have Gun -- Will Travel and Gunsmoke the following year. Besides appearing in another Ford western in 1961, Two Rode Together, Curtis landed his first starring TV role as senior parachutist Jim Buckley on Ripcord.

While Ripcord was still in production, Curtis made his first appearance as Festus Haggens in a 1962 episode of Gunsmoke entitled "Us Haggens." After Ripcord was canceled, Curtis appeared one more time on Gunsmoke as a character other than Festus in October 1963 before assuming his career-defining role in 1964, staying with the series for almost another 300 episodes until its cancelation in 1975. During this 11-year period Curtis did little else on screen besides Festus, but when the show was not in production he toured the country headlining a Western-flavored variety show. After Gunsmoke Curtis' credits were somewhat sparse until he was cast in a supporting role as Hoyt Coryell on the 1983-84 western series The Yellow Rose, which starred David Soul and Cybil Shepherd. After that series' demise, he compiled only 5 more credits over the next 7 years, the last being the TV movie Conagher in 1991 before passing away in his sleep at age 74 on April 28, 1991. A statue of Curtis as Festus stands today in Clovis, California where Curtis spent his later years.

Shug Fisher

George Clinton Fisher was born in Tabler, Oklahoma and from an early age learned a variety of instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, on which he would accompany his father at local square dances. After his father and he drove to the San Joaquin Valley in California to work as fruit pickers, he found work playing on Fresno radio before being invited by Tom Murray to join his new group, the Hollywood Hillbillies, after the latter had left his previous group, the Beverly Hill Billies. He spent much of the 1930s as a member of various hillbilly country music bands and appeared on radio programs in California, West Virginia, and Ohio before being invited during World War II to join the Sons of the Pioneers when some of their members were drafted into the service. During this period the group appeared in a series of Roy Rogers movies. When the drafted members returned from the war in 1946, Fisher left the group but rejoined in 1949, the same time that Ken Curtis did. From that point forward, the two were the best of friends, and Fisher, like Curtis, appeared in many John Ford productions, including Rio Grande, Mister Roberts, and The Searchers, as well as other non-Ford films that starred Curtis, such as Riders of the Pony Express and Stallion Canyon. He even appeared in Curtis' monster film The Giant Gila Monster in 1959. When Curtis was signed to star in Ripcord, Fisher came along to play pilot Charlie Kern in 31 episodes during the series' two-year run.

After Ripcord's cancelation, Fisher continued to find occasional work on TV shows such as Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, The Virginian, and Daniel Boone. He made the first of his 27 appearances on Gunsmoke 2 years before Curtis became a regular on the series, and he was cast in a semi-regular role as Shorty Kellems on the Beverly Hillbillies during 1969-70 shortly after Larry Pennell made his last appearance on the series as Dash Riprock. In the 1970s he landed an occasional non-western TV guest spot on show such as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Petrocelli, and Starsky and Hutch, but he wound up his acting career with roles on The Dukes of Hazzard and Harper Valley P.T.A. in 1982. He retired to Studio City, California and died two years later at the age of 76 on March 16, 1984 with his lifelong friend Ken Curtis at his side.

Paul Comi

Paul Domingo Comi was born in Boston, Massachusetts and joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1949. He won three Purple Hearts during the Korean War in 1950-51 and after his discharge from the military in 1952, he moved to California, enrolling at El Camino Junior College, where he served as class president. He was awarded a scholarship to the USC School of Dramatic Arts and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1958. After apprenticing at the La Jolla Playhouse, he was signed to a contract by 20th Century Fox and made his feature film debut in The Young Lions in an uncredited part. That year also saw him break into television with supporting parts on M Squad, The Silent Service, and Steve Canyon. In 1960 he was cast as Deputy Johnny Evans in the TV western Two Faces West, which lasted only a single season. That role was followed by his semi-regular role as pilot Chuck Lambert on Ripcord, on which he appeared 14 times over two seasons.

He continued to find regular work after Ripcord on series such as The Twilight Zone, Ben Casey, and Dr. Kildare. He played the character Yo Yo in 6 episodes of Rawhide during the final 1964-65 season. He stayed active throughout the remainder of the decade with multiple guest appearances on show such as 12 O'Clock High, The Virginian, The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West, and The Fugitive. In the 1970s he made multiple appearances on The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones as well as having minor roles in feature films such as Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and The Towering Inferno. In 1982 he began a two-season stint as George Durnely on General Hospital and followed that with a season and a half as Victor Markham on another daytime soap opera, Capitol, in 1985-86. The roles lessened but continued to be steady throughout the remainder of the 1980s and into the early 1990s on programs such as Highway to Heaven, Knots Landing, and L.A. Law. He retired from acting after a 1995 appearance on Baywatch. Today he serves as President of Caffe D'Amore, Inc., a company founded by his wife Eva, the creator of the first instant flavored cappucino.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 1, "The Sky Diver": Russell Johnson  (shown on the left, starred in It Came From Outer Space, This Island Earth, and Johnny Dark and played Marshal Gib Scott on Black Saddle, Professor Roy Hinkley on Gilligan's Island, and Assistant D.A. Brenton Grant on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law) plays mining engineer Stan Warner. Don Kennedy (the voice of Tansut on Space Ghost Coast to Coast) plays prospector Henry Kruger. Roberto Contreras (Pedro on The High Chapparal) plays a Mexican bandito. Marlyn Mason (Sally Weldon on Ben Casey and Nikki Bell on Longstreet) plays a pool-side ogler.

Season 1, Episode 2, "Air Carnival": Stuart Erwin (starred in Men Without Women, Make Me a Star, Women Are Trouble, and The Bride Came C.O.D. and played Stu Erwin on The Stu Erwin Show and Otto King on The Greatest Show on Earth) plays air show owner Justin Rock. Med Flory (played clarinet in the Ray Anthony orchestra and founded and plays alto sax in the group Super Sax, appeared in Gun Street, The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Gumball Rally, and played Sheriff Mike McBride on High Mountain Rangers) plays Ripcord pilot Billy Gibson. Willis Bouchey (Mayor Terwilliger on The Great Gildersleeve, Springer on Pete and Gladys, and the judge 23 times on Perry Mason) plays Rock's roustabout Hank. 

Season 1, Episode 3, "Airborne": Susan Silo (shown on the right, played Rusty on Harry's Girls and a prolific voice actor on shows such as The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, James Bond, Jr., and Where's Waldo?) plays parachute student Suzy Thomas. 

Season 1, Episode 4, "Chuting Stars": John Agar (starred in Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Sands of Iwo Jima, Woman of the North Country, Revenge of the Creature, The Mole People, and Attack of the Puppet People) plays Warrant Officer Frank Pierson. William Sargent (Jerry Carter on Peyton Place) plays police Det. Will Kenyon. Stephen Pearlman (Murray Zuckerman on Husbands, Wives & Lovers) plays a kidnapper. Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley on Dallas) plays a poacher. 

Season 1, Episode 5, "Colorado Jump": Jean Carson (shown on the left, played Rosemary on The Betty Hutton Show) plays publicist Blanche Telford. Grant Woods (Lt. Kelowitz on Star Trek and Capt. Myles Keogh on Custer) plays plane pilot Bob Archer. 

Season 1, Episode 6, "The Condemned": Denver Pyle (shown on the right, played Ben Thompson on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Grandpa Tarleton on Tammy, Briscoe Darling on The Andy Griffith Show, Buck Webb on The Doris Day Show, Mad Jack on The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard) plays hunting lodge owner Charles Guest. Sara Selby (Aunt Gertrude on The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, Lucille Vanderlip on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Miss Thomas on Father Knows Best, and Ma Smalley on Gunsmoke) plays his wife Sarah. John Mitchum (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Riverboat) plays Guest's employee Sam. Michael Pataki (Roberto on The Flying Nun, Charlie Dreyfus on Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, Capt. Barbera on The Amazing Spider-Man, and Vladimir Gimenko on Phyl & Mikhy) plays condemned husband Joe Bartram. John Zaremba (Special Agent Jerry Dressler on I Led 3 Lives, Dr. Harold Jensen on Ben Casey, Admiral Hardesy on McHale's Navy, Dr. Raymond Swain on The Time Tunnel, and Dr, Harlem Danvers on Dallas) plays Bartram's lawyer. Med Flory (see "Air Carnival" above) plays an unnamed Ripcord pilot.

Season 1, Episode 7, "Counter-Attack": Ken Drake (Bragan on Not for Hire) plays an FBI agent.

Season 1, Episode 8, "Crime Jump": Burt Reynolds (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Riverboat) plays a parachutist assassin. Richard Arlen (starred in The Virginian, Dangerous Paradise, Gun Smoke, Island of Lost Souls, and Alice in Wonderland) plays Homicide Capt. Phillip Hanna. Leo Penn (father of Sean, Chris, and Michael Penn, played Dr. David McMillan on Ben Casey, and had at least 87 directing credits including 19 episodes of Ben Casey, 11 episodes of Bonanza, 18 episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D., and 27 episodes of Matlock) plays former Ripcord student Johnny.

Season 1, Episode 9, "Darb": Harry Townes (starred in The Brothers Karamazov, Screaming Mimi, and Sanctuary) plays eccentric archaeologist Dr. Gustav Merrill. 

Season 1, Episode 10, "Death Camp": Kelton Garwood (shown on the right, played Beauregard O'Hanlon on Bourbon Street Beat and Percy Crump on Gunsmoke) plays a murderous prospector. 

Season 1, Episode 11, "Derelict": Alan Baxter (appeared in Saboteur, Close-Up, and Paint Your Wagon) plays a tug boat captain. Marshall Reed (Inspector Fred Asher on The Lineup) plays his first mate Harvey. Ray Teal (Jim Teal on Lassie and Sheriff Roy Coffee on Bonanza) plays a shipping line owner. 

Season 1, Episode 12, "Top Secret": Robert Clarke (shown on the left, appeared in The Man From Planet X and The Astounding She-Monster, starred in and directed The Hideous Sun Demon, and was married to Alyce King of the King Singers) plays FBI agent Carl Sexton. Paul Birch (Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays his father Dr. Rupert Sexton. John A. Alonzo (cinematographer on Vanishing Point, Harold and Maude, Lady Sings the Blues, Chinatown, Scarface, Steel Magnolias, and Star Trek: Generations) plays Cuban agent Amendarez. 

Season 1, Episode 13, "Radar Rescue": John Considine (brother of Tim Considine, played Grant Capwell on Santa Barbara) plays U.S. Air Force radar engineer Bill Kirk. Jack Hogan (starred in The Bonnie Parker Story, Paratroop Command, and The Cat Burglar and played Kirby on Combat!, Sgt. Jerry Miller on Adam-12, Chief Ranger Jack Moore on Sierra, and Judge Smithwood on Jake and the Fatman) plays Air Force B-52 pilot Major Jackson. Edward Norris (starred in Bad Guy, Boys Town, Back in the Saddle, Career Girl, and End of the Road) plays private pilot George Anderson. 

Season 1, Episode 14, "Sierra Jump": Byron Morrow (shown on the right, played Capt. Keith Gregory on The New Breed and Pearce Newberry on Executive Suite) plays aeronautics board investigator Henry Harris.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Wagon Train (1961)



Early in its 4th season Wagon Train experienced an existential crisis at the peak of its popularity: it's top-billed star Ward Bond suffered a fatal heart attack in November 1960 while making a promotional appearance at a Dallas Cowboys football game. The producers moved quickly to sign up veteran character actor John McIntire to take his place even though there were still a few episodes filmed with Bond that had not yet aired. McIntire was credited in 5 episodes, beginning with "The Jeremy Dow Story" (December 28, 1960) before ever appearing on camera. But replacing Bond was not the only crisis facing the series: Even before Bond's death co-star Robert Horton had already decided to leave the series after his 5-year contract expired at the end of Season 5, in May, 1962. They began planting the seeds for his replacement by bringing on former college basketball player Denny Scott Miller as a second scout for the wagon train, Duke Shannon, who first appeared in one of Bond's last episodes to air, "Weight of Command" (January 25, 1961). And yet in spite of these personnel changes, or perhaps because of the curiosity they engendered, the series became even more popular, moving from the #2 spot in the ratings for 1960-61 to the very top spot in 1961-62. In a cover story for the June 24, 1961 issue of TV Guide, Horton was very critical of the direction the series had taken since its beginning. He bemoaned the increased use of stock footage and less time spent on location to save money; he criticized that fact his character Flint McCullough was sometimes given speeches and put in situations directly at odds with his go-it-alone personality, such as the episode "The Prairie Story" (February 1, 1961) in which he essentially gives the same speech Bond did in the previous episode when a member of the train runs off on their own and he can't spare anyone to go chase them down and bring them back. He also criticized the scripts as being too soft, talky, and soap opera-ish. Perhaps not surprisingly for a Hollywood leading man, he considered the best script for the season to have been "The Odyssey of Flint McCullough" (February 15, 1961) in which he single-handedly rescues a blind grandfather and his grandchildren after their family is massacred by Indians and adds to their brood a lost Indian orphan, teaching the white children not to hate the Native American boy just because his skin is the same color as their parents' murderers.

The aforementioned episode and several others aired during 1961 constitute a deliberate effort by the show's producers to rebuild the brand in the wake of all its personnel turmoil. As discussed in our post on the 1960 episodes for the series, Wagon Train presented an over-arching narrative about the people who "settled" the west, with all their trials and imperfections. Native Americans do not come off well in this story, often serving as one of many obstacles to white western expansion, though the producers do acknowledge the devastating effect of manifest destiny in the year's final episode "Clyde" (December 27, 1961) when we are told how the many wagon trains and western settlers who crossed the prairies effectively wiped out the Native American's primary resource--the buffalo. Still, with their series at a cross-roads, the producers focused on origin stories of the principal characters to bolster viewers' attachment to the program. For the departing Bond they revisited the two-part Seth Adams story from Season 1 by introducing a look-alike character for Adams' one true love Rainey Webster in "The Beth Pearson Story" (February 22, 1961), with the same actress, Virginia Grey, brought back for both roles. This episode also retells the story of how Adams, Bill Hawks, and Charlie Wooster first met and became lifelong friends serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. Though he successfully romances and is ready to marry Beth Pearson, Adams finally makes a Freudian slip in calling her Rainey when he is overly tired, revealing that the romance was merely his attempt to recapture a long-lost love rather than truly loving the woman in front of him.

McCullough's character also traces his roots in several 1961 episodes, some of which contradict each other. From his origin story during Season 2, the series has depicted the orphaned McCullough as having been raised and mentored by legendary scout Jim Bridger. He reunites with this father figure in "The Jim Bridger Story" (May 10, 1961) when Bridger is working for U.S. Army General Jameson, who commandeers McCullough's wagon train to rescue a regiment of soldiers trapped on a mountain by a band of Utes. McCullough has his saint-like reverence for Bridger shattered because he does not agree with forcing civilians to serve a military cause against their will. McCullough is finally able to convince Jameson that the civilians must be allowed to make their own choice, and when Jameson backs off and shows some compassion, the citizens are ready to aid the soldiers who offer them protection year-round. Once the tension is eased, Bridger and McCullough are able to resume friendly relations as well. But in "The Artie Matthewson Story" (November 8, 1961), Shannon finds a wounded old woman whose wagon has been overturned and who claims to be Flint's adoptive mother. McCullough rushes to Angie Matthewson's side and agrees to carry out her final wish before she dies--find her natural-born son Artie and make sure he hasn't backslid into his earlier criminal ways. Horton certainly has a point that episodes such as this have a soap opera-ish flavor, never mind the contradiction that McCullough was raised by Angie Matthewson rather than Jim Bridger.

Newcomer John McIntire gets two origin-story episodes in 1961. McIntire's first appearance on the program was as Andrew Hale in a 1959 episode in which Adams asks him to temporarily take over leadership of the train when Adams falls ill. In his new role as Bond's replacement, McIntire becomes Christopher Hale, whom we first meet in "The Christopher Hale Story" (March 15, 1961) when Flint finds him sitting on what is left of his burnt homestead's porch after Indians massacred his family while he was away leading another wagon train west. Prior to finding him Flint and the others had learned that their parent company had assigned notorious wagon master Jud Benedict to lead their train (no explanation is given for what prompted this assignment or what has happened to Adams). Hale is still dazed when he is brought back to camp, but when the others learn that he is Christopher Hale, noted wagon master, they urge him to rescue them from Benedict's iron grip and then install him as permanent wagon master once Benedict is run off. We learn more of the Hale family's fate in "The Janet Hale Story" (May 31, 1961) in which Hale's wife Janet (played by McIntire's real-life wife Jeanette Nolan) insists on accompanying Hale on his last wagon train journey to California, where they will settle, only to fall ill along the way and force the Hales to pick a different spot in the middle of Indian country for their final homestead. Hale feels compelled to carry through on his obligation to lead the train to California, leaving his wife and children behind with a brother and his wife. Despite assurances from a friendly Indian chief that they can settle on his land in peace, a younger renegade leader ignores the promise and leads the massacre that leaves Hale alone when Flint finds him.

Future lead scout Duke Shannon also gets his story told in "The Duke Shannon Story" (April 26, 1961) in which his gold-prospecting father Henry is a member of Hale's wagon train and wanders off with Charlie Wooster to mine a legendary vein not far from the path traveled by the train. Duke shows up shortly thereafter and is accompanied by Bill Hawks on a search to bring the two old fools back. But a pair of greedy eavesdroppers have also trailed the elder Shannon and Wooster to the mine, and after finding that it has already been cleaned out attempt to blow up Henry and Wooster inside the mine. Hawks and Duke dispatch the villains with bullets, but Henry passes away after he and Charlie have escaped out a back entrance, the elder Shannon dying peacefully at having correctly found the legendary mine, even if it was empty. This turn of events leaves Duke without a family, and Hawks and Hale agree that he would be a good addition to their wagon train, accepting him into their virtual family.

Which brings us to the common thread that binds these characters--they are all adult orphans in a sense, with no attachments, no spouses, not even a steady girlfriend among them. Any romance they might strike up is doomed. Attempts to settle down and give up their traveling are foiled. Though they have committed no murder, they seem sentenced like the Biblical Cain to wander the earth for the rest of their existence. Though they cross the country from Missouri to California each season, they never seem to get anywhere personally. In his TV Guide interview Horton complained that his character was "a traffic cop directing guest stars through the show." Perhaps the producers should have recognized that their focus on the stories of their principal characters drove the series to its highest ratings ever rather than reverting to a formula more akin to the drama anthology series of the 1950s, which had long since faded in popularity. After Horton's departure, the series fell to #25 for 1962-63 and then out of the top 30 for its last two seasons.

All 8 seasons have been released on DVD by Timeless Media Group.

The Actors

For the biographies for Ward Bond, Robert Horton, Terry Wilson, and Frank McGrath, see the 1960 post for Wagon Train.

John McIntire

Born in Spokane, Washington, McIntire grew up on a ranch in Montana where his lawyer father told him tales of the many Native American leaders he met as commissioner of Indian affairs. The young McIntire also rode broncos, winning a national competition at age 16. These experiences would later serve him well in his many western roles over a career that included 100 films and starring roles on several TV series. He graduated high school in Santa Monica, attended USC for two years, and then worked as a seaman traveling the world before coming back and settling into radio drama and as the host of The March of Time. While working in radio in 1935 he met and married actress Jeanette Nolan, and the two remained married for 56 years, until his death, and appeared in many films and TV programs together, sometimes playing a couple. At age 40 he moved from radio into feature films, first appearing as a radio announcer in The Hucksters in 1947. The following year he established himself as a supporting character actor in the Jimmy Stewart crime drama Call Northside 777. The 1950s were a fertile period for his film work in features such as The Asphalt Jungle, A Lion Is in the Streets, and The Phenix City Story, but he also branched out in villainous roles in a trio of Anthony Mann-directed westerns--Winchester '73, The Far Country, and The Tin Star. His television career started in 1956 with a series of drama anthology appearances before landing a starring role as Lt. Dan Muldoon in the first season of Naked City. According to author James Rosin in his book Naked City: The Television Series, McIntire grew dissatisfied with the rigors of a weekly television series based in New York while his family was out west and asked out of his contract, but according to a 1961 TV Guide interview, McIntire said, "I really did not care for that type of role." The producers decided to have his character killed off in the 1959 episode "The Bumper" and replaced by Horace McMahon as Lt. Mike Parker. After an active 1960 that saw him appearing in feature films such as Psycho (with Nolan), Elmer Gantry, Dean Martin & Tony Curtis' Who Was That Lady?, and Elvis Presley's Flaming Star, as well as guest appearances on Peter Gunn, Overland Trail, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he quickly returned to regular TV roles as Pa Canfield in the short-lived Civil War drama The Americans and as Ward Bond's replacement on Wagon Train, a role he would retain until the series' end in 1965.
Guest spots on TV series like Daniel Boone, The Fugitive, and Bonanza would fill the next couple of years until he replaced another suddenly departed regular, William Bickford, playing his brother Clay Grainger on The Virginian from 1967 until that series' final episode in 1970. Around the same time he began appearing in a number of Walt Disney productions, first as the character Whit White on the Wonderful World of Color serial Gallegher Goes West and its follow-up The  Mystery of Edward Simms, then as Father Boudreau on Bayou Boy. He and Nolan then voiced characters in the Disney animated features The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound. He continued regular TV guest spots through the 1970s and '80s on shows like Love American Style, Charlie's Angels, and Dallas and had his last regular role as Dutch McHenry on the single-season Shirley Jones vehicle Shirley in 1979-80. Feature film work continued as well with roles in Herbie Rides Again, Rooster Cogburn, and Cloak & Dagger, with his last credit coming in the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy Turner & Hooch. He passed away two years later from emphysema and cancer at the age of 83 on January 30, 1991.

Denny Scott Miller

Dennis Linn Miller was born in Bloomington, Indiana where his father was a physical education instructor at Indiana University. Miller and his brother Kent played basketball from an early age and after stops in Silver Spring, Maryland and Baldwin, New York, the family moved to Los Angeles, where the 6'4" Denny and Kent were recruited by John Wooden and given full scholarships to UCLA. Working as a furniture mover during his senior year, Denny was spotted by a talent scout on Hollywood Boulevard and signed to a contract with MGM, which first put him in an uncredited part in Some Came Running before casting him in the lead role in the 1959 feature Tarzan, a slapped-together affair that spliced in old footage from Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies. He filled the following year with a half dozen guest appearances on TV westerns such as Have Gun -- Will Travel, The Rifleman, Laramie, Overland Trail, and Riverboat before being cast as scout Duke Shannon on Wagon Train, making his debut in one of Ward Bond's last episodes, "Weight of Command."

Miller stayed with Wagon Train through the end of its 7th and penultimate season. He then was cast as Juliet Prowse's husband Mike McCluskey's in the 1965-66 comedy Mona McCluskey, which lasted only a single season. The remainder of his career was spent doing guest appearances on TV shows from Gilligan's Island, Death Valley Days, and Ironside to The Incredible Hulk, Magnum, P.I., and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, He appeared 4 times as Max Flowers on Dallas and 3 times as Sheriff Owen Kearney on Lonesome Dove: The Series. He gave a memorable turn as Hollywood cowboy actor "Wyoming" Bill Kelso in Blake Edwards' 1968 comedy The Party and had supporting roles in Doomsday Machine and Buck and the Preacher in the 1970s. He also portrayed the yellow rain-slickered Gorton's fisherman in TV commercials for over a decade and all-purpose spray foam character Big Wally. Other than the 2005 western-star reunion feature Hell to Pay (which included James Drury, Peter Brown, and Lee Majors), Miller's acting career ended in 1996. He published an autobiography Didn't You Used to Be--What's His Name? and an anti-obesity/pro-exercise manual Toxic Waist?...Get to Know Sweat! In January 2014 he was diagnosed with ALS and died on September 9th the same year at the age of 80.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 4, Episode 15, "The Earl Packer Story": Ernest Borgnine (shown on the left, starred in From Here to Eternity, Bad Day at Black Rock, Marty, The Dirty Dozen, and The Poseidon Adventure and played Lt. Commander Quinton McHale on McHale's Navy, Joe Cleaver on Future Cop, Dominic Santini on Airwolf, and Manny Cordoba on The Single Guy) plays bounty hunter Earl Packer. Edward Binns (starred in 12 Angry Men, North by Northwest, Heller in Pink Tights, and Judgment at Nuremberg and played Roy Brenner on Brenner and Wally Powers on It Takes a Thief) plays former legendary lawman Bill Strode. 

Season 4, Episode 16, "The Patience Miller Story": Rhonda Fleming (shown on the right, starred in Spellbound, The Spiral Staircase, Out of the Past, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Great Lover, The Eagle and the Hawk, Serpent of the Nile, Inferno, and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) plays pacifist widow Patience Miller. Michael Ansara (appeared in Julius Caesar, The Robe, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Harum Scarum, played Cochise on Broken Arrow and Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart on The Rifleman and the Law of the Plainsman, and voiced General Warhawk on Rambo) plays Arapahoe chief North Star. Bart Braverman (Bobby "Binzer" Borso on Vega$, Roy on The New Odd Couple, and Dr. Bhandari on Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book) plays his son Evening Star. Morgan Woodward (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays his right-hand man Chief Spotted Horse. Karyn Kupcinet (Carol on The Gertrude Berg Show) plays one of his wives Brown Robin. E.J. Andre (Eugene Bullock on Dallas) plays Indian mission agent Mr. Wise. Jason Robards, Sr. (father of Jason Robards) plays Arapahoe elder White Hawk.

Season 4, Episode 17, "The Sam Elder Story": Everett Sloane (shown on the left, starred in Citizen Kane, The Lady From Shanghai, and Lust for Life and provided the voice for Dick Tracy on The Dick Tracy Show) plays former Union Army officer Sam Elder. Ray Stricklyn (Dr. James Parris on The Colbys and Senator Pickering on Wiseguy) plays his second-in-command Sgt. Frank Perks. Roger Mobley (Homer "Packy" Lambert on Fury) plays boy soldier Ty Anderson. Walter Coy (Zoravac on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and the narrator on Frontier) plays grieving father Ben Allen. Adrienne Marden (Mary Breckenridge on The Waltons) plays his wife Lila. Roberta Shore (Laura Rogan on Walt Disney Presents: Annette, Henrietta Gogerty on The Bob Cummings Show, and Betsy Garth on The Virginian) plays his daughter Millie.

Season 4, Episode 18, "Weight of Command": Tommy Rettig (Jeff Miller on Lassie) plays 16-year-old first-time buffalo hunter Billy Gentry. Jeanne Bates (Nurse Wills on Ben Casey) plays his mother Hester. Richard Crane (Rocky Jones on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Dick Preston on Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe, and Lt. Gene Plehn on Surfside 6) plays greenhorn Dan Foster. Nancy Rennick (Patty Johnson on Rescue 8) plays his wife Judith. Clancy Cooper (see the biography section of the 1960 post on Lawman)plays wagon master Joe Henry. Jan Arvan (Nacho Torres on Zorro and Paw Kadiddlehopper on The Red Skelton Hour) plays Indian scout Charlie.

Season 4, Episode 19, "The Prairie Story": Beulah Bondi (shown on the right, starred in Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Our Town, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Life of Riley) plays elder stateswoman Grandma Bates. Virginia Christine (was the Folger's Coffee woman in commercials, starred in The Mummy's Curse, The Killers, and Night Wind, and played Ovie Swenson on Tales of Wells Fargo) plays hysterical traveler Clara Reynolds. Jack Beutel (starred in The Outlaw, Best of the Badmen, and Jesse James' Women and played Deputy Jeff Taggart on Judge Roy Bean) plays her husband Jack. Jan Clayton (starred in Sunset Trail, The Wolf Hunters, and This Man's Navy and played Ellen Miller on Lassie) plays piano-playing traveler Charity Kirby. Diane Jergens (appeared in Teenage Rebel, Desk Set, High School Confidential!, and Island of Lost Women and played Francine Williams on The Bob Cummings Show and Susie Jackson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays newlywed Sally Miller. Mickey Sholdar (Steve Morley on The Farmer's Daughter) plays her son Garth.

Season 4, Episode 20, "Path of the Serpent": Noah Beery, Jr. (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Riverboat) plays legendary mountain man Ruddy Blaine. Jay Silverheels (shown on the left, appeared in The Prairie, Key Largo, Broken Arrow, The Pathfinder, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and The Lone Ranger (1956) and played Tonto on The Lone Ranger) plays his Shoshone sidekick The Serpent. Paul Birch (Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays U.S. Army fort commander Sgt. Bart Huntington. Robert Harland (Deputy Billy Lordan on Law of the Plainsman, Jack Flood on Target: The Corruptors, and Sgt. Older on The Rookies) plays his second-in-command Cpl. Clay Taylor. Melinda Plowman (Linda Kelly on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show) plays Huntington's daughter Penelope.
Season 4, Episode 21, "The Odyssey of Flint McCullough": Henry Hull (starred in Little Women, Werewolf in London, Great Expectations, High Sierra, and The Fountainhead) plays destitute grandfather Gideon Banning. Michael Burns (Howie Macauley on It's a Man's World and later played Barnaby West on Wagon Train) plays one of his grandchildren Homer. 

Season 4, Episode 22, "The Beth Pearson Story": Virginia Grey (shown on the right, appeared in Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Women, Another Thin Man, Mr. and Mrs. North, and Stage Door Canteen and played Clara Appleby on The Red Skelton Hour) plays widow Beth Pearson. Johnny Washbrook (Ken McLaughlin on My Friend Flicka) plays her son Ron. Del Moore (appeared in The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, and The Big Mouth and played Cal Mitchell on Bachelor Father and Alvin on Life With Elizabeth) plays disgruntled traveler Johnson. 

Season 4, Episode 23, "The Jed Polke Story": John Lasell (Dr. Michael Shea on As the World Turns and Dr. Peter Guthrie on Dark Shadows) plays former Union traitor Jed Polke. Joyce Meadows (Lynn Allen on The Man and the Challenge and Stacy on Two Faces West) plays his wife Rheba. Dennis Holmes (Mike Williams on Laramie) plays their son Carlton. Willard Waterman (Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve on The Great Gildersleeve and Mac Maginnis on The Real McCoys) plays former Union Army doctor Allison Day. Morgan Woodward (see "The Patience Miller Story" above) plays former Union soldier Walt Keene. Ron Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays former Union soldier Ross Amber. Perry Lopez (starred in Mister Roberts, Taras Bulba, Kelly's Heroes, and Chinatown and played Joaquin Castaneda on Zorro) plays former Union soldier Jeff. Frank Gerstle (Dirk Gird on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and voiced Raseem on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour) plays wagon traveler Otto.

Season 4, Episode 24, "The Nancy Palmer Story": Audrey Meadows (shown on the far left, played Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show, Iris Martin on Too Close for Comfort, and Maggie Hogoboom on Uncle Buck) plays southern scam artist Nancy Palmer. Jack Cassidy (shown on the left, Tony Award-winning father of David and Shaun Cassidy and husband of Shirley Jones, played Oscar North on He & She) plays her husband Dan. Harry Lauter (Ranger Clay Morgan on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Atlasande on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and Jim Herrick on Waterfront) plays former Confederate soldier Will Davidson. Elisha Cook, Jr. (starred in The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Great Gatsby (1949), and The Killing and played Francis "Ice Pick" Hofstetler on Magnum P.I.) plays traveler Lem Salters. Vivi Janiss (Myrtle Davis on Father Knows Best) plays his wife. Roger Mobley (see "The Sam Elder Story" above) plays his son Freddie. Bern Hoffman (Sam the bartender on Bonanza) plays immigrant traveler MacGregor. Jeanne Bates (see "Weight of Command" above) plays his wife. Lauren Perreau (sister of Gigi Perreau and Peter Miles) plays his daughter Doreen. Med Flory (played clarinet in the Ray Anthony orchestra and founded and plays alto sax in the group Super Sax, appeared in Gun Street, The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Gumball Rally, and played Sheriff Mike McBride on High Mountain Rangers) plays King City Sheriff Giles.

Season 4, Episode 25, "The Christopher Hale Story": Lee Marvin (shown on the right, starred in The Big Heat, Bad Day at Black Rock, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen, and Paint Your Wagon and played Det. Lt. Frank Ballinger on M Squad) plays notorious wagon master Jud Benedict. L.Q. Jones (Beldon on The Virginian, Sheriff Lew Wallace on The Yellow Rose, and Nathan Wayne on Renegade) plays his gunman Lenny. William Demarest (appeared in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Lady Eve, The Devil and Miss Jones, Stage Door Canteen, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, and That Darn Cat! and played William Harris on Love and Marriage, Mr. Daly on Make Room for Daddy, Jeb Gaine on Tales of Wells Fargo, and Uncle Charlie O'Casey on My Three Sons) plays older traveler Mr. Hennessey. Claire Carleton (Nell Mulligan on The Mickey Rooney Show and Alice Purdy on Cimarron City) plays his wife. Wesley Lau (Lt. Andy Anderson on Perry Mason and Master Sgt. Jiggs on The Time Tunnel) plays traveler Stevens. Nancy Rennick (see "Weight of Command" above) plays his wife.

Season 4, Episode 26, "The Tiburcio Mendez Story": Nehemiah Persoff starred in The Wrong Man, Al Capone and Some Like It Hot) plays notorious bandito Tiburcio Mendez. Lisa Gaye (Gwen Kirby on How to Marry a Millionaire) plays his daughter Alma. Leonard Nimoy (shown on the left, played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Paris on Mission: Impossible, and Dr. William Bell on Fringe) plays her fiance Joaquin Delgado. Orville Sherman (Mr. Feeney on Buckskin, Wib Smith on Gunsmoke, and Tupper on Daniel Boone) plays miner Smathers.

Season 4, Episode 27, "The Nellie Jefferson Story": Janis Paige (shown on the right, appeared in Of Human Bondage, Cheyenne, Romance on the High Seas, Silk Stockings, and Please Don't Eat the Daisies and played Jan Stewart on It's Always Jan, Kate Lanigan on Lanigan's Rabbi, Auntie V on Eight Is Enough, Nettie McCoy on Gun Shy, Blanche Riddle on Baby Makes Five, Catherine Hackett on Trapper John, M.D., Aunt Iona Huntington on General Hospital, and Minx Lockridge on Santa Barbara) plays legendary theatrical performer Nellie Jefferson. H.M. Wynant (Frosty on Batman and Ed Chapman on Dallas) plays her manager Bart Haskell. Don Megowan (Captain Huckabee on The Beachcomber) plays her former husband Sean Hennessey. Dennis Rush (Howie Pruitt on The Andy Griffith Show) plays young traveler Homer.

Season 4, Episode 28, "The Saul Bevins Story": Rod Steiger (shown on the left, starred in On the Waterfront, Oklahoma!, The Pawnbroker, The Brothers Karamazov, Doctor Zhivago, and In the Heat of the Night) plays blind doctor Saul Bevins. Vivi Janiss (see "The Nancy Palmer Story" above) plays his sister Martha. Charles Herbert (David Barker on The Donna Reed Show and Peter McCauley on Men Into Space) plays his son Job. Willard Waterman (see "The Jed Polke Story" above) plays prejudiced traveler Andrew Harley. Rachel Ames (Audrey Hardy on General Hospital) plays his daughter Jane.

Season 4, Episode 29, "The Joe Muharich Story": Akim Tamiroff (starred in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, The Way of All Flesh, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Touch of Evil, and Ocean's 11) plays immigrant farmer Joe Muharich. Robert Blake (shown on the right, played Mickey in over 30 Our Gang shorts and Little Beaver in 23 westerns, starred in Black Rose, Pork Chop Hill, The Purple Gang, In Cold Blood, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, and Electra Glide in Blue, and played Det. Tony Baretta on Baretta and Father Noah Rivers on Hell Town) plays hot-headed gunslinger Johnny Kamen. Doodles Weaver (narrated Spike Jones' horse-racing songs and hosted A Day With Doodles) plays drunkard Efen Dirkin. Kelton Garwood (Beauregard O'Hanlon on Bourbon Street Beat and Percy Crump on Gunsmoke) plays his brother Claude. Susan Silo (Rusty on Harry's Girls and prolific voice actor on shows such as The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, James Bond, Jr., and Where's Waldo?) plays Johnny's girlfriend Betty Whittaker. Tristram Coffin (Lt. Doyle on The Files of Jeffrey Jones and Capt. Tom Rynning on 26 Men) plays her father. Stacy Harris (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays the Cottonwood sheriff. William Mims (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays his Deputy Fisk. Ken Mayer (Maj. Robbie Robertson on Space Patrol) plays Cottonwood troublemaker Jonesy. 

Season 4, Episode 30, "The Duke Shannon Story": Frank McHugh (appeared in The Front Page, The Crowd Roars, One Way Passage, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Going My Way, and State Fair and played Willis Walter on The Bing Crosby Show) plays gold prospector Henry Shannon. Maudie Prickett (Cassie Murphy on Date With the Angels, Miss Gordon on The Jack Benny Program, and Rosie on Hazel) plays traveler Ethel. 

Season 4, Episode 31, "The Will Santee Story": Dean Stockwell (shown on the left, starred in Anchors Aweigh, Gentleman's Agreement, Kim, Sons and Lovers, and Dune and played Dr. Rudy Devereux on Dr. Kildare, Admiral Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap, John Stern on Street Gear, Frank DiMeo on The Tony Danza Show, Edward Shefflied on JAG, and John Cavil on Battlestar Gallactica) plays murderer's son Will Santee. Virginia Christine (see "The Prairie Story" above) plays his mother Amanda. Millie Perkins (starred in The Diary of Anne Frank, Wild in the Country, Wild in the Streets, and Wall Street and played Gladys Presley on Elvis, Jane Sumner on Knots Landing, Irene Otis on Any Day Now, and Rebecca Kaplan on The Young and the Restless) plays Santee's love interest Jessie McDermott. Jocelyn Brando (Marlon Brando's sister) plays her mother Agnes. Harry Von Zell (the announcer on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and The George Burns Show and played Frank Curtis on Bachelor Father) plays her father Fred. John Crawford (appeared in Zombies of the Stratosphere, John Paul Jones, Exodus, and The Americanization of Emily and played Chief Parks on Police Woman and Sheriff Ep Bridges on The Waltons) plays actor Edwin Booth. Dal McKennon (see the biography section for the 1961 post on 87th Precinct) plays Juniper Creek townsman Lee.

Season 4, Episode 32, "The Jim Bridger Story": Karl Swenson (Lars Hanson on Little House on the Prairie) plays legendary scout Jim Bridger. John Doucette (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lock Up) plays U.S. Army Gen. Jameson. Hank Brandt (Leonard Waggedorn on Julia, Morgan Hess on Dynasty, and Dr. Aaron Kranzler on Santa Barbara) plays objecting traveler Gray Beddoe. Francis de Sales (Lt. Bill Weigand on Mr. & Mrs. North, Ralph Dobson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Sheriff Maddox on Two Faces West, and Rusty Lincoln on Days of Our Lives) plays objecting traveler Mark Anders. Nestor Paiva (Theo Gonzales on Zorro) plays U.S. Army Sgt. Hoag. Glenn Strange (played Frankenstein's monster in House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and played Sam Noonan on Gunsmoke) plays army Capt. Fox.

Season 4, Episode 33, "The Eleanor Culhane": Felicia Farr (shown on the left, starred in 3:10 to Yuma, Onionhead, Hell Bent for Leather, Kiss Me, Stupid, and Charley Varrick) plays Flint's former girlfriend Eleanor Culhane. John Lasell (see "The Jed Polke Story" above) plays her husband Riker. Russell Thorson (Det. Lt. Otto Lindstrom on The Detectives and William Kennerly on Peyton Place) plays Riverford Sheriff Ed Harris. Renata Vanni (appeared in Pay or Die!, A Patch of Blue, and Fatso and played Rose Brentano on That Girl) plays Culhane housekeeper Inez. Orville Sherman (see "The Tiburcio Mendez Story" above) plays a Riverford bartender. Hank Patterson (played Fred Ziffel on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction and Hank on Gunsmoke) plays a Riverford citizen. Dennis McCarthy (Dr. Sam Hodges on Cimarron City and the lab technician on 87th Precinct) plays a man on the street.

Season 4, Episode 34, "The Chalice": Lon Chaney, Jr. (shown on the right, starred in The Wolfman, Of Mice and Men, High Noon, The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Curse of Dracula, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and many others, and played Chief Eagle Shadow on Pistols 'n' Petticoats and Chingachgook on Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans) plays perpetually unlucky traveler Mr. Carstairs. Richard Jaeckel (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Frontier Circus) plays his protege Barker. 

Season 4, Episode 35, "The Janet Hale Story": Jeanette Nolan (shown on the left, starred in Macbeth (1948), The Big Heat, Tribute to a Bad Man, and The Reluctant Astronaut, did voicework for Psycho, The Rescuers, and The Fox and the Hound, and played Annette Devereaux on Hotel de Paree and Holly Grainger on The Virginian) plays Chris Hale's wife Janet. Robert Hyatt (Junior Morrison on The Pride of the Family) plays her son Jeff. Wendy Winkelman (younger sister of Michael Winkelman on The Real McCoys) player her daughter Marie. Charles Aidman (narrator on the 1985-87 version of The Twilight Zone) plays future farmer Whit Martin. Bethel Leslie (appeared in 15 episodes of The Richard Boone Show and played Claudia Conner on All My Children and Ethel Crawford on One Life to Live) plays his wife Helen. Robert Warwick (starred in Alias Jimmy Valentine, The Supreme Sacrifice, The Heart of a Hero, and Against All Flags) plays Indian chief Red Cloud. X Brands (played Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah on Yancy Derringer) plays an Indian renegade leader.

Season 4, Episode 36, "Wagon to Fort Anderson": Don Rickles (shown on the right, legendary comedian who appeared in Run Silent, Run Deep, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, Kelly's Heroes, voiced Mr. Potato Head in all the Toy Story movies, and played Don Robinson on The Don Rickles Show, Otto Sharkey on C.P.O. Sharkey, and Al Mitchell on Daddy Dearest) plays U.S. Army soldier Joe Carder. Albert Salmi (Yadkin on Daniel Boone and Pete Ritter on Petrocelli) plays his brother George. Carol Eve Rossen (Anna Kassoff on The Lawless Years) plays deaf massacre survivor Fay Ellison. Candy Moore (Chris Carmichael on The Lucy Show and hosted The Dream Girl of 1967) plays her sister Sue.

Season 4, Episode 37, "The Ah Chong Story": Arnold Stang (shown on the left, appeared in My Sister Eileen, The Man With the Golden Arm, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, was the voice of Herman the mouse in a string of Herman and Katnip cartoon shorts, the voice of Top Cat on Top Cat, and played Stanley Stubbs on Broadside) plays Chinese cook Ah Chong. Frank Ferguson (Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays a sheriff. 

Season 4, Episode 38, "The Don Alvarado Story": Michael Forest (starred in Ski Troop Attack, Atlas, and The Glory Guys and was the voice of Capt. Dorai on Street Fighter II: V and Olympus on Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue) plays Mexican nobleman Julio. David Faulkner (Dr. Pagano on Ryan's Hope) plays his cousin Rudolfo. Minerva Urecal (Dean Bradey/Bradley on The Ray Milland Show: Meet Mr. McNulty, Ma Bowie on The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Tugboat Annie Brennan on The Adventures of Tugboat Annie, and Mother on Peter Gunn) plays the Alvarado housekeeper Maria. Ed Nelson (Michael Rossi on Peyton Place and Ward Fuller on The Silent Force) plays Mexican Sheriff Donovan. Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (Luis Valdez on Viva Valdez) plays the padre of the Alvarado estate.

Season 5, Episode 1, "The Captain Dan Brady Story": Joseph Cotten (shown on the right, starred in Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Third Man, Niagara, and From the Earth to the Moon and hosted The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial) plays wild west showman Captain Dan Brady. Paul Comi (Deputy Johnny Evans on Two Faces West, Chuck Lambert on Ripcord, and Yo Yo on Rawhide) plays his manager John Gray Cloud. Russell Thorson (see "The Eleanor Culhane Story" above) plays an army major. David Faulkner (see "The Don Alvarado Story" above) plays naive traveler Murray. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan's Island) plays his wife. Michael McGreevey (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Riverboat) plays a young fan of Brady's. Glenn Strange (see "The Jim Bridger Story" above) plays rival wagon master's henchman Brace.

Season 5, Episode 2, "The Kitty Allbright Story": Polly Bergen (singer and actress starred in That's My Boy, Escape From Fort Bravo, Cape Fear, Move Over, Darling, Kisses for My President, and Cry-Baby and played Doris Campbell on Baby Talk, Kate Allen on Commander in Chief, and Stella Wingfield on Desperate Housewives) plays trail-blazing nurse Kitty Allbright. Eleanor Audley (Mother Eunice Douglas on Green Acres and Mrs. Vincent on My Three Sons) plays her mother. Kathleen Freeman (Katie on Topper, Marilly on Mayor of the Town, Bertha Krause on The Bob Cummings Show, Flo Shafer on The Beverly Hillbillies, Kate Harwell on Funny Face, and Iris Belmont on Lotas Luck) plays poor traveler Lolly Johnson. Morgan Woodward (see "The Patience Miller Story" above) plays her husband Barney.

Season 5, Episode 3, "The Maud Frazer Story": Barbara Stanwyck (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Barbara Stanwyck Show) plays gold-digger Maud Frazer. Russ Conway (Fenton Hardy on The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, Gen. Devon on Men Into Space, and Lt. Pete Kile on Richard Diamond, Private Detective) plays her husband Isaac. Nora Marlowe (Martha Commager on Law of the Plainsman, Sara Andrews on The Governor and J.J., and Mrs. Flossie Brimmer on The Waltons) plays massacre survivor Bessie Steen. Kathleen O'Malley (Mrs. Moss on General Hospital) plays massacre survivor Dolly. Wesley Lau (see "The Christopher Hale Story" above) plays a mortally wounded soldier. 

Season 5, Episode 4, "The Selena Hartnell Story": Jan Sterling (starred in Johnny Belinda, Ace in the Hole¸ The Mating Season, 1984, and High School Confidential! and played Mildred Foss on Guiding Light) plays female bounty hunter Selena Hartnell. H.M. Wynant (see "The Nellie Jefferson Story" above) plays her partner Jason Powers. Claude Akins (Sonny Pruett on Movin' On and Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo on B.J and the Bear and Lobo) plays reformed killer Will Cottrell. Jack Smith (singer who hosted his own radio show, appeared in King Kong (1933), On Moonlight Bay, and The Barefoot Executive, and hosted You Asked For It and American West) plays objecting traveler Ed Clark. Sheldon Allman (Norm Miller on Harris Against the World) plays gang leader Gordon.

Season 5, Episode 5, "The Clementine Jones Story": Ann Blyth (starred in Mildred Pierce, The Great Caruso, Kismet, and The Helen Morgan Story) plays ostracized saloon girl Clementine Jones. Dick York (shown on the right, played Tom Colwell on Going My Way and Darrin Stephens on Bewitched) plays failed bank robber Willie Maines. Henry Corden (Carlo on The Count of Monte Cristo, and Babbitt on The Monkees and did voicework on The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, The Atom Ant Show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Return to the Planet of the Apes) plays his partner Frank. Nestor Paiva (see "The Jim Bridger Story" above) plays his partner Gip. Roger Mobley (see "The Sam Elder Story" above) plays orphan Homer Pettigrew. Willard Waterman (see "The Jed Polke Story" above) plays the Cinnabar mayor. Frank Wilcox (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Untouchables) plays Marshal Nolan.

Season 5, Episode 6, "The Jenna Douglas Story": Carolyn Jones (shown on the left, appeared in House of Wax, The Big Heat, The Seven Year Itch, The Tender Trap, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and How the West Was Won and played Morticia Addams on The Addams Family, Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman, and Myrna Clegg on Capitol) plays escaped mental patient Jenna Douglas. Hank Brandt (see "The Jim Bridger Story" above) plays cripple Andy Green. 

Season 5, Episode 7, "The Artie Matthewson Story": Jane Darvell (starred in Tom Sawyer (1930), Hucklberry Finn (1931), Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, The Ox-Bow Incident, and Mary Poppins) plays Flint's adoptive mother Angie Matthewson. Rory Calhoun (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Texan) plays her natural-born son Artie. William Mims (see "The Joe Muharich Story" above) plays Artie's gunman Gurn Meeker. Joyce Meadows (see "The Jed Polke Story" above) plays Artie's girlfriend Melanie Sanders. House Peters, Jr. (Sheriff Jim Billings on Lassie) plays her foreman Nick Fears. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays the stable owner.

Season 5, Episode 8, "The Mark Miner Story": Brandon De Wilde (starred in The Member of the Wedding, Shane, All Fall Down, and Hud and played Jamison Francis McHummber on Jamie) plays vengeance-seeking orphan Mark Miner. Michael Burns (see "The Odyssey of Flint McCullough" above) plays his brother Matt. Robert Cornthwaite (Professor Windish on Get Smart) plays a traveler minister. Barbara Parkins (starred in Valley of the Dolls, The Mephisto Waltz, and Puppet on a Chain and played Betty Anderson Harrington on Peyton Place) plays his daughter Molly. Walter Coy (see "The Sam Elder Story" above) plays thief victim Abner Thorn.

Season 5, Episode 9, "The Bruce Saybrook Story": Brian Aherne (shown on the left, starred in The Song of Songs, Sylvia Scarlett, Juarez, My Sister Eileen, Prince Valiant, and Sword of Lancelot) plays British nobleman Lord Bruce Saybrook. Antoinette Bower (Fox Devlin on Neon Rider) plays his wife Diana. Liam Sullivan (Major Mapoy on The Monroes, Dr. Joseph Lerner on The Young and the Restless, and Mr. Willis on Knots Landing) plays his brother Tommy. Richard Ney (appeared in Mrs. Miniver, Joan of Arc, Ivy, and Midnight Lace) plays illustrator Bevan Alston. 

Season 5, Episode 10, "The Lizbeth Ann Calhoun Story": Dana Wynter (appeared in The Crimson Pirate, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sink the Bismarck!, and Airport and played Eva Wainwright on The Man Who Never Was and Jill Daly on Bracken) plays Confederate agent Lizbeth Ann Calhoun. Richard Crane (see "Weight of Command" above) plays her stalker Lon Harper. Raymond Bailey (Milburn Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies, Dean Magruder on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, D.A. John Carvell on The Untouchables, and Mr. Beaumont on My Sister Eileen) plays U.S. Cavalry Maj. Hanley. Peter Whitney (Sergeant Buck Sinclair on The Rough Riders and Lafe Crick on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays bandito El Ladron.

Season 5, Episode 11, "The Traitor": Nick Adams (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Rebel) plays notorious bandit Sam Upton. Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays his sister Madge. Myron Healey (Doc Holliday on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays duplicitous U.S. Army Sgt. Oakes. Stacy Keach, Sr. (Carlson on Get Smart) plays his commanding officer Maj. Hansen.

Season 5, Episode 12, "The Bettina May Story": Bette Davis (shown on the left, 11-time Oscar nominee and 2-time winner, starred in Of Human Bondage, Dangerous, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now, Voyager, Mr. Skeffington, All About Eve, The Star, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) plays domineering matriarch Bettina May. Joby Baker (David Lewis on Good Morning, World) plays her son Nathan. Jud Taylor (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Dr. Kildare) plays her son Arthur. Asa Maynor (Dixie on Straightaway) plays Arthur's wife Rose. Bennye Gatteys (Susan Hunter on Days of Our Lives) plays Bettina's daughter Ginny. Ron Hayes (see "The Jed Polke Story" above) plays Ginny's husband Gene.

Season 5, Episode 13, "Clyde": Frank De Kova (shown on the right, played Chief Wild Eagle on F Troop and Louis Campagna on The Untouchables) plays an Arapahoe chief. Nora Marlowe (see "The Maud Frazer Story" above) plays complaining launderer Mrs. Seidel. Harry Von Zell (see "The Will Santee Story" above) plays cattle rancher John Sherman. Michael McGreevey (see "The Captain Dan Brady Story" above) plays his son Sonny.