Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tombstone Territory (1960)

The story of the American old west being told in the first half of the 20th century was one of mythic legend, or brave white settlers who built the greatest nation on earth by trudging across barren deserts while fending off savage Indians and lawless Mexican banditos, as well as morally bankrupt, greedy members of their own race. It took singular men of exceptional courage and skill to maintain law and order in such a dangerous land. At least that's the story told in movies and on television produced by white men for white audiences. But by 1960, as the civil rights movement began to gain traction in the United States, other versions of this narrative began to seep into popular culture. As we have already seen in posts about other western TV series on this blog, stories of noble Native Americans who are abused and misrepresented by greedy whites found their way into plots on mainstream programs. All of which makes the foundation of Tombstone Territory, which ran for two seasons, 1957-59, on ABC and then one final 1959-60 season in syndication, a bit paradoxical because it purports to be based on actual stories published in the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper during the 1880s yet portrays these stories using fictional characters and familiar narratives.
Tombstone Territory was produced by Frank Pittman and Andy White of Ziv Productions, who also produced another marginally historical western, Bat Masterson, though that series debuted the season after Tombstone Territory was launched. To bolster the historical authenticity of their series, Pittman and White made a point of crediting Epitaph editor Clayton Smith and historian D'Estelle Iszard as consultants at the end of each episode, and the biography of Smith from the Epitaph's current web site ( notes that he encouraged researchers to use the files of the newspaper to help promote the town's place in the history of the old west. The problem for Pittman and White was that someone had already beaten them to the punch in developing a TV series centered around Tombstone's most legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp. So they had to create the fictional Sheriff Clay Hollister as his stand-in. Like the TV version of Earp (though quite different from the historical Earp), Hollister is a bolt upright beacon of integrity--he can't be bought off, and he always follows the rule of law, even if he thinks the accused is innocent. And because the founder of the Epitaph, John P. Clum, sold his interest in the paper and left town in mid-1882, while the TV series covered stories that, according to the dates given in each episode, ran as late as 1888, they also created the fictional Harris Claibourne as the Epitaph's editor and the series' narrator.

The character of Claibourne serves an interesting role in the series. As narrator and chronicler of the town's events, he is the voice of authenticity, but he also serves as Hollister's best friend and frequent sidekick on dangerous adventures, even though Hollister has at least two deputies, Quint and Pete, who show up in various episodes. As a sidekick, however, he is of questionable value: when he isn't being held hostage by evildoers, as in "State's Witness" (January 22, 1960) and "The Hostage" (April 8, 1960), he's getting shot, as in "Crime Epidemic" (July 1, 1960), thereby forcing Hollister to delay his pursuit of escaping bank robbers to tend to his injury. The historical editor Clum wasn't an impartial journalist, using his newspaper to promote the local economy and call out businessmen whom he thought were dealing dirty, and the fictional Claibourne can be easily persuaded by Hollister to publish doctored stories or advertisements in order to fool criminal elements. In "Coded Newspaper" (March 18, 1960), Hollister has Claibourne change a coded ad taken out by crooked silver mine manager John Whittaker for all copies distributed outside Tombstone in order to trick Whittaker's accomplices about where the next silver shipment is headed. And in "The Treaty" (June 10, 1960) Hollister has Claibourne publish a story about a fictitious meeting between U.S. Army General Crook and Apache chief Geronimo in order to lure Apache renegade Manitou, who is against any peace treaty, into a trap.

Speaking of Apaches, they don't come off well in Tombstone Territory. Though we hear that Geronimo desires peace, we never see him in "The Treaty," only his insurgent lieutenant Manitou, who massacres a stagecoach traveling to Tombstone and a telegraph operator in a small town south of there. In "The Innocent Man" (May 13, 1960) Hollister, Claibourne, and the Sonoita sheriff and his deputy are attacked by renegade Apaches for no apparent reason, other than the fact that they're renegade Apaches. Mexicans are also stereotypically corrupt, as shown in "Juan Diega" (July 8, 1960), in which the title character is trying to finance the overthrow of his own government by robbing banks in the U.S. Mexico itself is a lawless place, as in "Girl From Philadelphia" (April 29, 1960) in which outlaw Ben Quaid kidnaps his late girlfriend's sister and escapes to Sulfur City, south of the border, until Hollister shows up to rescue her. In fact, any outlaw on the lam heads to Mexico.

When not having to be rescued, women can often be femme fatales, again in a stereotypical fashion that suggests that even if the basic story on which the episode is founded in fact, its development inevitably leads to a cliched plot seen in countless other westerns. "The Bride" (February 5, 1960) is a classic black widow story in which an attractive young woman lures a wealthy older man into marriage so that her male accomplice can knock him off and she can inherit his estate. "Silver Killers" (February 26, 1960) follows a similar pattern, only here a female saloon owner provides a grubstake that makes her a partner with a silver miner, then has a hired assassin kill him once he strikes it rich. In "The Siesta Killer" (May 20, 1960), a greedy woman allows a neurotic short man to cajole her into killing a series of hotel clerks so that he can have revenge on taller men while she receives the money she craves by emptying the hotel cash register. Even the one episode that shows a woman stepping outside the accepted norm in a positive way, "The Lady Lawyer" (February 19, 1960), has her retreat to being a flirt who can't resist a man in uniform by story's end.

Besides the stereotypical femme fatale narrative, Tombstone Territory is replete with the business embezzler who stages heists from his own company to make it look like they are perpetrated by outside outlaws, as in the aforementioned "Coded Newspaper" and "The Lady Lawyer," in which the titular character defends a mine foreman accused of robbing his boss when it turns out that the latter is stealing from his own company. And then there's the story about the family member who kills his own relation but tries to divert the blame to someone else in "Revenge" (April 1, 1960), in which a son shoots his outlaw father but claims that Hollister shot him while trying to bring him in, then persuades his sister that she must lure Hollister into an ambush to avenge the loss of the father. These plots have been recycled in many other westerns from the same era, all of which undercuts the stated intention of the series to tell it the way it was in "the town too tough to die." 

In other words, by creating idealized characters and reverting to time-worn narratives, even if some of the particulars derive from actual accounts from the 1880s, Tombstone Territory shoots itself in the foot, because rather than authenticating the mythic account of the old west, it only reinforces its artificiality.

The theme song for Tombstone Territory, "Whistle Me Up a Memory," was composed and sung by William M. Backer. Though one source claims that Backer was an advertising executive, it isn't clear if this is the same William M. Backer who is in the Advertising Hall of Fame for creating, among other memorable jingles, the Things Go Better With Coke commercials and the iconic "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" hillside commercial. 

The complete series has been released on DVD by Timeless Media Group.

The Actors

Pat Conway

Patrick Douglas Conway was born in Los Angeles, the son of actor, director, and producer Jack Conway and Virginia Bushman, daughter of legendary silent-movie actor Francis X. Bushman. Conway grew up on his father's cattle ranch, learning to ride and rope by age 10. He attended Menlo Junior College and then studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, followed by a stint studying Shakespeare in London. After a hitch with the Marines, he returned to Hollywood and was signed by his father's studio, MGM, making both his feature film and TV debuts in 1951. After a series of uncredited appearances in 1952, including playing the projectionist in Singin' in the Rain, he got his first screen credit that same year in Above and Beyond. After a mere two uncredited appearances in 1953 and nothing in 1954, his career began to gather steam after that with roles on TV series such as You Are There and State Trooper, as well as a handful of drama anthologies, and feature films such as Screaming Eagles in 1956 and the sci-fi thriller The Deadly Mantis the following year. At some point he had also done some male modeling for the Men's Apparel Guild of California. The year 1957 was also when he won the lead role on Tombstone Territory, though he was initially considered for a role as a deputy rather than the sheriff.

During the three years he starred on Tombstone Territory, Conway also had a few guest spots on series like Gunsmoke, The Texan, and The Millionaire, and he scored a few more guest spots, though not many, after its cancellation, appearing on Laramie, Rawhide, and Bonanza. He also appeared in only two feature films--Geronimo in 1962 and Brighty of the Canyon in 1967. Conway was a confirmed bachelor, though linked to the actress Pamela Duncan at one point, and enjoyed solitary pursuits such as sailing. He was a partner in a Palm Springs motel with other actors Hugh O'Brian, Dennis Weaver, and Carolyn Jones. Though some actors remember him as being helpful and a true professional, Boyd Magers' Western Clippings web site says that one stuntman who worked on Tombstone Territory described him as thinking he was another Gary Cooper, and he was a known alcoholic, which very possibly could have led to his death at age 50 on April 24, 1981.

Richard Eastham

Dickinson Swift Eastham was born in Opelousas, Louisiana and first made his mark in the entertainment world as a baritone. While attending Washington University in St. Louis, he sang with the St. Louis Grand Opera, and after a 4-year stint in the Army during World War II, he moved to New York to perform at the New York Theatre Wing. He was the understudy to Ezio Pinza and eventually took over his role as plantation owner Emile DeBecque in the Broadway production of South Pacific, a role that had him starring opposite Mary Martin and later Janet Blair. He also played opposite Ethel Merman in one production of her Call Me Madam, a friendship that landed him his first film role, a non-singing part in There's No Business Like Show Business. He also became good friends with actress Marjorie Lord when they co-starred in a 1955 San Francisco production of Anniversary Waltz. But his wife convinced him to give up his singing career and focus solely on dramatic roles. Besides a singing appearance in 1949 on The Ed Sullivan Show, his dramatic TV debut came in 1955 on Max Liebman Spectaculars and he appeared twice in the series Men of Annapolis in 1957 before landing the role of newspaper editor Harris Claibourne on Tombstone Territory later that year. That same year he appeared in the Bing Crosby feature Man on Fire and as Tombstone Territory was wrapping up he played a circus ringmaster in the Disney film Toby Tyler in 1960.

After Tombstone bit the dust, he found occasional TV guest spots, including 4 appearances on Perry Mason and in the mid-1960s appeared in feature films That Darn Cat!, Not With My Wife You Don't!, and Murderer's Row, one of Dean Martin's Matt Helm spy spoofs. Steady, if not prolific, television work continued into the 1970s on shows like Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and The Streets of San Francisco as well as occasional movie roles, such as in Tom Sawyer. In the late 1970s he found recurring roles as Gen. Philip Blankenship on Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman and as Brinks on the short-lived Salvage 1. As the 70s gave way to the 1980s he appeared on The Waltons and Quincy, M.E. before landing another recurring role as Dr. Howell on Falcon Crest. His last two credits were in a pair of 1991 episodes of Dallas. Later in life he succumbed to Alzheimer's disease and died due to complications therefrom at an assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades at age 89 on July 10, 2005.

Quentin Sondergaard

Little is known about Quentin Charles Sondergaard of Seattle, Washington. He broke into feature films at age 26 in 1951 playing a character named Rambo in Badman's Gold and the bulk of his career was spent in western films and television programs. His TV debut came playing a drug pusher in a 1957 episode of Highway Patrol. The following year he made the first of 24 appearances as Deputy Quint on Tombstone Territory, the only recurring role of his career. While working on Tombstone Territory he had occasional spots on Dragnet, Bat Masterson, and Wagon Train, to name a few, and these supporting appearances continued after Tombstone on Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, and The Wild, Wild West. His last television appearance was on a 1970 episode of Adam-12 and 10 years later he made his last film appearance in the low-budget feature The Ghost Dance. He died at age 59 in Riverside County, California on February 15, 1984.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 13, "Mine Disasters": Donald Murphy (Ben Cabot on The Loretta Young Show) plays mine owner Anson Gurney. Tom London (starred in Six-Shootin' Sheriff, Song of the Buckaroo, and Riders in the Sky) plays itinerant printer Fred Ellis.
Season 3, Episode 14, "Eyewitness": Elisha Cook, Jr. (starred in The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Great Gatsby (1949), and The Killing and played Francis "Ice Pick" Hofstetler on Magnum P.I.) plays saloon sweeper Adam Kirby. King Moody (Starker on Get Smart) plays killer Wallach. Len Lesser (shown on the right, played Uncle Leo on Seinfeld and Garvin on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays Wallach's friend Hugh Dawson.
Season 3, Episode 15, "The Capture": William Phipps (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays outlaw Kyle Dodge. William Tannen (Deputy Hal Norton on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays visiting physician Dr. Buell.
Season 3, Episode 16, "State's Witness": Jan Shepard (shown on the left, played Nurse Betty on Dr. Christian) plays dead gang member's sister Cheri Deger. John Sutton (appeared in Jane Eyre, The Three Musketeers(1948), and The Return of the Fly) plays the unnamed gang leader. Harry Woods (prolific screen villain in feature films such as Jesse James (1927), Conflict, and The Ghost Rider) plays Tombstone physician Doc Cunningham.
Season 3, Episode 17, "The Target": Liam Sullivan (Major Mapoy on The Monroes, Dr. Joseph Lerner on The Young and the Restless, and Mr. Willis on Knots Landing) plays rancher Douglas Jason. Warren Oates (starred in In the Heat of the Night, The Wild Bunch, and Stripes and played Ves Painter on Stoney Burke) plays his gunman Vic Reel. Mickey Simpson (Boley on Captain David Grief) plays Jason henchman Jess. Frank Warren (Officer Simpson on Highway Patrol and Art Crowley on The Andy Griffith Show) plays Hollister's deputy Pete.
Season 3, Episode 18, "The Bride": Byron Morrow (Capt. Keith Gregory on The New Breed, the judge 5 times on Perry Mason, and Pearce Newberry on Executive Suite) plays Claibourne's chess opponent Bert Magraw. Linda Lawson (shown on the right, played Renee on Adventures in Paradise, Pat Perry on Don't Call Me Charlie, and Laura Fremont on Ben Casey) plays his new bride Jeannie. Edson Stroll (Virgil Edwards on McHale's Navy) plays edgy stranger Vince Sanders. Ken Christy (Bill Franklin on Meet Corliss Archer) plays an unnamed old timer.
Season 3, Episode 19, "Female Killer": 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 convicted killer Renee Carter. Don C. Harvey (Collins on Rawhide) plays her boyfriend Frank Fallon. Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley on Dallas) plays Fallon's robbery accomplice Blake. Ken Drake (Bragan on Not for Hire) plays Pantano Marshal Dave.
Season 3, Episode 20, "The Lady Lawyer": Kathie Browne (shown on the left, played Angie Dow on Hondo and was Darren McGavin's second wife) plays attorney Gay Monahan. Regis Toomey (starred in Alibi, Other Men's Women, The Finger Points, His Girl Friday, and The Big Sleep and played Joe Mulligan on The Mickey Rooney Show, Lt. Manny Waldo on Four Star Playhouse, Lt. McGough on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Det. Les Hart on Burke's Law, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres) plays mine foreman Feeny Spindler. James Westerfield (appeared in The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Love God? and played John Murrel on The Travels of Jamie McPheeters) plays mine owner Big Jim Gerson.
Season 3, Episode 21, "Silver Killers": Constance Ford (starred in A Summer Place, Home From the Hill, All Fall Down, and The Caretakers and played Ada Lucas Davis Downs McGowan Hobson on Another World) plays saloon owner Lily Murdock. James Seay (see the biography section in the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays her right-hand man Matt. Hank Patterson (Fred Ziffel on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction and Hank on Gunsmoke) plays old silver miner Tulsa Jack. Paul Sorensen (see "Female Killer" above) plays Lily's henchman Sam. John Mitchum (see the biography section in the 1960 post on Riverboat) plays silver miner Hal Swanson.
Season 3, Episode 22, "Holcomb Brothers": Harry Carey, Jr. (shown on the right, starred in Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Mister Roberts, and The Searchers and played Bill Burnett on The Adventures of Spin and Marty) plays Quartz Hill Marshal Vern Fawcett. Howard Petrie (Hugh Blaine on Bat Masterson) plays his father Gabe. Robert Anderson (Park Street, Jr. on The Court of Last Resort and Aeneas MacLinahan on Wichita Town) plays outlaw Hunk Holcomb.
Season 3, Episode 23, "Young Killers": Bern Hoffman (Sam the bartender on Bonanza) plays outlaw uncle Ben Hoskins. Frank Warren (see "The Target" above) plays Hollister's Deputy Pete.
Season 3, Episode 24, "Coded Newspaper": Kent Taylor (Carlos Murietta on Zorro and Capt. Jim Flagg on The Rough Riders) plays mine manager John Whittaker.
Season 3, Episode 25, "Memory": Allison Hayes (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays bank robber Liz Dolthan. Charles Maxwell (Special Agent Joe Carey on I Led 3 Lives and was the voice of the radio announcer on Gilligan's Island) plays her partner Jud Packard. Walter Burke (starred in All the King's Men, Jack the Giant Killer, and Support Your Local Sheriff! and played Tim Potter on Black Saddle) plays blackmailer Harry Ames. Robert Williams (Mr. Dorfman on Dennis the Menace) plays Wells Fargo employee Sam Wade. Bill Hickman (stunt driver who drove in the epic chase scenes in Bullitt!, The French Connection, and The Seven-Ups) plays poker player Todd.
Season 3, Episode 26, "Revenge": Andrew Prine (starred in The Miracle Worker, The Devil's Brigade, Bandolero!, and Chisum and played Andy Guthrie on The Wide Country, Dr. Roger Helvick on Dr. Kildare, Timothy Pride on The Road West, Dan Costello on W.E.B., and Wayne/Wyatt Donnelly on Weird Science) plays vengeful son Noah Bell. June Blair (shown on the right, David Nelson's wife in real life and on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Julie Greer on Two Faces West) plays his sister Lady. Mary Anderson (starred in Bahama Passage, The Song of Bernadette, and Lifeboat and played Catherine Harrington on Peyton Place) plays hotel owner Nellie Cashman.
Season 3, Episode 27, "The Hostage": Keith Larsen (Bart Adams on The Hunter, Brave Eagle on Brave Eagle, Maj. Robert Rogers on Northwest Passage, and Drake Andrews on The Aquanauts) plays condemned man's brother John Edwards.
Season 3, Episode 28, "The Governor": 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 Arizona Territory Governor Armstrong. William Conrad (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Rocky and His Friends) plays outlaw Frank Banter. Don Eitner (Dr. Richard Winfield on Dynasty) plays henchman Stark.
Season 3, Episode 29, "The Kidnapping": Leo Gordon (Big Mike McComb on Maverick) plays bank robber Ben Jensen. Tony Young (Cord on Gunslinger) plays his accomplice Todd. Don Eitner (Dr. Richard Winfield on Dynasty) plays henchman Stark.
Season 3, Episode 31, "The Fortune": Charles Aidman (narrator on the 1985-87 version of The Twilight Zone) plays escaped convict Chuck Eggleston.
Season 3, Episode 32, "The Innocent Man": John Doucette (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lock Up) plays Sonoita Sheriff Eli Parsons. Ron Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays his deputy Hank McQueen. Guy Stockwell (Chris Parker on Adventures in Paradise) plays escaped convict Tom Holden. Ken Mayer (Maj. Robbie Robertson on Space Patrol) plays escaped convict Callahan. Barney Elmore (Chauffeur Parkins on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays escaped convict Seth Wheeler. Anne Dore (actress who doubled for Anthony Perkins in the shower stabbing scene in Psycho) plays an unnamed mine owner.
Season 3, Episode 34, "The Return of Kansas Joe": Robert F. Simon (shown on the left, see "The Governor" above) returns as Governor Armstrong. Warren Stevens (starred in The Frogmen, The Barefoot Contessa, Deadline U.S.A., and Forbidden Planet, played Lt. William Storm on Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers, and was the voice of John Bracken on Bracken's World) plays Lt. Governor Owens. Ed Nelson (Michael Rossi on Peyton Place and Ward Fuller on The Silent Force) plays ex-convict Kansas Joe Barton.
Season 3, Episode 35, "Betrayal": Robert Gist (directed multiple episodes of Peter Gunn, Naked City, and The Richard Boone Show and was Agnes Moorehead's second husband) plays wounded bank robber Lafe Jackson. Forrest Lewis (Mr. Peavey on The Great Gildersleeve) plays rancher Jeb Collins.
Season 3, Episode 36, "The Treaty": Dehl Berti (Vittorio on Buck James and John Taylor on Guns of Paradise) plays Apache renegade Manitou. John Gallaudet (Chamberlain on Mayor of the Town, Judge Penner on Perry Mason, and Bob Anderson on My Three Sons) plays U.S. Army Capt. MacIntyre.
Season 3, Episode 38, "The Injury": Dyan Cannon (shown on the right, starred in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Shamus, Heaven Can Wait, Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Deathtrap and played Judge Jennifer Cone on Ally McBeal and Ally and Honey Bernstein-Flynn on Three Sisters) plays Hollister's girlfriend Tracy Travers. Willis Bouchey (Mayor Terwilliger on The Great Gildersleeve, Springer on Pete and Gladys, and the judge 23 times on Perry Mason) plays her father. Marshall Reed (Inspector Fred Asher on The Lineup) plays vengeful brother Ed Keel.
Season 3, Episode 39, "Crime Epidemic": 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 rancher Will Gunther. Ralph Taeger (Mike Halliday on Klondike, Patrick Malone on Acapulco, and Hondo Lane on Hondo) plays bank robber Horn Burnett.
Season 3, Episode 40, "Juan Diega": Gregory Walcott (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on 87th Precinct) plays notorious criminal Bert Taggert. Roberto Contreras (Pedro on The High Chapparal) plays Diega henchman Vincente.


  1. This is my favorite old tv show.

  2. My favorite TV western well done and a wonderful cast in gorgeous Pat Conway and Richard Eastham.

  3. In my top 5 TV western series of all time. Patrick is beautiful and such a good actor. He was a better actor than Coop (who always played himself), there. to Bill Catching, the stuntman who made the nasty comment. I wish Patrick had stayed in westerns, he would have been great.

    1. I agree and there was no evidence that Conway was an alcoholic. Bill Catching had a good rep in the business but stunt men really don't like it when actors do their own stunts. Maybe that had something to do with his comment

  4. I just watched the one where the Sheriff was taking the "Maytag Repairman" Jessie White in for trial. Yeah, they're a mite hokey & squeaky clean (both the plots & their clothes), but they're a nice way to wile away an afternoon.