Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ripcord (1961)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both seasons have been released on DVD by TGG Direct.

The Actors

Larry Pennell

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

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

Ken Curtis

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

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

Shug Fisher

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

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

Paul Comi

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

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

Notable Guest Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. What I like best of Ripcord are the final lesson plugs on paradiving safety delivered by Larry Pennell (1928-2013) as the handsome, headstrong, youthful, colorful, audacious and brave skydiver Ted McKeever, which are something vital and important for every real life amateur and professional diver or jumper alike and that's all that really matters.

  2. Ripcord (first-run syndicated: 1961-1963) was an awesome, amazing and fantastic paradiving adventure series, the most danger-packed show on television ever made by far. Great chemistry, lots of action, heart-pounding stories, not like crap that's on the small screen today.

  3. Far better adventure show than Highway Patrol and/or Sea Hunt.

  4. Ripcord is still the best paradiving adventure series ever to be on the small screen.

  5. Now days they don't make exciting paradiving adventure series like Ripcord (first-run syndicated: 1961-1963) anymore, but they need to, and there'll never be another Larry Pennell (1928-2013) who plays the handsome, headstrong, youthful, colorful, audacious and brave skydiver Ted McKeever nor another Ken Curtis (1916-1991) who plays his inseparable level-headed older mentor and best buddy Jim Buckley who teach us the importance of sport parachuting safety, which is something vital for every real life amateur and professional diver or jumper alike and that's all that really matters.