TV Westerns

Dale Robertson Wells Fargo

On page two of Dad’s Scrap Book is a newspaper cut out picture of TV Western actor Dale Roberston who was the star of the show Wells Fargo.

Dad like TV westerns, so naturally I did too.  One of my favourites was Bonanza. Bonanza was a wholesome, good always triumphs over bad, TV western but for me had some unanswered questions as well.

For a start this was a men only show where three grown up brothers lived on a Ranch with their Pa and never changed their clothes!

It’s absolutely true – they always wore the same outfits: Ben Cartwright: Sandy shirt, tawny leather vest, grey pants, cream-coloured hat, Adam Cartwright: Black Shirt, black trousers, black hat. Hoss Cartwright: White shirt, brown suede vest, brown trousers, large beige flat-brimmed, ten-gallon hat. Little Joe Cartwright: Beige, light grey shirt, green corduroy jacket, tan trousers, beige hat.

Ben Cartwright was the wise and intelligent father, the eldest son Adam was the smart one who had designed and built the Ponderosa Ranch, Hoss by contrast was hopelessly dim but as strong as an ox and the youngest son, Little Joe was a romantic with a fiery temper.  Because they didn’t have a woman about the ranch to do the chores the Chinese cook, Hop Sing, completed the household personnel and there must have been a cleaner somewhere because for a house shared by five men the ranch was always spotlessly clean.

Now, in 1950’s and 1960’s westerns the characters had manly names like Cheyenne Body, Rowdy Yates, Bronco Lane, Flint McCullough, some had only one name like Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel and some were so tough they didn’t have a name at all, like the Virginian. Inexplicably Hoss’ real name was Eric!  Who’s ever heard of a cowboy called Eric for goodness sake?

It was hardly surprising that Ben wasn’t married anymore because each of the sons had a different mother and they had all come to a premature end.   Adam’s mother was Elizabeth, who died in childbirth.  Hoss’ mother Inger was killed by Indians, and Little Joe’s mother, Marie, died after falling off her horse.

Poor old Little Joe inherited this misfortune from his father because there was always one thing that you could be sure of in Bonanza and that was that if he met a woman and fell in love the unfortunate actress had only got a one episode contract and was sure to die!

Another of my favourite westerns was the Lone Ranger and there are a couple of things have always intrigued me about Kemo Sabe as well:

Firstly, why was he called the Lone Ranger when he was never alone?  He was accompanied everywhere by his loyal Indian friend Tonto (real name Jay Silverheels).  Perhaps native Americans didn’t count in the 1950’s?

Secondly, the most baffling thing about the Lone Ranger was that he wasn’t the sort of guy you would miss easily in a crowd.  He wore a powder blue skintight costume  and a broad brimmed white Stetson, wore a black mask to conceal his face, had a deep baritone voice and rode in a black buckled saddle on a magnificent white stallion called Silver. Tonto’s horse was called Scout by-the-way.

It was surprising therefore that no one could ever recognise him!  Now I’d have thought that word would have got out about someone as characteristic as that.  Interestingly the only thing that gave him away usually came at the end of the show and when asked who he was by a cerebrally challenged lawman he would pass the inquirer a silver bullet and then the penny would finally drop.  “That was the Lone Ranger,” they would announce as the masked stranger and Tonto galloped off at an impossibly high-speed to the sound of Rossini’s William Tell overture.

Other favourite TV westerns of mine ( mostly from the Scrap Book, but not all) were:

Alias Smith & Jones

Bronco Lane

Cheyenne

  

Gunslinger

Gunsmoke

Have Gun will Travel

High Chaparral

Laramie

Lawman

Maverick

Overland Trail

Range Rider

Rawhide

  

Sugarfoot

The Dakotas

  

The Virginian

Wagon Train

  Robert Fuller Wagon Train  John McIntire

Wells Fargo

Has anyone got a favourite TV Western?

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25 responses to “TV Westerns

  1. “My name is Cyril and this is ma side kick Darryl and we’re the meanest two hombres this side of the paco alto line.”

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  2. There was also Bat Masterson and The Texas Rangers. I liked Maverick.

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  3. Does Little House on the Prairie count? 😉

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  4. Wow! Now yer talkin’. One of my favorite genres. Growing up in the 50’s I’d watch western movies made in the 30’s and 40’s with stars the likes of Bob Steele, Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy (played by William Boyd, I had to look it up), and Gene Autry the singing cowboy. TV shows like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with horses Trigger and Buttermilk I believe, Sky King (the flying cowboy), and good ol’ Death Valley Days sponsored by Twenty Mule Team Borax and narrated by not-yet president Ronald Reagan if memory serves me. The old movies would have a dozen or more outlaw or posse riders in tight formation whipping their horses into a turn, and huge cattle drives and stampedes which were not CGI enhanced. The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore?) was mostly shown in black and white so I didn’t realize the powder blue advent of color TV. And don’t forget The Rifleman, Wild Bill Hickok (“Hey Wild Bill, wait for me!”), and The Cisco Kid (“Hey Paaancho”, “Heyyyy Ceeesco”). Ahh, it’s endless.

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  5. No, but I know what your specialist subject on Mastermind will be.

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  6. Yes, Brennan was more prolic: ‘In all, he appeared in more than 230 film and television roles during a career that spanned nearly five decades’. Gabby: ‘As Gabby Whitaker, he appeared in more than 40 films between 1939 and 1946, usually with Roy Rogers (44 times), but also with Gene Autry (7) and Wild Bill Elliott (14), often working under the directorship of Joseph Kane (34).’

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  7. You certainly brought back some memories. I know I used to watch most if not all of the above, but my tastes have changed radically since then. Probably ruined by the spaghetti westerns a la Clint Eastwood. I’d have to say my favorite character in these Westerns was Gabby Hayes. Can’t remember which show it was that included him, but he was really funny.

    Oooops, I just looked at the top of my screen and see someone else mentioned ole Gabby. Walter Brennan lived just down the road from us in Utah. My late husband tried to get him involved in a re-creation event of the Pony Express. We lived right where the trail went through, as well as the Lincoln Highway which has the history of being the first transcontinental road across the USA.

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  8. I think Bonanza went down a notch when Adam left.

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  9. My favourite was “Alias Smith & Jones” but I think that now I am older and wiser, I would be questioning much more frequently why these young men are going round as couples in so many TV programmes. By the way, I also used to watch an Australian but I can’t remember the name of it. It had stagecoaches in it and the theme tune had a whip being cracked.

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  10. BBC2, 20:10, Monday nights, The High Chaparral. Never missed it, Andrew. At least they had the wonderful Victoria (played by Linda Cristal) in the ranch. My dad always said it was one good reason to watch the show.

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  11. Little House on The Prairie for me. I recall Bonanza being watched in our house but I cant say I ever really fell in love with that show. Did you and your Dad spend a lot of time together watching westerns?Great to have those memories.

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  12. I tried not to miss an episode of Bonanza, and thus I find it amazing that I never noticed that they didn’t change their clothes! And SO FUNNY about never knowing who the Lone Ranger was, till he left that token bullet. You are right: his legend would have been known to even the most isolated old cowboy out there, much less the law-keepers.

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