IT’S hard to imagine, now we’ve reached 2010, but it wasn’t so long ago that we used to sit down in front of the little box in the corner and have a choice of either watching the BBC channel or the commercial channel, and that was the total extent of our viewing options; unlike today’s myriad of channels that wear our digits out operating the remote control.
Maybe it was because of such a limited choice that programmes broadcast in our formative years have become more memorable, and hopefully Alan Keeling, the Bugle’s TV historian from Tividale, will again rekindle fond recollections as he taps into another rich vein of TV history. As the New Year opens its door to another batch of yesterday’s TV highlights, he has provided us with an emporium of viewing delights to tweak those memory strings, and the first programme to set the ball rolling is a good old fashioned Western called ‘Branded’ ...
“After having achieved starring roles in ‘The Rifleman’ and ‘Arrest and Trial’, TV actor Chuck Connors appeared as the leading character, Jason McCord, in a half-hour Western series called Branded. The series was created by Larry Cohen, produced by the Branded Company and Cactus-Sentinel Incorporated, and filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood during 1965.
The story lines were based on life in Wyoming in the 1870s during the time of the ‘Battle of Bitter Creek’. As an army captain, Jason McCord is knocked unconscious when Comanche Indians attack his division, and upon waking up he discovers the fighting has ended and he is the only survivor.
Unfortunately the military top brass didn’t believe his story and after a courtmartial he was stripped of his rank (as shown in the show’s opening titles), dishonourably discharged, and branded a coward.
“The theme song tells the bare bones of the story: “All but one man died there at Bitter Creek, and they say he ran away, branded and marked with a coward’s shame. What will you do when you’re branded? Will you fight for your name?” Throughout the series McCord wanders from place to place in an attempt to clear his name, and in total 48 episodes were screened.
There was always a string of guest stars willing to accept appearances on good Westerns, and in this case they included Peter Graves, Burt Reynolds, Jay (Tonto) Silver Heels, June Lockhart, Claude Akins, John Carradine, Marie Windsor, Cesar Romero, Lee Van Cleef, Rod Cameron, John Ireland, Bruce Dern, Jim Davis, and Michael Rennie.
It has been forty years since viewers in the Midland ATV region first enjoyed watching Branded in colour, when it filled a 7pm week night slot in the busy schedule for 1970/71.
“‘Run For Your Life’ was a popular show screened by the BBC in the autumn of 1967 on a Friday night and it had a successful run until 1969. It starred Ben Gazzara who played Paul Bryan, a successful lawyer who is told by his doctor (in the first episode of the series) that he has only two years to live. After recovering from this devastating news he decides to cram into the time he has left a life time of living, including travelling around the world, meeting a wide cross-section of people and attempting to solve some of their problems.
Pilot “The pilot for this show was in fact an episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre entitled Rapture at 2.40. Produced by Roncom Films for Universal Television, the filming for Run For Your Life began in September 1965 and completed 3 seasons, ending in September 1968. Each segment was filmed in colour and lasted approximately 50 minutes and included a wide variety of guest artists; Tippi Hendren, Katharine Ross, Telly Savalas, Bobby Darin, Judy Carne, Mel Torme, Peter Graves, Joan Collins, Howard Keel, Peter Lawford, Jack Palance, Roddy McDowell, and that was just a few of the more celebrated.” With another dip into the box of cartoon characters, Alan has conjured up an old favourite from the 1960s, namely ‘Hector Heathcote’.
The Hector Heathcote Show was an American cartoon series produced by Terrytoons.
There were 18 halfhour shows featuring 4 cartoon segments which in turn featured 15 Hector Heathcote cinema cartoons, made between 1958 and 1963.
New cartoons were later made to pad out the TV series.
Basically, Heathcote was a young colonial ex-patriot who, together with his canine friend Winston and the miracle of time travel, attempted to alter the course of early American history, thus relating his intrusion into the major events that shaped America. Other cartoon segments in the show included The Hashimotos who were a family of Japanese mice; Sidney, an immature adult elephant, plus some of Terrytoons’ early cinema cartoon characters. The voice of Hector Heathcote was provided by actor John Myhers. BBC 1 began to screen the cartoon shows from September 1965 in a children’s timeslot, with re-runs in 1967. The Hector Heathcote cinema cartoons could also be seen around this period at various Jacey news theatres around Britain.
Finally for this edition Alan recalls one of Rod Taylor’s early TV roles when he played Glenn Evans in a the US crime series ‘Hong Kong’, which first arrived in the Midlands as part of the ITV schedule in the summer of ‘65 when ABC screened various episodes on Saturday evenings: Cold War “Australian actor Rod Taylor proved a popular choice as Glenn Evans, an American foreign correspondent for the fictitious World Wide News magazine, assigned to help the British fight crime in the Orient and to cover the Cold War situation. Created by Robert Buckner and produced by 20th Century Fox TV during 1960/61, the series was filmed in monochrome at studios in Los Angeles, California, and on location in Hong Kong, and during the 26 hour long episodes Evans became involved in solving several cases of murder, smuggling, kidnapping, corruption, and robbery.
Hong Kong helped Rod Taylor achieve major film star status, and he was ably assisted in the series by Lloyd Buckner who played chief inspector Neil Campbell.
Other guest stars included Inger Stevens, Beverley Garland, Alex Davion, David Hedison, Anne Francis, Suzanne Pleshette, Liam Redmond, Rhonda Fleming and Julie London.