Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Texan (1960)

In an age where every third program on television was a western, The Texan was one of the weakest in conception, seemingly devised and executed to ride the wave of popularity for the genre and the rugged good looks of its star Rory Calhoun. As detailed in the biographical section below, Calhoun backed into acting as a career, and the same could be said for his career-defining TV role. He had formed a production company with Victor Orsatti that had produced three feature-length westerns before venturing into television. But initially, as Calhoun told TV Guide, the two had planned an aquatic-themed series along the lines of Sea Hunt. However, Orsatti lived across the street from Desi Arnaz, who owned the rights to The Texan. Calhoun claimed that the financial deal for the western was better than his aquatic series, so The Texan was the series they made. The show, filmed at the Desilu studios with exteriors filmed in the Mojave Desert, ran for two full seasons from 1958-60 with Calhoun reportedly turning down a third season to focus on his film career, which was less time-consuming. During its first season the show ranked #15 in the ratings, ahead of such stalwarts as Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Peter Gunn, surprising in that the show lacked the strong conceptual foundation of those other programs.

The series followed the exploits of former Confederate veteran Bill Longley as he drifted about the old west using his exceptional gun-slinging skills to help friends in trouble or to further the cause of justice. The historical Bill Longley of Texas was the polar opposite--a racist murderer who often gunned down unarmed men, deserted from the U.S. Army twice, was chased from his home state to South Dakota, and eventually drifted back to Texas and was hung in Giddings at the age of 27, reportedly having killed 32 men by that time. The real Bill Longley did not serve in the Confederate army during the Civil War, either. Even discounting the disparity between the real and fictional Bill Longleys, the series makes no attempt to provide much of a back story or explanation for Longley's moniker as The Texan or why he devotes his life to helping others. In the TV Guide interview Calhoun says, "I like to think of Bill as the Robin Hood of the west," but there are no episodes showing him stealing from the rich to aid the poor. His character always stays within the confines of the law, though occasionally he might bend it just a bit if he perceives that the local justice system is corrupt.

For example, in "24 Hours to Live" (September 5, 1960), he is summoned to the town of Claymore by Steve Murrow, convicted of killing a rival suitor, though he claims he is innocent. Longley is warned repeatedly by the local sheriff to leave town and not to try to free Murrow. Even when he finds a packet of I.O.U.s that the victim held against several prominent citizens, including the sheriff, and the sheriff demands that he hand them over as evidence, Longley claims not to have them and sets up a trap to lure the real killer into a stable to retrieve the damning evidence. 

More often, however, he works Perry Mason-style to uncover the real killer when someone with a vested interest skews the evidence to throw suspicion on an innocent scapegoat. In "The Guilty and the Innocent" (March 28, 1960) he comes to the defense of young Jed Lewis, accused of murdering a sharecropper and his wife by burning down their ranch, by seeking a stay of execution before blood-thirsty rancher Vance can whip the townfolk into a frenzy that will lead to a hasty lynching. By consulting with the doctor who conducted an autopsy on the deceased, Longley learns that the murderer used a distinctive caliber of bullet that traces straight back to Vance. And in the next episode, "Presentation Gun" (April 4, 1960), Longley exonerates Ironwood Sheriff Jim Calvin when he is able to trace a singed $20 bill from a bank fire back to the mayor's son, who had argued with the young victim about the bank robbery before shooting him down. However, Longley's rush to defend the innocent and maligned backfires on one occasion: in "The Nomad" (April 18, 1960) he rescues a drifter from a beating at the hands of local bullies, dubs him Tony, since the man doesn't even know his own name, and teaches Tony how to handle a pistol so that he can defend himself, only to see Tony's new-found power go to his head in exacting unfair revenge against his past tormentors. Tony eventually challenges his mentor to a gunfight until Longley is able to show him the error of his ways.

The genesis of these defense stories come in two flavors--Longley just happens to stumble into a situation, as in "The Governor's Lady" (March 14, 1960) when he rides along a trail and then sees a man being shot at by two attackers, or he is summoned by an old friend (of which he apparently had many) or a law official who needs him for a special assignment. One of the more unusual of the latter plots is "The Terrified Town" (January 11, 1960) in which the governor of an unnamed state issues a $500 reward for his capture, almost leading to his death at the hands of a pair of bounty hunters, as a means to bring him in so that he can dispatch him to clean up a corrupt border town. This episode kicks off a three-part story arc that is The Texan's most notable legacy--a multipart series with repeating characters and actors in an age when each episode was nearly always self-contained. (Wagon Train briefly bucked the trend when it ran a two-part story during 1960.) Reportedly these mini-series were devised to possibly be stitched together and sold as a feature-length film to overseas markets. Though this plan was never executed for The Texan, later series, most notably The Man From U.N.C.L.E., used this tactic as a way to generate additional revenue and interest. During calendar year 1960, The Texan had two such story arcs: the first was the three-part plot about cleaning up corrupt Rio Nada which covered the episodes "The Terrified Town," "Sixgun Street" (January 18, 1960), and "The Taming of Rio Nada" (January 25, 1960) (, by the way, has the sequence of these episodes listed incorrectly). The second mini-series consisted of four installments in which Longley serves as the right-hand man for railroad builder David MacMorris comprised of the episodes "Quarantine" (February 8, 1960), "Buried Treasure" (February 15, 1960), "Captive Crew" (February 22, 1960), and "Showdown" (February 29, 1960).

Though he told TV Guide he was in acting for the money, some reports say he saw very little monetary gain from his association with Orsatti, which raises the same question one could ask about the TV series they co-produced--what was the point?

The theme music for The Texan was composed by William Loose and John Seely, who were profiled in the post for Dennis the Menace. No credit is given for the scores for individual episodes. 

Most of the complete series--70 surviving episodes out of the original 78 that were broadcast--has been released on DVD by Timeless Media Group.

The Actors

Rory Calhoun

Francis Timothy McCown was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Santa Cruz, California. His father, a professional gambler, died when he was 9 months old. His mother remarried and Calhoun adopted his stepfather's last name of Durgin. But he had a troubled youth: he was arrested at age 13 for stealing a gun and was sent to a reformatory institution from which he escaped. He then went on to rob several jewelry stores and took a stolen car across state lines, resulting in a three-year prison term. After his release, he worked as a boxer, cowpuncher, truck driver, lumberjack, and forest firefighter. He was spotted by Alan Ladd in 1943 riding horseback on a bridle path in a park. Ladd's wife, theatrical agent Sue Carol, got him small roles in two 1944 films and in the 1945 Laurel and Hardy film The Bullfighters. The Ladds then introduced him to David O. Selznick employee Henry Willson, who steered the careers of other young actors with more good looks than acting talent. Willson first dubbed the young actor "Troy Donahue" but then changed it to Rory Calhoun. Calhoun was next seen escorting Lana Turner to the premier of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound followed by a series of supporting roles, particularly in The Red House (1947), which helped cement his status as a teen idol. He began playing opposite some of the biggest female stars in Hollywood, such as Susan Hayward in I'd Climb the Highest Mountain and With a Song in My Heart and Betty Grable in Meet Me After the Show and How to Marry a Millionaire (in which he, almost true to life, played a forest ranger). He married Latin bandleader and actress Lita Baron in 1949, and when she divorced him for adultery in 1970, she cited Grable as one of 79 women Calhoun had had affairs with, to which Calhoun retorted that she hadn't named even half of them. In 1966 he settled a paternity suit with Vitina Marcus; their daughter Athena went on to be named The World's Most Beautiful Showgirl in 1987. His criminal youth was exposed in 1955 as part of a deal Willson arranged with the press to hide the homosexual identity of one of Willson's other clients, Rock Hudson, but the revelation did not harm Calhoun's career. Willson steered him into leading roles in westerns in the 1950s, and Calhoun eventually formed a production company with Vic Orsatti that eventually spawned The Texan.

In an interview published in the February 13, 1960 edition of TV Guide, Calhoun displayed a nonchalant attitude about the success of his TV series and indicated that he would probably work another 10 years as an actor before moving on to something he was more keen about, like the lumberjack trade he was snatched from years earlier, which allowed him to be outdoors instead of cooped up inside a studio. But he would actually continue acting for over 30 more years. Once The Texan ended its second season, he appeared in Sergio Leone's sword-and-sandal directorial debut The Colossus of Rhodes and in the title role of another Italian production Marco Polo. He made occasional TV appearances throughout the 1960s on shows like Wagon Train, Bonanza, Rawhide, I Spy, and even Gilligan's Island. He was reportedly once considered for the role of Jim West that went to Robert Conrad on The Wild Wild West but by the 1970s, besides the continuing TV guest spots, his film work ventured into kitsch classics like Night of the Lepus, about giant man-eating rabbits, Revenge of Bigfoot, and Motel Hell. The 1980s brought more camp in films like Angel and the follow-up Avenging Angel as well as Hell Comes to Frogtown but also included more substantive work in the mini-series The Blue and the Gray and a recurring role as Judge Judson Tyler on the daytime drama Capitol, a role he was persuaded to take after turning down a part on Dallas. His last film role was as a grizzled patriarch opposite George Strait in Pure Country in 1992. Besides his acting career, he owned saloons, a hotel rug company, and a ranch. He also authored two western novels, The Man From Padera and Cerrado as well as screenplays for feature films Shotgun and The Domino Kid. He died of emphysema at the age of 76 on April 28, 1999.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 2, Episode 17, "Friend of the Family": John Dehner (Duke Williams on The Roaring '20's, Commodore Cecil Wyntoon on The Baileys of Balboa, Morgan Starr on The Virginian, Cyril Bennett on The Doris Day Show, Dr. Charles Cleveland Claver on The New Temperatures Rising Show, Barrett Fears on Big Hawaii, Marshal Edge Troy on Young Maverick, Lt. Joseph Broggi on Enos, Hadden Marshall on Bare Essence, and Billy Joe Erskine on The Colbys) plays Longley's former army commander Major Randolph. Roger Perry (James Harrigan, Jr. on Harrigan and Son, Det. Sgt. Dan Kirby on Arrest and Trial, Charles Parker on The Facts of Life, and John Costello on Falcon Crest) plays his son Rubin. 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 Randolph's nemesis Cal Gruder.

Season 2, Episode 18, "The Terrified Town": Reed Hadley (starred in I Shot Jesse James, The Return of Jesse James, Dallas, and Little Big Horn and played Capt. John Braddock on Racket Squad and Bart Matthews on Public Defender) plays Longley's friend Wild Jack Tobin. Valerie Allen (shown on the right, appeared in The Joker Is Wild, The Five Pennies, Bells Are Ringing, and Pillow Talk, and played Verna Mason on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show) plays his niece Anne Banner. Barbara Stuart (Bessie on The Great Gildersleeve, Alice on Pete and Gladys, Bunny on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Peggy Ferguson on The McLean Stevenson Show, Marianne Danzig on Our Family Honor, and Alice on Huff) plays saloon owner Poker Alice.

Season 2, Episode 19, "Sixgun Street": Reed Hadley (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Wild Jack Tobin. Valerie Allen (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Anne Banner. Barbara Stuart (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Poker Alice. Richard Devon (Jody Barker on Yancy Derringer) plays rival saloon owner Tim Craven. Bob Steele (starred in Breezy Bill, Of Mice and Men, and The Big Sleep, played Billy the Kid in 6 westerns and Tucson Smith in 19 others, and played Trooper Duffy on F Troop) plays gun-for-hire Luke Short. Mason Alan Dinehart (Bat Masterson on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays Longley's friend The Brazos Kid.

Season 2, Episode 20, "The Taming of Rio Nada": Reed Hadley (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Wild Jack Tobin. Valerie Allen (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Anne Banner. Barbara Stuart (shown on the left, see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Poker Alice. Richard Devon (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as Tim Craven. Mason Alan Dinehart (see "The Terrified Town" above) returns as The Brazos Kid.

Season 2, Episode 21, "Thirty Hours to Kill": 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 family twin bullies Ben and Blackie Dawson. Ron Soble (Dirty Jim on The Monroes) plays his brother Amos. Ron Hayes (Wyatt Earp on Bat Masterson, Lincoln Vail on Everglades, Ben Jones on The Rounders, and Hank Johnson on Dallas) plays his brother Walt. Malcolm Atterbury (starred in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, The Birds, and The Learning Tree and played John Bixby on Wagon Train and Grandfather Aldon on Apple's Way) plays the town physician Doc Cooke. Forrest Lewis (Mr. Peavey on The Great Gildersleeve) plays stable-keeper Charlie.

Season 2, Episode 22, "Quarantine": David MacMorris (Victor Carroon on The Quartermass Experiment, Det. Insp. Ford on The Other Man, and Station Sgt. Cooper on Dixon of Dock Green) plays railroad builder Duncan Lamont. Alan Hale, Jr. (Biff Baker on Biff Baker U.S.A., Casey Jones on Casey Jones, and The Skipper on Gilligan's Island) plays Lamont's foreman Sculley. Frank Ferguson (Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays railroad entrepeneur Thomas Laurie. Douglas Kennedy (starred in Adventures of Don Juan, I Was an American Spy, and Jack McCall, Desperado and played Marshal Steve Donovan on Steve Donovan, Western Marshal and Sheriff Fred Madden on The Big Valley) plays the Pottersburg sheriff. Lita Baron (shown on the right, Rory Calhoun's wife) plays saloon girl Dolores.

Season 2, Episode 23, "Buried Treasure": Andy Clyde (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Real McCoys) plays prospector Andy Miles. David MacMorris (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Duncan Lamont. Alan Hale, Jr. (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Sculley. Lita Baron (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Dolores.

Season 2, Episode 24, "Captive Crew": David MacMorris (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Duncan Lamont. Alan Hale, Jr. (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Sculley. Michael Pate (starred in Face to Face, Julius Caesar, Hondo, and Tower of London and played Chief Vittoro on Hondo and Det. Sgt. Vic Maddern on Matlock) plays escaped convict leader Emory. Mike Mazurki (starred in Murder My Sweet, Dick Tracy (1945), and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and played Clon on It's About Time) plays escaped convict Kale.

Season 2, Episode 25, "Showdown": David MacMorris (see "Quarantine" above) returns as Duncan Lamont. Alan Hale, Jr. (shown on the right, see "Quarantine" above) returns as Sculley. Hugh Sanders (starred in That's My Boy, The Pride of St. Louis, The Winning Team, and The Wild One) plays railroad financier Henry Beekman. Ron Hayes (see "Thirty Hours to Kill" above) plays thug Ty Embry.

Season 2, Episode 27, "The Governor's Lady": Richard Travis (Rodger Barnett on Code 3 and Thompson on The Grand Jury) plays the governor. Lita Baron (see "Quarantine" above) plays his fiance Abby Moreno. Frank Puglia (starred in My Favorite Brunette, Road to Rio, and 20 Million Miles to Earth and played Bibo on To Rome With Love) plays her father Carlos. Myron Healey (Doc Holliday on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays Carlos' henchman Clay Calder. 

Season 2, Episode 28, "Town Divided": Walter Coy (Zoravac on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and the narrator on Frontier) plays Persada physician Dr. Nelson. Steven Terrell (Tom on The Pride of the Family) plays his maimed patient Ken Crowley. June Blair (June Nelson, David's wife, on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Julie Greer on Two Faces West) plays Crowley's fiance Ellen Warren. Morgan Woodward (shown on the left, see the biography section of the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays Crowley's foreman Mark Jordan. Robert Foulk (Ed Davis on Father Knows Best, Sheriff Miller on Lassie, Joe Kingston on Wichita Town, Phillip Toomey on The Rifleman, and Mr. Wheeler on Green Acres) plays a bartender.

Season 2, Episode 29, "The Guilty and the Innocent": Robert F. Simon (Dave Tabak on Saints and Sinners, Gen. Alfred Terry on Custer, Frank Stephens on Bewitched, Uncle Everett McPherson on Nancy, Capt. Rudy Olsen on The Streets of San Francisco, and J. Jonah Jameson on The Amazing Spiderman) plays blood-thirsty cattleman Vance. Don C. Harvey (Collins on Rawhide) plays his foreman Tom. Denver Pyle (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 the town sheriff. Percy Helton (Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays undertaker Lem Munson. Norman Leavitt (Ralph on Trackdown) plays a bartender. Helen Wallace (Nurse Lucy Webber on Dr. Kildare) plays an accused killer's mother Ma Lewis.

Season 2, Episode 30, "Presentation Gun": Robert Brubaker (Deputy Ed Blake on U.S. Marshal and Floyd on Gunsmoke) plays Ironwood sheriff Jim Calvin. Stafford Repp (shown on the right, played Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays Ironwood mayor Harvey Sloane. Gary Judis (Dr. Vincent Barnes on Dr. Kildare) plays Sloane's son Curly. Harry Harvey (Sheriff Tom Blodgett on The Roy Rogers Show, Mayor George Dixon on Man Without a Gun, and Houghton Stott on It's a Man's World) plays lawyer Cass Porter. 

Season 2, Episode 32, "The Nomad": Robert Anderson (Park Street, Jr. on The Court of Last Resort and Aeneas MacLinahan on Wichita Town) plays saloon owner Frasier. Burt Mustin (Foley on The Great Gildersleeve, Mr. Finley on Date With the Angels, Gus the fireman on Leave It to Beaver, Jud Fletcher on The Andy Griffith Show, and Justin Quigley on All in the Family) plays a scared old-timer. 

Season 2, Episode 33, "Killer's Road": Robert J. Wilke (appeared in Best of the Badmen, High Noon, The Far Country, and Night Passage and played Capt. Mendoza on Zorro) plays accused killer Asa Kirby. James Best (shown on the left, played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard) plays his son Clay. 


Season 2, Episode 34, "Lady Tenderfoot": Emory Parnell (Hawkins on The Life of Riley and Hank the bartender on Lawman) plays horse breeder Hugo Henshaw. Jack Elam (shown on the right, played Deputy J.D. Smith on The Dakotas and George Taggart on Temple Houston) plays hustler Dud Parsons. Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez (Pedro Vasquez on earlier episodes of The Texan) plays Longley's friend Pedro Martinez. Billy M. Greene (Skrag on Captain Video and His Video Rangers) plays a hotel clerk. 

Season 2, Episode 35, "The Invisible Noose": Charles Maxwell (Special Agent Joe Carey on I Led 3 Lives and the voice of the radio announcer on Gilligan's Island) plays bank robber Jeff. Bill Erwin (Joe Walters on My Three Sons and Glenn Diamond on Struck by Lightning) plays Gila Bend Sheriff Rand. Paul Keast (Nathaniel Carter on Casey Jones) plays the town parson. 

Season 2, Episode 37, "Johnny Tuvo": Ron Hagerthy (Clipper King on Sky King) plays fortune hunter Johnny Tuvo. Frank Wilcox (Henry Van Buren on Waterfront, Beecher Asbury on The Untouchables, Mr. Brewster on The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, and the judge 8 times on Perry Mason) plays rancher Robert Kincade. Mary Webster (shown on the left, played Rachel Verinder on The Moonstone, Jill Reed on Emergency-Ward 10, Anna on Circus, and Sarah Onedin on The Onedin Line) plays Tuvo's girlfriend Carrie Nagle. Myron Healey (see "The Governor's Lady" above) plays robber Gait Gaylot. Dehl Berti (Vittorio on Buck James and John Taylor on Guns of Paradise) plays his accomplice Mouse Murphy. Roberto Contreras (Pedro on The High Chapparal) plays Tuvo's friend Maggio. 

Season 2, Episode 38, "The Accuser": Don Haggerty (Jeffrey Jones on The Files of Jeffrey Jones, Eddie Drake on The Cases of Eddie Drake, Sheriff Dan Elder on State Trooper, and Marsh Murdock on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays Sheriff Lew Taylor. Harry Cheshire (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lawman) plays town physician Doc McKensie. Jimmy Lydon (starred in Tom Brown's School Days, Little Men, Joan of Arc, and 9 Henry Aldrich features and played Biff Cardoza on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Andy Boone on So This Is Hollywood, and Richard on Love That Jill) plays bank teller Smitty. Kristine Miller (Margaret Jones on Stories of the Century) plays Taylor's girlfriend Mattie Benton. Mike Mazurki (see "Captive Crew" above) plays a bank robber. 

Season 2, Episode 39, "Mission to Monterey": Raymond Bailey (shown on the right, played 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. Consul to Mexico James Wade. Richard Carlyle (Casey on Crime Photographer) plays counterfeiter Clay Beaumont. 

Season 2, Episode 40, "Badman": Gilman Rankin (Deputy Charlie Riggs on Tombstone Territory) plays Sheriff Roy Adams. Beverly Washburn (starred in Old Yeller and played Kit Wilson on Professional Father and Vickie Massey on The New Loretta Young Show) plays the daughter of the man who shot Adams in the leg, Greta Branden. John Harmon (hotel clerk Eddie Halstead on The Rifleman) plays gang member Russ Hardin. John Alderson (Sgt. Bullock on Boots and Saddles) plays gang member Jake.

Season 2, Episode 41, "24 Hours to Live": Charles Cooper (starred in The Wrong Man and played the sheriff on Father Murphy and Judge Robert Boucher on The Practice) plays accused killer Steve Murrow. Paul Birch (Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays Claymore Sheriff Benson. Barbara Kelly (Barbara on B and B and the voice of the computer on Space: 1999) plays Murrow's former girlfriend Ruth. Burt Mustin (shown on the left, see "The Nomad" above) plays telegraph operator Pop Evans.

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