Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shotgun Slade (1960)

Shotgun Slade was a show that tried to take elements from a number of already popular shows and combine them into a single series, presumably with the hope of creating a kind of "greatest hits" version of a television show. At the time of its debut, westerns and detective crime dramas were all the rage, so the title character was a cowboy detective in the old west, based in Denver, Colorado. He carried business cards like the popular Paladin of Have Gun -- Will Travel but without the catchy tag line. He also carried a distinctive weapon, like Luke McCain of The Rifleman and Josh Randall of Wanted: Dead or Alive, a shotgun whose top barrel was that of a .32 rifle and whose bottom barrel was that of a 12-gauge shotgun. And the show had a jazzy score like crime dramas Peter Gunn and M Squad. Its strapping title character, played by Scott Brady, was also a cross between the formidable Chuck Connors and the flirtatious Richard Boone. But somehow all these winning features didn't add up to a big hit. The show ran for two seasons and never cracked the top 30 in the ratings.

Part of that failure can be attributed to being a syndicated program that was aired only by stations willing to pay the syndication fee and at whatever time the station chose to run it. In fact, when exactly the program aired is still something of a mystery. Though some episodes from calendar year 1960 have assigned dates according to whoever entered them at, others have no date except the year of copyright. And a review of TV Guides from that year provides some apparently conflicting information. For example, lists "Lost Gold," episode 38 from Season 1, as having aired on July 5, 1960, but the April 30 Western New England edition of TV Guide shows the following episode, "The Smell of Money," as having aired on May 3, a full two months earlier. It's possible that stations were able to air shows out of order, and it's very likely that they re-ran episodes months after their original showing. Either way, it's probably impossible to nail down a specific first air date for each episode, particularly since some editions of TV Guide list only the show name and not the episode being aired. Of course, other syndicated shows, most notably Sea Hunt, could find success with a haphazard air schedule, but Slade was also hampered by its derivative content.

The show's copy-cat features, however, were merely an attempt to draw in fans of the other shows they were borrowed from because they could be jettisoned for episodes at a time if they didn't fit into that week's narrative. Slade himself, though a detective by trade, would sometimes be hired for other work, such as in "The Spanish Box" where he is hired to transport a gift box to a Lodestone banker and only after the box is switched for one that turns out to be a booby-trap that kills the banker does Slade have to use his detective skills to save his own skin. In "Backtrack" he is hired to transport an embezzler to trial before getting bushwhacked and having to recapture the criminal and his stolen money that has been lifted by a band of train robbers. And he also is not always very good at his job. Again in "The Spanish Box" he fails to notice a man switch identical carpet bags with him after getting off a stagecoach. At the time of the switch, Slade is blithely looking down the road in the opposite direction instead of keeping his eye trained on the bag he is being paid to deliver. His eye for the ladies can also get him into trouble, such as when he is lured to the hotel room of a female stage performer, allowing her accomplice to steal a valuable Stradivarius that he has been hired to protect. These foibles make Slade a more human character, but they hardly inspire confidence in his abilities as a professional.

But what ultimately doomed the series was that the writing and plots just weren't different enough from the other shows being emulated to make Shotgun Slade stand out above the crowd. And with the disadvantages of irregular air times and lack of network backing, the show just couldn't stand up to the competition and folded after two seasons.

The jazz-western theme music and the scores for individual episodes were composed and arranged by Gerald Fried, whose biography can be found in the 1960 post for Riverboat. In an extensive 2-hour 2003 interview that can be viewed at, Fried relates that the idea for a jazz-western score came about as a joke during a cocktail party attended by Fried and Revue Studios producer Jennings Lang. After someone tossed out the idea as a joke, Jennings latched onto it and Fried was given the task of bringing it to life. Coincidentally, Jack Marshall employed a similar approach the same year on his score for The Deputy. Fried's closing theme for Shotgun Slade was given a vocal treatment by Lang's wife, singer Monica Lewis at the end of the episode she starred in, "A Flower for Jenny." This vocal version was pressed on 45 rpm wax but released only as a "complimentary" promo, not for sale, on Bristol Records (Lewis' character in the episode is named Monica Bristol).

Like several other syndicated programs of the era, the DVD releases for Shotgun Slade are somewhat chaotic. There are essentially 15 episodes, all from the spring of 1960, available on various DVD releases by Echo Bridge (which offers all 15 in a 2-disc set), Timeless Media Group, and Alpha Video. There is also one episode from Season 2 available at this time on The print quality of these unremastered episodes is a bit rough.





 The Actors

Scott Brady

Born Gerard Kenneth Tierney in Brooklyn, NY, Brady was the son of the chief of New York's aqueduct police force. Brady, called Jerry by his family, grew up in Westchester County, NY and lettered in football, basketball, and track while in high school but dropped out to join the Navy during World War II. He worked as a naval aviation mechanic and earned a heavyweight boxing medal before being discharged in 1946. He moved to Los Angeles where his older brother Lawrence had found success in acting (another brother Edward also became an actor for a while before leaving the profession to become a building contractor). He found work as a lumberjack and taxi driver before being spotted by producer Hal Wallis and given a screen test, which did not go well. Given this setback, he enrolled in the Bliss-Hayden acting school, where he took vocal lessons to rid himself of his thick Brooklyn accent. By 1948 he began getting roles in lesser films like In This Corner before moving up to better fare such as He Walked by Night later that same year. Steady work continued through the 1950s, alternating between heavies and heroes in crime dramas and westerns such as The Model and the Marriage Broker, The Bloodhounds of Broadway, and the cult classic Johnny Guitar. In the mid-1950s he also began appearing in television drama anthologies such as The Ford Television Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, and Schlitz Playhouse before landing the title role in Shotgun Slade in 1959.

After Shotgun Slade's two-year run ended, he continued to work steadily throughout the 1960s and 1970s both in guest spots on TV and in feature films. In the biggest mistake of his life, he turned down the role of Archie Bunker for All in the Family but later appeared in four episodes on the program as the character Joe Foley. In 1973 he scored a recurring role as Vinnie on Police Story, which ran for four years, as well as five appearances on The Rockford Files and significant roles in the films The China Syndrome and Gremlins. Once linked to actresses Dorothy Malone and Gwen Verdon, Brady finally married non-actress Mary Tirony at age 43 in 1967. In 1957 he and roommate/publicist Desmond Slattery were arrested on a narcotics charge when police found a single marijuana butt in their apartment after Brady brought back two women he had met in Hollywood, one of whom turned out to be a police informant. Brady maintained that the arrest was a sting and the charges were later dropped. But in 1963 he was barred from betting on horse races in New York for his association with known bookmakers. In 1981 he collapsed from what was determined to be pulmonary fibrosis and thereafter had to use an oxygen tank. He died four years later at the age of 60 on April 16, 1985.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 23, "The Deadly Key": Vito Scotti (shown on the left, played Jose on The Deputy, Capt. Gaspar Fomento on The Flying Nun, Gino on To Rome With Love, and Mr. Velasquez on Barefoot in the Park) plays fortune hunter Bernard Rejon. 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 adversary Ben Wesley. Ann Robinson (Queen Juliandra on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Helen Watkins on Fury) plays Wesley's boss Miss Baxter.
Season 1, Episode 25, "Donna Juanita": Ray Montgomery (Prof. Howard Ogden on Ramar of the Jungle) plays general store owner Ed Raff. Carlos Romero (Rico Rodriguez on Wichita Town, Romero Serrano on Zorro, and Carlo Agretti on Falcon Crest) plays Donna Juanita's right-hand man Mario Gallegos. Howard Caine (Schaab on The Californians and Maj. Wolfgang Hochstetter on Hogan's Heroes) plays syndicate shareholder Pedro.
Season 1, Episode 26, "The Spanish Box": George Kennedy (shown on the right, starred in Charade, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Dirty Dozen, Cool Hand Luke, and The Naked Gun and played MP Sgt. Kennedy on The Phil Silvers Show, Father Samuel Cavanuagh on Sarge, Bumper Morgan on The Blue Knight, and Carter McKay on Dallas) plays bar-room brawler Tex. Donald Murphy (Ben Cabot on The Loretta Young Show) plays mine-stealer Hal Bates. Michael Hinn (Luke Cummings on Boots and Saddles) plays Lodestone Sheriff Fred Hadley.
Season 1, Episode 27, "The Golden Tunnel": Mary Webster (Rachel Verinder on The Moonstone, Jill Reed on Emergency-Ward 10, Anna on Circus, and Sarah Onedin on The Onedin Line) plays gold baron's wife Cora Davis. Dean Harens (SAC Bryan Durant on The F.B.I.) plays her husband's nephew Jim Palmer. Richard Bull (Thatcher on Nichols and Neels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) plays an unnamed doctor.
Season 1, Episode 28, "A Flower for Jenny": Dianne Foster (starred in Night Passage, The Last Hurrah, and The Deep Six) plays diva singer Jenny Dupre. Robert McQueeney (Conley Wright on The Gallant Men) plays her accompanist Eddie Howard. Monica Lewis (shown on the left, popular singer who starred in Excuse My Dust, Affair With a Stranger, and The D.I.) plays Deadwood dance-hall singer Monica Bristol. Steve Darrell (Sheriff Hal Humphrey on Tales of Wells Fargo) plays the Deadwood marshal.
Season 1, Episode 29, "The Fabulous Fiddle": Ludwig Stossel (appeared in Casablanca, Kings Row, and Pride of the Yankees and played Peter Van Dyne on Ramar of the Jungle and Anton Kovac on Man With a Camera) plays concert violinist Professor Maximillian. Paul Picerni (Agent Lee Hobson on The Untouchables) plays his manager Quinn.
Season 1, Episode 30, "Crossed Guns": King Calder (Lt. Gray on Martin Kane) plays Grover's Bend Marshal Prescott. Sue Ane Langdon (shown on the right, played Kitty Marsh on Bachelor Father, Lillian Nuvo on Arnie, Rosie on Grandpa Goes to Washington, and Darlene on When the Whistle Blows) plays his daughter Lydia. Francis X. Bushman (starred in Romeo and Juliet (1916), Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Dick Tracy (1937), Sabrina, and The Phantom Planet) plays newspaper publisher Eckhart.
Season 1, Episode 31, "Sudden Death": Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays casino hostess Sally Claymore. Robert Bray (Simon Kane on Stagecoach West and Corey Stuart on Lassie) plays her boyfriend Henry Timmons. Beverly Tyler (starred in The Fireball, The Cimarron Kid, and Voodoo Island) plays fellow hostess Peaches. Alan Dexter (Frank Ferguson on Days of Our Lives) plays casino croupier Wilson. Victor Sen Yung (Cousin Charlie Fong on Bachelor Father and Hop Sing on Bonanza) plays Chinese artist Willy Sing.
Season 1, Episode 32, "Ring of Death": 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 trail boss Joe Keith. 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 fiance Kate Heinie. H.M. Wynant (Frosty on Batman and Ed Chapman on Dallas) plays Kate's real boyfriend Len Sterling. Richard Hale (starred in Abilene Town, Kim, San Antone, Red Garters, and To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Len's father Pike. Denver Pyle (shown on the left, 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 local lawman Marshal Berry.
Season 1, Episode 33, "Backtrack": King Donovan (Roger Baker on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and Harvey Helm on The Bob Cummings Show) plays embezzler Jason Baxter. Connie Hines (Carol Post on Mister Ed) plays train robber Katy Conroy. Wesley Lau (Lt. Andy Anderson on Perry Mason and Master Sgt. Jiggs on The Time Tunnel) plays train robber Jeb.
Season 1, Episode 35, "Killer's Brand": Ruta Lee (shown on the right, appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, and Witness for the Prosecution and played Rona on 1st and Ten: The Championship and Pauline Spencer on Coming of Age) plays ranch owner Lily Cody. Dean Fredericks (Kaseem in Jungle Jim, Komawi in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Lt. Col. Steve Canyon in Steve Canyon) plays her suitor Vance. Robert Anderson (Park Street, Jr. on The Court of Last Resort and Aeneas MacLinahan on Wichita Town) plays rival rancher Steve Willis. Orville Sherman (Mr. Feeney on Buckskin, Wib Smith on Gunsmoke, and Tupper on Daniel Boone) plays former employee Harry Potter. Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays the local marshal.
Season 1, Episode 36, "A Flower on Boot Hill": Willie Roerick (Richard Gavin on Another World and Henry Chamberlain on Guiding Light) plays widower Dr. John Brighton. Kathie Browne (Angie Dow on Hondo and was Darren McGavin's second wife) plays Susan Bennett, daughter of the general store owner. Sherman Sanders (appeared as a square dance caller in 17 feature films and an episode of The Andy Griffith Show) plays hotel clerk Sam. Paul Langton (Leslie Harrington on Peyton Place) plays an escaped bank robber.
Season 1, Episode 37, "The Charcoal Bullet": Frank Ferguson (shown on the left, played Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays the Spring Oak sheriff. 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 bank president Bob Baston. Ned Glass (MSgt. Andy Pendleton on The Phil Silvers Show, Sol Cooper on Julia, and Uncle Moe Plotnick on Bridget Loves Bernie) plays barfly artist Eli Gates. Michael Fox (Coroner George McLeod on Burke's Law, Amos Fedders on Falcon Crest, Saul Feinberg on The Bold and the Beautiful, and appeared 25 times as autopsy surgeons and various other medical witnesses on Perry Mason) plays physician Dr. Miller.
Season 1, Episode 38, "Lost Gold": Bing Russell (Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza) plays undercover agent Marshal Benton. Alan Hale, Jr. (Biff Baker on Biff Baker U.S.A., Casey Jones on Casey Jones, Sculley on The Texan, and The Skipper on Gilligan's Island) plays Gold Run Sheriff Sloan. Ted de Corsia (Police Chief Hagedorn on Steve Canyon) plays Gold Run Mining boss Ben Douglas. Carleton Young (starred in Dick Tracy (1937), The Brigand, Thunderhead - Son of Flicka, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and played Harry Steeger on The Court of Last Resort) plays undercover investigator Ward. Stacy Keach, Sr. (Carlson on Get Smart) plays mining company employee Hartley.
Season 1, Episode 39, "The Smell of Money": Robert H. Harris (shown on the right, played Jake Goldberg on Molly and Raymond Schindler on The Court of Last Resort) plays Willow Ridge banker Samuel Matson. John Stephenson (Roger Crutcher on The People's Choice, was the narrator on Dragnet 1967, and did the voices for Mr. Slate on The Flintstones, Fancy-Fancy on Top Cat, Dr. Benton C. Quest on Jonny Quest and Luke and Blubber Bear on Wacky Races, to name but a few) plays general store owner Charlie Cummings. Stuart Randall (Sheriff Art Sampson on Cimarron City, Al Livermore on Lassie, and Sheriff Mort Corey on Laramie) plays Willow Ridge Sheriff Walters.
Season 2, Episode 10, "The Laughing Widow": Allison Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays supposed widow Lorna Parker. H.M. Wynant (see "Ring of Death" above) plays her companion Chris. Paul Baxley (stunt coordinator on Riverboat, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, T.H.E. Cat, Wonder Woman, and The Dukes of Hazzard) plays their gunman Paul. Ron Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on BatMasterson) plays Pinewood deputy Bob McMiller. Robert J. Wilke (appeared in Best of the Badmen, High Noon, The Far Country, and Night Passage and played Capt. Mendoza on Zorro) plays Pinewood resident Brannagan.

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