Monday, August 30, 2021

Stoney Burke (1962)


Even though TV westerns were declining in popularity by 1962, the genre was still considered attractive enough that while older series such as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Lawman, and Sugarfoot were being put out to pasture, new series were still being developed to take their place. For a glimpse at the changing landscape for westerns, one need only compare the Nielsen viewership ratings for 1961-62 with those for 1962-63: in 1961-62, the top three programs were Wagon Train, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke; for 1962-63, they were The Beverly Hillbillies, Candid Camera, and The Red Skelton Show, with Bonanza dropping to 4th, Gunsmoke to 10th, and Wagon Train to 25th. Another former top 3 program, Have Gun--Will Travel--dropped all the way to 29th, and the lavishly produced and much-publicized new western epic, The Virginian, debuted only at number 26, all of which demonstrates that the old west series was fading. (Bonanza proved to be the exception, topping the ratings for three straight seasons from 1964-67.) Enter the contemporary western, and in particular Stoney Burke, which was one of two modern-setting westerns based on the rodeo circuit (the other being The Wide Country) to debut in the fall of 1962. Rodeo was on the upswing in popularity as a sport. The first National Finals Rodeo was held in Dallas, Texas in 1959. The following year CBS broadcast the event on television. In 1961 the National High School Rodeo Association was formed to extend rodeo interest and participation to a younger demographic. In 1962, the National Finals Rodeo was moved to Los Angeles, placing the event and its fans smack in the middle of the film community, and the College Finals Rodeo was broadcast that year on ABC's Wild World of Sports. The sport was also the subject of 1962 episodes of Dr. Kildare in "The Bronc-Buster" (March 1, 1962) in which Kildare meets and tries to help his rodeo rider cousin, and Route 66 in "A Long Piece of Mischief" (January 19, 1962) in which Tod and Buz come to the aid of a rodeo clown being tormented by a pair of cruel rodeo riders. Given this environment, it was perhaps inevitable that someone, or multiple someones, would decide to create an entire series on the rodeo.

Enter Leslie Stevens, a relatively young and hot scriptwriter (The Left Handed Gun) who had broken into the business writing for drama anthology TV series before moving into feature films in 1960 with Private Property, developed to showcase his actress wife Kate Manx (and which co-starred Stoney Burke regular Warren Oates), followed by the Susan Hayward vehicle The Marriage-Go-Round in 1961. Stevens launched his own production company, Daystar, and set about developing his first TV series, which would become Stoney Burke with veteran but not yet a star Jack Lord in the lead role supported by young up-and-coming actors Oates, Bruce Dern, and Robert Dowdell. Stevens recruited 6-time bronc riding national champion Casey Tibbs as his technical advisor and Lord's stunt double on the most demanding rides, though Lord could handle himself on a horse that wasn't trying to throw him. The rodeo scenes were filmed at Bonelli Stadium, aka Saugus Speedway, and according to an interview with Dowdell in the May 1963 issue of TV Star Parade Magazine the animals used in the filming were just as dangerous as depicted in the scripts. Dowdell recounts one incident in which Lord was mounted aboard a bucking bronc in the chute when the horse smashed him against the fence and nearly killed him, just as depicted for another character in the pilot episode "The Contender' (October 1, 1962). Speaking of that pilot episode, it follows an odd trajectory in which Dowdell's character, Cody Bristol, serves as Burke's adversary after his brother is killed aboard his horse in the chute, and he accuses Burke of being responsible for not restraining the animal properly and then being slow to extract his injured brother from the chute. Yet by episode's end, Bristol changes his opinion of Burke and the two become close friends, with Bristol serving as part of Burke's entourage for the rest of the series. The pilot also includes an extraneous flirtation between Burke and Stevens' wife Kate Manx. But the real drama of the episode centers around Burke being signed by a promoter who is happy to set him up with fancy duds and a gaudy Cadillac convertible with tooled leather seats and longhorns on the hood until he breaks his collarbone when a vicious horse lands on him, after which the promoter abandons him. The episode also introduces Oates as Burke's boyhood friend Ves Painter, a duplicitous, mercenary wag willing to sell anyone out for a buck but whom the stalwart Burke never completely dismisses.( In fact, Oates as Painter provides the most colorful aspect of the program, much more so than Lord as the bolt upright Burke.) But while this and the other 12 episodes that aired in 1962 have their fair share of stock rodeo footage, staged, unconvincing simulated scenes of Lord supposedly atop a bucking bronc (which are as real as Frankie Avalon surfing in his beach party movies), and authentic, newly shot footage of the principals participating in the chutes before and after Casey Tibbs' rides, the program isn't really about the rodeo, which in and of itself consists of similar-looking 8- to 12-second rides atop an animal that doesn't like what is being done to it. As TV Guide critic Gilbert Seldes observes in his review of the program in the November 10, 1962 issue, "I have come up with the not exactly startling conclusion that the horses and the steers and the bow-legged men who ride the one and wrestle the other are all background for what's generally known as the Human Drama." And in the case of Stoney Burke, that drama consists of the title character remaining steadfastly pure of morals despite all the falls and double dealings of those around him, because at its heart the program is like a modern-day rodeo version of The Pilgrim's Progress. Burke's destination and ultimate salvation is the Golden Buckle awarded to the top bronc rider each season. In his pursuit of his goal, he is tempted by many people and circumstances that threaten his quest.

Early obstacles in the series consist of competing sports that vie for the public's attention or the same arena. In the second episode, "Fight Night" (October 8, 1962), boxing heavies attempt to sabotage the rodeo scheduled to take place on the same night in Kade City. Televised boxing was a very popular sport at the time, as often depicted on other series either with a fist fight between the hero and his adversary, or in the sit-com realm with wives bemoaning or struggling to get the attention of their husbands glued to the boob tube while a fight is on. So this second Stoney Burke sets up boxing, long known for its corruption, as the bad guys and the pure rodeo hero Stoney Burke as the good guy, with Ves Painter playing both sides for maximum advantage. The story ends with Stoney giving a lecture to the Police Commissioner (pro-boxing) and Health Commissioner (pro-rodeo) to settle their differences rather than drawing everyone else into their petty squabbles in which someone is bound to get hurt. In the series' fifth episode, "The Mob Riders" (October 29, 1962), the rodeo men have to battle stock car drivers for use of the same arena, only this time Stoney winds up siding with the renegade wheel jockeys who are being shut out by corrupt city officials over a pending real estate deal. To Gilbert Seldes' point, there never is a rodeo staged in this episode; it's only purpose is to depict Stoney as a crusader for the downtrodden.

The other episodes recycle shopworn plots and tread on other genres' turf but fail to provide much in the way of originality. "Child of Luxury" (October 15, 1962) depicts a spoiled rich girl who thinks she can own Stoney just be snapping her fingers, while "Point of Honor" (October 22, 1962) gives us a warped southern "gentleman" with a distorted grasp of family honor. "Sidewinder" (November 12, 1962) and "The Scavenger" (November 19, 1962) are murder mysteries that trample into Perry Mason territory when Stoney has to exonerate himself and then Ves Painter from charges of murder. In "Spin a Golden Web" (November 26, 1962) Stoney has to resist the temptation of easy wealth and a life of leisure when an uber-wealthy financier tries to make him part of his collection, the same temptation Buz Murdock of Route 66 has to resist in the 1962 episode "You Never Had It So Good" (February 23, 1962). "Five by Eight by Eight" (December 10, 1962) is your typical desperate convict takes hostages thriller also seen on Route 66 in 1962 in "Welcome to the Wedding" (November 8, 1962). "Cousin Eunice" (December 24, 1962) borrows the chauvinistic, worn-out story of a tomboy who has to be shown how to be a feminine woman by a man--see, for example, Frontier Circus, "Stopover in Paradise" (February 22, 1962). And "The Wanderer" (December 3, 1962) plays like an episode of Dr. Kildare when Stoney gets embroiled in helping an old friend who is pregnant and about to deliver while her self-absorbed husband has gone AWOL, similar in tone and subject matter to the Dr. Kildare episode "Gravida One" (September 27, 1962). In short, for a hot young writer like Leslie Stevens, who rose to fame on his scripts, the series is lacking in original plot development, trying to rely perhaps too heavily on the novelty of its rodeo trappings or on Jack Lord's charismatic good looks and Stoney Burke's moral purity. The series is still well regarded by its ardent fans, and Stevens would find greater success with his next series, The Outer Limits (despite its similarity to The Twilight Zone), while Lord finally became the big star he had always wanted to be on Hawaii Five-O. And Warren Oates and Bruce Dern, who left the series after the first 17 episodes, didn't fare too badly either. Stoney Burke, however, left the arena after only a single season of 32 episodes.

The main theme and individual episode scores were composed, arranged, and conducted by Dominic Carmen Frontiere, born in New Haven, Connecticut on June 17, 1931. A child prodigy, Frontiere played multiple instruments before choosing the accordion, studying under virtuoso Joseph Biviano at age 7 and performing a solo recital at Carnegie Hall by age 12. At age 18 he succeeded Dick Contino as accordionist in Horace Heidt's big band but left after 3 years to enroll at UCLA in 1952, studying composing and arranging under Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco and Felix Slatkin. During this time he also connected with screen composer Alfred Newman, then head of the music department at 20th Century Fox, and his brother composer Lionel Newman, who both served as his mentors and provided entry into composing for and performing in feature films. Besides providing uncredited arranging for High Noon, Frontiere played accordion (also uncredited) for Niagra, River of No Return, Many Rivers to Cross, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Around the World in 80 Days, High Time, Days of Wine and Roses, and Charade. He was one of the first artists signed to Liberty Records, home to such 1950s stars as Julie London and Martin Denny, and released a series of accordion- and jazz-based albums including a couple in the exotica genre, most notably Pagan Festival. Frontiere first met Leslie Stevens when working on his 1961 feature film The Marriage-Go-Round, and after composing the theme for the 1961 Leslie Nielsen TV cop drama The New Breed, Frontiere was the natural choice for Stevens to hire to compose the music for Stoney Burke.

But Frontiere really struck it big composing and scoring for Stevens' next series, The Outer Limits. His combination of music and sound effects was considered innovative and ahead of its time, paving the way for a long career composing and scoring for television and feature films. He would go on to compose the themes for Branded, The Rat Patrol, 12 O'Clock High, Iron Horse, The Invaders, The Flying Nun, Search, Chopper One, Vega$, Matt Houston, and Trade Winds. In feature films he worked again for Stevens on Hero's Island but had his greatest success with Clint Eastwood's Hang 'Em High, whose theme became a top 10 hit when covered by Booker T & the MGs. Among his many film credits are Chisum, Freebie and the Bean, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, The Gumball Rally, and The Stunt Man, for which he received a Golden Globe. In the 1970s he was head of the music department for Paramount Pictures and composed and/or orchestrated for Dan Fogelberg and Chicago, as well as writing the title theme for the film Modern Problems that was performed by The Tubes. In 1980 he married Georgia Frontiere, owner of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team which she inherited from her previous husband Carroll Rosenbloom when he died in 1979. But in 1986 Dominic was convicted of tax evasion for scalping some 16,000 tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl, which he had acquired through his wife, to gross half a million dollars, which he failed to report as income on his taxes. He served 9 months in prison and paid a fine of $15,000. Upon his release, Georgia filed for divorce, which was finalized in 1988. Other than composing the theme music for Trade Winds in 1993 and composing and conducting for the 1994 Bruce Willis feature film Color of Night, Frontiere's career in Hollywood was largely finished. He retired to New Mexico, reportedly worked on electronic computer-generated music, and died at age 86 on December 21, 2017.

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

The Actors

Jack Lord

Born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in Brooklyn in 1920, Lord grew up in Queens, New York City, the son of a steamship company executive. As a boy he learned to ride horses at his mother's fruit farm in the Hudson River Valley, a skill that would serve him well in filming Stoney Burke years later. During his high school years, he pursued interests in painting and athletics while spending his summers working aboard cargo ships sailing the world, providing him with the opportunity to sketch and paint the various landscapes he saw on his travels. At the age of 18 he sold two lithographs to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and would have his work hung in prestigious galleries such as the Tate in London and the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. After high school he attended the Unites States Merchant Marine Academy and graduated as an ensign with a Third Mates license. During World War II he served 14 months with the Army Corps of Engineers building bridges in Persia before switching back to the Merchant Marines. While enrolled in the deck officer course at Fort Trumbull he took part in making maritime training films, which is when he began thinking about working as an actor. He married his first wife Ann Cicily Ward in 1944 and they had a son, whom he saw only once as a baby, before the couple divorced in 1947 and the son died in 1955 at the age of 12. He attended New York University on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in fine arts, after which he ran an art school in Greenwich Village before deciding to pursue acting as a way to gain exposure that would help sell his artwork. He studied under Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse while working days as a car salesman. In a November 17, 1962 TV Guide cover story Meisner remembered Lord as a very intense pupil who stuck by his own set of principles, while Lord remembered Meisner as having opened him up as an actor and teaching him how to relax during his performances. The article also describes Lord's second wife Marie De Narde as a "young" fashion designer, but she was actually 15 years his senior. According to Lord's secretary Margaret Doversola, Lord met her when he was house hunting in upstate New York. He found a house that he wanted to purchase which belonged to De Narde, who invited him in. They wound up getting married in 1948 and remained married until his death 50 years later. But by the time of the 1962 TV Guide article, his views on making it as an artist had changed significantly: "Art is a sucker's game. A man has to have a fantastic ability for survival." After studying at the Actors Studio along such notables as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Marilyn Monroe, Lord launched his film career in the anti-Communist propaganda movie Project X (aka The Red Menace) in 1949. The following year he starred in and served as associate producer in Cry Murder and had an uncredited appearance in The Tattooed Stranger. He made his television debut in a 1952 episode of The Hunter billed as Jack Ryan. But his stage career began drawing more attention when he made his Broadway debut in 1954 appearing in Horton Foote's The Traveling Lady, for which he won a Theatre World Award. He then replaced Ben Gazzara as Brick in the 1955-56 Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Meanwhile he supplemented his stage work with guest spots on a variety of TV series such as Man Against Crime, Suspense, and Appointment With Adventure. In 1955 he had a supporting role in the Gary Cooper drama The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, and in his 1962 TV Guide interview he cited Cooper as the actor he most sought to emulate--stoic, strong, and humble. But despite the lofty goal of becoming the next Gary Cooper, Lord struggled to break out as a star for several more years despite guest star appearances on popular programs such as Gunsmoke, Have Gun---Will Travel, and The Untouchables along with supporting roles in feature films such as God's Little Acre, Man of the West (again with Gary Cooper), and The Hangman. He finally got his first starring role in a feature film in the 1960 James Clavell-based old western Walk Like a Dragon and was the first to play James Bond ally Felix Leiter in the original bond film Dr. No in 1962. But when Lord then demanded a co-star credit, more screen time, and more money to return as Leiter in Goldfinger, director Guy Hamilton replaced him with Cec Linder. Turns out Lord got his star vehicle on television when creator, writer, and director Leslie Stevens plucked him to play the title character in his new 1962 rodeo western Stoney Burke.

The 1962 TV Guide cover story by Alan Gill portrays Lord as a perhaps overly ambitious go-getter who wants to be "big, big, big!" like his idol Gary Cooper. Gill comments that Lord is Stoney Burke's star--"the only star, at his own insistence"--and quotes an unnamed actor who had worked with Lord as saying, "He could be real good if he wanted to portray a real person instead of a great big star." This same unnamed actor also knocked Lord for trying to be a Renaissance man as an athlete, TV writer, photographer, seafarer, etc. instead of focusing solely on acting: "If he'd concentrate on one thing--and heaven knows he's throwing everything into Stoney--and if he did it with complete honesty, he'd be great. Real bronc riders are mangy, rough, sincere people, not stars." The article also gives Lord's age at the time as 34 when he was really 41, no doubt to avoid diminishing his star appeal to younger demographics. But Stoney Burke did not make Lord a big star, as the show was canceled after a single 32-episode season. One reason Lord dove head first into Stoney Burke after turning down leading roles on Wagon Train and Ben Casey was that he was given 25% ownership of the series, and in a 1969 interview by Jack Major for the Providence Sunday Journal, Lord still bragged about how quickly the show went into syndication after its cancellation and that he was still receiving royalties for it. Even as late as 1975 when Lord had finally become the big star he had always wanted to be on Hawaii Five-O he was a little bitter about ABC canceling Stoney Burke, as Major quotes him from a later interview: "If ABC had had more guts at the time, that show would still be on the air," said Lord. "Stoney was a peaceful hero in a violent setting, a man way ahead of his time on television. And look at the other actors on that series – Warren Oates and Bruce Dern. Look at how far they've come since then."  Meanwhile, Lord turned down the role of Napoleon Solo on Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Capt. James Kirk on Star Trek after demanding 50% ownership of the series, according to William Shatner. He limited himself to 10 guest star spots a year, remarking that more than that would have been overexposure and that the limitation also gave him time to travel and paint. He filmed a pilot for a western-themed series called Cutter's Trail for CBS in 1967, but the network decided to pick up Cimarron Strip instead. Lord eventually got his true star vehicle with Hawaii Five-O beginning in 1968. Again, according to Major, it's first season was a bit rough with poor ratings and complaints from Hawaiian locals about its depiction of their state as a source of crime. The series appeared to be headed for cancellation when a time-slot change and the success of the theme song on the record charts resuscitated it. Lord also ingratiated himself with the locals by insisting on casting native Hawaiian actors in supporting roles instead of the usual Hollywood crowd. Lord and his wife also settled in Hawaii, living in a condo in Kahala. The show ran for 12 seasons, and when producer Leonard Freeman, with whom Lord battled frequently over scripts and other production details, died in 1974, Lord took on the role of executive producer, giving him greater control over content, though he refused to be credited on screen. During the series' final season, Lord filmed a pilot for another Hawaii-based drama, M Station: Hawaii, but the series was not picked up for production and was aired only as a TV movie, the last film credit of Lord's career. He and Marie lived out the rest of their lives in Hawaii, and in 1990 Lord was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and became something of an invalid. He passed away from congestive heart failure on January 21, 1998 at the age of 77. When Marie died in 2005 at the age of 100, their estate, valued at $40 million, was bequeathed to the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Warren Oates

Born in the coal-mining town of Depoy, Kentucky on July 5, 1928, Warren Mercer Oates was the son of a general store owner. Oates dropped out of high school in Louisville to join the Marine Corps, where he served as an aircraft mechanic, reaching the rank of corporal. He would eventually earn his high school equivalency degree and attended the University of Louisville, where he first developed an interest in acting. He moved to New York in 1954, working as a hat-check man at nightclub 21 and testing contest gags for Beat the Clock, and by 1956 began appearing in television drama anthology programs such as Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, and Kraft Theatre. Given his southern accent and offbeat appearance, Oates was a natural in supporting roles on westerns, which dominated the TV landscape in the late 1950s, so he moved to Hollywood and began getting scores of roles on shows such as Have Gun--Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Tombstone Territory, and Trackdown with friend Robert Culp. While working on his first episode of The Rifleman in 1958 Oates first met director and screenwriter Sam Peckinpah, who would have a profound influence on Oates' career. Though his first feature film appearance was an uncredited role in the James Garner army yarn Up Periscope in 1959, Oates then met director, screenwriter, and Stoney Burke creator Leslie Stevens while working on the 1960 feature film Private Property. After appearing in one episode of Peckinpah's short-lived TV series The Westerner, Oates found a supporting role in Peckinpah's first feature masterpiece Ride the High Country in 1962. Just as Stoney Burke was debuting on television, Oates appeared in another Stevens feature Hero's Island, which also featured Stevens' wife Kate Manx and future Stoney guest actors James Mason and Harry Dean Stanton, another Kentucky native who would be a lifelong friend of Oates.

After Stoney Burke was canceled after a single season, Oates continued occasional TV guest spots on programs such as The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, Combat!, The Twilight Zone, and Stevens' next creation The Outer Limits, but his work began to transition more to feature films in the later 1960s. He worked with Peckinpah again on Major Dundee in 1965 and first worked with another cult director Monte Hellman on The Shooting, starring Jack Nicholson, in 1966. In 1967 he had his first truly iconic role as voyeuristic deputy Sam Wood in In the Heat of the Night, a role for which he was disappointed that he did not receive an Oscar nomination. Oates recognized that he did not have the looks or demeanor of a Hollywood leading man, which may have contributed to his decision to decline the leading role in Support Your Local Sheriff!, which eventually went to James Garner, and instead went with Peckinpah to Mexico to film The Wild Bunch despite the fact that, as his wife later commented, he had gotten very sick the last time he shot on location there. But besides assuaging some of the pain from his Oscar snub, the film allowed him to work alongside his acting idol Ben Johnson. In 1970 he-costarred with Lee Van Cleef as a psychotic villain in Barquero, followed the next year by Hellman's cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop, Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand, and the lead role in a private eye thriller Chandler opposite Leslie Caron. In 1973 he appeared in five features: supporting Ryan O'Neal and Jacqueline Bisset in The Thief Who Came to Dinner, his first and only musical Tom Sawyer, alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Boyle in Kid Blue, playing the title role in Dillinger again with Harry Dean Stanton supporting, and in Terrence Malick's Badlands. The following year had him lead again in what some consider to be his and Peckinpah's crowning achievement, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. He continued getting lead roles or sharing them with Peter Fonda in films such as Cockfighter, Race With the Devil, 92 in the Shade, and Dixie Dynamite during an era when character actors shone as leading men. He would reprise Humphrey Bogart's role in a TV movie version of The African Queen in 1977 and then do the same for John Wayne's role in the 1978 TV movie True Grit: A Further Adventure. He worked with Steven Spielberg in the 1979 John Belushi vehicle 1941 and supported another Saturday Night Live alumnus, Bill Murray, two years later in Stripes. But despite more success than most character actors ever see in a lifetime, Oates eventually fell prey to hard living, in particular heavy drinking and chain smoking. His womanizing led to three failed marriages, and he eventually had a falling out with Peckinpah such that his fourth wife Judy Jones tried to keep him away from the volatile director when the two were neighbors in Montana. Oates died of a heart attack while taking a nap at home on April 3, 1982 at the age of 53. Two more feature films, Blue Thunder and Tough Enough, which were filmed in 1981, were released posthumously and dedicated to him in 1983. In 1993 a documentary about his life, Warren Oates: Across the Border, was released with interview snippets from Culp, Fonda, Hellman, Johnson, Stanton, and Oates' children. In 2009 author Susan Compo, whose father had met Oates when he was working at the club 21 in New York in 1954, published a biography about Oates titled Warren Oates: A Wild Life.

Bruce Dern

Bruce MacLeish Dern was born in Chicago on June 4, 1936. His father John was a utility chief and lawyer whose law partner was Adlai Stevenson, the two-time Democratic nominee for President, who was also his godfather. His grandfather George was the Governor of Utah and FDR's first Secretary of War, during which time Eleanor Roosevelt would sometimes babysit baby Bruce. His grand uncle was Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Archibald MacLeish. He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, whose alumni include Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Ralph Bellamy, Ann-Margaret, Hugh O'Brian, Virginia Madsen, and Rainn Wilson. In high school, he first developed his love of running and has since then run many ultramarathon races. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania and tried to qualify for the Olympic trials in 1956 but left school before graduating to pursue an acting degree. He moved to New York to study at the Actors Studio with Elia Kazan and Lee Strasburg, driving a cab to make ends meet. When he was finally accepted into the Actors Studio, one of his fellow students, none other than Marilyn Monroe, told him that Kazan had said he had something they had never seen before but that no one would recognize it until he was in his sixties, which largely proved to be prophetic. He had a small role in the 1959 original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. The following year he made his feature film debut in an uncredited part in Kazan's Wild River and his television debut in an episode of Route 66. In 1961 he began getting more TV guest spots on series such as Naked City, Sea Hunt, Thriller, and Cain's Hundred before landing his first recurring role as chute boss E.J. Stocker on Stoney Burke.

After leaving Stoney, Dern had a smattering of TV guest spots, including an episode of Leslie Stevens' Outer Limits in 1963, and the following year had his first connection with Alfred Hitchcock when he was cast for the role of Sailor in Marnie. He would later that year appear twice on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and 12 years later appear in Hitchcock's last film Family Plot. In addition to appearing in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte also in 1964, Dern made multiple appearances during the mid-1960s on WagonTrain, The Virginian, The Fugitive, and 12 O'Clock High in addition to single appearances on several other programs. But like Warren Oates, as the 60s wore on, Dern began getting more work in feature films. He did his first work for low-budget exploitation director Roger Corman in the 1966 Peter Fonda biker flick The Wild Angels and the following year The Trip, written by longtime Dern friend Jack Nicholson. In fact, it was Nicholson who coined the phrase used to describe Dern's trademark ad-libs as "Dernsies" which Dern would later describe as essential to his approach to acting. He prefers to call his craft "behaving" because he wants as little separation as possible between himself and his character, and having lived as that character, he feels he sometimes comes up with better dialogue and behavior than a screenwriter who hasn't inhabited that character. Dern became the go-to for psychos and weirdos and has been much in demand ever since, racking up credits for over 100 films, including Hang 'Em High, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Cowboy (in which he got to kill John Wayne), Silent Running, The Great Gatsby, Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, Black Sunday, Coming Home (for which he received his first Oscar nomination), That Championship Season, The 'Burbs, Django Unchained, Nebraska (for which he received his second Oscar nomination), The Hateful Eight, and Once Upon a Hollywood. Late in his career he also returned to television, playing Frank Harlow on Big Love from 2006-2011, John Rothstein on Mister Mercedes in 2019, and Frank on Goliath in 2021. According to, as of this writing he has one feature completed but not yet released, five films in post-production, another one currently filming, and four more in pre-production. He has said that he plans to continue acting, or behaving, until he is 100 because there is nothing else he can do. His daughter Laura Dern, from his marriage to actress Diane Ladd, is an Oscar winner and been nominated two additional times.

Robert Dowdell

Born in Park Ridge, Illinois on March 10, 1932, Dowdell attended Parker High School in Chicago, where he said he first contracted the acting bug while performing in a senior class theatrical production. Upon graduation from high school, he attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut on scholarship for a year and a half but then transferred to the University of Chicago before leaving to join the U.S. Army where he served in the Army Corps of Engineers. After being discharged from the service, Dowdell decided to pursue his passion for acting and moved to New York. At various points before becoming an established actor, Dowdell worked as a railroad brakeman, a hunting guide in Mexico, a washer of airplanes, a pin setter at a bowling alley, and a mail carrier for the ABC network. In New York he helped construct the seating and sets for David Ross' new Fourth Street Theatre and was rewarded with the romantic lead in an English version of The Dybbuk. Years later he said the experience taught him a valuable lesson: he didn't know how to act and was replaced one month into the production. He then spent what he could scrape together on acting lessons from noted coach Wynn Handman, which eventually landed him a role in a production of a play titled Time Limit. He then met Leslie Stevens, who cast him in his production of his own work The Lovers in an ensemle that included Joanne Woodward and Hurt Hatfield. The second director for this production was Arthur Penn, who got Dowdell spots on a pair of episodes of drama anthology Studio One in 1956. This TV debut led to other New York-based anthology series such as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Television Theatre, and Goodyear Television Playhouse. Meanwhile, he continued his work on the stage, appearing on Broadway in Love Me a Little, and in John Frankenheimer's then off-Broadway production of The Midnight Sun, which also landed him in the TV version on Buick-Electra Playhouse in 1960. After appearing with Buddy Hackett in the Broadway production of Viva Madison Avenue, Dowdell was cast in a traveling production of Five Finger Exercise which eventually made its way to Los Angeles, where he was once again contacted by Stevens and encouraged to audition for a part on his new TV series Stoney Burke.

After Stoney's cancellation in 1963, Dowdell was plucked by producer Irwin Allen to play the role of Lt. Commander Chip Morton on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in 1964. Dowdell stayed with the program during its entire 4-year run, appearing in 109 episodes. In 1965 he married actress Sheila Connolly, and the two remained married for 14 years before divorcing in 1979. Dowdell would continue to find work with both Leslie Stevens and Irwin Allen, appearing in an episode of the latter's Land of the Giants, 1971 TV movie City Beneath the Sea, and 1986 TV movie Outrage. For Stevens, Dowdell would appear in a 1979 episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He also landed occasional guest spots on shows such as The F.B.I., Adam-12, CHiPs, Dynasty, and Hotel. He appeared three times as Senator Joshua Harrington on Capitol in 1984-86 and had a few feature film roles in The Initiation, Assassination, and Skin Deep in the 1980s. After appearing in episodes of Freddy's Nightmares and Hunter in the early 1990s, Dowdell essentially retired from acting, except for playing a minister in an episode about Edgar Allan Poe for the series American Masters in 1995. He retired to the small community of Coldwater, Michigan after inheriting a house from a cousin. He lived a low-profile existence, rarely talking about his acting career, and secretly feeding and helping get spayed a colony of feral cats even after developing serious health issues late in life. He passed away from natural causes at the age of 85 on January 23, 2018.

Bill Hart

Born in Red Oak, Texas on July 28, 1934 as Billy Gene Welch, his parents died when he was young, and he was adopted and moved to Edinburgh, Texas where he played football and basketball in high school, graduating at the top of his class. After graduating he joined the Marine Corps and served in the Korean War. Upon being discharged, he moved to Hollywood to work as a stunt man. He was taken under the wing of veteran stunt man Chuck Roberson, whose daughter Charlene, a makeup artist, married Hart in 1959. They would have two sons, Chuck and Jimmy, both of whom also became stuntmen. Bill Hart began his career as a stuntman in John Wayne's 1960 feature film The Alamo as well as serving as stunt coordinator for western TV series Stagecoach West the same year. He would go on to work on two more Wayne films The Comancheros and McLintock! Meanwhile, he began getting uncredited acting parts on TV series such as The Deputy, Death Valley Days, and Wanted: Dead or Alive. His first credited part came in a 1961 episode of the latter series. He first worked with Leslie Stevens on his 1962 feature film Hero's Island and was then hired as stunt coordinator and cast member for Stevens' TV series Stoney Burke.

The connections Hart made in playing Red Smith on Stoney would serve him well later in his career, particularly serving as Warren Oates' stunt double, which helped land him the role of Jess in The Wild Bunch in which he gets blown off a bridge in a scene that used real dynamite. He would also appear in three acting roles in Stevens' next series, The Outer Limits, but his filmography included many other credits from the 1960s through the 1990s. In 1968 with Day of the Evil Gun, Hart began serving as Glenn Ford's stunt double, a role he would continue for 20 years, including on Ford's 1971-72 TV series Cade's County, for which Hart was also stunt coordinator. His connection with Sam Peckinpah on The Wild Bunch led to another role for him in Peckinpah's 1972 feature The Getaway. Hart and Charlene Roberson divorced in the late 1960s and he remarried to Rina Solowitz in 1976. The couple had four children and maintained homes both in Texas and California. Hart worked steadily through the 1990s and thereafter had a single appearance in the Roy Clark and Mel Tillis western feature film Palo Pinto Gold in 2009. Six years later after a long bout with cancer, he passed away on January 2, 2015 at the age of 80.

George Mitchell

Born in Larchmont, upstate New York on February 21, 1905, Mitchell's early life appears to be undocumented. According to Wikipedia, he decided to become an actor after marrying actress Katherine Squire in 1940, but says that he started his career in stock theater companies and joined the theatre guild in 1935, the same year he appeared in the feature film Once in a Blue Moon, reportedly due to the assistance of theatrical director Clifford Odets. He did not return to feature films until 1941 with an uncredited part in Virginia and his first credited role 4 years later in Captain Eddie, both films starring Fred MacMurray. Meanwhile, his theatrical career led to a Broadway debut at least by 1942 with appearances in The Merry Widow and The New Moon. According to the Internet Broadway Database, he appeared in three more productions in 1943-44 before a gap of 5 years until his next role. During that gap Mitchell and Squire spent 1947-48 acting in a series of productions at Theatre '48 in Dallas, Texas. Mitchell made his television debut in a 1952 episode of Mr. Black, which was filmed in Chicago, but spent most of 1949-53 on Broadway, appearing in productions of Goodbye, My Fancy, The Day After Tomorrow, Desire Under the Elms, and The Crucible. By 1954 Mitchell began getting regular supporting-role work on TV series such as Man Behind the Badge, Suspense, Inner Sanctum, and You Are There. He returned to feature films in 1955 in The Phenix City Story, but most of his work continued to be on television, particularly anthology series such as The United States Steel Hour, Studio One, and The Big Story. Drama series and westerns dominated his late 1950s credits, including Gunsmoke, Have Gun--Will Travel, and Riverboat, before finally landing his first recurring role as rodeo stock manager Cal Bristol on Stoney Burke. During this period he also had occasional feature roles, including The Wild and the Innocent, Kid Galahad with Elvis Presley, and the uncredited part of Father Matthieu in Birdman of Alcatraz.

Mitchell appeared only 6 times as Cal Bristol on Stoney Burke but was much in demand on other series thereafter, including The Twilight Zone, Death Valley Days, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also had significant roles in the features Twilight of Honor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. In 1966 he originated the role of Matthew Morgan on the horror-themed soap opera Dark Shadows but was replaced by Thayer David after only three appearances. It would be his last recurring television role, though he continued getting guest spots on Bonanza, The Time Tunnel, Daktari, and The Virginian. His later feature film credits included Jack Nicholson's Ride the Whirlwind with wife Katherine Squire, The Flim-Flam Man, The Learning Tree, and The Andromeda Strain. He returned to Broadway in 1970 to star in Indians. At the time of his death he was in Washington, D.C. to play the role of Senator Strom Thurmond in Conflict of Interest when he died in his sleep at the age of 66 on January 18, 1972. He appeared posthumously in the 1973 TV movie Honor Thy Father. His obituary in The New York Times mentioned that he was a contributor to their paper as well as Life magazine and Vanity Fair, without specifying in what capacity, and that he was an editor for the humor magazine Judge. He was an honorary member of Actors Equity and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, served as chairman for his local branches of the American Red Cross and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and was an instructor at the Pasadena Playhouse.

With a common name like George Mitchell, he has been mistaken for others of the same name on various web sites. For example, in researching this biography I found that had attributed work from the 1990s and as recently as 2015 to this actor George Mitchell, who died in 1972. Likewise, the Rotten Tomatoes web site illustrates his biography with a photo of the politician George Mitchell.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 1, "The Contender": Philip Abbott  (shown on the left, starred in Sweet Bird of Youth and played Arthur Ward on The F.B.I., Dr. Alex Baker on General Hospital, and Grant Stevens on The Young and the Restless) plays bronco rider Royce Hamilton. Carl Benton Reid (starred in The Little Foxes, In a Lonely Place, Lorna Doone, and The Left Hand of God and played The Man on Burke's Law) plays wealthy ranch owner Clay Bristol. Kate Manx (wife of series creator, producer, director, and writer Leslie Stevens, appeared in Private Property and Hero's Island) plays his daughter Erlie. Bartlett Robinson (Willard Norton on Wendy and Me and Frank Caldwell on Mona McCluskey) plays talent promoter Everett B. Fields.

Season 1, Episode 2, "Fight Night": Leonard Nimoy  (Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Paris on Mission: Impossible, and Dr. William Bell on Fringe) plays boxer Art Paxton. Michael Fox (Sig Levy on The Clear Horizon, Coroner George McLeod on Burke's Law, Amos Fedders on Falcon Crest, Saul Feinberg on The Bold and the Beautiful, and appeared 25 times as autopsy surgeons and various other medical witnesses on Perry Mason) plays his bodyguard Moore. Bill Zuckert (Arthur Bradwell on Mr. Novak and Chief Segal on Captain Nice) plays the Kade City sheriff. Edgar Buchanan (shown on the right, played Uncle Joe Carson on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction, Red Connors on Hopalong Cassidy, Judge Roy Bean on Judge Roy Bean, Doc Burrage on The Rifleman, and J.J. Jackson on Cade's County) plays Health Commissioner Vernon Dawes. Alan Bunce (Albert Arbuckle on The Kate Smith Evening Hour and Ethel and Albert) plays Police Commissioner Turk Willard. Paul Birch (Erle Stanley Gardner on The Court of Last Resort, Mike Malone on Cannonball, and Capt. Carpenter on The Fugitive) plays rodeo arena manager Del McAllister.

Season 1, Episode 3, "Child of Luxury": Ina Balin  (shown on the left, starred in From the Terrace, The Young Doctors, The Patsy, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Charro! and played Rosalind Hatchley on As the World Turns) plays spoiled rich daughter Sutton Meade. Eduard Franz (starred in The Thing From Another World, Lady Godiva of Coventry, The Jazz Singer (1952), Sins of Jezebel, and The Indian Fighter and played Gregorio Verdugo on Zorro and Dr. Edward Raymer on Breaking Point) plays her financier father Terry. Judson Laire (Lars Hanson on Mama, Thomas Henry on The Doctors and the Nurses, Judge Burton Henshaw on The Defenders, and Dr. Will Donnelly on Love Is a Many Splendored Thing) plays Terry's employee Charley Fitch. Dee J. Thompson (Agnes on Grindl) plays rodeo secretary Lorraine.

Season 1, Episode 4, "Point of Honor": Scott Marlowe  (Nick Koslo on Executive Suite, Eric Brady on Days of Our Lives, and Michael Burke on Valley of the Dolls) plays southern judge's son Soames Hewitt. 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 his father. Patricia Breslin (Amanda Peoples Miller on The People's Choice, Laura Brooks on Peyton Place, and Meg Bentley on General Hospital) plays his sister Lee Anne. Harry Dean Stanton (shown on the right, appeared in Kelly's Heroes, Dillinger, Cool Hand Luke, Repo Man, Pretty in Pink, Alien, Paris, Texas and played Jake Walters on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) plays his friend Dell Tindall. Ben Johnson (starred in Shane, The Wild Bunch, Chisum, and The Getaway and played Sleeve on The Monroes) plays arena director Rex Donally. Lew Brown (SAC Allen Bennett on The F.B.I. and Shawn Brady on Days of Our Lives) plays a state trooper.

Season 1, Episode 5, "The Mob Riders": Michael Parks (starred in Bus Riley's Back in Town, The Bible: In the Beginning, The Return of Josey Wales, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, and Argo, and played Jim Bronson on Then Came Bronson, Phillip Colby on The Colbys, and Jean Renault on Twin Peaks) plays renegade stock car driver Tack Reynolds. Denise Alexander (shown on the left, played Susan Hunter Martin on Days of Our Lives, Mary McKinnon on Another World, Sister Beatrice on Sunset Beach, Lola on The Inn, Dr. Lesley Webber on General Hospital, and Louise Fitzpatrick on Pretty the Series) plays his girlfriend Arlette Hughes. Ford Rainey (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Window on Main Street) plays her father Frank. Gene Lyons (Steve Rockwell on Woman With a Past and Commander Dennis Randall on Ironside) plays Frank's business associate Clyde Lampert. Curt Conway (appeared in Raw Deal, Hud, and Invitation to a Gunfighter and played Judge Irwin A. Jessup on Peyton Place) plays the drivers' physician Dr. Glen Elden. Buck Taylor (Newly O'Brien on Gunsmoke and Det. Bussey on Dallas) plays another stock car driver. Kim Hamilton (Dr. Tracy Adams on General Hospital) plays Tack's mechanic's wife Beth Ann. Barry Russo (Roy Gilroy on The Young Marrieds) plays a police sergeant.

Season 1, Episode 6, "A Matter of Pride": William Windom (shown on the right, appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird, The Americanization of Emily, and Escape From the Planet of the Apes and played Congressman Glen Morley on The Farmer's Daughter, John Monroe on My World and Welcome to It, Larry Krandall on Brothers and Sisters, Frank Buckman on Parenthood, and Dr. Seth Hazlitt on Murder, She Wrote) plays furniture salesman Reese Ludlow. Conrad Janis (Palindrome on Quark and Frederick McConnell on Mork & Mindy) plays his repo man Penn Hudson. Michael Hinn (George Haig on Johnny Ringo) plays bull rider Miller Hill. Ben Piazza (Jonas Falk on Love of Life, George Benton on The Waverly Wonders, Walt Driscoll on Dallas, Dr. Rawlings on Santa Barbara, and Dr. Charles Hampton on Dynasty) plays his son Dayton. Jena Engstrom (daughter of actress Jean Engstrom) plays his daughter Meryle. Virginia Christine (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Tales of Wells Fargo) plays his wife Flora. Edith Atwater (appeared in The Body Snatcher, Sweet Smell of Success, It Happened at the World's Fair, and True Grit and played Grace Morton on Peyton Place, Phyllis Hammond on Love on a Rooftop, Gertrude Hardy on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, and Illsa Fogel on Kaz) plays town committee chairwoman Ruth Coles. Robert Brubaker (Deputy Ed Blake on U.S. Marshal and Floyd on Gunsmoke) plays politician Senator Dean Guttman.

Season 1, Episode 7, "Sidewinder": Edward Binns (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Brenner) plays attorney Joe Gullion. Mark Miller (Bill Hooten on Guestward Ho!, Jim Nash on Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Howard Jones on Bright Promise, and Ross Craig on The Name of the Game) plays his client Morgan Julian. David White (Larry Tate on Bewitched) plays Julian's cousin Mr. Holland. Gail Kobe (Penny Adams on Trackdown, Doris Schuster on Peyton Place, and Dean Ann Boyd Jones on Bright Promise and produced over 200 episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful) plays Julian's sister Cele Cowan. Strother Martin (appeared in Kiss Me Deadly, The Shaggy Dog, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cool Hand Luke, True Grit, The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, and Slap Shot and played Aaron Donager on Hotel de Paree and R.J. Hawkins on Hawkins) plays "accident" witness Buck Buckley. Helen Gurley Brown (longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and author of Sex and the Single Girl) plays waitress Maxine. Shirley O'Hara (Debbie Flett on The Bob Newhart Show) plays a nurse.

Season 1, Episode 8, "The Scavenger": James Mason (shown on the right, starred in Madame Bovary, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Star Is Born (1954), North by Northwest, Lolita, Georgy Girl, and Heaven Can Wait (1978) and played Dr. Maxwell Becker on Dr. Kildare) plays an old panhandler. John Kellogg (Jack Chandler on Peyton Place) plays police detective Lt. Voight. Roy Glenn (appeared in Carmen Jones, Written on the Wind, Porgy and Bess, and A Raisin in the Sun and played Roy on The Jack Benny Program) plays police Sgt. Tate. Shirley Ballard (Miss California 1944, wife of actor Jason Evers, script supervisor on Mad Max and continuity supervisor on Water Under the Bridge and The Sullivans) plays murder victim's wife Suzan Foley. Paul Comi (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Ripcord) plays her brother Frank.

Season 1, Episode 9, "Spin a Golden Web": Robert Webber (shown on the left, appeared in The Sandpiper, The Silencers, The Dirty Dozen, 10, Private Benjamin, and S.O.B. and played Alexander Hayes on Moonlighting) plays wealthy financier Roy Hazleton. Salome Jens (starred in Angel Baby, Seconds, and Harry's War and played Mae Olinski on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Claudia Chadway on Falcon Crest, Martha Kent on Super Boy, Joan Campbell on Melrose Place, and the Female Shapeshifter on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays his wife Mavis. Ken Lynch (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Checkmate) plays his rival Lyle Sweet. John Anderson (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays veteran bronc rider Bruce Austin. James T. Callahan (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Dr. Kildare) plays Hazleton assistant Bert.

Season 1, Episode 10, "The Wanderer": Albert Salmi (Yadkin on Daniel Boone and Pete Ritter on Petrocelli) plays inexperienced drifter Larry Dawson. Jacqueline Scott (shown on the right, starred in House of Women, Empire of the Ants, and Telefon and played Donna Kimble Taft on The Fugitive) plays his abandoned wife Leora. Milton Selzer (Parker on Get Smart, Jake Winkelman on The Harvey Korman Show, Abe Werkfinder on The Famous Teddy Z, and Manny Henry on Valley of the Dolls) plays hospital physician Dr. Laird. Roy Engel (Doc Martin on Bonanza, the police chief on My Favorite Martian, and President Ulysses S. Grant on The Wild, Wild West) plays rode arena manager Sam Farley. Nora Marlowe (Martha Commager on Law of the Plainsman, Sara Andrews on The Governor and J.J., and Mrs. Flossie Brimmer on The Waltons) plays Laird's nurse. Bill Erwin (Joe Walters on My Three Sons and Glenn Diamond on Struck by Lightning) plays a rodeo stadium doctor. Betty Harford (Mrs. Nottingham on The Paper Chase and Mrs. Gunnerson on Dynasty) plays hospital Nurse Barton. Lex Connelly (technical adviser on Stoney Burke) plays bull rider Gilligan.

Season 1, Episode 11, "Five by Eight by Eight": Ed Nelson (Michael Rossi on Peyton Place, Ward Fuller on The Silent Force, and Sen. Mark Denning on Capitol) plays prison convict Nick Martin. William Schallert (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays prison Warden Harper. Bettye Gatteys (Judith Potter on The Brighter Day) plays rodeo fan Joyce Carol. John McLiam (appeared in Cool Hand Luke, In Cold Blood, Sleeper, The Missouri Breaks, and First Blood) plays her father. Mary Jackson (Emily Baldwin on The Waltons, Sarah Wicks on Hardcastle and McCormick, and Great Grandma Greenwell on Parenthood) plays her mother. Arthur Malet (appeared in Mary Poppins, In the Heat of the Night, and Heaven Can Wait and played Carl on Casablanca, Bobby on Easy Street, Nigel Peabody on Days of Our Lives, and Ryan on Dallas) plays inmate Curley Bradfield. Joseph V. Perry (Nemo  on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays prison guard Capt. Bender. Garry Walberg (Police Sgt. Sullivan on Johnny Staccato, Sgt. Edward Goddard on Peyton Place, Speed on The Odd Couple, and Lt. Frank Monahan on Quincy M.E.) plays Martin's friend on the outside, Cookie.

Season 1, Episode 12, "Band Wagon": Larry Gates (starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Some Came Running, and The Young Savages and played H.B. Lewis on Guiding Light) plays incumbent Senator Tom Lockridge. 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 his chief of staff Walter Sloan. Addison Richards (starred in Boys Town, They Made Her a Spy, Flying Tigers, and The Deerslayer and played Doc Calhoun on Trackdown and Doc Landy on The Deputy) plays construction business owner Grayson. Mariette Hartley (shownon the right, starred in Ride the High Country, Marnie, and Encino Man and played Claire Morton on Peyton Place, Ruth Garret on The Hero, Jennifer Barnes on Goodnight, Beantown, Liz McVay on WIOU, Ellen Cornell on To Have & to Hold, Sister Mary Daniel on One Life to Live, Lorna Scarry on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Patricia Clark on 9-1-1) plays his daughter Laura. Len Lesser (Uncle Leo on Seinfeld and Garvin on Everybody Loves Ray) plays pool player Leo. Jean Carson (Rosemary on The Betty Hutton Show) plays waitress Merle Rogers. Bill Quinn (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Rifleman) plays hospital physician Dr. Connors.

Season 1, Episode 13, "Cousin Eunice": Cloris Leachman (shown on the left, starred in The Last Picture Show, Charley and the Angel, Dillinger, and Young Frankenstein and played Effie Perrine on Charlie Wild, Private Detective, Ruth Martin on Lassie, Rhoda Kirsh on Dr. Kildare, Phyllis Lindstrom on Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, and Phyllis, Beverly Ann Stickle on The Facts of Life, Mrs. Frick on The Nutt House, Emily Collins on Walter & Emily, Grammy Winthrop on Thanks, Dot Richmond on The Ellen Show, Ida on Malcolm in the Middle, Maw Maw on Raising Hope, and Mrs. Mandelbaum on Mad About You) plays E.J. Stocker's tomboy cousin Eunice. Jim Davis (Matt Clark on Stories of the Century, Wes Cameron on Rescue 8, Marshal Bill Winter on The Cowboys, and Jock Ewing on Dallas) plays trick-riding troupe leader Shep Winters. John Newton (Bill Paley on Search for Tomorrow and Judge Eric Caffey on Law & Order) plays a hotel clerk.


  1. Pretty good overview of Stoney Burke, though I know of one error right off the top of my head: Only Bruce Dern left after 17 episodes; Warren Oates was around for all 32.

    Be sure to give Wide Country a look if you haven't already. It's not as good as Stoney, but it has its moments; in fact, some actors who guested on Stoney appeared on Wide Country, too! (It was also released on DVD by Timeless Media.)