Sorry to be late today. Labor Day threw me off a bit, along with finishing up readiing page proofs. For the non-writers here, page proofs is the last chance you have to fix your manuscript. Publishers hate last minute tinkering, but I can’t seem to help myself, and so I ponder over every correction or change, wondering whether it’s worth the fight. It almost always is.
But I digress.
I’d already decided to blog about TV westerns. Many of you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately they disappeared from TV screens in 1968, at least for the most part. But prior to that, TV westerns were THE thing. They dominated the small screens.
We still see a few on TVLand, but some have disappeared forever. Others have are now being offered in CD and DVD formats. I found them when searching for “Rawhide,” one of my alltime favorites, mainly because of the music. In the search I found a treasure of old TV westerns.
At the risk of being a shill for a commercial website, I have to mention http://www.fiftiesweb.com/western.htm I thought I had died and gone to heaven, and I’ve already dropped hints to all my relatives that I would dearly love some of its offerings for Christmas.
Basically, the TV western reigned supreme in the fifities and Sixties. There were about 120 of them depending on what you consider a western. One of the really nice things aboaut them, you could always tell the good guys from the bad, and none of the guns were fully automatic.
The earliest ones were most for kids. I remember running down the street to watch Roy Rogers. Hopalong Cassidy was a real treat. I think I was five or six at the time, and TV was a new-fangled invention.
In the mid-fifities, Gunsmoke began a 20-year run, and it was so successful others followed. Some of the most popular — and my favorites — were Wagon Train and Rawhide, along with Maverick (which lives today) and Have Gun Will Travel.
Studios realized that the western didn’t just appeal to men and “accordingly cast hunky leads, who often appeared shirtless, to please the women (and they did). No longer did the hero kiss his horse and ride off into the sunset, Now he fot to kiss the girl too.”
By the Sixties, the offerings included great sprawling westerns such as The Virginian, High Chaparral, Big Valley and Bonanza.
But the world was changing. Viet Nam spoiled the mood of the country or, according the website, perhaps “there is such a notion as too much of a good thing (Not for me).”
I think that happened to the western romance novel as well. I first started writing them in 1983, and westerns were so successful that the market was glutted. There simply were too many books for the audience, and everyone’s numbers faded. Publishers started looked for the next big subgenre.
But once more I digress. Back to my TV westerns. Attempts to resurrect the genre failed. Westerns are expensive to make and younger studio executives just didn’t get it. The explanation from the website: “They assume that we all want to watch sexy young actors and actresses who haven’t eaten yet this month, talk about nothing in their apartments.”
Which is why I don’t watch much television today.
But I thought I would take you down memory street and mention some wellknown western series and others not so well known. You can buy some of them at the above website.
The not so well known series:
A Man Called Shenandoah, starring Robert Horton. Two buffalo hunters find a stranger who has been shot. Thinking he may have a price on his head, they take him to town. Although he is not wanted, when he comes around, he cannot remember who he is. Calling himself Shenandoah, he wanders the west trying to find his real identity.
The Loner, starring Lloyd Bridges. After the Civil War, a former Union Cavalry officer travels West to try to find some meaning in life, something to value. Rod Serling wrote some of the scripts.
Iron Horse, staring Dale Robertson. Ben Calhoun wins a railroad in a poker game. An unfinished railroad. So Ben has to complete the line. Lots of action as he and his friends tame the way for the railroad.
The Road West, starring Andrew Pine. Benjamin Pride moves his entire family from their home in Springfield, Ohio, to the Kansas Territory after the Civil War. The stories were about the struggles of a pioneering family.
Hondo (one of my favorites), starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane. Taken from the Lous L’Amour story, this series is about a cavalry scout in the Arizona Territory. Hondo had been a Confederate officer who came to live with the Apaches. But his Indian bride is slain in an army massacre and now he works for the Army trying to avid further Bloodshed.
Dundee and the Culhane, staring John Mills and Sean Garrison. Although British attorney Dundee’s offices are in Sausalito, he and his apprentice Culhane wander the west for their clients, always trying to impose rule of law in a lawless land.
And here’s a few of the better known ones. Many of these have been preserved and are available for sale:
Rawhide: Gil Favor is the trail boss of the cattle drive from North kansas to Sedalia, Kansas. His ramrod is a young Clint Eastwood playing Rowdy Yates.
The Virginian, starring James Drury and Doug McClure. The Virginian was the first of the 90-minute westerns. The Virginian is a man coping with change and trying to live by a strict moral code
Little House on the Prairie. Enough said.
It’s great fun to visit the sight and read about these westerns. There’s a description of all the 120-plus series. Just be careful, You can get lost there.