5 October 2005 | silverscreen888
Consistent , Absorbing Western Narratives; Memorable Action & Drama
This tremendously popular and long-running half-hour series featured changes of locale, added characters and deaths, and in several cases changes of the actors plying parts. Central to the proceedings from first to last from 1955--1961 was lean and athletic Hugh O/Brian as a plausible young Wyatt Earp. Into this the life of this fictionalized American icon, other characters real and imagined were introduced. The series was first located in Kansas cattle towns such as Wichita and Dodge City; then O'Brian moved to Tombstone, Arizona. He became and remained a town marshal during this time. Other regulars of note in this very intelligently-made, innovative and realistic series--one whose 'history' was decidedly not of a documentary variety--included Lloyd Corrigan as Ned Buntline, Alan Dinehart as Bat Masterson, several Doc Hollidays, Gloria Talbott, Don Haggerty, Denver Pyle, Damian O'Flynn, Carol Stone as Kate Holliday, Selmer Jackson, Randy Stuart, Wlliam Tannen, Paul Brinegar as Mayor "Dog" Kelly, Trevor Bardette as Old Man Clanton, Steve Brodie as Sheriff Johnnie Behan, Ross Elliott and others as Wyatt Earp's brothers, etc. The peculiar and memorable structure of the show allowed "changes" in character, relationships, locations, etc. when many series did not permit such alterations. In addition, the show's producers used some actors in guest roles many times, including Sam Flint, Steve Pendleton, Rico Alaniz and more. Guest stars of note included Anna May Wong, Arthur Space, Ann Robinson, Howard Petrie, George Wallace, Richard Travis, Robert Lowery, James Coburn, Peggy Knudsen, Fay Baker, Carolyn Craig, Jim Bannon, Nancy Hadley, Whitner Bissell, Angie Dickinson, Francis de Sales, Peter Mamakos, Ed Nelson, Richard Devon, Lane Bradford, Dorothy Green and John Vivyan, plus many more. Directors of record included Paul Landres and Frank McDonald. The staff of writers included Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, John Dunkel and Dan Ullman. These professionals kept up the show's very consistent quality throughout, I suggest. During its run, this series was shot by six cinematographers but only two art directors, by Ralph Berger and Albert M. Pyke, created its authentic western 'look'. Set decorations were done by Jack Mills and Kenneth W. Swartz. Bruce Bilson was second-unit director, with Hollywood veteran Roy Rowland as executive producer. The producers employed a gun expert, several production specialists and very good but less-expensive talents in order to keep up their high-standard of quality. The series ended with a memorable five-part but not-very-accurate gunfight at the OK Corral. This by my lights was a first-rate narrative TV series, I assert, one which was much imitated for decades afterward. Also of note was the show's theme song, whose picture of Earp set the tone for Eliot Ness, The Lawman, and Kojack among many other TV lawmen to come.