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

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Texan (CBS TV, 1958 – 60)


Rory does a TV show




 
 
As the feature-film Western declined in the late 1950s and the popularity of TV shows grew, many Western stars migrated from the big to the small screen. In the 1958 – 59 season George Montgomery did Cimarron City. Joel McCrea starred with his son Jody in Wichita Town from 1959 to 1960. Audie Murphy started shooting Whispering Smith in 1959 too. Tales of Wells Fargo with Dale Robertson ran for no fewer than six seasons, from 1958 to 1962. Even Henry Fonda made appearances in The Deputy for two seasons, 1959 – 61. All these were for NBC, and NBC also had the huge hit Bonanza, which was screened from 1959 to 1973. It wasn’t all NBC, though. CBS reigned supreme with the phenomenally successful Gunsmoke with James Arness, which moved from radio to TV in 1955 and was still going twenty years later. That channel also had Rawhide, where Clint Eastwood made his name, which ran for six seasons from 1959 to 1965, and Have Gun – Will Travel, with Richard Boone, from 1957 through 1963. ABC had Maverick, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Lawman, Davy Crockett, and would later get Wagon Train. These were all immensely popular shows, and of course there were many others.
 
TV was now the thing

The Western actors didn’t all do it. Randolph Scott preferred to retire, and some say (though this is disputed) that John Wayne thought about doing Gunsmoke but in the end passed it to James Arness and himself stuck to features. But they were in the minority. The Western TV show, usually a low-budget half-hour black & white affair with mucho advertising/sponsorship (often by tobacco companies), was now the thing.

The Producers

On September 29, 1958 CBS screened the first episode of its new series The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun. It was a Rorvic production - in other words a product of Rory Calhoun and Vic Orsatti’s company - in collaboration with Desilu, at the time the second-largest independent television production company in the US (Desi Arnaz was a neighbor of Vic Orsatti’s).


It ran for two seasons, for a total of 78 black & white thirty-minute episodes. According to writer Billy Hathorn, the series could have been extended for yet a third season had Calhoun been willing to continue, but he wanted to return to feature films. In the 1960 - 1961 television season, rebroadcasts of The Texan ran on ABC daytime TV.


The Texan was certainly a success. It faced direct competition from NBC’s The Restless Gun, with John Payne, also popular, but came out on top, finishing at #15 in the ratings while The Restless Gun fell out of the top 30 and ended its run in 1959.

Episodes were budgeted at $40,000 each, not bad for a half-hour show, with two segments filmed weekly at Desilu Studios. Location shooting (there was some) was not done in Texas but largely at Pearl Flats in the Mohave Desert.  

It was ideal casting for Rory because he played a lone gunslinger roving the West, righting wrongs and defending the put-upon. It was a well-tried formula, that. His character was Bill Longley, the famous Texan gunman, but I’m reading a life of Longley at the moment (review when I’ve done) and I can assure you that Rory’s Longley had nothing whatever to do with the real one, a racist serial killer who ended on the gallows. Calhoun’s Longley is a decorated ex-Confederate captain with a tragic past (his wife died) who is decent and courageous, and drifts all through the 1870s Wild West being quietly noble.

The real Bill Longley (1851 to 1878), slightly less noble than Rory

The show benefited from a goodly number of well-known Western character actors, many of whom were happy to guest-star in episodes. There were also thirty-five writers hired (including Louis L’Amour, no less: Longley figured prominently in his 1959 novel The First Fast Draw) and more than a dozen directors. It was done properly and the producers didn’t stint.

Louis wrote some episodes

Of course there was associated merchandising. For example, the show was also adapted into a comic book by Dan Spiegle, distributed by Dell.

You could read about him too

In 2008, Timeless Media Group released a 10-disc set of The Texan, which is what I have been watching over the past few weeks. The sound and picture quality are OK, though of course over the years the image has ‘grayed’ somewhat. But it’s perfectly watchable.

It's not 100% complete, but nearly

Overall, I reckon it was one of the better TV Westerns. Calhoun was never quite in the very top rank of Western actors but he was very solid and somehow he suited the small-screen role very well. The writing, directing and acting was more than satisfactory, and if the plots were pretty formulaic and a bit unoriginal, they were no more so than many of the other shows, and occasionally better.

There follows an episode guide for Season 1. I’ll get to Season 2 another day. This post is already unconscionably long and I think it’ll be better in two ‘seasons’ – which will also give me more time to watch all the episodes!

The Texan, Season 1, Episode guide.

At the start of every episode, the Texan rides into town alone on his pinto, loosens his six-gun in its holster, dismounts and looks warily around. He is dressed in black, and wears a short leather bolero vest with silver conchas, black pants, a (rather 1950s) white shirt open at the neck enough to show the beginnings of a hairy chest, and of course the habitual Calhoun black Stetson. He wears his belt with the buckle on the hip. Then a voice sonorously announces: “The Texan! Starring Rory Calhoun!” Reader Jerry reckons it’s the voice of Larry Keating.

Episode 1. Law of the Gun. Directed by Jerry Thorpe. Written by Frank Gruber and Frank L Moss. First aired September 29, 1958.

Neville Brand and John Larch guest star in this one. Many of the episodes concern Longley meeting up with an old friend (he seems to know everyone in the West) and helping that person out of a jam. This time it’s old army buddy from Vicksburg, Les Torbit (Larch), who has got into a range war with ruthless Kyle Richards (Brand, playing it a bit like his role in The Tin Star). It appears that Torbit has accidentally shot Richards’s young daughter, who is like to die, and a lynch mob is drinking itself into a fury. The local sheriff (Karl Swenson) is powerless. A powerful figure is Ma Richards (Helen Wallace, ten feature Westerns, good in the part) who wants vengeance and is prepared to use a shotgun to get it. Of course Longley stands up for his pal, and it is not long before it transpires that it was not in fact Torbit who shot the girl, but…

It’s a classy start to the series.

Jerry Thorpe was probably better known as a producer, especially of Kung Fu and The Untouchables, but he also directed now and then. Frank Gruber was a prolific writer of pulp fiction, in all genres, and was one of the creators of Tales of Wells Fargo and Shotgun Slade. He also wrote a bio of Zane Grey. He was the one who famously said that “There are only seven basic cowboy tales: the cattle empire story, the railway story, the cavalry versus Indians story, the ranch story, the revenge story, the marshal story and the outlaw story.” His co-writer Frank Moss was a regular contributor to Wagon Train, Laramie, Lassie, and many more. He also worked on the Calhoun Western Apache Territory.

Over the end-credits we get the Viceroy Cigarettes logo to remind us what real men smoke.

Episode 2. The Man with the Solid Gold Star. Directed by Hollingsworth Morse. Written by Robert Hardy Andrews. First aired October 6, 1958.

Fat gambler Jake Romer (Thomas Gomez) wins everything Jim Caldwell (Bruce Bennett) has in a poker game – money with which Caldwell was supposed to buy cattle for his ranch, and more, because Romer now holds many of Caldwell’s IOUs. Caldwell reckons he has been cheated and holds up the Cattlemen’s Association, taking other money belonging to local ranchers. Longley knew Caldwell from way back (I said, he seems to know everyone) and despises Romer but he still joins the posse to capture Jim because, well, the law’s the law. Once Jim is taken, Longley stands down a lynch mob and then takes the job of deputy (it won’t be the last time he does that). There’s a good bit at the end when all the IOUs are scattered by the wind.

Mr. Morse directed only a few feature Westerns, and those light comedy-romance style, but he helmed wagonloads of Western TV shows – in fact at one time or another he directed episodes of pretty well every TV Western you care to name. Mr. Andrews also worked on TV oaters but did some big-screen Westerns as well, including some quite good ones.

Episode 3. The Troubled Town. Directed by Hollingsworth Morse. Written by Samuel A Peeples. First aired October 13, 1958.

In this one old-timer Wild Jack Hastings (Andy Clyde) laments that they’re all gone now, Wild Bill Hickok, Sam Bass, King Fisher and Ben Thompson, all the greats – so we must be after 1884, which is a bit odd because otherwise these shows seem to be set in the early 1870s, but still, we mustn’t be picky. James Drury plays a wild young man, Johnny Kaler, who cheats at cards while playing Arnold Leno (Arnold Schallert) and is duly thrashed by the Texan. Sheriff Walter Sande warns Bill that Johnny will want his revenge, and indeed later, furious Johnny tries to kill Longley. But the boy is then shot in the back by an unknown assailant in the shadows. Johnny’s brother Big Mike (Pat Conway) reckons it was Longley who shot him and calls him out for a showdown…. Harry Dean Stanton is another Kaler. Harry Harvey and Gregg Palmer are in the saloon. Quite a classic plot, this, but well done.

Drury in E3

Sam Peeples was a Western novelist who turned to scripting TV shows (Custer, The Tall Man, etc.)

No ciggy logo at the end this time, just the shape of Texas.

Episode 4. The Big Notch. Directed by Hollingsworth Morse. Written by Herbert Little Jr. and David Victor. First aired October 20, 1958.

Longley meets another old friend, in fact an old flame, Charlotta Rivera (Peggie Castle), now a saloon owner. In her saloon J Carrol Naish is a drunk and arrogant rancher, Walt Pierce, who considers Charlotta his property and resents our hero. He is also very slighting of his educated and cultured son, Neil (Ron Hagerthy), whom he considers effete, and he goads the boy to challenge the Texan, in order to ‘earn’ the first notch on his gun. You already hope (and suspect) that this odious rancher will get his come-uppance, and he duly does.

Episode 5. The Edge of the Cliff. Directed by Allen H Miner. Written by Paul Franklin. First aired October 27, 1958.

Ruth McKnight (Barbara Baxley) has an older husband, Orin (Sidney Blackmer), and is childless. Orin’s first wife committed suicide by jumping from a cliff, and Orin has never got over it. Bill Longley arrives with the sad news that Orin’s son by this first wife has died on the cattle drive. Now Larry, a former beau of Ruth from back East arrives (Mike Connors) and wants to move in, despite Ruth’s marriage. He’ll have to go through the Texan. There’s a dramatic ending concerning the cliff and Ruth’s childless state.

Allen Miner was a bit of a jack of all trades and one of those trades was directing. He helmed the extremely good The Ride Back in 1957 and a lot of TV shows. Writer Franklin penned a lot of low-budget feature Westerns and also many TV shows.

Episode 6. Jail for the Innocents. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Jack Roberts, László Vadnay and Harry Landers. First aired November 3, 1958.

One night the Texan camps in a studio and is disturbed by rustling in the bushes. Luckily he doesn’t shoot because it’s a young boy (Ray Ferrell), apparently lost or run away. The boy is silent. Is he mute? Longley is kind to the child (as all Western heroes must be) and defends him when two thugs want to take the kid. Bill kills one and wounds another. In town, we meet Sheriff Loomis and it’s Vaughn Taylor, perennial townsman in a whole host of Westerns. He puts the boy in a cell for safe keeping. He tells Bill that the boy is not a mute but just scared. His pa is a miner, who has just struck it rich. There’s a crooked saloon owner, the slick Yarboro (Herbert Rudley) and those thugs are his henchmen. Why does he want the boy? It transpires that the kid may have been a witness to his daddy’s murder…

The innocent kid lands in jail

Director Kenton was an old stager; he was one of the original Keystone Cops. He directed low-budget Dracula/Frankenstein pictures before helming 27 episodes of The Texan. Roberts wrote six episodes for Calhoun, Vadnay specialized in rom-coms and didn’t really do Westerns, and this was the only TV program Lander wrote.

Episode 7. A Tree for Planting. Directed by Robert Florey. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired November 10, 1958.

“They are peach trees, señor,” says Ramirez (Martin Garralaga) to the Texan. “From San Francisco.” But some loutish cowboys bully Ramirez. This is cattle country, no place to plant fruit trees. It seems to be shaping up already for the good old homesteader v. cattle baron plot, Paul Fix taking the part of the cattleman. Naturally, Bill steps in on the poor farmer’s behalf. The local sheriff (James Westerfield) was one of Bill’s men in the war; he doesn’t want any trouble. The cattlemen have a point. The thugs go out to Ramirez’s farm and chop down the peach trees. Ramirez goes into town for retribution, a mob gathers wanting to lynch the poor man and the sheriff must decide which side to come down on. The Texan will have something to do with it…

It’s in this episode that we learn about the death of Bill’s wife Martha in 1864, aged 22, as we see Confederate officer Bill in flashback.

Robert Florey was one of the several credited directors of the Errol Flynn oater San Antonio and also directed a half-dozen Western TV shows. Writer Kronman authored fifteen episodes of The Texan as well as some of The Rifleman and Gunsmoke.

Episode 8. The Hemp Tree. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Paul Franklin. First aired November 17, 1958.

Another ‘tree’ episode. Mesa, presumably in southern New Mexico or Arizona. In this one the money Longley gets for a cattle drive is hardly in his hands before it is stolen in a bank hold-up – a robbery which will prove fatal for the bank president. The Texan pursues the malefactors into Mexico (and he’ll do that again later in the series).

Landon is chief suspect

The chief suspect is Michael Landon and Longley tracks him down to a cantina but the young man convinces the Texan that he didn’t shoot the banker. They go back to Mesa, and the inevitable lynch mob (how Westerns loved them). But don’t worry, all will be sorted out in the end and the true culprit unmasked.

Episode 9. The Widow of Paradise. Directed by Robert B Sinclair. Written by Phillip Shuken and John L Greene. First aired November 24, 1958.

Director Sinclair helmed various comic TV shows but was no Western specialist. Phil Shuken was a writer on Walter Brennan’s The Real McCoys while John Greene is probably best known for My Favorite Martian and in the world of the Western did only three episodes of The Texan. The team was perhaps suited to this episode because it was a comedy one.

I don’t know if the premise of this show was really true but the Texan learns, after he kills a drunken lout in a fair fight and is acquitted of blame, that by a Montana law (he’s up in Montana now) he is now responsible for the widow and children of the deceased until such time as she remarries. It seems a little unlikely. Said grieving widow (actually rather a merry one) turns out to be the glamorous Iris (Marilyn Hanold, not a very good actress judging by this show) and she rather likes the arrangement. In fact she wants to make it permanent, and the two young sons take a shine to their “new daddy”. The Texan finds himself in a bind. Fortunately, Alan Hale Jr. comes along and the Texan sizes him up as the ideal husband…

Episode 10. Desert Passage. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Martin Berkeley and Clarke Reynolds. First aired December 1, 1958.

Sadly this episode is not included on the DVD and is not on YouTube. A pity, because it guest-starred RG Armstrong. RG would be back in Ep 26 though.

Kenton directed a lot of the episodes

Episode 11. No Tears for the Dead. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired December 8, 1958.

This one benefits from having Ray Teal and Michael Pate in it. On the trail, Longley is stopped by a scruffy boy with a Winchester. This boy, Hank, is in reality a tomboy girl, Henrietta (Beverly Washburn).  Her pa has been shot in the stomach and he begs the Texan to take care of his daughter, before expiring. Now a posse arrives and Pate accuses the dead man of stealing $7000. “It’s a lie!” shouts Henrietta. The Texan responds to the girl’s plea to clear her daddy’s name.
 
Hank is a girl

In town, Longley finds Bess (Carole Mathews) and - wouldn’t you just know - it turns out that Bill was in the war with her now-dead husband. Bess doesn’t want to take the child in but Bill kinda obliges her to. He doesn’t want to get saddled with a kid any more than he did in Episode 9. Pate has his ambitions set on the widow’s hand and this will lead to a tough fight between him and Bill. Teal is the sheriff. Good stuff.

Episode 12. The Easterner. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Thomas Monroe and Jack Roberts. First aired December 15, 1958.

The Texan is hired to catch some wild horses by an Easterner couple, the Dowds (Donald Harron and Fay Spain). Longley knew Mrs. Dowd before (obviously) and that doesn’t sit well with her present husband. Dowd hires three thuggish gunmen, one of whom, oh joy, is Jack Elam. They are to fake a robbery so that Dowd can drive them off and look good in his wife’s eyes, a rather childish plan one would have thought. However, these owlhoots are more cunning than that: they intend to steal all the Easterners’ money – and kill Bill Longley into the bargain…

Episode 13. A Time of the Year. Directed by Robert Florey. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired December 22, 1958.

This is a Christmas episode. We open with the Texan not riding this time but inside a four-up mudwagon with no shotgun guard. Fellow passengers are Jody and Maria Sammett (Michael Macready and Suzanne Lloyd), on their way to stay with his saloon owner pa, Big Jim Sammett (George Macready, Michael’s father in real life too). But the stage is attacked by outlaws. Bill shoots one but Jody is fatally hit. Now the racist Big Jim won’t give hospitality to his son’s widow because she is of Mexican birth. Not only that, but he forbids anyone else in town to take her in. And then she goes into labor, and needs the doctor. The outlaws turn up, and want to abduct the doc to tend to their wounded compadre, the one Bill shot… Don’t worry, there will be a suitably Christmassy happy ending.

Episode 14. The Lord Will Provide. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by John L Greene and Phil Shuken. First aired December 29, 1958.

A clergyman (Ross Elliott) is bushwhacked by two men and hit in the leg. The Texan goes to the aid of the reverend; you see, his uncle was a preacher. He gets one of the attackers but the other escapes. They get to Junction City (population 1297), where Francis MacDonald is the sheriff. There they learn that nearby Phillipsburg, which is where the padre was heading, is a place known for shooting men of the cloth. Bill decides to dress as a preacher and go there to investigate. At the real minister’s insistence, he goes without a gun, taking only a Bible for protection. Phillipsburg is one of those towns in the pocket of a ruthless rich man, appropriately named Phillips (Murvyn Vye). There is a certain amount of wry humor at the gunslinger as holy man, cleaning up the town.

Episode 15. The Duchess of Denver. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Joseph Landon. First aired January 5, 1959.

Joe Landon wrote Von Ryan’s Express and Johnny Cool as well as the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. We open with ‘stock footage’ (if you’ll forgive the pun) of cattle because this time Longley has been hired to make the first ever cattle drive from the Texas Panhandle to Denver. He has been on the trail for a hundred days. His employer is a very rich woman named Jenny Brewster (Dolores Donlon), ensconced in the Gay Palace saloon. She is a bit miffed when Longley doesn’t recognize her. She came from a family of poor sharecroppers that lived on the Longley plantation before the war, and clawed her way up. Now she wants to lord (or lady) it over Longley, or maybe seduce him. She has a fancy man, Colonel Garson (or at least he calls himself a colonel) who is played by Gerald Mohr, always reliable as a slick gambler type. Better still, he has a derringer, the first of the series (shocking that we had to wait till Ep 15). He gets jealous of Bill and challenges him to a duel. But the duel will be as crooked as the games of chance in the Gay Palace…

She's gone up in the world (in some ways)

Rory looks very dashing in his dress suit at dinner.

(I’m surprised Whispering Smith didn’t make an appearance to arrest Mohr. He was on the Denver police force after all).

Episode 16. A Quart of Law. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired January 12, 1959.

Robert Gordon was an actor/writer/director (he helmed IT Came from Beneath the Sea) who also directed quite a few episodes of My Friend Flicka and Zane Grey Theatre.

This one’s a goodie. It concerns, as you may guess from the title, a lawyer who has hit the bottle. This is Winthrop Davis, played amusingly by Edgar Stehli. In town the very crooked Sheriff Coy Benner (Robert Lowery) runs the whole place. One of his henchmen blatantly murders in cold blood a man (Jess Kirkpatrick) who says he won’t vote for Benner, and then lies, “He tried to draw on me”, so escaping punishment. The lawman doesn’t want the Texan around and warns him to “keep on ridin’” but of course Bill Longley is not one to be intimidated.
 
The show had quite a line on crooked sheriffs

The only ‘law’ in town is an alcoholic washed-up ex-professor of jurisprudence from Harvard but somehow Longley persuades this fellow to stand for election against Benner. The old guy gets 52 votes to Benner’s 3. “I hope he lives to wear it,” says Benner darkly, of the sheriff’s star. Much emphasis is given to the sanctity of the badge and in fact many episodes of The Texan do this. True to his threat, Benner shoots the new sheriff, though not fatally. Who will finally win out in this battle?

Episode 17. Outpost. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Martin Berkeley and Clarke Reynolds. First aired January 19, 1959.

Tumbleweed and buzzards (we are on location). The Texan comes to a relay station (he has been hired as troubleshooter by the stage line) and finds a stage, with no horses but several bodies. There’s a lone survivor but he can’t identify anyone. “It all happened so fast,” etc., you know how they say. He is Dr. Neal Carter (Les Tremayne). The doc is traumatized by the affair, though, and declares, “I will never treat another gunshot wound” though this doesn’t seem very logical. Longley notices some wagon tracks and follows them to a livery stable, where there is a very shifty liveryman (Harry Swoger) who denies all knowledge of the wagon. Three thugs are now charged with getting rid of the witness (the doc) but when Bill wounds one of the henchmen (Scott Peters), he suddenly needs the doctor. But the doc won’t treat gunshot wounds…

Good news: there’s another derringer.

Episode 18. The Peddler. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by László Vadnay. First aired January 26, 1959.

This is quite an anti-racist episode, and in fact the Texan often stands up for immigrants or minority types against bullying white townsfolk. Josef Varga, Hungarian traveling merchant (Lou Jacobi) and his pregnant wife Julia (Elissa Palfi), who is tired of their wandering lifestyle, are set upon by thuggish Wade Clinton (Chris Alcaide). “I don’t like foreigners,” declares Clinton. Who gives a shit what you like or don’t like? one is tempted to reply but this is a 1950s TV show so we can’t have that. Clinton and his henchmen wreck the merchant’s wagon of stores and think it amusing. Naturally, the Texan steps in on behalf of the downtrodden (and poor Josef is sure being trodden down). The louts get short shrift.

Standing up for immigrants

But not all the townsfolk are swines. Mrs. Clay at the hotel (Irene Tedrow) is kind and takes the couple in. Now the editor of the local paper, Webb (James Bell) takes a stand against Clinton but the thugs wreck his paper and leave the newspaperman dead. Old Josef witnessed this foul deed but he is in a quandary. He just wants to leave – in fact he wants to go back to Hungary – and says, “I saw nothing”, but should he stay and testify against Clinton’s murderous gang? His wife is stronger than he, and encouraged by Longley to be “a decent American” he will do the right thing. His wife gives birth to “an American boy”, and Josef declares he will stay and set up a general store. “It’s my town too,” he declares.

Episode 19. Return to Friendly. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired February 2, 1959.

We open in a dust storm in Arizona. The Texan is escorting charismatic outlaw Yancey Lewis (James Philbrook) to prison. But Longley has to contend with more than bad weather and an empty canteen: Yancey’s gang want to rescue him, especially because he is the only one who knows where the gold from the heist they pulled is hidden. They come to a signpost. Prescott, 62 miles. With no water and in this weather they won’t make it. Or the town of Friendly, and water, 4 miles. But the outlaw seems too keen to choose Friendly. Are his gang waiting there?

When they get to Friendly, they find it is a ghost town. And there is no water. And the gang are there. Not only that, Yancey’s girlfriend Bess (Mary Webster) is too. Longley is overpowered and tied up. But never fear, the Texan will get free and knock over the gang one by one, Pale Rider style. And the gold will be found in a strangely logical place…

Episode 20. The Man Behind the Star. Directed by Alvin Ganzer. Written by Martin Berkeley and Clarke Reynolds. First aired February 9, 1959.

This one features Brian Donlevy and Richard Jaeckel as father and son, and Russell Simpson too. Can’t be bad. Director Ganzer didn’t do much Western work but was competent enough on this one. It’s another ‘respect the star’ episode. Jaeckel is the ne’er-do-well Clint Gleason who murders and robs glam rancher Martha Driscoll (Jean Willes) who has just received a lot of cash from the cattle her friend the Texan has driven to Cheyenne for her. But before expiring, Martha tells who dunnit – the lowdown Clint. So Bill follows the skunk and when he gets to a town he learns that Clint is the son of the local sheriff (Donlevy).
 
Sheriff Donlevy and ne'er-do-well son Jaeckel

The boy tells his dad that he got all this money by winning at poker, and the lawman wants to believe him. There’s a slight Lawman/Last Train from Gun Hill vibe as Longley wants to take the son back to face justice in Cheyenne. But is Donlevy a sheriff first, or a father? Conflict. Gradually, the lawman comes to know the truth. He offers Longley all the money back, but it’s not enough. What will the sheriff do? This episode is a good one, and Donlevy is excellent in it (he wasn’t always excellent in Westerns).

Episode 21. The Ringer. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by George F Slavin. First aired February 16, 1959.

In this episode the Texan has an impersonator, a man who deliberately behaves disgracefully to get the real Texan a bad name. Strange, huh? In Chandel, Texas Longley finds that someone else has picked up his mail, and when he goes to the saloon the barman (it’s Paul Brinegar) asks, “Have you no shame?” You see the fake Bill had recently wrecked the place. Worse, the man dallied with a local girl (Olive Sturgess) and now her pa (Grant Withers) wants a shotgun wedding. It turns out that a gambler with a grudge against Longley (Adam Williams) wants his revenge, and hired the man (Regis Parton) to dress like Longley and misbehave. But the impersonator is gradually so impressed by the esteem in which the Texan is held and the respect people have for a man who stands up for the weak and downtrodden, that he begins to have second thoughts…

Writer Slavin was a regular on such shows as Bronco, Maverick and Cheyenne.

Episode 22. The Eyes of Captain Wylie. First aired February 23, 1959.

This is another episode that is not on the DVD. Maybe the missing ones are lost, I don’t know. The synopsis on IMDb says “A sea captain returns home to take possession of the ranch his father left him. Blinded in an attack on his [sic], the captain turns to Longley for help.” It guest-stars Chill Wills. But that’s all I can tell you, I’m afraid.

Episode 23. The Marshal of Yellow Jacket. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Harry Kronman, from a Louis L’Amour story. First aired March 2, 1959.

This is another crooked-lawman one, and oh good, the lawman concerned is Robert J Wilke, the hombre with the permanent sneer, one of my all-time favorite bad guys. In the town of Yellow Jacket, where the Texan has just arrived (of course all these different towns he arrives in are all the same one, just shot from different angles) a gunman confiscates a wagon over the protestations of a woman. Longley learns that the man is acting on an obscure town ordinance that forbids leaving a wagon on the street overnight, the fine of $50 being paid direct to the marshal (who of course pockets it). It turns out that there are a whole heap of such laws and Marshal Wilke has been lining his pockets for a long time. Well, the Texan will naturally step in and bring some justice to the town. He will be aided by the redoubtable Mrs. Mulvaney (Kathryn Card), widow of the former mayor, who will chair a town council meeting, pin a star on Bill’s chest and then, using the same obscure book of ordinances, dun ex-Marshal Wilke for back-payment of all fines collected by 10 am next day, or else. Splendid. The crooked peace officer is hoist with his own petard, as Hamlet might have put it if he had been confronted with Bob Wilke rather than Claudius.

Episode 24. No Love Wasted. Directed by Robert Florey. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired March 2, 1959.

Lon Chaney Jr. is Wylie Ames, the butt of jokes in town and plug-ugly but, a widower with a young son, he has been corresponding with a lady for two years. Now she is coming to town. Wylie asks his old captain, the Texan, to meet her and break the news that he is not quite the startlingly handsome fellow he had led her to believe that he was. It soon transpires, when the lady (Marian Seldes) arrives, that Wylie had sent her a photograph – but it was Capt. Longley’s photo. Of course she sees him and ‘recognizes’ him immediately as her future husband. Oops. The situation is further complicated by the fact that a man Wylie KO’d in a bar fight now dies, and the brothers (Ken Mayer and Richard Adams) are out for revenge…

Neither a Texas nor a ciggy logo at the end on this one!

Episode 25. A Race for Life. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Barney Slater. First aired March 16, 1959.

Frank Ferguson, Douglas Fowley and Ralph Moody are all in this one. Dobie Smith (Ferguson) rashly bets on Joshua, the fast horse of his grandson (Bart Braverman). Against the advice of the Texan, and drunk, he puts up his ranch in a wager that Joshua can beat a rival horse, The Outlaw, a Kentucky thoroughbred belonging to slick saloon man Mar Anderson (Fowley). Top-hatted Judge Moody notes it all down. The bet is binding. Goaded further, Dobie adds his whole life savings to the bet. When Dobie is bitten by a rattler, his grandson rides Joshua to a nearby town for the doc, to save his grandpa’s life. He succeeds, but only at the cost of laming his horse. Now Longley steps forward. Nothing in the bet says that he can’t replace Joshua with another mount, and his quarter-horse is very fast – especially with a very light jockey…

There’s derringer No. 3. Writer Slater worked on quite a few Western TV shows, as well as The Tin Star.

Episode 26. Letter of the Law. Directed by George Archainbaud. Written by Jack Roberts and Irving Wallace. First aired March 23, 1959.

Directed by ultra-experienced Archainbaud, who helmed Gene Autry’s show and other Autry-produced series such as Buffalo Bill Jr., Annie Oakley and The Adventures of Champion, as well as a lot of Hopalong Cassidy big-screen oaters, and written by the famous novelist and short-story writer Wallace, this episode was set up to be good. Four pistoleros shoot a man in a buggy and the Texan comes up to the poor fellow. He is Judge Bradford (Richard Hale). He was going to preside at a murder trial in Mesa City. A nearby rancher (Trevor Bardette) is unwilling to take the wounded man in, and the local doc (Ralph Dumke) is also reluctant to treat him. It soon becomes clear why. The town is treed by local bully RG Armstrong, indicted for murder, and it was his henchmen who tried to eliminate the judge. The good guys get the judge better and there’s a Perry Mason-style court case. Not only that derringer No. 4 is used – in court!

Episode 27. Private Account. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired April 6, 1959.

A frantic rider finds the Texan trapped under a big rock after a landslide. The horseman is too pressed to stop and help but then thinks better of it and returns to assist Longley get out from under (and the Texan has curiously few ill-effects). Why was the rider reluctant to stop? He is being pursued by three men, who do not wish him well. It transpires that this young man, Johnny Hinshaw (Joe Di Reda) is accused of shooting a man, and since he has already served time and also has two brothers on the run, well, the town jumps to conclusions and finds him guilty without the courtesy of a trial – especially as he is sweet on the sister (Karen Sharpe) of the sheriff (Jesse White), and said lawman does not approve. However, back in town, the Texan guesses who really committed that murder – and it wasn’t Johnny…

Episode 28. Caballero. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Barney Slater. First aired April 13, 1959.

This one features Cesar Romero. He plays Capt. Acosta of the Rurales, and he and the Texan are both traveling to San Tomas to try to purchase a shipment of weapons up for sale. Longley is charged with buying them to prevent them falling into the hands of the Indians. However, both men are beaten to it by a glam bidder at the auction, Catherine Crawford (our old Western pal Mari Blanchard). Invited to her posh home, the rivals are introduced to her husband, Shep Crawford, and it’s another old pal, Whit Bissell.

Cesar his usual dashing self

Now Crawford aims to sell the guns to the Apaches, and as you know, selling guns to the Indians in Westerns is a crime situated on the scale of awfulness somewhere between matricide and cannibalism. The Mexican and the Texan join forces to prevent that dreaded outcome… Fred Graham is Crawford’s henchman. Cesar is his usual charming-rogue self, full of panache. There’s a good gunfight and a chase, and Bill blows the mouth of a tunnel with dynamite.

Episode 29. Blood Money. Directed by Leslie Goodwins. Written by Dean Riesner. First aired April 20, 1959.

Bob Wilke is back, and he’s a sheriff again, though this time not so crooked. The Texan, after shooting a rattler, comes across a cabin, with a body inside. Three men arrive, whose boss is Lew Cade (Charles Maxwell) and their brother Johnny is the dead man. They check Longley’s gun, jump to the usual conclusions and reckon that he killed their bro. They decide to lynch him (obviously). But a rifleman rescues him from this grisly fate, Sam Kerrigan (Ralph Meeker). He can’t abide lynchin’. In the nearby town it is clear that the Cades are boss. The marshal (Wilke) sort-of believes Bill, and rides out to find the dead rattler, a serpentine alibi, but will it still be there? And will he in any case be too late to prevent the town stringing Longley up?

Director Goodwins spent much of his time at RKO and specialized in knockabout comedies. Writer Riesner was a former child actor who went from that to writing Dirty Harry. He also worked on High Plains Drifter.

Episode 30. No Place to Stop. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Louis L’Amour. First aired April 27, 1959.

Longley meets Chick Bowdrie (Chuck Wassil), a gunslinger dressed all in black, and Laura Whipple (Sally Fraser), who is worried about her pa (Robert Burton). In the local café there are four mean hombres, the Blackstons, Polk, Houston and Crockett, and luckily for us one is Strother Martin, another Denver Pyle and a third James Anderson. The fourth, the sensible one, is Jackson (Dehl Berti). They want the Whipple place and will stop at naught (naught, I say) to get it. Except maybe Jackson. He will stop at aught. They also have an Old Man Clantonish pa (Charles Arnt). It’s a bit like Wagonmaster or Will Penny, an old reprobate with a gaggle of white-trash sons. Helped by the slick gunman and a feisty old lady (Ottola Nesmith) who was a captive of the Apaches, the Texan will combat the Blackston clan and make sure that justice shall prevail. It will be the old duck who finally shoots Denver. “He wasn’t a very nice man,” she explains.

Episode 31. Reunion. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Harry Kronman. First aired May 4, 1959.

Laramie, 1870. A stage is held up and robbed of $22,000. The screen goes blurry (you know how they do) and we flash back five years. A tent. Three men, one of whom is the Texan. They are Confederate soldiers. Longley tells the other two, Lacey (Richard Carlyle) and Trevor (Christopher Dark) how he has just witnessed the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. They are all devastated. Trevor suggests that they meet up again in five years’ time. Back to Laramie, 1870. Trevor has money to burn, and is a rather slimy type (he probably has a derringer), and he has married Julie (Bethel Leslie), Lacey’s former fiancée. The local sheriff (Robert F Simon) reckons that he was in on that stage robbery. There will shootin’, the stage robber will be unmasked, and yes, Trevor does have a derringer!

This time the logo over the end-credits plugs Handy Andy!

Episode 32. Badlands. Directed by Leslie Goodwins. Written by Martin Berkeley and Clarke Reynolds. First aired May 11, 1959.

Clay Thompson (classic Western name) is a heartless bounty hunter – Stephen McNally. He’s after Frank Kincaid (Michael Galloway), wanted for murder with a $2500 reward on his head and he’s not too worried about the “…or alive” part on the poster. “They always resist,” he says icily. Actually, though, Kincaid is innocent. The Texan, a friend of Kincaid’s wife, tells the bounty hunter that the wanted posters have been retracted, but Thompson is having none of it. Both men ride north, one to kill Kincaid and the other to protect him. The bounty hunter tries to do a deal with the sheriff of Cottonwood (Myron Healey), bribing him to arrest and detail Longley. The sheriff says no, but one of his deputies (Greigh Phillips) overhears the conversation and takes the deal. In a cell, Longley makes an ingenious escape but will he be in time to beat out the crooked lawman and the ruthless bounty hunter, and save the innocent man?

Episode 33. South of the Border. Directed by Joe Parker. Written by Don Martin. First aired May 18, 1959.

In this one the Texan again pursues bad guys over the border into Mexico, as he did in Episode 8. As Longley rides into town all the inhabitants flee, terrified. That’s odd. He learns from Sheriff John Doucette that the dreaded Watson brothers are coming, and everyone’s afraid. Longley is gentlemanly and kind to a mother and young daughter from back East, and when the Watsons do indeed ride in, and rob the bank with lead flying, these two unfortunate females perish. Longley sees red. He will pursue them and capture them, whatever it takes. Good news: the chief Watson is Jack Elam, back from Episode 12. His brother is Peter Mamakos and they also have a gunslinger with them, Wes Hiller (gunfighters are often named Wes), played by KL Smith. They are mean hombres. Well, the Texan catches up with the renegades in a cantina, shoots Wes and KO’s Elam, taking him back. Mamakos follows them, and shoots with a rifle from afar, hitting his own brother (doh). Jack Elam bites the dust yet again. The Texan buries him in a studio and takes Mamakos back to face the music.

It'll be RIP for Jack (again)

I may have done a spoiler there. Ray Hatton was a storekeeper. Director Parker only helmed an episode of Broken Arrow and this one, as far as Westerns go. Writer Martin worked on quite a few big-screen oaters.

Episode 34. The Smiling Loser. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by Jerry D Lewis. First aired May 25, 1959.

This one features Eddie Quillan as Slick Parker, a comic Eastern dude who isn’t very good at gambling – or is he cheating? Banker Morgan (Rusty Lane) avoids paying on the Texan’s $4,000 check and he sets up Parker as the fall guy by planting his gloves. Will Slick die at the end of a rope? The Nolans (Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan and John Vivyan) reckon so. The mob shoots the sheriff (Harry Lauter), which isn’t very polite. But never fear, the Texan’s here. The Jerry Lewis writing unfortunately includes the lines “It’s only a flesh wound” and “It’s quiet. Too quiet” but oh well.

Episode 35. The Sheriff of Boot Hill. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Sid Harris. First aired June 1, 1959.

In the next town the Texan comes to no one wants to be deputy to Sheriff Reed Hadley. Not surprising: the mortality rate of deputies is high. The town is ‘owned’ by two bad guys, saloon men Lufton and Stricker (Denver Pyle again and Charles Maxwell back from E25) and it’s not a safe place for a lawman. The sheriff is depressed and pessimistic. Of course, that isn’t going to deter Bill Longley, who (somewhat reluctantly) takes the deputy’s badge.

Deputy to Sheriff Hadley

Now, Sal Elser, the blacksmith (Chick Bilyeu) tells the new deputy that he saw Stricker bushwhack one of those deceased deputies, and, though scared, he will testify to that. Stricker therefore murders Elser, but the smith does not expire before ID’ing the killer. There’s a quick-draw contest and the new deputy wounds and arrests Stricker, and then says to Lufton the classic line, “There’s a stage leaving tomorrow at noon. Be on it.” But Lufton does not take the hint. A showdown nears…

Episode 36. The Gunfighter. Directed by Erle C Kenton. Written by Joel Kane, Lee Karson and Donald S Stanford. First aired June 8, 1959.

A drunken lout, Kirby (John Pickard) shoots a bottle off the head of a terrified old-timer (Paul E Burns) then harasses a saloon gal (Kristine Miller) but the newly-arrived Texan steps in, as his wont, to prevent bad behavior, and he is backed up by the tough sheriff (Robert Bice). Humiliated in public, Kirby wants his revenge. He’s too canny to challenge the Texan himself; he buys drinks for a hot-headed youth (Charles Cooper) and goads him to do the dirty work. The boy, who wants to prove his manhood, duly confronts Longley but of course he’s too slow on the draw. So he too is humiliated. He later shoots a Winchester into the sheriff’s office, wounding the lawman. The lowdown Kirby pleads ignorance, disowning the youth. At the climactic end Kirby will produce (oh joy) a derringer from his hat…

Episode 37. The Man Hater. Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by David Evans. First aired June 15, 1959.

In this, the last episode of Season 1, the Texan finds an empty buggy with the scattered belongings of, evidently, a woman. He finally comes across this dame, Elizabeth Blake (Lori Nelson) and she proves rude, demanding and ungrateful. “I hate all men,” she roundly declares. Now two bullies, Sam and Joe (unmistakable Charles Horvath and Henry Kulky) harass the woman, and Longley is obliged to outdraw one and punch out the other. The thugs were henchmen of bad guy Lightning Crowley (Henry Brandon, Scar in The Searchers, who, however, is only in the show for the last seven minutes). In reprisal, yet another henchman, Pete (James Drake) bushwhacks the Texan and wings him. Miss Drake shoots Pete, saving Longley, and then faints. There’s a nifty last-reel (if TV shows have reels) quick-draw between the Texan and Crowley (you may guess why he’s called Lightning) in which the wounded Longley swivels his holster to his left side and outdraws the lightning-fast gunman anyway. He gets a kiss from the man hater, and, as always, leaves to continue his driftin’ – in Season 2.
 


By the way, Wikipedia says that the Texan's pinto was named Domino, but I never heard him use the name. Maybe in S2.

Altogether there were six derringers in S1, giving it a  DQ (Derringer Quotient) of 6.16, a handy score. Most series never got that high. Though Yancy Derringer did, obviously.

So long for now.


 

3 comments:

  1. I grew up on these TV western series when they originally came out. "THE TEXAN" was never broadcast in the UK, certainly not in the London Region anyway, though I did have the Dell comic (it didn't survive sadly). I have caught up with it in more recent times, and particularly since the great Timeless set was released.
    Putting it in the perspective of all the other series that were around in the decade from 1955 especially I think "THE TEXAN" stands as one of the better series personally. Production values were good and Rory had great 'western' presence. I have an episode from Season 2, "Cattle Drive" that is not on the Timeless set regrettably as it is a good'un.

    Pity Rory was not persuaded to do that third series as his career starring in western films was, by then, largely behind him.

    Great work, Jeff.

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    1. I too grew up with these shows, largely because I was too young to go to the movies to see many of the great feature Westerns of the early 50s, and the late 50s, the heyday of the TV Westerns, coincided with my peak interest in the genre. Well, maybe not peak, because I still love them! But youthful enthusiasm, let's say.
      I agree, THE TEXAN was one of the better ones.
      Jeff

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  2. Brian Garfield's novel "The Lawbringers" has Burt Mossman as a main character.

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