"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Yancy Derringer (CBS TV, 1958 – 59)


Jocko's back on TV


 

 
 
In three years of the mid-1950s at Universal, Jock Mahoney, known in Hollywood as Jocko, proved to be, as his biographer Gene Freese put it, “a dependable western lead who could carry a routine film on his broad shoulders”. Pictures like Joe Dakota (1957), The Last of the Fast Guns (1958) and Money, Women and Guns (1958) were successful and Mahoney grew into a considerable lead actor (he had started rather woodenly).  But in 1958 the studio ran into money troubles in its feature film division and suspended production. The studio/theater-chain system was breaking down and audience numbers were plummeting. People preferred to stay home and watch TV. The Music Corporation of America (MCA), the world's largest talent agency, had become a powerful television producer. In 1958 Universal agreed to sell its 360-acre studio lot to MCA, for $11 million, and Revue was born.
 
Jocko

Revue offered Mahoney $70,000 a year to star in its new Western series Cimarron City. Jocko was lukewarm about the project and countered with an offer of $40,000 a year with a share of the profits. Revue promptly refused and offered the show to George Montgomery, who took it. Jocko guest-starred on a Wagon Train episode (rather a good one, actually, The Dan Hogan Story) but was looking around for something more permanent that he liked, turning down various projects, big screen and small, in which he would be a jet pilot, an athletic schoolteacher and an outer-space explorer. Finally, he decided that a TV show was for him and he became Yancy Derringer.

Jocko goes back on TV

It was in some ways a surprise because Yancy had nothing in common with the character of The Range Rider in Jocko’s highly successful early 50s syndicated TV show. Colt .45s and buckskins were discarded. Yancy Derringer was a New Orleans dandy just after the Civil War, his clothes were elegant and often white, and his preferred weapons were derringer pistols and a swordstick. He was slightly louche and a cynical bachelor. His sidekick was not Dickie Jones, “The All-American Boy”, but a mute Pawnee, Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah ("Wolf who stands in water"), played by X Brands. Pahoo communicates only with sign language. If we were being unkind, we might suggest that having a silent partner enhanced the star’s role but in fact Pahoo is a strong character and the relationship between the two is respectful and interesting. At times Pahoo appears quite Tonto-like, especially when riding on his paint with Yancy, but for most of the show he is an exotic and fascinating member of New Orleans (slightly dubious) society.

Dashing and slightly caddish

X Brands’s high cheekbones made him a frequent screen Native American, though in fact he was born in Kansas City of German parentage. His unusual name (which sounds a bit like a modern rapper) came from a family tradition: in the small town in Germany where his ancestors had lived, there were two men named Jan Brands. One of them added the middle initial "X" to distinguish himself. He became known as "X" Brands, and the name was continued with his descendants in America. The family tradition was that no one could use the initial until the previous "X" had died.

Brands said of Mahoney, “Jocko was always there when you needed him. We were the greatest of friends. He was the greatest guy in the world. When I came on the show, he came up to me . . . he never stole scenes . . . our work together was the greatest. He loved everybody. I never heard this man put another man down. He was so beautiful.”

X Brands is Pahoo

Suits and stunts

There was something slightly Rhett Butler-ish about Yancy (actually the decaying mansion used on the series was the Gone With the Wind set), with a dash of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks. There’s even a hint of Maverick (that show was running concurrently, on ABC) in the gambler-dandy’s wry cynicism (underlined by his occasional remarks prefaced by “My daddy used to say…”).

Being Jocko, he is very athletic and often leaps from balconies or into swamps and such. He had been a stuntman and would later be Tarzan so he knew how to do it. The pencil mustache and fabulous planter’s hat made him look roguish and dashing. He actually brought in his old pal Fred Krone to be the show’s stunt coordinator, which ensured the action would be top-class. Krone later said of Jocko, “He was a fine guy. He could have gone a lot further if he’d quit trying to be Errol Flynn.”

Roguish

The studio execs tried to stop him doing his own stunts but they were onto a loser there. In the episode The Belle from Boston (see episode guide, below) he is chatting to his female companion but breaks off briefly to swing 70 feet from their opera box to the stage on a rope, kick a bad guy and swing back to the box, nonchalantly resuming his conversation, all in one take. It’s a remarkable performance. In Nightmare on Bourbon Street he is dynamited off a second floor balcony. There are some impressive fights. There’s an ongoing piece of ‘business’ as Yancy and Pahoo casually toss each other a razor-sharp Bowie knife, always catching it by the handle. Though he was closing in on 40, Jocko remained amazingly supple and athletic.

The story

It's 1868. Back after the war late because of various wanderings through the West (where he seems to have picked up Pahoo, who once saved his life and now feels obliged to keep on doing so) Yancy finds his plantation, Waverly, has been turned into a disreputable casino and his riverboat, the Sultana, is in other hands. He soon gets them both back but he is often short of a buck or two, and is happy to get into schemes which might raise a bit such as prize fights or poker games. Jocko didn’t go for patois, or a French or Southern accent, but just played it straight from that point of view.

Hagen is Mr. Colton

There is a federal administrator of New Orleans (it’s Reconstruction time) and this man, John Colton (Kevin Hagen) recruits Yancy to act on behalf of law and order as a secret agent. No one (apart from Pahoo) is to know that he is acting for the authorities. Colton has a bust of Napoleon in his office. I don’t know if he has delusions of grandeur.

The derringers

As a derringer lover (pretty well obsessed by them in fact) I think this series was made in heaven. Yancy doesn’t use the classic over-and-under Remington derringer (though he could have done because that was launched in 1866) but instead a nifty silver-plated Sharps four-barrel, rather like a pepper-box. He has one in a vest pocket, another up his sleeve and yet a third on a clip inside his large-brimmed straw hat.

Sharps 4-shot

In pretty well every episode Yancy will draw this pocket pistol and he is amazingly accurate with it, even in a crowded room or across a street. It saves his life in Episode 1 because the bad guys bonk him on the head and tip him into the Mississippi but the club landed on the gun in the hat and did not knock Yancy out.

It isn’t only Yancy that favors the derringer, though. Mr. Colton soon adopts one (perhaps in flattering emulation) and Madame Francine is fond of them too. Derringers were, traditionally, the weapons of disreputable gamblers, saloon women and crooks, so it isn’t that surprising that Mme. Francine would have one, but rather more unusual that the hero or someone as respectable as the Administrator would. But then it’s New Orleans in the late 1860s. That was rather different than the average dusty Western town in which the Colt .45 was considered a much more manly weapon.

It isn't all derringers. Under the blanket he wears, Pahoo has a double-barreled shotgun on some kind of sling and often makes use of it. Mostly, though, he prefers a fearsome-looking Bowie knife (appropriate for New Orleans).

Production

Jocko was an associate producer of the show and helped develop it with husband-and-wife team of Richard Sale and Mary Loos.

Loos and Sale

The series was based on a 1938 short story written by Sale, who was in the 30s one of the highest-paid pulp writers. The story was never mentioned in the TV show credits, but it was about a destitute aristocrat and troublemaker who returns to New Orleans three years after the Civil War. In the story, Derringer has no first name; "Yancy" was added for the television series. Sale was a writer, producer and director who had co-authored A Ticket to Tomahawk and would work in various capacities on The High Chaparral and would also write the screenplay of the unfortunate The White Buffalo from his own novel. Loos also worked on Tomahawk. Sale would direct half the episodes of Yancy Derringer, with old vet William Claxton (huge numbers of Westerns from editing Frontier Marshal in 1939 to directing the TV movie Bonanza: The Next Generation in 1988) doing most of the rest.

Bill Claxton

The show was produced by Derringer Productions (half interest for Warren Lewis and Don Sharpe as executive producers, a quarter interest to Jock Mahoney for starring in the series, and a quarter interest to Sale and Loos) and filmed in Hollywood by Desilu Productions. Desilu had just completed the 1956 series The Adventures of Jim Bowie, which was also set principally in New Orleans. The show's sponsor was Johnson Wax. The series was syndicated by Official Films.
 
He always came out onto Bourbon Street at the start of each episode
and adjusted his tie with a slight smile

Considering the budget of TV shows in those days the production values were quite high. They managed to create an atmospheric gaslit New Orleans waterfront and Bourbon Street, and the then-obligatory black & white added to the almost noir tone. One is reminded a little of Sherlock Holmes’s London.

Ladies’ man – ma non troppo

Yancy is almost monastically celibate throughout the show. He dallies coquettishly with a dame in most episodes but remains detached, and stubbornly unmarried. His long-term love interest, though, is the proprietress of a sadly apostrophe-less ‘Madame Francines Club’, played by Frances Bergen, wife of a famed ventriloquist and mother of Candice. Her place is fairly obviously a high-class brothel but of course it was 1958 so there could be no hanky-panky shown at all, or even suggested. The girls employed by Mme. Francine are well-dressed and well-behaved and act as hostesses in what is shown as a gambling establishment. Of course we know (we who like the song The House of the Rising Sun) what gaming clubs are euphemisms for.

Madame Francine is central

The regulars

There are several characters like Francine who re-appear in different episodes, notably Administrator Colton, of course. Hagen plays Colton as a rather ‘straight’, conservative and Earnest yet dedicated and decent fellow trying to do his best for the community. Hagen was quite new to Westerns and would later usually play heavies in the genre. "It was fun, you could be as mean as you wanted to be. There's a heavy in all of us," he said. But he's far from a heavy here. Like so many others, he was very complimentary about Mahoney: “Jock Mahoney was so much bigger than life. He was just a joyous, wonderful, big bear of a man.”

Another regular is the pickpocket Jody, admirably well played by the lugubrious-faced Richard Devon, a regular on every TV show you care to name but who had actually led (once) in a big-screen Western, Scorching Fury in 1952 (which he also co-wrote). I can't find that. Wish I could. The relationship between Jody and Yancy is brilliantly handled, I think.
 
Devon is Jody

Bulky Kelly Thordsen, a former classmate of Jocko’s, later an LA motorcycle cop whom Jocko helped into the movie business (he’d been in Money, Women and Guns), played the baccy-chewing buckskin-clad Colorado Charlie, one of the great characters of the Old West who often made appearances in screen Westerns. It’s a very entertaining series of performances.

Thorsden is Colorado Charlie

Robert McCord is Administrator Colton’s factotum and fixer, Captain Amos Fry, a Treasury agent. McCord didn’t do Westerns as a rule but is quite competent in this role. Larry J Blake, the slimy saloon owner in High Noon and a regular on The Lone Ranger, is amusing as the jailer often required to lock Yancy up but preferring to play cards and drink wine with his prisoner and leave the door unlocked.
 
Friendly jailer

Obadiah (Bill Walker) is the doorman at Francine’s, an elderly African-American who will come up with a good idea when New Orleans is about to be flooded. Miss Mandarin, Mei Ling (Lisa Lu), a former love interest and close friend of Yancy, is the proprietor of his favorite place to dine, the Sazerac Restaurant. There are other recurring characters.

The guest stars

Then of course there are the guest stars. Hollywood Western actors were waiting in line to appear. Charles Bronson is tough-guy Rogue Donovan in Hell and High Water. Gene Evans is an enjoyable Lonesome Jackson in the episode of the same name. Lee Van Cleef is the fake lawman Ike Milton in Outlaw at Liberty. Claude Akins is Gallatin Street crime boss Toby Cook in Collector’s Item and returns in the same role in Gallatin Street. John Qualen is a most amusing Swedish ship’s captain in Old Dixie and, as opponent of Toby Cook, in Gallatin Street. Julie Adams is the belle but perfidious Amanda in the opening episode, Return to New Orleans. John Larch and Jim Davis are the villains in the last episode, Two Tickets to Promontory. The great Leo Gordon is superb as bad guy Lance Carter in The Belle from Boston. Carl Benton Reid, Bill Williams, Richard Arlen, Marie Windsor, Mari Aldon, John Lupton, Fred Graham, Brad Dexter, Harry Lauter, Addison Richards (as a judge, obviously), Chubby Johnson, George Keymas, the list goes on and on, and Western lovers will have a lot of fun spotting them.

The end

It was sad that the show was not renewed. I don’t quite know why. According to a reviewer on IMDb, the show, “Originally financed and owned by the writers and Jock Mahoney, … was so successful in its initial season that the network insisted on buying it. Jock Mahoney and the others refused; the network responded by concealing it.” Maybe that was so, though Freese's comprehensive bio doesn't mention it. Jocko claimed that he never saw a nickel of the original percentage deal. Mahoney actually soon ran into money problems once Yancy Derringer had ended and had to sell his newly-acquired mansion home.

I actually don’t remember the series as a boy. I would have been 10 when it started. I loved The Range Rider (which was still being shown all through the 50s) but either I saw Yancy Derringer and didn’t think it ‘Western’ enough (I was very snooty then, or should I say even snootier) or I just kinda missed it, which occasionally happened. At any rate I love it now. It’s different, and Jocko is superb – relaxed, authoritative, drily amusing and splendid in the action scenes.

You can get the complete series of the thirty-four 30-minute black & white episodes on a good TMG DVD, which I recommend. Only Episode 24 is of poor visual quality, but is included for the sake of completeness; the rest look good and are well watchable. At under 20 bucks, the DVD was, in my view, a bargain.


Here is a brief episode guide:
 
1. Return to New Orleans. First broadcast on CBS, October 2, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

We are introduced to Yancy, Pahoo and Mr. Colton. In 1868, Derringer arrives home, penniless, only to discover he has a wife, Amanda (Julie Adams). It’s surprising because he doesn’t remember getting married. His family plantation, Waverly, has been turned into a gambling den and a certain Hunter (George N Neise) has taken possession of the Sultana. “Oh, lackaday,” opines Yancy. John Colton, the City Administrator of New Orleans, helps to return Waverly to Yancy. Colton then recruits Yancy as an incognito special agent (“I want a black angel,” he says) to help rebuild New Orleans and restore law ‘n’ order. “I’m your huckleberry,” replies Yancy, Doc-ishly. “To the South,” toasts Colton sportingly. “No, to the Union,” Yancy frightfully decently responds.

 


 

 
 
2. Gallatin Street. First broadcast on CBS, October 9, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

Mr. Colton wants to clean up the crime-ridden Gallatin Street but Toby Cook (Claude Akins) is the vice lord there and he will be very hard to take down. Yancy is charged with doing so. We meet the feisty bantam sea-captain, Sven Larsen (a highly entertaining John Qualen), who wants to go to the Yumping Yak, as he calls Toby’s Jumping Jack, where, Yancy explains, he will most certainly be fleeced. However, Capt. Larsen has come equipped with an invention of a fellow countryman. “It’s dy-inamit,” he explains, and “Mr. Nobel inwented it.” Actually, Nobel patented dynamite in 1867, so this was possible. Gallatin Street is closed down by Colton and Yancy puts a notice in the paper to challenge Toby and his many henchmen (led by stunt coordinator Fred Krone as Henry). The fair Lucy (Paula Raymond) is in the hands of the ruthless Toby but of course is rescued. Larsen’s dy-inamit and Yancy’s derringer, aided by Pahoo’s shotgun, save the day, Colton feels obliged to arrest Yancy (he can’t admit Yancy is his agent) and Yancy wins back his $500 fine in jail. Fin.

Akins and Qualen very entertaining
 
 

 

 

3. Ticket to Natchez. First broadcast on CBS, October 23, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

City Administrator John Colton entrusts Yancy with an army payroll that is to be taken to Natchez, on Yancy's riverboat, the Sultana, but robbers have other plans. Duke Winslow (guest star Bill Williams) is (apparently) a very well-known marshal. Billie Jo (Marie Windsor) has a derringer (naturally). It’s .25 caliber. Marshal Winslow takes fright at Pahoo. “This savage almost scared me out of my mind,” he complains. “Your what?” Yancy asks, curiously. Marie wields that derringer pretty often and in fact it turns out that she is a special agent while Marshal Winslow is a fraud (fake lawmen were a popular theme on this show).

 


 

 

 

4. An Ace Called Spade. First broadcast October 30, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

A tombstone and funeral wreath are delivered to Administrator Colton, and a newspaper reports his demise. Yet he lives. Yancy has 24 hours to prevent Colton's being killed by the South's ace duelist, Spade Stuart (guest star Ray Danton). There’s a glam widow (natch), Lavinia Lake (Joan Taylor), with whom Mr. Colton evidently is besotted. She, of course, has a derringer. Indeed, she does for Spade with it. There’s a duel, and the duel will be theme of a later episode too (see below), as you may imagine a New Orleans melodrama would wish.

 


 

 

 

5. A Bullet for Bridget. First broadcast on CBS, November 5, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

We meet, for the first time, Bridget Malone, Madame Francine's cousin from Ireland (Margaret Field, Jocko’s actual wife Maggie, with a Hollywood version of an Irish accent) who, while visiting New Orleans, decides that Yancy is to be her future husband.  She has arrived on a freighter and Mr. Colton is convinced that something is not quite kosher with this ship. Smuggling, maybe?  Yancy investigates and finds that on the passage 13 passengers have fallen victim to the plague. Uh-oh. The ship-owners want to silence Bridget and indeed she is shot, by bad guy Barret Rankin (Charles Maxwell). Will she pull through? (Do you need to ask?)

Mr. & Mrs. Mahoney


 

 

 

6. The Belle from Boston. First broadcast on CBS, November 13, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

The New Orleans underworld wants to assassinate Administrator Colton, who has hanged a vice lord, Carter. The good news for us viewers is that Carter’s brother, who wants Colton’s life, is none other than our all-time favorite Western heavy, Leo Gordon. At the same time, Colton’s sister Agatha (Noreen Nash) arrives from DC. Yancy expects a battle-axe but… They go to the opera (Yancy, poor thing, has to sit through Lohengrin but he relieves the boredom by doing the stunt described above). He also gives Francine a four-shot Sharps derringer to replace her measly two-barrel one.

 


 

 

 

7. The Loot from Richmond. First broadcast on CBS, November 20, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

This episode concerns some bad guys wanting to get their hands on some Confederate gold. It opens with some assassinations (they occur quite often in the street in 1868 New Orleans, usually just when Yancy and Pahoo are passing by). Yancy goes to the funeral of his old friend and fellow plantation owner General Stafford (played by our equally old friend Carl Benton Reid, who rarely played anything less than a general though might occasionally stoop to being a colonel or judge). However, it turns out that the general is very much alive, rather to the consternation of his fair granddaughter Gloria (Patricia Hardy). His coffin is full, though – of that gold. Gloria is engaged to a man, Bartley (Dennis Patrick), who is English and because of/despite this (take your pick) is evidently a bad egg. Actually, Mr. Bartley’s English accent is about as good as Bridget’s Irish one, but never mind. The money comes to an interesting end…

 


 

 

 

8. The Saga of Lonesome Jackson. First broadcast on CBS, November 27, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

Counterfeit money is being passed through the French Quarter. Mr. Colton is worried and commissions Yancy to find the source. This was a popular theme in B-Westerns, and indeed it would resurface in this series too, in Episode 29. The Jackson of the title is an extravagantly wealthy but lonely man (Gene Evans on top form) who comes to New Orleans to find a wife. There’s a running gag about Yancy being hungry. The villain is Quayne (Bartlett Robinson) and he has a derringer, naturally. You may imagine if it helps him beat the good guys or not.

 


 

 

 

9. Memo to a Firing Squad. First broadcast on CBS, December 4, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

Phillip Hampton (Robert Rockwell) is reprieved from death by firing squad but there’s a heinous plot to shoot him anyway by a colonel with vengeance in his heart (it is later explained why). The good news: the army officer is Col. John Dehner, one of the great Western character actors. Lieutenant Weems (John M Pickard) also plays a part. Mr. Colton is abducted, Jody appears again, there are several escapes, Yancy and Pahoo practice their knife-tossing and Mr. Colton is duly rescued. Good stuff.

Dehner is the bad colonel
 

 
 

 

 

10. Three Knaves from New Haven. First broadcast on CBS, December 11, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

Yancy investigates when several shopkeepers along Duquesne Street are paid twice as much as their property is worth, and are subsequently robbed and murdered. He learns that a projected railroad spur is to be built to the waterfront through that shopping district and unscrupulous Northerners plan to use illegal means to grab all the available real estate before the project is officially announced. This is of course one of the oldest Western plots in the business but is valid for another go-round. The eponymous villains are John Bryant, Robert Lowery and John Stephenson. One of them (Bryant), is a suitor of Bridget, who has re-appeared. Jody’s back too.

 


 

 

 

11. Marble Fingers. First broadcast on CBS, December 18, 1958. Director: William F Claxton.

Yancy is falsely accused of complicity in a waterfront property theft. Administrator Colton manages to get Pinkerton man Matthew Younger (Mark Roberts) to drop the charges, but Yancy decides the insurance company may be throwing charges around to hide the real perpetrators. His investigations lead him to a waterfront dive and its grave-robbing habitués and ultimately to a midnight assignation in a New Orleans cemetery to gather proof of the insurance scam. Blackeyed Sue (Kasey Rogers) plays a key part. There’s a nifty bit when Pahoo swaps out Colt .31s and the villain (yup, it’s Pink Matthew Younger) is arrested.

 


 

 

 

12. Old Dixie. First broadcast on CBS, Christmas Day, 1958. Director: Richard Sale.

Old Dixie was a special Christmas episode. Flashing back to Xmas, ’61, Yancy reminisces about his dad, who looks remarkably like Jocko in the portrait, and indeed Jocko himself, in goatee, plays Derringer père. Daddy gives Yancy a puppy, which he names Old Dixie. Back in 1868 now, Yancy's Uncle Henry Spinner (our pal Chubby Johnson), a government engraver, has been murdered and the plates for the new hundred-dollar greenback he was designing have disappeared. Mr. Colton is evidently concerned. While Yancy searches for the murderer-thief, two key characters show up: the widow of Yancy’s brother David, Nellie (Louise Fletcher), and Dixie, now grayer in the muzzle. The mutt is the only one who can lead Yancy to where the family treasure is buried! There’s a villain (Val Dufour) with spade cufflinks who passes himself off as Nellie’s cousin. There’s an assassination attempt, against Dixie. The episode ends with a Christmas party. Bridget’s back, in the shapely shape of Jocko’s wife Maggie, and indeed most of the series' recurring characters, even Capt. Larsen, attend the shindig.

 


 

 

 

13. Two of a Kind. First broadcast on CBS, January 1, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

In this gripping episode two types masquerading as Yancy and Pahoo, who are “dead ringers and dead shots”, sow mayhem in New Orleans. Alex Sharp is the fake Yancy and Fred Krone is back as the Pahoo impersonator. A blonde (Ruta Lee) empties a revolver at the real Yancy in Madame Francine’s (excuse the apostrophe) before realizing it was the other Yancy who was to blame for her ills. But before Yancy can find the impostors, he and Pahoo are arrested for bank robbery – committed obviously by the frauds. Well, it all comes right in the end, after much derringering.

 


 

 

 

14. Nightmare on Bourbon Street. First broadcast on CBS, January 8, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.  

More dynamite. Someone steals ten cases of the stuff from the arsenal and threatens to blow up New Orleans with it. Indeed, explosions rock the city. Who is the bomber and how can he be found? Thank goodness Yancy and Pahoo are on the case.

 


 

 

 

15. The Fair Freebooter. First broadcast on CBS, January 15, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

We meet for the first time (she’ll be back) the glam pirate Coco LaSalle (Beverly Garland). Not only does she inflict depredations on shipping, she has stolen one of the shirts Yancy ordered from Paris. Clearly he has to go into the deadly swamps to retrieve it. Mr. Colton tags along, in unconvincing incognito, to recover some bauble, a necklace stolen from representatives of the new Maximilianite Mexican government. Yancy also dresses as a pirate. Pierre (Michael Forest) is jealous of his attentions to Coco. There’s a masked ball. Yancy and Jody end up behind bars – again.

 


 

 

 

16. Mayhem at the Market. First broadcast on CBS, January 22, 1959. Director: Richard Sale. 

This is a protection racket episode. Francis Jordan (Harry Lauter) is terrorizing local tradesmen, forcing them to pay up or get their wares smashed. All this is seen by a blind beggar, Bill (Jack Albertson) who, of course, has 20/20 vision behind his dark glasses. La belle dame this week (there’s always one) is Mari Aldon as Celeste Duval. Her grandfather, Col. Duval (Raymond Bailey) is protective of Celeste but it’s the old woman Carrie (Lillian Bronson) who is the real danger. Though she is a stall holder at the market, it turns out she is the mastermind of the crooks.

 


 

 

 

17. The Night the Russians Landed. First broadcast on CBS, January 29, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

In this one the hard-living Grand Duke Alexis (Nick Adams) comes to town on a Russian warship, the Borodino. He is accompanied by his long-suffering aide-de-camp Col. Petrov (Alberto Morin) who has become used to such pranks as having drinking glasses shot off his head by the princeling (with a derringer, natch). But straight away Yancy and Pahoo save the Russkis from assassination (these anarchists are everywhere). Yancy and the prince pal up. There will other attempts on the nobleman’s life for our hero to thwart. Francine’s girls Opal, Emerald and Pearl are joined by a new one, Amethyst (Gerrie Bender), who turns out to be a Russian. James Foxx is a riverboat captain, The O’Hara, who plays a key part. In the end a derringer bullet looks certain to do in Alexis but… Dasvidanya!

 


 

 

 

18. A Game of Chance. First broadcast on CBS, February 5, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

The game of chance concerned here is the New Orleans lottery. The winner holding the latest $100,000 ticket, a Miss Cole (Mary Lawrence) is murdered, receiving three .38 slugs in her fair torso. Is the lottery on the level? Doubtful, e-pards. A baby makes an appearance, which rather non-plusses Yancy. Benjamin Quade (Ralph Clanton) is the suspicious manager of the lottery and he has a henchman-thug, Dink Saxon (Arthur Batanides). Mr. Colton need not fear: Yancy and Pahoo will clear it all up. And the baby inherits the hundred grand. Yancy says that invested on behalf of the infant at 6%, at the age of majority, 21, riches await. Yes, $340,000 by my reckoning, a tidy sum in them thar days.

 


 

 

 

19. Panic in Town. First broadcast on CBS, February 12, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

This one plays on coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. So many movies these days have evil clowns and indeed I understand that YouTube is full of real-life ones. But Yancy Derringer was there back in the 1860s. Or 1950s anyway. New Orleans is plagued by a clown who cuts women’s tresses. He’s crazy but he manages to terrify the whole female population of the city, including Mme. Francine and her girls. A pressure group (aka vigilantes) is formed and wants action to stop the clown - not only that, but to clean up New Orleans, remove all vice, and indeed remove Mr. Colton. Mr. & Mrs. Ogilvie (Donald Randolph and Peggy Stewart) head up the repellent puritans and a certain young Dr. Bishop (Ed Kemmer) backs them up. Interestingly, Mr. Colton has now learned to understand Pahoo.

 


 

 

 

20. Hell and High Water. First broadcast on CBS, February 19, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

The Big Muddy is high. It looks as though New Orleans is going to be flooded. Obadiah suggests to Yancy a risky scheme to save the city – blow the levy and divert the flood water. Now there is a tough guy recently escaped from custody who blames Yancy for putting him there and wants revenge. It’s Rogue Donovan (Charles Bronson). Not only did he break free, Rogue also captured a Gatling gun. Uh-oh. There’s also a particularly unpleasant Englishwoman, Lady Charity (Patricia Cutts) and she will do anything, including use that Gatling, to stop Colton and Derringer flooding her plantation to save the city. She doesn’t give a hang for the women and children who will be drowned. They are just common people, so who cares? Will she get her come-uppance? You may guess.

Bronson is Rogue Donovan



 

 

 

21. The Louisiana Dude. First broadcast on CBS, February 26, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

I like this one because Yancy and Pahoo go West. Yancy wins a Nevada silver mine at poker and because the boiler on the Sultana has just blown he needs cash. He finds that a Virginia City saloon woman, Miss Julia (Hillary Brooke), who tries unsuccessfully to beat him at three card monte, is his partner in the mine. But she says it’s played out and worthless. However, there’s a town thug, Big Jim Ogden (Harry Swoger) who seems to know something Miss Julia doesn’t, because he wants that mine at all costs… The good thing is, Yancy wears buckskins out in Nevada and he looks for all the world like the Range Rider! Only that little ‘tache gives it away. In the end Yancy gets a new partner, the local judge, and it’s good old Addison Richards, so that’s very satisfactory.

 


 

 

 

22. Longhair. First broadcast on CBS, March 5, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

Longhair is a Custer story. Yancy and Pahoo are back in New Orleans and Custer, on court-martial suspension, arrives, hoping to win the support of Administrator Colton to get reinstated. This Custer (Grant Williams) is arrogant and pompous. He insists taht everyone address him by his brevet rank of Major-General but Yancy stolidly refers to him as Mr. Custer, which he is. Someone tries to get Custer with a bow and arrow, and Pahoo is arrested for it, despite the weapons not being Pawnee. Colorado Charlie (Kelly Thordsen) is there and it appears he has no love for Custer but likes the Cheyenne and it was a Cheyenne bow… He breaks Pahoo out and says he wants to kill Custer for the “Smokey Hill Massacre”. Well, there are more attempts on Custer’s life, at Madame Francine’s, but he is then reinstated and free to go back to slaughtering on the frontier. This episode is quite anti-Custer in a time when revisionism hadn’t yet arrived (though pro-Indian movies were more common).

The arrogant and foppish General Custer
 

 

 

 

23. Thunder on the River. First broadcast on CBS, March 12, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

This is a riverboat story. Sabotage is afoot! Riverboats are sinking. There are some good special FX for a late-50s TV show, though they are rather spoiled later when a cheap model sinks. Is the dubious Emerson (Oliver McGowan) behind the ‘accidents’? He was an accomplice, it turns out, but his dying words are, “It wasn’t my idea!” So whose idea was it? Yancy has a double reason to investigate: Colton wants it and as a riverboat owner he has a vested interest. There’s another very unpleasant dame (the show seemed to be fond of them), Patricia Tappworth (Patricia Barry), who is also boat owner, and there’s Shute O’Brien (Ken Mayer). It’s all very suspicious. Yancy loses the Sultana (oh no!) and there’s an evening meeting of river pilots at which The O’Hara (James Foxx) makes another appearance. There’s a violent ending.

 


 

 

 

24. The Gun That Murdered Lincoln. First broadcast on CBS, March 19, 1959. Director: Richard sale.  

Another historical one. This is the one episode which is poor quality visually, but is included on the DVD for completeness – and it’s not that bad. Senator Yardley (Willard Sage) arrives to arrest Yancy, accusing him of having provided the weapon used by presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. He protests that he is no relation to Henry Deringer, who made that pistol, and that Deringer only had one R in his name. But Capt. Fry is obliged to arrest our hero. Colton agrees to be Yancy’s defense counsel and Yancy’s friends must refute forged evidence by finding where the matched set of pistols, the ones alleged purchased by Booth, were hidden when renegades ransacked his plantation during the Civil War. Gripping stuff. It turns out that Sen. Yardley isn’t whom he purports to be. Of course I liked this episode because derringers were so crucial.

JW Booth...
 
...and his Philadephia Deringer

 

 
 

 

 

25. Collector's Item. First broadcast on CBS, March 26, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

In this one Toby Cook (Claude Akins) comes back. There are two lady robbers. They fleece Jody, which is new. Yancy complains that it’s throwing a lion into a den of Daniels. But he learns that the pair were targeting pickpockets, crooked gamblers and thieves to pay for a half-dozen orphans that Elsie Tulliver (Janet Lord) has adopted. Claude is Elsie’s new partner. Yancy is kinda sympathetic. He arranges for the great photographer Matthew Brady (Robert Cornthwaite) to help him raise money for the poor motherless children.

 


 

 

 

26. Fire on the Frontier. First broadcast on CBS, April 2, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

This is rather an impressive, and historic episode. The Pawnees, we know, have made peace with the white man and are allies. When renegades attack Pawnee villages but the good Indians are not protected by US troops, as the treaty demands, Pahoo, accompanied by Yancy and Colorado Charlie, travel to Nebraska, where Pahoo is appointed spokesman of the Pawnee nation by his dad, Pools of Water (uncredited actor). Therefore the friends go to Washington to talk to the powers that be (and they definitely be). The conductor bans the “savage” from riding in the cars so the pals all make the trip in the caboose. In DC they are thrown out of their hotel for the same reason (savagery). They meet Colton’s sis Agatha (Noreen Nash) again and are invited to a posh party. There another lowdown woman (Regina Gleason) - I told you the series liked them- who is ultra-rude to them but the great Thaddeus Stevens (Robert Carricart) appears and gives her short shrift. And you know, there’s nothing like a bit of short shrift. With Stevens’s help Pahoo addresses Congress, in sign language with Yancy interpreting, and it’s really quite a moving scene. The villain (Charles Fredericks) is unmasked and it all ends well. Top class.

 


 

 

 

27. Duel at the Oaks. First broadcast on CBS, April 9, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

You couldn’t have a series set in 19th century New Orleans without a duel. It opens with a carriage at high speed – Mr. Colton and Francine are rushing to prevent a duel at the Oaks at dawn. Too late. Yancy has fatally shot Charles LeBow (John Vivyan), who had insulted him by claiming that the Danube was bluer than the Mississippi. However, all is not as it seems. There is a funeral but instead of Mr. LeBow being the occupant of the coffin it is his partner Lorme (Hugh Sanders). Now that’s odd. It turns out that Yancy staged the fake duel as a favor to his friend LeBow but the rotter double-crossed him. There is a dramatic chase in the bayou. We are warned of deadly gators and I assumed one would get the bad guy but nay, he is merely arrested.

 


 

 

 

28. The Wayward Warrior. First broadcast on CBS, April 16, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

The Wayward Warrior is a prize-fighting story. The glam pirate Coco LaSalle returns and manages to convince Yancy to back her champion and stage a fight at Cass’s Crossing on his land, against the huge and brutal Tennessee Slasher (Mickey Simpson), managed by the dubious Professor Bates (Harry Jackson). At the same time Yancy is commissioned by Mr. Colton to find a stash of 1,000 Spencer rifles stolen from the arsenal and destined, unless Yancy can stop it, to cross into Texas and fall into the hands of the Comanches. At one point Yancy defends the efficacy of his derringer by saying, “Small bullets make large holes.” Only men can attend prize-fights, so Francine and Coco adopt unconvincing gruff voices, pants and false beards.

 


 

 

 

29. A State of Crisis. First broadcast on CBS, April 30, 1959. Director: Edward Denault.
 
In this episode (the first to be directed by someone other than Sale or Claxton and not written by the Sales, but by Coles Trapnell, who penned Maverick episodes) Mr. Colton is recalled to Washington DC and replaced by General Morgan (Richard Arlen). Everyone is sad to see Colton go. Morgan has orders to break up a counterfeiting gang. He does this by raiding every gambling house in New Orleans, including Madame Francines, and impounding the gamblers’ money, saying he will return any genuine notes. Of course he has no such intention: it’s a scam, and Morgan and his cronies are con-artists. We kinda knew Colton couldn’t be written out. Yancy plays the crooks at their own game, forging documents which make him Administrator. He unmasks the villains, Mr. Colton returns, Yancy pretends that he is charge now, then there are laughs and “Welcome home, John.”

 


 

 

 

30. Outlaw at Liberty. First broadcast on CBS, May 7, 1959. Director: William F Claxton.

This is a Jesse James story, and there is a pun in the title. Receiving an urgent letter from Wayne Raven (our pal John Anderson), a friend who once saved his life in the war and is now on trial for a murder he didn't commit, Yancy, accompanied by Pahoo and Colorado Charlie, travel to Missouri and learn that Jesse James (Brett King, star of Columbia’s Jesse James vs. the Daltons in 1954, so another on the long list of screen Jesses) has framed Raven for the crime. Now Yancy has has only 24 hours to prove that his friend has been falsely convicted. The dame this time is Sally Snow (Kaye Elhardt) and there is a fake lawman, Ike Milton (Lee Van Cleef) but Colorado Charlie knows Frank and Jesse and i/d’s Milton as Frank. Yancy shoots Frank (with a derringer, natch) and Pahoo gets Jesse, so there is something of a departure from history here, but hey.  

Lee is Frank

 
 

 

 

31. V as in Voodoo. First broadcast on CBS, May 14, 1959. Director: Edward Denault.

Just as you couldn’t have a series set in nineteenth-century New Orleans without a duel, so too you had to have an episode about voodoo. It’s St. John’s Eve, the night when voodoo reigns. Everything is shut and the streets deserted. Charles Hammond (Brad Dexter, hooray), a visitor from Natchez, is here to marry Miss Charlotte Dubois of Longacres (Judi Meredith) but he receives a voodoo doll. There’s a voodoo priest, Dr. YaYa (Naaman Brown), a leopard, a gold bell and all sorts of other exotica.

 


 

 

 

32. The Quiet Firecracker. First broadcast on CBS, May 21, 1959. Director: Boris Sagal.  

This is a Barbary Coast episode. Director Sagal had helmed Guns of Diablo on the big screen and several episodes of Jamie McPheeters. This was his first and last Yancy Derringer. Yancy is just about to depart for Virginia City to visit his silver mine there when he learns that his good friend Mei Ling Mandarin has been accused of smuggling opium into the city inside firecrackers. It’s a set-up and Yancy agrees to travel to California to investigate the shipping company. We meet Hon Lee (Victor Sen Yung), Miss Mandarin’s cousin (or is he?), Blackjack Benson the highwayman (Lee Kendall), and his “little” brother Wee Willie Benson (Mickey Morton). Yancy arrives at The Jezebel in San Francisco where he meets Jessie Belle (Jean Willes) who owns two boats and is a master of the Mickey Finn.

 


 

 

 

33. Gone But Not Forgotten. First broadcast on CBS, May 28, 1959. Director: Edward Denault.

Yancy and Pahoo take a train to make that delayed trip to Virginia City to check on the silver mine of which Yancy is part owner. On the way, Bonnie Mason (Joyce Jameson) and her henchman try to prevent their arrival, but Pahoo gets the man and Bonnie escapes by convincing the engineer to let her ride with him. When he gets to town Yancy finds a gravestone with his name on it, and learns that Julie (Betty Lou Keim), the grandddaughter of his partner in the mine, Judge Randall (Dayton Lummis), has been kidnaped. We meet the real Marshal Ike Milton (Stuart Randall), the one Lee Van Cleef’s Frank James was claiming to be. Badman Clay Wellman (Charles Gray) wants Yancy’s mine and it is he who has nabbed the fair Julie, the skunk. There’s a chap named Collins who turns out to be the famed gunslinger Wes Smith (Luke Saucier). But it all comes right in the end.

 


 

 

 

34. Two Tickets to Promontory. First broadcast on CBS, June 4, 1959. Director: Richard Sale.

The final episode, sadly, is set against the famous meeting of the rails at Promontory Point, Utah, in May 1869 (so more or less real time has passed while the series was on). Yancy wins two tickets on the Jupiter from gambler Wayland Farr (John Larch). But there is skullduggery. Farr and his henchman Bullet Pike (Jim Davis) have a scheme to sabotage the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads – they are working on behalf of the stage companies. There is dynamite in a coffin. Unfortunately the explosives are transferred into a barrel and Pahoo becomes the occupant of the casket. Yancy nearly pushes him out but hears Pahoo knocking in the nick of time. Phew. Colorado Charlie is there too, as well as Blackjack and Wee Willie Benson. Pahoo gets the last “word” of the series, a nice touch.

 


 

 
By the way, sorry about the spacing and the black lines. I can't seem to get rid of them.
 

 

 

 

 

 

7 comments:

  1. Jeff, a really good write-up of the TV show YANCY DERRINGER. I think this was a really good role for Jock Mahoney, and he was good in it. I think the show deserved a second season, although it didn't finish in the top thirty in the ratings. It was replaced with Four Star Productions JOHNNY RINGO starring Don Durant with his LeMat revolver. That show lasted one season, also.

    Here is an update on derringer use by Western actors. HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL's gun- for-hire Paladin(Richard Boone) used an over-under double derringer, probably a Remington .41 caliber rimfire. The episode is "The Statue of Don Sebastian" which aired on June 14, 1958. Bandit Sancho Fernandez(Simon Oakland) has the drop on Paladin and orders him to drop his gun belt, which he does. Behind his gun belt buckle is the derringer, which he holds in his hand behind his leg as he turns. Paladin shoots Sancho in the left shoulder.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't look up the ratings. I wonder why it didn't do better. It was a quality show. But maybe other viewers also didn't find it 'Western' enough.
      Yes, Paladin is already in my list of derringeristas. I don't remember that particular episode but I might search for it on YouTube.
      Jeff

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  2. A character called Yancey Derringer would have to be a MUST for you, Jeff!!
    Actually, I first caught up with this series finally around 20 years ago and, like your initial reaction, I felt a slight disappointment that it wasn't really 'western', as "THE RANGE RIDER" had so wonderfully been. But, despite myself, I found it really growing on me.
    Jock Mahoney is superb in it, now showing a relaxed and confident performer.

    Very much enjoyed your excellent writeup, as well as the additional factual info that Walter so often brings to the table.
    Really good!!

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    1. Yes, it's true that I was, er, predisposed to like this series. But actually, even if you are NOT obsessed by derringers (hard to imagine, I know) you would still find this show good value. And I agree, Jocko was on top form.
      Jeff

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  3. Jeff,I don't know where you find the time to keep doing these truly epic threads.
    I must admit,unlike Jerry,I don't really keep up with the DVD releases of Western
    series 'though I watched them all as a kid. Sadly Yancey Derringer never made it
    over to the UK.
    I did however indulge in the recent THE REBEL set because I've always been kinda
    fond of Nick Adams. I know Jeff that you don't like short blonde men in Westerns
    and Adams' casting just should not work,but somehow it does.
    Overall it's a pretty strong series albeit very low budget even by TV standards.
    There are two standout episodes JERKWATER,THE SCALP HUNTER with the wonderful
    John Dehner playing John Sims-Adams' Godfather-scalp-hunter and renegade.
    Dehner has simply never been better and it's a shame that his character never
    evolved into having his own series.
    Actually a chronicle of Dehner's many TV Westerns credits would be very
    worthwhile indeed.
    Thanks again Jeff for this truly wonderful and painstakingly researched essay.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, John!
      It's a labor of love.
      Totally agree about John Dehner, one of my favorite ever character actors in Westerns.
      Jeff

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  4. In the early 60s, I owned the Mattel belt buckle Derringer belt. I think it was created in 1959, the year Yancy Derringer aired. You'd push your mid-section and the Derringer would pop out on a hinge. Yancy never owned or used this kind of gimmick but it was fun to play with. I loved the show but never knew why it was cancelled until fairly recently or that Jock never saw his money. The stupidity, greed and maliciousness of the Hollywood studio suits never surprises me. This mentality still exists today. The perfect team of X and Jock never got the recognition it deserved, like the relationships in I Spy, Wild, Wild West, Star Trek, Batman, Green Hornet, etc. Most likely because it aired for only season.

    ReplyDelete