Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sugarfoot (1960)

Sugarfoot, which debuted in 1957, was part of the second wave of Warner Brothers westerns along with Maverick after the initial success on Cheyenne, which first aired in 1955. Like Maverick, its protagonist Tom Brewster is not your conventional hero in his attempt to avoid violence by using his wits rather than his gun. He is an easterner who initially moves to Oklahoma and then wanders about the west while attempting to get a law degree through a correspondence school, and we see him in several episodes checking with postmasters or hotel clerks when he rides into town to see if he has any letters from the school with his latest assignment. And while as a law student he is a firm believer in the rule of law rather than blind vengeance or other emotion-fueled mob justice, less than half the episodes have a legal-based plot. His nickname "Sugarfoot" indicates how much of a neophyte he is in the ways of the west, meaning that he is a step below a tenderfoot. He emphasizes this milquetoast characterization by frequently saddling up to the bar and ordering sarsaparilla rather than hard liquor, but despite his country bumpkin demeanor, he is observant and crafty, much like a prototype of Sheriff Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show. And yet despite his lack of experience, he is a master with a sixgun.

The pilot for the show was based on a 1954 Warner Brothers feature The Boy From Oklahoma starring Will Rogers, Jr. as a nonviolent sheriff named Tom Brewster who snared criminals with lasso tricks, much like his father. Will Hutchins has observed that the producers of Sugarfoot chose him for the lead because he reminded them of Rogers, Sr., and he has also, like James Garner, documented Warners' skin-flint approach to television by recycling scripts between all their shows and films, shooting all the episodes on sound stages and back lots rather than on location, splicing in stock footage from their movie archive, and forcing actors under contract to make numerous public appearances with no reimbursement. There are even instances on Sugarfoot where Hutchins' stunt double doesn't even have the same hair color, making the substitution painfully obvious.
Yet despite these shortcuts, the series was popular enough to run for 4 seasons, though it did so in rotation with Cheyenne and eventually Bronco so that there were never more than 20 episodes produced per season (the final season had only 9). It ranked in the top 30 in ratings its first two seasons.

Despite his interest in the law and eventually becoming a lawyer, Tom Brewster is a nomad, like Cheyenne Bodie, often with no apparent reason for why he travels where he does. Occasionally an old friend will seek his help, as in the episode "Wolf-Pack" (February 2, 1960) in which he is summoned by letter to help his friend Lee Morris, working as a ranch hand at the Bar B ranch, which has suffered a number of wolf attacks. In fact, Morris is killed by such an attack the night before Brewster arrives, and he is left to unravel the mystery of why the attacks keep happening. As with many of the show's episodes, another greedy landowner is trying to take over the property via nefarious methods. In "Funeral at Forty Mile" (May 24, 1960) he is summoned by an uncle to help his cousin Sheriff Luke Condon as campaign manager for his run for county sheriff, only Luke has a skeleton in the closet when he failed to protect a wrongfully accused man from being railroaded into a hanging to cover up a murder by the town's mayor.

As with many other westerns of the era, the subject of racial prejudice and the white man's injustice to Native Americans receive surprisingly progressive treatment. In "The Highbinder" (January 19, 1960) Brewster comes to the aid of Chinese American Yup Toy, who receives rude treatment from a racist hotel clerk. In "The Shadow Catcher" (September 26, 1960) he teams up with Sioux brave Spotted Wolf after the latter's family is massacred by a greedy renegade army lieutenant who is intent on mining the Black Hills for gold when the territory has already been granted to the Sioux for their reservation. In "Welcome Enemy" (December 26, 1960) Brewster is recruited by his friend army Captain McHenry to escort Sioux chief Red Wing and his daughter White Fawn to an important secret meeting in Chicago with President Ulysses S. Grant. In this episode Brewster not only treats the Native Americans as equals, he exchanges a few kisses with White Fawn when she falls in love with him, while spurning the attention of a blonde rival daughter of an army general. 

This last episode also suggests that in its final season, the Sugarfoot producers felt the need to make the show more appealing by adding love interests for Brewster and inserting historical figures into the plots. In the preceding episode, "Man From Medora" (November 21, 1960), Brewster entertains the flirtations of a ranch owner's daughter after teaming up with a pre-presidential Teddy Roosevelt. By contrast, in Season 3 Brewster is more likely to play matchmaker, as he does for poor Scottish rancher Simon March and wealthy landowner Rachel Barnes in "The Captive Locomotive" (June 7, 1960) or for his cousin Luke Condon and caretaker Julie Frazer in the aforementioned "Funeral at Forty Mile."

However, after more than two seasons of studying the law Brewster finally gets a chance to apply it towards the end of Season 3 and in the first half of Season 4. In "Vinegarroon" March 15, 1960, he makes a visit to legendary Judge Roy Bean and impresses the unorthodox judge so much that he is appointed interim judge when Bean takes a flyer to Austin, Texas to catch his dreamgirl Lillie Langtry in performance. In "A Noose for Nora" (October 24, 1960) he gets to try his first case as a defense attorney for accused killer Nora Sutton when the only other lawyer in town besides the prosecutor has come down sick. Not surprisingly, Brewster wins the case and gets Nora a suspended sentence. His own TV series would not fare as well, however, lasting only another 7 episodes before being put out to pasture.

The theme song for Sugarfoot was composed by Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, who was profiled in the 1960 post for Maverick. Heindorf was born in Havershaw, New York and grew up in Mechanicville, where he played piano at the State Theatre while a teenager in high school. He moved to New York City in 1928 and became friends with composer Arthur Lange. The next year he and Lange moved to Hollywood and Heindorf found work with MGM, his first picture being The Hollywood Revue of 1929. Three years later he moved to Warner Brothers, where he remained for the duration of his career, becoming in 1948. He was nominated for 18 Oscars and won three--for the scores for Yankee Doodle Dandy, This Is the Army, and The Music Man. He also worked on Judy Garland's A Star Is Born, A Streetcar Named Desire, No Time for Sergeants, and Damn Yankees. He retired from Warner in 1965 and lived in Los Angeles until his death at age 71 on February 3, 1980.

Austrian-born Maximillian Raoul Steiner has been called "the father of film music" for his pioneering role in composing scores in support of action on the screen rather than vague mood music. He was a child prodigy who conducted his first operetta at age 12 and composed his first at 15. His grandfather was a famous theater manager, his father an impresario and producer, and his mother a dancer. His godfather was Richard Strauss, as a boy he studied piano under Johannes Brahms and later studied conducting under Gustav Mahler. Due to the success of his first operetta, The Beautiful Greek Girl, he received offers to conduct in other countries, eventually landing in London in 1906, where he remained until 1914 when he left for New York after being interred as an enemy alien during World War I. For the next 15 years he worked in a number of capacities in conducting, arranging, and composing for Broadway shows, including those written by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Vincent Youmans. Harry Tierney was so impressed by Steiner's work on his production of Rio Rita that he recommended RKO hire him, and Steiner moved to Hollywood in 1929 to begin his ground-breaking, prolific career scoring for feature films.At RKO Steiner first worked with producer David O. Selznick on The Symphony of Six Million. While at RKO Steiner also composed the score for King Kong, which is believed to have saved the movie and contributed greatly to its popularity, and he scored John Ford's The Informer. In 1937 he moved to Warner Brothers, where he remained for the rest of his career, though he was periodically loaned out for other Selznick productions, most notably Gone With the Wind in 1939. Steiner was nominated for 24 Oscars and won 3, for The Informer, Now Voyager, and Since You Went Away. He also composed the scores for Casablanca, A Summer Place, Flying Down to Rio, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Little Women, Sergeant York, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mildred Pierce, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, White Heat, The Caine Mutiny, and The Searchers.He died of congestive heart failure on December 28, 1971 at the age of 83 and was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995.

All four seasons have been released on DVD by Warner Archive.

The Actors

Will Hutchins

Marhsall Lowell Hutchason was born in Los Angeles in 1930 and had his first appearance on film as a child extra in the W.C. Fields feature Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, which just happened to be filming in his neighborhood. After graduating from Pomona College with a degree in Greek drama, he joined the Army during the Korean War and worked as a cryptographer stationed in Paris, France, decoding message for General Montgomery, though he claims that he spent a good deal of time at cafes on the Champs Elysees sipping cage au laits. After two years in the Army, he returned to civilian life and worked as a mailman until deciding to enter film studies at UCLA. In 1956 while working one night on a film editing project for a class, he was persuaded by a friend to go to tryouts for a live drama anthology series called Matinee Theatre and wound up being cast in the lead by producer Albert McCleery. McCleery then called him back for additional episodes and had him bleach his hair blond for one part in which he played the son of actor Gene Raymond. He was there spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout and signed to a contract. The following year he was cast as the lead in Sugarfoot and by 1958 was also appearing in feature films such as Lafayette Escadrille and No Time for Sergeants. Besides appearing in his own series, Hutchins made appearances as Tom Brewster on other Warners' westerns Maverick, Cheyenne, and Bronco as well as playing occasional other parts on Warners' series 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, and The Roaring '20's. His last work for Warners came in the 1962 feature Merrill's Marauders.

Once cut loose from Warners, Hutchins struggled to find work and tried to pay the bills with work on the stage. However, he landed another TV series playing Woody Banner on Hey, Landlord, which last only a single season from 1966-67. During this time he also appeared in a pair of Elvis Presley films Spinout and Clambake as well as the Jack Nicholson western The Shooting. In 1968 he was cast as Dagwood Bumstead in yet another TV series based on the comic strip Blondie, but this also last only a single season. Work in the 1970s was sparse and demeaning, and Hutchins ended up in pictures like Slumber Party '57 and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. With his acting career basically over in 1980 he moved to Australia and joined the circus as Patches the Clown. When he returned to the States, he went to work for NBC as a warehouse worker for 12 years before finally semi-retiring to Long Island with his second wife Barbara Torres in 1995. (He was married to Carol Burnett's sister Chrissie from 1965 to 1969.) He still makes appearances at fan festivals and writes a nearly monthly post for the western-themed web site Western Clippings.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 9, "Journey to Provision": 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 crooked sheriff Len Gogerty. 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 postmaster Abel Crotty. Donald May (shown on the left, played Charles C. Thompson on West Point, Pat Garrison on The Roaring '20's, Grant Wheeler on Texas, Adam Drake, Sr. on The Edge of Night, Raymond Speer on As the World Turns, and Earl Foster on All My Children) plays newspaper publisher Jim Brenan. Ian Wolfe (starred in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, The Magnificent Yankee, and Seven brides for Seven Brothers and played Hirsch the Butler on WKRP in Cincinnati and Wizard Traquil on Wizards and Warriors) plays busybody Horgan. John McCann (Aereth on Flamingo Road) plays Gogerty's deputy Sam. Doodles Weaver (narrated Spike Jones' horse-racing songs and hosted A Day With Doodles) plays informant Simon Miller.
Season 3, Episode 10, "The Highbinder": 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 syndicate muscle Ben Reilly. James Hong (shown on the right, played Barry Chan on The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Frank Chen on Jigsaw John, and Doctor Chen Ling on Dynasty) plays his compadre The Hatchet Man. Victor Buono (appeared in Robin and the 7 Hoods, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and The Silencers and played King Tut on Batman and Dr. Schubert on Man From Atlantis) plays a San Francisco bartender. Lester Fletcher (Mr. Divine on Down to Earth) plays a hotel clerk. Larry J. Blake (the unnamed jailer on Yancy Derringer and Tom Parnell on Saints and Sinners) plays police Officer O'Brien.
Season 3, Episode 11, "Wolf-Pack": Richard Coogan (Marshal Matthew Wayne on The Californians) plays trapper Judd Mallory. Richard Garland (Clay Horton on Lassie) plays physician Dr. Martin Rain. Kenneth MacDonald (played the judge 32 times on Perry Mason, played Col. Parker on Colt .45, and appeared in several Three Stooges shorts) plays land agent Mr. Smith. Tom London (starred in Six-Shootin' Sheriff, Song of the Buckaroo, and Riders in the Sky) plays ranch-hand Gil Wander. Phil Tully (the bartender on The Deputy) plays ranch-hand Tex Andrews.
Season 3, Episode 12, "Fernando": Harry Bellaver (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Naked City) plays boxing promoter Corky McCoy. Tim Graham (Homer Ede on National Velvet) plays bath-house owner Paddy Grogan. Gary Vinson (Chris Higbee on The Roaring '20's, George Christopher on McHale's Navy, and Sheriff Harold Skiles on Pistols 'n' Petticoats) plays his nephew Joey Grogan. Nicky Blair (Charlie de Angelo on Saints and Sinners) plays delinquent Cople.
Season 3, Episode 13, "Blackwater Swamp": James Coburn (starred in The Magnificent Seven, Charade, Our Man Flint, and In Like Flint and who played Jeff Durain on Klondike and Gregg Miles on Acapulco) plays landowner Rome Morgan. Kevin Hagen (John Colton on Yancy Derringer, Inspector Dobbs Kobick on Land of the Giants, and Dr. Hiram Baker on Little House on the Prairie) plays his sidekick Sam Fields. George Wallace (starred in Radar Men From the Moon, Destry, and Forbidden Planet and played Judge Milton Cole on Hill Street Blues and Grandpa Hank Hammersmith on Sons and Daughters) plays landowner John Crain. Kasey Rogers (Julie Anderson on Peyton Place and Louise Tate on Bewitched) plays his wife Myra. Robert Colbert (Dr. Doug Phillips on The Time Tunnel) plays his son Ben. Robert Warwick (starred in Alias Jimmy Valentine, The Supreme Sacrifice, The Heart of a Hero, and Against All Flags) plays Ben's grandfather Spotted Horse. William Tannen (Deputy Hal Norton on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays railroad agent Jim Asbury. Chuck Essegian (shown on the right, professional baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers) plays his assistant Bob Fanning. Terry Frost (Sgt. Moore/Morse/Morris on Highway Patrol) lays the local sheriff.
Season 3, Episode 14, "Return to Boothill": Gary Vinson (see "Fernando" above) plays accused stage robber Jack Guild. Diane McBain (Daphne Dutton on Surfside 6 and Pinky Pinkston on Batman) plays his sister Joan. Alan Hewitt (starred in That Touch of Mink, Days of Wine and Roses, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and who played Det. Bill Brennan on My Favorite Martian) plays Alder Gulch mayor and sheriff Henry Plummer. Ralph Manza (shown on the left, played Al Bonacorsi on The D.A.'s Man, Jay Drury on Banacek, Ambulance Aide Stanke on A.E.S. Hudson, Padre Guardiano on Mama Malone, and Bud on Newhart) plays bartender Glen Hause. Chubby Johnson (Concho on Temple Houston) plays stage driver Hank.
Season 3, Episode 15, "Vinegarroon": Frank Ferguson (Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays Judge Roy Bean. Richard Devon (Jody Barker on Yancy Derringer) plays his deputy Steve Wyatt. Don C. Harvey (Collins on Rawhide) plays his deputy Doc.
Season 3, Episode 16, "The Corsican": Paul Picerni (shown on the right, played Agent Lee Hobson on The Untouchables) plays Corsican immigrant Gianpaolo Fregoso. Mala Powers (starred in Cyrano de Bergerac, Rose of Cimarron, and Tammy and the Bachelor and played Rebecca Boone on Walt Disney's Daniel Boone and Mona on Hazel) plays wagon traveler Roberta Shipman. Jacques Aubuchon (starred in The Silver Chalice, The Big Boodle, and The Love God? and played Urulu on McHale's Navy) plays trading-post owner Joubert.
Season 3, Episode 17, "Blue Bonnet Stray": Janet De Gore (Marsha Spear on The Law and Mr. Jones and Louise Howard on The Real McCoys) plays traveling mother Mary Kirk. Alan Baxter (appeared in Saboteur, Close-Up, and Paint Your Wagon) plays her brother-in-law Vance O'Connell. Douglas Kennedy (shown on the left, 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 Salt Wells Sheriff Williams. Harry Harvey (Sheriff Tom Blodgett on The Roy Rogers Show and Mayor George Dixon on Man Without a Gun) plays a train station agent. Phil Tully (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays a livery stable owner.
Season 3, Episode 18, "The Long Dry": Robert Armstrong (starred in King Kong, The Son of Kong, Framed, Dive Bomber, Blood on the Sun, and Mighty Joe Young and played Sheriff Andy Anderson on State Trooper) plays ranch owner Bill Carmody. Rayford Barnes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays his ranch hand Salinas. John McCann (see "Journey to Provision" above) plays ranch hand Mark Baylor. Arch Johnson (starred in Somebody Up There Likes Me, G.I. Blues, and The Cheyenne Social Club and played Cmdr. Wivenhoe on Camp Runamuck) plays cattle rancher Turner Evans. C. Lindsey Workman (Dr. Jim Higgins on The Donna Reed Show and Rev. Adams on Here Come the Brides) plays a storekeeper.
Season 3, Episode 19, "Funeral at Forty Mile": Louise Fletcher (shown on the right, starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Exorcist II, and The Cheap Detective and who played Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays caretaker Julie Frazer. Kent Taylor (Murietta on Zorro and Capt. Jim Flagg on The Rough Rider) plays Forty Mile Mayor Hank Farragut. John Qualen (starred in The Three Musketeers(1935), His Girl Friday, The Grapes of Wrath, Angels Over Broadway, Casablanca, Anatomy of a Murder, and A Patch of Blue) plays storekeeper Jen Jensen. George Kennedy (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 blacksmith Ross Kuhn. Donald May (see "Journey to Provision" above) plays Sheriff Luke Condon. Percy Helton (Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays undertaker Doc Lever.
Season 3, Episode 20, "The Captive Locomotive": Rex Reason (starred in This Island Earth, Lady Godiva of Coventry, and The Creature Walks Among Us and played Adam MacLean on Man Without a Gun and Scott Norris on The Roaring '20's) plays Scottish rancher Simon March. Bobby Goodwins (son of director Leslie Goodwins) plays his son Bobby. Steve Goodwins (other son of director Leslie Goodwins) plays his son Steve. Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays wealthy landowner Rachel Barnes. Horace McMahon (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Naked City) plays railroad agent Cornelius Cameron. Charles Maxwell (Special Agent Joe Carey on I Led 3 Lives and was the voice of the radio announcer on Gilligan's Island) plays his henchman Bromfield. Kenneth MacDonald (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays the town mayor. Dan Sheridan (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lawman) plays Marshal Garrison. Phil Tully (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays railroad engineer O'Brien.
Season 4, Episode 1, "The Shadow Catcher": Peter Breck (Clay Culhane on Black Saddle, Doc Holliday on later seasons of Maverick, and Nick Barkley on The Big Valley) plays army Lt. John Stickney. Jon Lormer (Harry Tate on Lawman, various autopsy surgeons and medical examiners in 12 episodes of Perry Mason, and Judge Irwin A. Chester on Peyton Place) plays Indian agent Paul Loring. Dean Fredericks (Kaseem in Jungle Jim, Komawi in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Lt. Col. Steve Canyon in Steve Canyon) plays Sioux brave Spotted Wolf. Jason Robards, Sr. (father of Jason Robards) plays his chief Red Tomahawk. Don Haggerty (see "The Highbinder" above) plays Stickney colleague Sam Booker. Slim Pickens (starred in The Story of Will Rogers, Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and The Howling and played Slim on Outlaws, Slim Walker on The Wide Country, California Joe Milner on Custer, and Sgt. Beauregard Wiley on B.J. & the Bear) plays stage driver Mark.
Season 4, Episode 2, "A Noose for Nora": Madlyn Rhue (shown on the right, played Marjorie Grant on Bracken's World, Angela Schwartz on Fame, and Hilary Mason/Madison on Executive Suite) plays murder defendant Nora Sutton. Ronnie Dapo (Flip Rose on Room for One More and Andy on The New Phil Silvers Show) plays her son Grant. Robert Colbert (see "Blackwater Swamp" above) plays murder victim son Clark Henderson. Tristram Coffin (Lt. Doyle on The Files of Jeffrey Jones and Capt. Tom Rynning on 26 Men) plays prosecuting attorney Mr. Fennell. Vic Perrin (the narrator on Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, was the control voice on The Outer Limits, and did voicework on Jonny Quest, Star Trek, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, and Mission:Impossible!) plays Henderson employee Bill Smallwood. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays Henderson land swindle victim John Buck.
Season 4, Episode 3, "Man From Medora": Peter Breck (shown on the left, see "The Shadow Catcher" above) plays aspiring rancher Theodore Roosevelt. Byron Keith (Lt. Gilmore on 77 Sunset Strip and Mayor Linseed on Batman) plays newspaper reporter Joe Barton. Jean Blake Fleming (Phyllis Collier on The Case of the Dangerous Robin) plays rancher's daughter Millie Larson. John Milford (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lawman) plays ranch foreman Jed Carter. Mickey Simpson (Boley on Captain David Grief) plays bully Jake Sloane.
Season 4, Episode 4, "Welcome Enemy": 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 Sioux chief Red Wing. Suzanne Lloyd (Raquel Toledano on Zorro) plays his daughter White Fawn. Bruce Gordon (Commander Matson on Behind Closed Doors, Frank Nitti on The Untouchables, and Gus Chernak on Peyton Place) plays wealthy landowner Elias Stone. Grady Sutton (Ben Toomey on Lawman and Sturgis on The Phyllis Diller Show) plays a hotel clerk. Terence De Marney (Case Thomas on Johnny Ringo and Counsellor Doone on Lorna Doone) plays a train conductor. Harry Harvey (see "Blue Bonnet Stray" above) plays the Deadwood postmaster.

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