Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wanted Dead or Alive (1960)

Much like Rawhide, Wanted Dead or Alive would probably be consigned to the heap of long-forgotten westerns if it hadn't been the launch vehicle for a future movie mega-star, in this case Steve McQueen. But unlike Clint Eastwood, who practically stumbled into acting with little prior background, McQueen had at a young age vowed to become an actor, training at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg and befriending James Dean before the rebel's early death. Though he had a short, uncredited part in the film that made Paul Newman a star, Somebody Up There Likes Me, McQueen first began catching the eye of casting directors and producers with his few turns on drama anthology TV fare such as The United States Steel Hour in 1956 and a two-part drama titled "The Defender" on Studio One in Hollywood in 1957. The character of bounty hunter Josh Randall was spun off from a 1958 episode of Trackdown titled "The Bounty Hunter," but in between filming the pilot for Wanted Dead or Alive and actually being given the part, McQueen starred in the classic 1950s sci-fi schlockfest The Blob, a film that he later found both amusing and embarrassing. However, according to biographer Christopher Sandiford, the roots of the McQueen understated style as loner/anti-hero were all there in The Blob. Like a combination of The Rifleman with its distinctive weapon and Have Gun Will Travel with its traveling gun for hire, Wanted Dead or Alive was the perfect vehicle for McQueen for several reasons. Like McQueen, the character of Josh Randall is a loner and outcast--bounty hunting is frequently referred to in the program as an unsavory, mercenary profession. McQueen himself had few friends and was driven by fierce ambition to reach the top of his profession after suffering through a horrible childhood (see the biographical synopsis below). He also valued his independence, the main reason why he was able to tolerate only three seasons of being under the thumb of the producers of Wanted before bolting for more autonomy in feature films. And because of his character's peripatetic profession, there was no room or need for additional regular characters, giving McQueen maximum exposure in front of the camera, something he was particularly hungry for early in his career, according to Sandiford.

That is, until Season 2 of Wanted when the producers decided to introduce a "partner" for Josh in the part of Jason Nichols, played by Wright King, who starts out as a deputy in Virginia City in the episode titled "Jason" (January 30, 1960) but by episode's end, after working with Josh to bring down and solve the mystery of outlaw Clel Fannin, decides he wants to be a bounty hunter, too, and gets Josh to reluctantly allow him to tag along. Sandiford doesn't spend a lot of time on McQueen's tenure on Wanted and doesn't even mention how McQueen felt about the addition of Jason's character to the series, but given what he does say about McQueen's priorities at that point in his career, McQueen couldn't have accepted the reduced camera time very favorably. As things played out, Jason appeared in only 10 more episodes in Season 2 and was not brought back for Season 3, with no explanation for his disappearance.

But jettisoning Jason in Season 3 did not solve the problem of the series getting stuck in a rut. There are only so many ways to spin a bounty hunter going after and eventually bringing in a wanted criminal, so the writers began going a little far afield from Josh's stated business just to give the plots more variety. In "The Cure" (September 28, 1960), Josh is hired to keep Harry Simmons off the bottle by a female store owner who wants Simmons to shape up and marry her. "To the Victor" (November 9, 1960) is an anti-feminist yarn in which Josh is hired by the men of Coronado to end a boycott by the town's women, who want their husbands to give up their guns. In "One Mother Too Many" (December 7, 1960), Josh is hired by a widow to settle a custody suit with her mother-in-law about the upbringing of her son. And in "Witch Woman" (December 28, 1960) Josh is hired by a Mexican school teacher to help expose and depose the local medicine woman, who holds a powerful grip over a superstitious village. 

Even though he is a loner with no roots and often has little opportunity to pursue female companionship, Season 3 has him fall in love with a female outlaw in "Journey for Josh" (October 5, 1960), and he keeps company with saloon girl Kitty Connors in "The Showdown" (October 26, 1960), though we never see her again after that episode. Yet, recognizing the shortcomings of his trade, he also convinces aging bounty hunter Frank Koster to finally retire and give his wife Jane the peace, stability, and companionship that she has patiently waited 25 years for in "The Choice" (December 14, 1960). But there is no indication that Josh seeks that stability and peace for himself, at least not through the first half of Season 3.

One characteristic that sets Josh apart from most other western gunslingers is his choice of weapon. Like Chuck Connors' Luke McCain in The Rifleman, he brandishes a modified repeater rifle instead of a pistol, which allows him to get off more shots quickly than with a standard six-shooter. But Josh's so-called "mare's leg" also has a sawed-off barrel, making it more suitable for close range than a rifle, and a sawed-off butt at the other end so that he can carry it in a holster strapped to his leg, just like a pistol. By Season 3, the mare's leg had become so prominent that the opening sequence contains a segment that zooms in on his leg and shows him snapping the rifle into its holster. The  gun was featured in a lengthy article in Guns Quarterly in 1961 and was reproduced in toy form by Marx Toys. Sandiford notes that McQueen practiced with it  for hours to be able to whip it in and out of the holster in fast-moving action scenes.

As it turns out, Season 3 would be the last for the series due to a convergence of events. Topping the list was a loss of audience: though the show had risen from humble beginnings during its first year to #9 during its second season in 1959-60, it was moved from its Saturday night slot directly following Perry Mason to Wednesday evening for Season 3, preceded by The Aquanauts. It fell out of the top 30 in the ratings and was canceled in the spring of 1961. Sandiford also cites McQueen being caught on set having sex with the continuity girl as a contributing factor, but the loss in ratings surely had the biggest impact. Even so, McQueen had his eye on movie stardom--The Magnificent Seven was released in 1960 and by the time McQueen filmed The Great Escape three years later, his brief residence on the small screen was no longer even in his rearview mirror.

All 1960 episodes of Wanted credit the score to Rudy Schrager (though the credits do not distinguish between the score for the theme song and the score for each individual episode). Schrager had emigrated from what is now the Ukraine in the 1930s and found work in Hollywood writing scores for B-movies. In the early 1940s he moved over to radio but returned to film by the end of the decade, still working on mostly second-tier fare, though he did score Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux in 1947. The advent and rise of television reduced the number of opportunities for scoring feature-length movies. Composers like Schrager were forbidden by contract from working in television, so music director David Chudnow set up a scheme in which the music was recorded in Europe under fictitious pseudonyms with Chudnow funneling the royalties to the various composers, like Schrager, in secret. Under this scheme, some of the music Schrager had written for the film The Guilty wound up being used for The Adventures of Superman on TV. Eventually Schrager and the others were allowed to score for TV in the open. Besides Wanted, he also composed for Johnny Ringo, The Westerner, Rawhide, and Gunsmoke before retiring in the 1970s. He died August 24, 1983 at the age of 82.     

The complete series has been released on DVD by Mill Creek Entertainment.

The Actors

Steve McQueen

Born Terrence Steven McQueen in Beech Grove, Indiana, McQueen endured a horrific childhood in which he was abandoned by his father six months after he was born. There is no record that his parents were ever married. His mother was an alcoholic prostitute who several times shipped Steve off to live with relatives and finally to a boarding school, which he ran away from in the 9th grade. McQueen was physically abused by some of her boyfriends and lovers. He engaged in a life of petty crime, had a number of odd jobs, and served three years in the Marines before winding up in New York at age 21. There he hooked up with an actress who urged him to give acting a try, which he did, first at Sandy Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. From there he moved to the Hagen-Berghof drama school and on to Strasburg's Actors Studio. After a few roles in off-Broadway productions, he scored his first TV appearance on the Goodyear Playhouse in 1955. Three years later, he was the star of his own show and never looked back.

After Wanted was canceled, he stuck strictly to movies, starting with the goofy comedy The Honeymoon Machine in 1961 and the grim war picture Hell Is for Heroes the year after that. His film career from there out has been well chronicled elsewhere. But despite his reputation as the King of Cool, McQueen was at heart insecure, paranoid, a drug addict, and notoriously unfaithful as a husband. He also could be kind and generous to the few people he trusted and likewise made many anonymous charitable contributions to organizations, like boys' homes, that did work he could appreciate. He escaped death at the hands of Charles Manson when he declined an invitation to dine with Sharon Tate the night she was murdered, but he couldn't escape exposure to asbestos, either from his years as a Marine working on ship hulls or use of the chemical on movie lots, eventually succumbing to mesothelioma, for which he sought alternative medical treatment in Mexico. The official autopsy said he died of a heart attack following surgery on November 7, 1980 at the age of 50, but the alternative-medicine doctor treating him at the time, former dentist William Kelley, alleges that someone had injected him with a substance that induced a blood clot, in other words, that he was murdered.

Wright King

Born in Oklahoma, King had wanted to become an actor from the age of 4. His first break came after graduating high school when he won a scholarship to a new theater studio school in St. Louis. From there, he worked summer stock in Massachusetts and was part of a traveling troupe of performers who toured the country doing children's theater. He then moved on to doing Yiddish theater in New York, where he met his wife of over 60 years June Roth. He began appearing on TV in 1949, but his biggest early success was playing an unnamed collector in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. From there, he made a string of TV appearances throughout the early 1950s, including multiple appearances on The Gabby Hayes Show and Studio One in Hollywood. In 1953-54 he had a regular role as Ernest P. Duckweather on the series Johnny Jupiter. Appearances on a raft of other programs continued up to and after his short stint on Wanted.

He also added more film credits to his expansive resumé, including The Young Guns and Hot Rod Rumble in the later 1950s. But perhaps his biggest post-Wanted role was playing Dr. Galen in the original film version of Planet of the Apes. He continued TV work and occasional film appearances through the 1970s until he and his wife retired to Portland, Oregon in 1987. His wife June died in December 2008, but King is still living, turning 89 this past January.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 2, Episode 17, "Mental Lapse": Harry Townes (shown on the left, starred in The Brothers Karamazov, Screaming Mimi, and Sanctuary) plays amnesiac Olin McDonald. Jan Shepard (Nurse Betty on Dr. Christian) plays his girlfriend Lilith Preston. Ed Prentiss (Mr. Bailey on Leave It to Beaver and Carl Jensen on The Virginian) plays Dade City Sheriff Truxton. Paul Dubov (Michel on The Ann Sothern Show) plays saloon owner Blade Tomson. Billy Halop (starred in Angels With Dirty Faces, Tom Brown's School Days, and Hit the Road and played Bert Munson on All in the Family) plays Tomson's henchman. 

Season 2, Episode 18, "Angela": Howard Petrie (Hugh Blaine on Bat Masterson) plays murder victim Sam Pryor. Fay Spain (starred in Dragstrip Girl, Al Capone, and The Gentle Rain) plays his daughter Angela. Richard Bakalyan (starred in The Delicate Delinquent, The Cool and the Crazy, Juvenile Jungle, Hot Car Girl, Paratroop Command, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) plays robber Harry Quint. Wayne Rogers (shown on the right, played Luke Perry on Stagecoach West, Capt. John McIntiye on M*A*S*H*, Jake Axminster on City of Angels, Dr. Charley Michaels on House Calls, and Charlie Garrett on Murder, She Wrote) plays Quint's friend Ash Langford. Warren Oates (shown on the left, starred in In the Heat of the Night, The Wild Bunch, and Stripes and played Ves Painter on Stoney Burke) plays Quint's friend George Aswell. 

Season 2, Episode 19, "The Monster": Eugene Mazzola (Joey Drum on Jefferson Drum) plays a runaway Indian boy. Martin Landau (shown on the left, starred in North by Northwest, Cleopatra, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Ed Wood and played Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible!, Commander John Koenig on Space: 1999, Dr. Sol Gold on The Evidence, Bob Ryan on Entourage, and Frank Malone on Without a Trace) plays elephant trainer Khorba. Russell Thorson (Det. Lt. Otto Lindstrom on The Detectives and William Kennerly on Peyton Place) plays the Nugget City sheriff. Bek Nelson (Dru Lemp on Lawman and Phyllis Sloan on Peyton Place) plays trapeze artist Hannah Blake. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays an unnamed prospector. 

Season 2, Episode 20, "The Most Beautiful Woman": Arthur Franz (starred in Flight to Mars, The Member of the Wedding, and The Caine Mutiny) plays fiancé seeker John Garth. Mort Mills (Marshal Frank Tallman on Man Without a Gun, Sgt. Ben Landro on Perry Mason, and Sheriff Fred Madden on The Big Valley) plays Hogan strongman Frank. Owen Bush (Ben on Shane, John Belson on Sirota's Court, and Crimshaw on Our House) plays hotel owner Hose. 

Season 2, Episode 21, "Jason": Sean McClory (shown on the right, played Jack McGivern on The Californians and Myles Delaney on Bring 'Em Back Alive) plays wanted criminal Doc Phillips/Clel Fannin. Barry Kelley (starred in The Asphalt Jungle, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Love Bug and played Mr. Slocum on Pete and Gladys and Mr. Hergesheimer on Mister Ed) plays Virginia City Sheriff Holmes. Orville Sherman (Mr. Feeney on Buckskin, Wib Smith on Gunsmoke, and Tupper on Daniel Boone) plays unruly citizen Metcalfe. 

Season 2, Episode 22, "The Partners": Robert Morris (Lt. Cmdr. Napier on Warship) plays wanted outlaw Billy Joe Henry. Richard Farnsworth (starred in The Grey Fox, The Natural, Misery, and The Straight Story) plays his brother Rance. Wayne Heffley (Officer Dennis on Highway Patrol, Mr. Kennedy on Little House on the Prairie, and Vern Scofield on Days of Our Lives) plays his brother Homer. Leslie Bradley (starred in The Crimson Pirate, Slaves of Babylon, Lady Godiva of Coventry, and Attack of the Crab Monsters) plays local Marshal Thompson. 

Season 2, Episode 23, "Tolliver Bender": John Carradine (shown on the left, starred in Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, The Ten Commandments, and Sex Kittens Go to College and played Gen. Joshua McCord on Branded) plays Pittman justice-dispenser Amos McKenna. Percy Helton (Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays an old man in Pittman. Joseph V. Perry (Nemo  on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays Pittman resident Flint. Gloria Talbott (starred in The Cyclops, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, and I Married a Monster From Outer Space and played Moneta on Zorro) plays Tolliver Bender's daughter Addy. 

Season 2, Episode 24, "A House Divided": Eduard Franz (starred in The Thing From Another World, Lady Godiva of Coventry, The Jazz Singer (1952), Sins of Jezebel, and The Indian Fighter and played Gregorio Verdugo on Zorro and Dr. Edward Raymer on Breaking Point) plays accused killer Bayard Cole. Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays his half-brother Clete. Don Gordon (shown on the right, played Richard Jensen on Peyton Place) plays Clete's son Buff. Raymond Hatton (starred in Oliver Twist (1916), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Lord Jim, played Marshal Sandy Hopkins in 28 westerns and Rusty Joslin in 7 other westerns, and played The Mole on Dick Tracy) plays an unnamed stableman. 

Season 2, Episode 25, "Triple Vise": William Phipps (Curley Bill Brocius on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Uncle Link on Boone, and Jake Dodge on Santa Barbara) plays accused killer Al Hemp. Bing Russell (Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza) plays his brother Billy. Nestor Paiva (Theo Gonzales on Zorro) plays the sheriff of Buena Nova. Pedro Pedro Gonzalez (Pedro Vasquez on The Texan) plays Buena Nova resident Tomas. 

Season 2, Episode 26, "Black Belt": Richard Crane (shown on the left, played 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 Paul Cameron, son of a murdered man. Forrest Taylor (starred in True Nobility, Big Calibre, Too Much Beef, and The Lost Planet and played Doc Brannon on Man Without a Gun) plays Railton, KS Dr. Russell. Stuart Randall (Sheriff Art Sampson on Cimarron City, Al Livermore on Lassie, and Sheriff Mort Corey on Laramie) plays railroad foreman Mr. Cummings. 

Season 2, Episode 27, "The Pariah": Frank Ferguson (shown on the right, played Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays Horse Hollow store owner Amos Wilson. Susan Oliver (Ann Howard on Peyton Place) plays his daughter Bess. Rhys Williams (Doc Burrage on The Rifleman) plays local Dr. Horton. Bill Quinn (Frank Sweeney on The Rifleman, Judge Tesman on Arrest and Trial, and Mr. Van Ranseleer on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place) plays townsman Bill. King Calder (Lt. Gray on Martin Kane) plays local Sheriff Jackson. 

Season 2, Episode 28, "Vendetta": Arthur Batanides (Sgt. Sam Olivera on Johnny Midnight) plays noted Indian killer Alan Stokes. Harry Towne (see "Mental Lapse" above) plays deranged Army Capt. William Phelps. Bert Ramsen (Detective Lawrence on Peyton Place, Mr. Pell on Gibbsville, Mario on It's a Living, and Jack Crager on Dynasty) plays his second-in-command Lt. Pierce. Willis Bouchey (Mayor Terwilliger on The Great Gildersleeve, Springer on Pete and Gladys, and the judge 23 times on Perry Mason) plays Fort Carson commander Colonel Bradley. 

Season 2, Episode 29, "Death Divided by Three": Richard Garland (Clay Horton on Lassie) plays wanted killer Jake Lorenz. Mara Corday (shown on the left, starred in Tarantula, The Giant Claw, and Girls on the Loose) plays his wife Lucinda. John Harmon (Eddie Halstead on The Rifleman and the fingerprint expert on Perry Mason) plays an unnamed hotel clerk. Mark Allen (Matt Kissel on The Travels of Jamie McPheeters and Sam Evans on Dark Shadows) plays a blacksmith. Walter Sande (appeared in To Have and Have Not, A Place in the Sun, and Bad Day at Black Rock and played Capt. Horatio Bullwinkle on The Adventures of Tugboat Annie and Papa Holstrum on The Farmer's Daughter) plays local Sheriff George. 

Season 2, Episode 30, "The Inheritance": John Litel (starred in Back in Circulation, On Trial, Murder in the Blue Room, four Nancy Drew films, and eight Henry Aldrich films and played the Governor on Zorro and Dan Murchison on Stagecoach West) plays wealthy ranch owner Clint Davis. John Anderson (played Virgil Earp on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Dr. Herbert Styles on Dallas, and Harry Jackson on MacGyver) plays Grangerville deputy Tom Fix. Ed Kemmer (Commander Buzz Corry on Space Patrol, Paul Britton on The Secret Storm, and Dick Martin on As the World Turns) plays imposter Adam Smith. 

Season 2, Episode 31, "Prison Trail": Beverly Garland (shown on the right, played Casey Jones on Decoy, Ellis Collins on The Bing Crosby Show, Barbara Harper Douglas on My Three Sons, Dorothy "Dotty" West on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Ellen Lane on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Ginger on 7th Heaven) plays captured prisoner Sally Lind. Claude Akins (Sonny Pruett on Movin' On and Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo on B.J and the Bear and on Lobo) plays prisoner Jack Kelley. Brad Dexter (starred in Macao, Between Heaven and Hell, and Run Silent, Run Deep) plays pursuing stranger Davis. 

Season 2, Episode 32, "Pay-Off at Pinto": Philip Ahn (Master Kan on Kung Fu) plays bank owner Tom Wing. Barry Kelley (see "Jason" above) plays Pinto Sheriff Luke Deaver. Addison Richards (starred in Boys Town, They Made Her a Spy, Flying Tigers, and The Deerslayer and played Doc Calhoun on Trackdown and Doc Landy on The Deputy) plays Pinto Dr. John Allen. Than Wyenn (Licenciado Piña on Zorro) plays irate citizen Elkins. Harlan Warde (John Hamilton on The Rifleman and Sherriff John Brannan on The Virginian) plays leading citizen Ed Shaw.  

Season 3, Episode 1, "The Trial": Paul Burke (starred in Della, Valley of the Dolls, and The Thomas Crown Affair and played Dr. Noah McCann on Noah's Ark, Jeff Kittridge on Harbormaster, Robertson/Robinson on Five Fingers, Det. Adam Flint on Naked City, Col. Joseph Anson Gallagher on 12 O'Clock High, C.C. Capwell on Santa Barbara,  Nicholas Broderick on Hot Shots, and Neal McVane on Dynasty) plays accused killer Daniel Trenner. James Coburn (shown on the left, starred in The Magnificent Seven, Charade, Our Man Flint, and In Like Flint and played Jeff Durain on Klondike and Gregg Miles on Acapulco) plays Junction City Sheriff Howard Catlett. John Pickard (Capt. Shank Adams on Boots and Saddles and Sgt. Maj. Murdock on Gunslinger) plays former Union Sgt. Langley. Edwin Mills (the voice of Dr. Cornelius on Return to the Planet of the Apes) plays former Union Pvt. Atkins. 

Season 3, Episode 2, "The Cure": Harold J. Stone (shown on the right, played John Kennedy on The Grand Jury, Hamilton Greeley on My World and Welcome to It, and Sam Steinberg on Bridget Loves Bernie) plays alcoholic Harry Simmons. 

Season 3, Episode 3, "Journey for Josh": Lisa Gaye (Gwen Kirby on How to Marry a Millionaire) plays bank robber Susan Marno. Jason Wingreen (Dr. Aaron Clark on The Long, Hot Summer, Harry Snowden on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place, and Judge Arthur Beaumont on Matlock) plays horse trader Nick Peters. Orville Sherman (Mr. Feeney on Buckskin, Wib Smith on Gunsmoke, and Tupper on Daniel Boone) plays Allenton Sheriff Owens. 

Season 3, Episode 4, "The Looters": Gloria Blondell (shown on the left, played Honeybee Gillis in The Life of Riley and the voice of Gloria on Calvin and the Colonel) plays saloon girl Lucy. Dennis Patrick (Paul Stoddard on Dark Shadows and Vaughn Leland on Dallas) plays imprisoned criminal Eli. John Eldredge (starred in The Woman in Red, The Murder of Dr. Harrigan, and The Black Cat and played Harry Archer on Meet Corliss Archer) plays River City attorney Phineas Porter. Pat McCaffrie (Chuck Forrest on Bachelor Father) plays saloon proprietor Leonard. Dave Willock (starred in Let's Face It, Pin Up Girl, and The Fabulous Dorseys and played Lt. Binning on Boots and Saddles, Harvey Clayton on Margie, and was the narrator on the animated Wacky Races) plays alcoholic bartender Judge. 

Season 3, Episode 5, "The Twain Shall Meet": Michael Lipton (Ben Newcomb on Buckskin) plays newspaper reporter Arthur Pierce Madison. Mary Tyler Moore (shown on the right, played Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary Brenner on Mary, and Annie McGuire on Annie McGuire) plays saloon girl Sophie Anderson. 

Season 3, Episode 6, "The Showdown": Tom Drake (starred in Meet Me in St. Louis, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, and The Sandpiper) plays Josh's childhood friend John Hayward. June Dayton (Thelma on The F.B.I.) plays his wife Gloria. Walter Sande (see "Death Divided by Three" above) plays Sheriff Walt Spence. Jackie Loughery (Letty Bean on Judge Roy Bean) plays saloon girl Kitty Connors. Mark Allen (see "Death Divided by Three" above) plays Deputy Charlie Evans.

Season 3, Episode 7, "Surprise Witness": Lee Bergere (George on Hot L Baltimore and Joseph Anders on Dynasty) plays murder suspect Carlos Domingo. Bill Quinn (see "The Pariah" above) plays Sheriff George Macon. 

Season 3, Episode 8, "To the Victor": Frank Albertson (starred in Alice Adams, Man Made Monster, and It's a Wonderful Life and played Mr. Cooper on Bringing Up Buddy) plays Coronado Sheriff Mike Strata. Suzanne Storrs (Janet Halloran on Naked City) plays his rebellious daughter Liz. Olan Soule (shown on the left, played Aristotle "Tut" Jones on Captain Midnight, Ray Pinker on Dragnet (1952-59), and Fred Springer on Arnie) plays storekeeper Simon Denton. Jan Stine (Roger on TheDonna Reed Show) plays newlywed Kenneth Adams. Richard Farnsworth (see "The Partners" above) plays fake robber Hal. 

Season 3, Episode 9, "Criss Cross": Mark Rydell (directed The Rievers, The Cowboys, On Golden Pond, and The Rose) plays wanted man Tom Adams. Vaughn Taylor (starred in Jailhouse Rock, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Psycho, and In Cold Blood and played Ernest P. Duckweather on Johnny Jupiter) plays his father Doc Adams. Guy Wilkinson (Panhandle Perkins in 22 westerns) plays an old prospector. 

Season 3, Episode 10, "The Medicine Man": J. Pat O'Malley (Judge Caleb Marsh on Black Saddle, Duffy on Frontier Circus, Harry Burns on My Favorite Martian, Mr. Bundy on Wendy and Me, Herbert Morrison on A Touch of Grace, and Bert Beasley on Maude) plays elixir salesman Doc Farnsworth. Ted de Corsia (Police Chief Hagedorn on Steve Canyon) plays banker Arthur Barchester. Cloris Leachman (shown on the right, played Ruth Martin on Lassie and Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Phyllis) plays his daughter Ann. John Baer (Terry Lee on Terry and the Pirates) plays wanted man Jim Lansing.  

Season 3, Episode 11, "One Mother Too Many": Joyce Meadows (Stacy on Two Faces West) plays widow Beth Morrison. Bryan Russell (starred in Bye Bye Birdie, Safe at Home!, and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm) plays her son Davey. Betty Lou Gerson (the voice of Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations) plays her mother-in-law Irene Goodhue Morrison. Robert F. Hoy (Joe Butler on The High Chaparral, Detective Howard on Dallas, and Cliff on Our House) plays the elder Mrs. Morrison's henchman. Lewis Charles (Lou on The Feather and Father Gang) plays drifter Malcolm.
Season 3, Episode 12, "The Choice": Dick Foran (Fire Chief Ed Washburne on Lassie and Slim on O.K., Crackerby!) plays aging bounty hunter Frank Koster. Maxine Stuart (Maureen on Norby, Ruth Burton on Room for One More, Mrs. Hewitt on Peyton Place, Marge Newberry on Executive Suite, Amanda Earp on The Rousters, and Eleanor "Gram" Rutledge on The Pursuit of Happiness) plays his worried wife Jane. Burt Douglas (Jim Fisk on Days of Our Lives) plays wanted young gun Stacy Lenz.
Season 3, Episode 13, "Three for One": Terry Becker (Chief Francis Ethelbert Sharkey on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) plays Center City Deputy Fred Kimball. Richard Anderson (shown on the left, played D.A. Glenn Wagner on Bus Stop, Lt. Steve Drumm on Perry Mason, Chief George Untermeyer on Dan August, Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, and Buck Fallmont on Dynasty) plays prisoner Tom Fellows. Harry Landers (Dr. Ted Hoffman on Ben Casey) plays gang leader Lafe Martin. Kasey Rogers (Julie Anderson on Peyton Place and Louise Tate on Bewitched) plays Kimball's girlfriend Kate. Gloria Talbott (see " Tolliver Bender " above) plays Fellows' wife Jennifer Clay. Sydney Smith (starred in No Time for Sergeants and Tonka and played the judge 6 times on Perry Mason) plays banker Ben Farrell.
Season 3, Episode 14, "Witch Woman": Jeanette Dolan (shown on the right, 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 Mexican healer woman La Curandera. Victor Millan (Zahir on Ramar of the Jungle) plays school teacher Rafael Guerra. Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (Luis Valdez on Viva Valdez) plays his father-in-law Don Emilio Flores.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960)

As her film opportunities began to decline once she turned 50, four-time Oscar nominee Barbara Stanwyck turned to television, first with single appearances on drama anthology series such as Alcoa Theatre and Goodyear Theatre, followed by four appearances on the western-themed Zane Grey Theatre in 1958-59. She had wanted, in fact, to star in a western series herself but said that her agents were against the idea because westerns were in decline. Five years later she would get her wish when she was cast as matriarch Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley, which would run for four seasons and mark the highpoint of her TV career. But since these same agents apparently couldn't decide what kind of show she should do, The Barbara Stanwyck Show (sometimes titled Barbara Stanwyck Theatre) provided a looser format wherein she could play a different role in each week's 30-minute drama, a vehicle for her much like The Loretta Young Show and The DuPont Show With June Allyson were for their respective hosts. Running on NBC on Monday evenings, the show was canceled after a single season of 36 episodes (32 of which featured Stanwyck) despite the fact that she won the Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series in 1961. Originally NBC had proposed the idea that Stanwyck would each week play "one of history's most noble women," but the self-deprecating, down-to-earth Stanwyck would have no part of it. She also didn't like the opening sequences in which she would appear in a fabulous gown and deliver an introductory monologue about that night's episode, but she apparently was talked into that, though a few episodes have alternate openings, such as the theatre handbill held by an unidentified female hand at the beginning of "Out of the Shadows" (December 19, 1960).

The show also provided a forum to try out new show ideas, not all of them involving Stanwyck. The four episodes in which she did not appear are said to be pilots for shows that were never picked up. In three other episodes, including "The Miraculous Journey of Tadpole Chan" (November 14, 1960), Stanwyck played the same character, Josephine Little, an American importer/exporter living in Hong Kong, in the hope that this character and premise might be picked up as a regular series, but it also was not to be. And Stanwyck was able to sneak in a western plot now and then, such as "Ironbark's Bride" (November 28, 1960), in which she plays a woman believed to be a widow who answers an advertisement by a wealthy rancher looking for a bride to bear him a son to carry on his family name. In this episode, Stanwyck plays a seemingly shy, demur female, out of character with her usually brassy roles, up until the very end. By contrast, in "The Secret of Mrs. Randall" (November 21, 1960), she plays a widowed president of an oil and gas exploration company who must stand up to a domineering mother-in-law. In "The Key to the Killer" (October 31, 1960), she plays the deputized wife of an absent sheriff who must transport a wanted and dangerous killer to another town for pickup. And in "House in Order" (November 7, 1960), she plays an active socialite whose husband is having an affair and who must come to grips with her shortcomings as a mother when she is diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Stanwyck thrives here, as she did in feature-length films, when playing strong women who are a match for any man. But the characters are far from stereotypes--they make mistakes, have moments of weakness, and sometimes doubt themselves, as when Dr. Susan Bryce questions her own sanity in "Out of the Shadows." This tough but fallible character matches exactly with how Stanwyck saw herself. In an interview she gave to Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne late in her life, she said, "When you write your story, just remember -- I don't walk on water. I'm just an actress. Leave out the adjectives."

Earle Hagen provided the tinkling piano theme music that begins and ends each episode. Hagen, a trombonist in the Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Ray Noble orchestras, first reached acclaim as the composer of the standard "Harlem Nocturne," which would be used in the 1950s as the theme music for the TV detective series Mike Hammer. After working on film scores for movies such as Call Me Madam, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Carousel, he moved into television in the early 50s and began a long working relationship with producer Sheldon Leonard when he worked on Danny Thomas's series Make Room for Daddy. The Leonard-Thomas connection continued for Hagen on another new show for fall 1960, The Andy Griffith Show, for which Hagen co-wrote the memorable theme song "The Fishin' Hole." He continued working with Leonard on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., I Spy, and That Girl. His work on I Spy won him an Emmy in 1968. He also worked on the scores for The Mod Squad and Eight Is Enough. He died of natural causes at the age of 88 on May 26, 2008 and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame three years later.

Twenty-five of the series' 36 episodes have been released on DVD in two boxed sets by E1 Entertainment.

The Actors

Barbara Stanwyck

She was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, NY in 1907 to working-class parents. Her mother was killed when she was four years old, pushed off a streetcar by a drunk; her father disappeared and was never seen again after going to Panama to help dig the canal. Stanwyck and her brother Byron were raised by her sister Mildred until Mildred got a job as a showgirl, forcing Stanwyck into a series of foster homes from which she often ran away. She dropped out of school at age 14 and worked a series of jobs before landing a spot as a Ziegfield Girl at age 16. Three years later she was offered the part of a showgirl in a theatre play and when her part was expanded, the play became a hit, resulting in a movie screen test the following year. She received her first lead part in a stage production also in 1927, Burlesque, which received bad reviews but praise for Stanwyck's performance. It was during this production that she met her first husband, actor Frank Fay, whom she wed in 1928. Her first talking movie role came in 1929 in The Locked Door, which led to a starring role in Frank Capra's Ladies of Leisure the next year. From there she went on to star in such classics as The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, and Sorry, Wrong Number. In 1935 she divorced the sometimes abusive Fay and married another actor, Robert Taylor in 1939. By 1944 she was the highest paid woman in the United States. Though Stanwyck reportedly had a torrid affair with Henry Fonda during the making of The Lady Eve, she filed for divorce from Taylor after learning of his affair with Lana Turner and never remarried after that.

After her single season of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Stanwyck had a few appearances on shows like Rawhide, The Untouchables, and WagonTrain as well as occasional work in films such as Walk on the Wild Side and an odd pairing with Elvis Presley in Roustabout before finally landing the role she had sought since the 50s on The Big Valley. Her next big role was playing Mary Carson on the TV series The Thorn Birds in 1983, followed by Constance Colby Patterson on three episodes of Dynasty, which was then spun off into The Colbys. Reportedly she did not care for the series and retired from acting after the first season. Her health had begun to decline after a home invasion and assault in 1981, the same year she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award Oscar. Special-effects smoke on the set of The Thorn Birds combined with a lifelong smoking habit to cause further health problems. She died of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on January 20, 1990 at the age of 82. In 1999 she was named the 11th greatest female actress by the American Film Institute, just behind Joan Crawford.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 5, "Key to the Killer": Stanwyck plays sheriff's wife Stella King. Vic Morrow (shown on the left, starred in Tribute to a Bad Man, God's Little Acre, and Portrait of a Mobster and played Sgt. Saunders on Combat! and Capt. Eugene Nathan on B.A.D. Cats) plays wanted killer Leroy Benson. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays Deputy Homer Stilson. 

Season 1, Episode 6, "House in Order": Stanwyck plays socialite Elizabeth Mowry. Shepperd Strudwick (starred in The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, All the King's Men, and A Place in the Sun and played Victor Dalby Lord on One Life to Live) plays her husband Bill. Yvonne Craig (shown on the right, starred in Gidget, High Time, Kissin' Cousins, Ski Party, and One Spy Too Many and played Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, on Batman and Grandma on Olivia) plays her daughter Susan. Jack Mullaney (Johnny Wallace on The Ann Sothern Show, Lt. Rex St. John on Ensign O'Toole, Dr. Peter Robinson on My Living Doll, and Hector on It's About Time) plays Susan's boyfriend Jed Krieger. Mary Jackson (Emily Baldwin on The Waltons, Sarah Wicks on Hardcastle and McCormick, and Great Grandma Greenwell on Parenthood) plays Jed's mother Mrs. Krieger. Walter Coy (Zoravac on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and the narrator on Frontier) plays Elizabeth's doctor John Steele.

Season 1, Episode 7, "The Miraculous Journey of Tadpole Chan": Stanwyck plays importer/exporter Josephine Little. Ralph Bellamy (shown on the left, starred in Air Hawks, His Girl Friday, The Wolf Man, Trading Places, and Pretty Woman and played Mike Barnett on Man Against Crime, Dr. L. Richard Starke on The Eleventh Hour, Ethan Arcane on The Most Deadly Game, Harold Baker on Hunter, and the narrator on Frontier Justice) plays U.S. Vice Consul Dobson. James Hong (Barry Chan on The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Frank Chen on Jigsaw John, and Doctor Chen Ling on Dynasty) plays Little's assistant Jack Wong. Beulah Quo (Alice Wong on My Three Sons) plays Little's housekeeper Amah. Weaver Levy (Oliver Kee on Adventures in Paradise) plays bartender Charley. 

Season 1, Episode 8, "The Secret of Mrs. Randall": Stanwyck plays oil company president Liz Randall. Doris Packer (shown on the right, played Mrs. Sohmers on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Clara Mason on Happy, Mrs. Rayburn on Leave It to Beaver, and Clarice Osborne on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays her mother-in-law Jessie Randall. Stephen Talbot (Gilbert Bates on Leave It to Beaver) plays her son Mike. Bruce Gordon (Commander Matson on Behind Closed Doors, Frank Nitti on TheUntouchables, and Gus Chernak on Peyton Place) plays ex-employee and ex-con Roy Turner. Cecil Smith (real-life entertainment reporter for the LA Times) plays reporter Sy Lambert. 

Season 1, Episode 9, "Ironbark's Bride": Stanwyck plays presumed widow Ella Cahill. Charles Bickford (shown on the left, starred in Of Mice and Men, The Song of Bernadette, Four Faces West, Johnny Belinda, and  A Star Is Born and played John Grainger on The Virginian) plays wealthy landowner Isiah B. Richardson. David Kent (Bill Scott on Leave It to Beaver) plays Cahill's son Jared. Gerald Mohr (narrator on 19 episodes of The Lone Ranger, Christopher Storm on Foreign Intrigue, voice of Mr. Fantastic and Reed Richards on Fantastic 4) plays Cahill's long-lost husband Charlie. Nesdon Booth (Frank the bartender on Cimarron City) plays an unnamed ticket agent. 

Season 1, Episode 11, "Out of the Shadows": Stanwyck plays psychiatrist Dr. Susan Bryce. Yvette Vickers (starred in Reform School Girl, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and Attack of the Giant Leeches) plays waitress Peggy.