Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bronco (1961)

As Bronco moved through the second half of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4 in 1961, nothing really changed from the previous year--former Confederate soldier Bronco Layne continued to drift about the west, often called by an old friend to help deal with a difficult situation ("The Invaders," January 23, 1961 and "Guns of the Lawless," May 8, 1961), assigned by a territorial government to escort a detainee to prison ("The Buckbrier Trail," February 20, 1961), or summoned to help bring in a fugitive who happens to be an old army commander of his ("Manitoba Manhunt," April 3, 1961). Sometimes we find him already working as a buffalo hunter ("Yankee Tornado," March 13, 1961), as the sheriff of Silver City ("The Cousin From Atlanta," October 16, 1961), or as a deputy ("The Harrigan," December 25, 1961). And then occasionally he just wanders into trouble, as in "Stage to the Sky" (April 24, 1961) when he rides up just in time to stop a lynching but then becomes the target of various attempted assaults for defending the intended lynching victim. One thing remains constant, however--Bronco will never have the same job from week to week or settle down anywhere for any length of time, though he contemplates marriage and a ranching life in "One Came Back" (November 27, 1961) only to have his bride-to-be take a bullet to save him from her criminal former boyfriend, a fate as predictable as all the other plots in the typical Warner Brothers recycling factory.

As we mentioned in our post on the 1960 episodes, it seems as if Warner was aware of how mundane their plots were because they kept introducing historical figures into them in an attempt to spur interest, a tactic that became terribly predictable itself, particularly since they continued to recycle the same historical figures, sometimes with the same actors playing the roles, such as the case of Peter Breck playing a pre-presidential Teddy Roosevelt in "Yankee Tornado." Warner had already used Breck to play Roosevelt in the 1960 Sugarfoot episode "Man From Medora," and as if to cement the repetition Will Hutchins appears as Tom Brewster in "Yankee Tornado" as well. Also predictably they twist historical facts for the sake of the story, and in this case a cliched story at that. In this episode Roosevelt travels to the Badlands of Montana to hunt and to take up cattle ranching. He encounters Bronco, working as a buffalo hunter to supply meat to a crew building a railroad across the territory, when they both claim to have shot the same mountain goat. It's curious why Bronco would shoot a mountain goat when he is being paid to hunt buffalo, but the two men keep bumping into each other until Roosevelt helps uncover that the railroad mogul for whom Bronco is working is actually killing many more buffalo than he needs because his real ambition is to drive out the Native Americans and take over the entire territory for his own personal profit. Had they made his ultimate goal to take over the world it would not have been much more far-fetched. Roosevelt shows his conservationist principles by opposing the unnecessary slaughter of the buffalo and wins over Bronco's support at the expense of his job, and the two eventually expose the mogul's evil scheme and defeat him. In real life Roosevelt traveled to Montana in 1883 to hunt bison himself but found that they had already been almost wiped out by commercial hunters. He decided to instead get into cattle ranching because it was beginning to boom with herds being driven north from Texas to take advantage of the now nearly empty grasslands, only this, too, became oversaturated and Roosevelt eventually felt that the cattle business in Montana had become unsustainable because the overabundance of cattle overgrazed the grasslands. His investment in the cattle business was eventually wiped out by the harsh winter of 1886-87 wherein some 80% of the cattle population died from the cold. His time in Montana, spent during legislative breaks over the course of a few years, did inspire his later push for nature conservation measures, but he didn't foil the machinations of any prospective despots. Another painful anachronism in this episode is when Roosevelt tells Bronco while drinking in a saloon that he needs to remember his motto "Walk softly and carry a big stick." Roosevelt did not publicly acknowledge his fondness for the South African expression "Speak softly and carry a big stick" until 1900, some 17 years after the events depicted in "Yankee Tornado."

Another favorite historical figure, not only in Warner Brothers westerns but other western series as well, is actor Edwin Booth, older brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, who is the central character in "Prince of Darkness" (November 6, 1961) and is played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., star of Warner's most popular series at the time 77 Sunset Strip. Warner's had already mined the Edwin Booth story in a 1959 episode of Colt .45 whose star character is assigned to protect Booth from a death threat. In 1960 the non-Warner Brothers series Death Valley Days featured Booth in the episode "His Brother's Keeper" in which Booth is touring the west giving performances and is threatened to be run out of Downeyville, California by a bully. The real-life Booth did tour California as part of his father's troupe in 1852, but any performances out west immediately following his brother's assassination of President Lincoln appear to be fabrications because Booth was so stricken by his brother's act in 1865 that he abandoned acting until a return to the stage in January 1866 at the Winter Garden Theatre in Manhattan. Booth appears to have spent most of his time over the next 8 years in New York not only performing but also running his own theatre beginning in 1869. After being forced into bankruptcy in 1874, Booth resumed touring the world to rebuild his fortune. In the Bronco episode "Prince of Darkness" Booth is recruited at the request of President Ulysses S. Grant to infiltrate and help bring to justice an insurrectionist Confederate gang plotting to overthrow the U.S. government from their headquarters in Virginia City, Nevada. Bronco is also recruited to serve as Booth's bodyguard and sympathizer when he expresses anti-government sentiments in an attempt to invite contact from the insurrectionists. His past as a soldier in the Confederate army supposedly will make him more believable as a Confederate ally. As it turns out, Booth was tangentially involved in a Confederate terrorist plot, but it took place in New York on November 25, 1864 before his brother killed Lincoln. While Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth, and their brother Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. were performing on stage together for the first time in a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to raise money for erecting a statue of Shakespeare in Central Park, a group of Confederates who had snuck into the North via Canada initially to disrupt the November 8 presidential election. When this failed, two and a half weeks later they set fires in 19 hotels, a theatre, and the P.T. Barnum Museum to cause panic and as revenge for Sherman's burning of the South. When the fire alarms went off in the theater during the performance due to one of the fires being set in the Lafarge House Hotel next door, Edwin Booth reassured the audience from the stage that a small fire had broken out at the hotel but was already contained, thereby preventing a panic stampede that could have been disastrous for the crowd of 2000. The performance resumed without incident, and it was only later that the crowd learned of the attack that had been squelched, though Edwin and John Wilkes got into an argument two days later at Edwin's house when John Wilkes defended the attacks. Edwin ordered John Wilkes to leave his house, but the younger brother had the last word less than 5 months later. The actual events in this story would have made a more compelling episode than the grandiose plot in "Prince of Darkness," but it would have required some sort of implausible angle to place Bronco in New York City before the Civil War.

But the most far-fetched episode featuring historical figures is "The Equalizer" (December 18, 1961) in which Bronco is recruited by U.S. Marshal John Heyes to ensure that a truce between outlaws Butch Cassidy and Bill Doolin is kept in order that Cassidy's niece can marry Doolin's younger brother Bob, played by a young Jack Nicholson. Other than the fact that they both led gangs dubbed "The Wild Bunch," there is no historical connection between these two men. In fact, Doolin formed his Wild Bunch with Emmet Dalton in 1892, while Cassidy formed his gang after release from prison in 1896, the same year Doolin would be shot to death on August 24. There is no record that the men ever met, much less joined their families by marriage. But then tall tales are the backbone of the myth of the Old West whose believability is about as convincing as the outdoor sets on the Warner Brothers backlot.

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

The Actors

For the biography of Ty Hardin, see the 1960 post on Bronco.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 4, "Ordeal at Dead Tree": Frank Ferguson (shown on the near left, played Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays Tres Cruces, New Mexico Marshal Bob Harrod. Dorothy Neumann (Miss Mittleman on Hank) plays his wife Prudence. Merry Anders (shown on the far left, played Joyce Erwin on The Stu Erwin Show, Val Marlowe on It's Always Jan, Mike McCall on How to Marry a Millionaire, and Policewoman Dorothy Miller on Dragnet 1967) plays their helper Lucy Follett. Richard Reeves (Mr. Murphy on Date With the Angels) plays outlaw Jake Welty. Stephen Joyce (Bubba Wadsworth on Texas and Admiral Walter Strichen on Wiseguy) plays his brother Phil. Norman Alden (Grundy on Not for Hire, Johnny Ringo on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Captain Horton on Rango, Tom Williams on My Three Sons, Coach Leroy Fedders on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Al Cassidy on Fay) plays his brother Shad. Alfred Shelly (Ed Carney on The D.A.'s Man) plays his brother Burt.
Season 3, Episode 5, "The Invaders": Walter Sande (appeared in To Have and Have Not, A Place in the Sun, and Bad Day at Black Rock and played Capt. Horatio Bullwinkle on The Adventures of Tugboat Annie and Papa Holstrum on The Farmer's Daughter) plays Peaceful, Arizona Marshal Steve Durrock. Shirley Knight (starred in Ice Palace, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Sweet Bird of Youth, Dutchman, and As Good as It Gets and played Mrs. Newcomb on Buckskin, Estelle Winters on Maggie Winters, and Phyllis Van De Kamp on Desperate Housewives) plays his daughter Molly. Gary Vinson (Chris Higbee on The Roaring '20's, George Christopher on McHale's Navy, and Sheriff Harold Skiles on Pistols 'n' Petticoats) plays Molly's boyfriend Clay Dawson. Gerald Mohr (narrator on 19 episodes of The Lone Ranger, Christopher Storm on Foreign Intrigue, and voice of Mr. Fantastic and Reed Richards on Fantastic 4) plays gold thief Mace Tilsey. Max Baer, Jr. (Jethro and Jethrine Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays one of Tilsey's gang members. Joan Marshall (Sailor Duval on Bold Venture) plays saloon owner Lucille Masters. Robert Colbert (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Maverick) plays her fiance Capt. Jamison. Jimmy Lydon (starred in Tom Brown's School Days, Little Men, Joan of Arc, and 9 Henry Aldrich features and played Biff Cardoza on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Andy Boone on So This Is Hollywood, and Richard on Love That Jill) plays telegraph operator Shorty Dolan.
Season 3, Episode 6, "The Buckbrier Trail": Paul Birch (Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays Marshal Pete Kilgore. Ray Danton (shown on the left, starred in Chief Crazy Horse, Onionhead, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, The George Raft Story, and Portrait of a Mobster and played Nifty Cronin on The Alaskans) plays undercover agent Fred Larkin. 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 Norton Gillespie. Mike Road (Marshal Tom Sellers on Buckskin, Lt. Joe Switolski on The Roaring 20's, and provided the voice for Race Bannon on Johnny Quest and Ugh on Space Ghost) plays imposter Lt. Blyden. Charles Seel (Otis the Bartender on Tombstone Territory, Mr. Krinkie on Dennis the Menace, and Tom Pride on The Road West) plays a hotel clerk. George Selk (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Gunsmoke) plays livery man Eddie.
Season 3, Episode 7, "Yankee Tornado": Peter Breck (shown on the right, played Clay Culhane on Black Saddle, Doc Holliday on Maverick, and Nick Barkley on The Big Valley) plays a pre-presidential Theodore Roosevelt. Tom London (starred in Six-Shootin' Sheriff, Song of the Buckaroo, and Riders in the Sky) plays his guide Rowdy O'Brien. Tristram Coffin (Lt. Doyle on The Files of Jeffrey Jones and Capt. Tom Rynning on 26 Men) plays land-grabber George Mayfield. 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 his second-in-command Henry Paddock. Lee Van Cleef (starred in High Noon, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) plays railroad foreman Shanghai Williams. Whitney Blake (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Hazel) plays saloon owner Julie. Will Hutchins (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Sugarfoot) plays Bronco's friend Tom Brewster. Henry Hunter (Doctor Summerfield on Hazel) plays the Montana governor.
Season 3, Episode 8, "Manitoba Manhunt": Richard Garland (Clay Horton on Lassie) plays fugitive bank robber Dana Powell. Jacqueline Beer (shown on the left, appeared in Pillow Talk, The Prize, and Made in Paris and played Suzanna Fabry on 77 Sunset Strip) plays his wife Celeste. Judson Pratt (Billy Kinkaid on Union Pacific) plays bank examiner Marlow. John Baer (Terry Lee on Terry and the Pirates) plays his partner Coil. Patrick Whyte (Colonel Standish on Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers and Theodore Dowell on Peyton Place) plays Mountie Insp. Fraser. Jackie Searl (began as a child actor, appearing in Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn (1931), Alice in Wonderland (1933), Great Expectations(1934), and Little Lord Fauntleroy) plays trapper Joe Spaulding.
Season 3, Episode 9, "Stage to the Sky": Kent Taylor (Carlos Murietta on Zorro and Capt. Jim Flagg on The Rough Riders) plays preacher Billy Rawlins. Joan Marshall (see "The Invaders" above) plays his wife Molly. Bing Russell (shown on the right, father of Kurt Russell, played Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza) plays his brother Johnny. Richard Reeves (see "Ordeal at Dead Tree" above) plays Johnny's sidekick Riley. Denver Pyle (see "The Buckbrier Trail" above) plays saloon owner Nelson. Gail Bonney (Goodwife Martin on Space Patrol and Madeline Schweitzer on December Bride) plays Raven citizen Mrs. Johnson.
Season 3, Episode 10, "Guns of the Lawless": Morris Ankrum (starred in Rocketship X-M, Invaders From Mars, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, and The Giant Claw and played the judge 22 times on Perry Mason) plays ranch owner Gilbert Groves. Denver Pyle (shown on the left, see "The Buckbrier Trail" above) plays his former partner Petrie Munger. Olive Sturgess (Carol Henning on The Bob Cummings Show) plays Munger's daughter Virginia. Corey Allen (went on to direct multiple episodes of Dr. Kildare, Police Woman, Dallas, Hunter, and Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays Munger's foreman Judd Gander. John A. Alonso (cinematographer on Vanishing Point, Harold and Maude, Lady Sings the Blues, Chinatown, Scarface, Steel Magnolias, and Star Trek: Generations) plays Gander's sidekick Tony Gomez. Tom Fadden (Duffield on Broken Arrow, Silas Perry on Cimarron City, and Ben Miller on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction) plays old ranch hand Pop Kelly. Harry Harvey (Sheriff Tom Blodgett on The Roy Rogers Show, Mayor George Dixon on Man Without a Gun, and Houghton Stott on It's a Man's World) plays physician Doc Clement. Kenneth MacDonald (played the judge 32 times on Perry Mason, played Col. Parker on Colt .45, and appeared in several Three Stooges shorts) plays lawman Sheriff Lem Pritt.
Season 4, Episode 1, "The Cousin From Atlanta": Anne Helm (Molly Pierce on Run for Your Life) plays Bronco's cousin Amanda Layne. Joseph Gallison (Dr. Neil Curtis on Days of Our Lives) plays young gunman Tony Dancer. Stephen Mines (David Martin on Days of Our Lives and Dr. Paul Stewart on As the World Turns) plays suitor George Ardmore. Billy M. Greene (Skrag on Captain Video and His Video Rangers) plays prospector Shad. John Beradino (shown on the right, former major league baseball player, played Special Agent Steve Daniels on I Led 3 Lives, Sgt. Vince Cavelli on The New Breed, and Dr. Steve Hardy on General Hospital) plays Dancer's partner Ross Kincaid. Emory Parnell (Hawkins on The Life of Riley and Hank the bartender on Lawman) plays Swedish farmer Olaf Jorgeson. Gary Vinson (see "The Invaders" above) plays his son Johansen. Richard Benedict (appeared in A Walk in the Sun, Crossfire, and Ace in the Hole and directed multiple episodes of Hawaiian Eye, Run for Your Life, Ironside, Medical Center, Police Story, and Hawaii Five-O) plays saloon owner Logan.
Season 4, Episode 2, "Prince of Darkness": Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (shown on the left, played Dandy Jim Buckley on Maverick, Stuart Bailey on 77 Sunset Strip, Insp. Lewis Erskine on The F.B.I., Daniel Chalmers on Remington Steele, Charles Cabot on Hotel, and Don Alejandro de la Vega on Zorro) plays actor Edwin Booth. Byron Keith (Lt. Gilmore on 77 Sunset Strip and Mayor Linseed on Batman) plays soldier Col. Bart Traver. John Howard (Dr. Wayne Hudson on Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal, Commander John "Pliny" Hawk on Adventures of the Sea Hawk, Dave Welch on My Three Sons, and Cliff Patterson on Days of Our Lives) plays insurrectionist Andrew Millard. Denver Pyle (see "The Buckbrier Trail" above) plays prominent citizen William Mason. Jason Evers (starred in The Brain That Wouldn't Die, House of Women, The Green Berets, and Escape From the Planet of the Apes and played Pitcairn on Wrangler, Prof. Joseph Howe on Channing, and Jim Sonnett on The Guns of Will Sonnett) plays guilt-ridden soldier Sgt. Henry Riley. Larry J. Blake (played the unnamed jailer on Yancy Derringer and Tom Parnell on Saints and Sinners) plays newspaper editorialist Tom Lafferty. Clark Howat (Dr. John Petrie on The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu and the police dispatcher on Harbor Command) plays Millard co-conspirator Sheriff Penrose.
Season 4, Episode 3, "One Came Back": Robert McQueeney (Conley Wright on The Gallant Men) plays bank robber Jeremy Clay. Karen Steele (starred in Marty, Westbound, and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond) plays his girlfriend Vicky Norton. Kenneth MacDonald (see "Guns of the Lawless" above) plays Angel City Sheriff Elliott. William Bryant (McCall on Combat!, President Ulysses S. Grant on Branded, Col. Crook on Hondo, Lt. Shilton on Switch, and the Director on The Fall Guy) plays Pinkerton agent Sgt. Willoughby. Francis de Sales (shown on the right, played Lt. Bill Weigand on Mr. & Mrs. North, Ralph Dobson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Sheriff Maddox on Two Faces West, and Rusty Lincoln on Days of Our Lives) plays Smithfield Sheriff Massey. Paul Keast (Nathaniel Carter on Casey Jones) plays banker Mr. Anderson. 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 a stagecoach driver.
Season 4, Episode 4, "The Equalizer": Steve Brodie (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy. Sheldon Allman (Norm Miller on Harris Against the World) plays his sworn enemy Billy Doolin. Jack Nicholson (shownon the near left with actress Toby Michaels, starred in Five Easy Pieces, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chinatown, The Shining, and Terms of Endearment and played Jaime Angel on Dr. Kildare) plays Doolin's younger brother Bob. Frank Albertson (starred in Alice Adams, Man Made Monster, and It's a Wonderful Life and played Mr. Cooper on Bringing Up Buddy) plays Painted Rock Sheriff Steve Gage. Harry Lauter (Ranger Clay Morgan on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Atlasande on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and Jim Herrick on Waterfront) plays businessman Jim Morgan. Marie Windsor (starred in Outpost in Morocco, Dakota Lil, Cat-Women of the Moon, Swamp Women, and The Day Mars Invaded Earth) plays saloon owner Belle Logan. Jack Elam (Deputy J.D. Smith on The Dakotas, George Taggart on Temple Houston, Zack Wheeler on The Texas Wheelers, and Uncle Alvin Stevenson on Easy Street) plays troublemaker Toothy Thompson. James Seay (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays U.S. Marshal John Heyes. Donald "Red" Barry (played Red Ryder in the movie serial The Adventures of Red Ryder, and played Lt. Snedigar on Surfside 6, The Grand Vizier and Tarantula on Batman, Capt. Red Barnes on Police Woman, and Jud Larabee on Little House on the Prairie) plays Cassidy gunman Luke Mace. Johnny Seven (Lt. Carl Reese on Ironside) plays Doolin gunman Dave Ward.
Season 4, Episode 5, "The Harrigan": Sean McClory (Jack McGivern on The Californians and Myles Delaney on Bring 'Em Back Alive) plays Clanton Pass deputy Terrance Harrigan. Ken Lynch (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Checkmate) plays Clanton Pass Sheriff Wallace. Jack Cassidy (Tony Award-winning father of David and Shaun Cassidy and husband of Shirley Jones, played Oscar North on He & She) plays Black Hills Gang leader Edward Miller. Wright King (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Wanted Dead or Alive) plays his brother Allen. Kathie Browne (Angie Dow on Hondo and was Darren McGavin's second wife) plays their sister Heather. 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 Miller's informant Gambler. George O'Hanlon (shown on the right, played Joe McDoakes in dozens of shorts with titles that begin with So You Want or So You Think, played Calvin Dudley on The Life of Riley, Artie Burns on The Reporter, and was the voice of George Jetson on The Jetsons) plays piano player Albany Ames. Clyde Howdy (Hank Whitfield on Lassie) plays a Black Hills gang gunman.

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