WHEN THIS SERIES hit the airwaves, it was about the biggest thing around. Everyone watched. Everybody knew who this new star was. An adult Western had come to the American Broadcasting Company. CHEYENNE was indeed ABC's answer to the CBS Saturday night centerpiece, GUNSMOKE.
THE MAIN CHARACTER, as portrayed by star, Clint Walker, was a sort of mysterious in origin; but was definitely a sort of benevolent drifter. His drifting all around the West, changing jobs and interacting with various townsfolk guaranteed that there would be a broad spectrum of story lines with which to nourish and nurture the series. As we recall, it never seemed to be monotonous or boring; as a healthy balance was struck between Gunplay, Horseplay and Screenplay.
ALTHOUGH GOOD WRITING, characterization and generous helping of the well established Horse Opera tradition greatly contributed to the series' successful run, one other puzzle part also played a lion's share in rounding up the great audience that it did have.
THAT OTHER ELEMENT was Mr. Clint Walker, himself.
AS A RELATIVE NEWCOMER, he had to have learned much of his skills as an actor as a sort of "on the job trainee." His height (6'6"), powerful & athletic physique, natural good looks and richly tonal voice all were definite advantages in his early career; but he cultivated the persona of "the strong & silent type." This type of leading man had served others well; with the names of John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Randolph Scott being prime examples.
INSTEAD OF DISPLAYING excessive physical and vocal energy, the production team and Clint went for underplaying of the role. That too greatly contributed to the longevity it had on the TV schedule.
BITTER DISPUTES OVER contractual matters caused there to be an unexpected hiatus for the tall horseman as both Management and Labor, in the persons of Warner Brothers Pictures and star Clint Walker argued over some restrictive clauses in the stars contract. In it, he was verboten to accept any other roles and would not be used by the studio outside of the Cheyenne part he originated.
WHILE THIS PAPER war was raging, Jack Warner & cohorts managed to keep this hour long slot in their possession. The "CHREYENNE" hour was supplanted by the alternate presentation of the Western, BRONCO (with Ty Hardin) and Western Comedy SUGARFOOT (with Will Hutchins).
AFTER PEACE BETWEEN Walker and the Warners had been declared, the reinstatement of a now movie star Clint Walker and CHEYENNE came to pass. But the peace treaty did have certain provisions that altered the schedule radically. After that conflict was concluded, there was established a three way "Starting Rotation" with episodes of CHEYRENNE, BRONCO and SUGARFOOT being presented on successive weeks.
NO ONE SEEMED to care about this troika of an arrangement; not Clint Walker, not Warner Brothers, not us either, right Schultz?
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