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Some old favourite Westerns of the 50's

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: August 10, 2006

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Alan Keeling is a dab hand at TV history and continues to supply us with memories of some old favourites that we used to watch on the little box in the corner.

Who can ever forget the kindly but fearless Marshall Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke". "Gunsmoke was one of the few US TV shows that ran continuous for a twenty year period, between 1955-1975, screening 633 half-hour and hour long episodes in that time. Filming in colour commenced in 1965, but when the monochrome episodes appeared on ATV in 1956, for some reason the title of the programme was changed to "Gun Law."

Set in the lawless America of the 1880's, six foot five inch actor James Arness played Matt Dillon, with Amanda Blake as saloon boss Kitty Russell, ably supported by "Doc" Adams (Milburn Stone) and Matt's limping deputy Chester Goode, played by the impressive Dennis Weaver. Having made a name for himself Weaver left the show in 1965 to be replaced by a scruffy hillbilly style deputy called Festus Hagen played by Ken Curtis. An up-and-coming young actor named Burt Reynolds became a semi-regular in the show from 1960 onwards when he played a native Indian blacksmith called Quint Asper.

After 1964 ITV discontinued screening the series, but in 1972 BBC1 screened 13 hour-long colour episodes from the 1966 season. From 1990 a handful of 90 minute episodes were made, set in the early years of the 20th century, with an ageing James Arness still in the starring role. But sadly they were a pale reflection of the original series."

Another programme from the distant past is the "Range Rider" which featured on BBC TV's Children's Hour in the early Fifties. "This Western was shown on a Friday side by side with the "Cisco Kid," but when the Cisco Kid rode the ITV ranges, the BBC kept faith with the Range Rider until 1968. At the start of each episode the theme tune "Home on the Range" would fill the ears of very child followed by the narrator's voice.

"And who could be more at home on the range than the Range Rider, with his exciting experiences rivalling those of Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill, and other pioneers of this wonderful country of ours, and Dick West the all American boy."

It was Jack Mahoney who played the Range Rider, whilst his side-kick Dick West was played by Dick Jones. The series was set in the 1860's, a couple of decades before the successful Gunsmoke, and played for the usual half-hour. It was produced by Gene Autry's "Flying A Company" from 1950 until 1953, and "Crooked Fork" and "Outlaw Territory" are just two titles from those early shows which at times could be quite violent for the young audience they were intended to entertain. In 1984 the BBC considered screening a handful of episodes for a Sunday morning children's slot on BBC2 but the idea never got off the ground."

Over several weeks now Alan has been jogging our memories about TV shows that had all but been forgotten. We have other correspondence to publish in forthcoming weeks, but if you have a particular memory of a show, or a favourite that hasn't yet been mentioned, please drop us a line here at the Bugle.

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