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  • Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford are Lucas and Mark McCain is this excellent half hour western. It was so good they decided to make it a series. Thus "The Rifleman" was born.

    This was far better than any subsequent episode of The Rifleman series, which was a bit too "nice" to be realistic.

    I cannot recall if McCain's rifle in this Zane Grey episode had the nifty fast-action features of the series' rifle.

    I am surprised that there are no other comments on this generally very good western anthology series on TV. It was certainly a popular feature on Friday nights about 60 years ago.

    I believe the host, Dick Powell, left the series to host his own hour long Dick Powell Theater on Tuesday nights. This series of individual one hour dramas basically lasted until Powell's death. All of these shows should be issued on DVD while those of us who liked and would buy them are still alive.
  • According to Tony Thomas's book on The Films Of Dick Powell, Zane Grey was Powell's favorite author and he loved reading his western novels. Before his Four Star Production Company went forth with this series, Powell got the rights to all of Zane Grey's work. This also might explain why you don't see any more work filming his stories.

    But he found that some of the work was long and complex and not easily fit into a half hour or even an hour format. As a result other original material was commissioned. But at Powell's insistence always in the Zane Grey spirit.

    For someone who liked Zane Grey Powell did few films that could be considered westerns. There were two musicals Cowboy From Brooklyn for Warner Brothers and Riding High for Paramount that had western settings. There was also the very good noir like western Station West for United Artists. That one is highly recommended for noir and western fans.

    Powell's partners the other three stars Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino were more than content to just act occasionally in Four Star TV shows and reap the profits while Powell handled the business and creative end. Powell's motto was always like Madonna to reinvent himself from musical crooner to tough star of noir films to TV producer and tycoon. It was either that or go out of fashion very fast.

    I think Powell succeeded in making a fine western anthology series that rivaled Death Valley Days for the years it was on, only ended by Dick Powell's death.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This comment may contain a "spoiler.

    "Dick Powell's Zane Gray Theater" was one of the highlights of my Friday night viewing back in the mid to late 1950's. I remember one episode in particular in which Powell starred as Dan Case , a kind of old west version of the flying Dutchman, who was killed in a gunfight, then doomed to wander the west, repeatedly getting into shootouts and being gunned down. The theme song sums it up: "They draw guns and then/Dan dies again/as he wanders in search of his soul". It was haunting T.V. in several senses of the term. Other episodes, with performances by journeyman actors, like Wendell Corey, Dennis Hopper and others, remain mere fragments in the memory, yet the impression remains of substantial story-telling and satisfying entertainment. I started watching at the age of seven; withing two years I was reading Zane Gray novels like "the Thundering Herd" (having cut my teeth on the comic book associated with the show).
  • I remember seeing this show in syndication years ago as a child and teenager, and I had no idea Mr. Powell had had such a diverse career. Starting out as a crooner in Busby Berkeley musicals in the 1930's, evolving into a star in film noir, and then transitioning to television in a number of shows including this one from the golden age of TV westerns in the 1950's. He was in good company with other stars such as Robert Montgomery, who hosted his own first-rate TV show in the 1950's.

    This show is not really a series. Instead it was in the mold of the weekly playhouse kind of show that was so popular in the 1950's. Each episode stood alone and featured different stars each week, some being quite popular figures from the silver screen. The show first used material from Zane Grey, but as time passed material had to come from elsewhere as well. The following is a listing of the episodes of the first season as well as the stars that were featured. Why do I have this list? Because I have the first season on DVD. Hopefully this list will give you an idea of the talent involved.

    1.01 - You Only Run Once - Robert Ryan, Cloris Leachman

    1.02 - Fearful Courage - James Whitmore, Ida Lupino

    1.03 - The Long Road Home - Mr. Powell, Ray Collins

    1.04 - The Unrelenting Sky - Lew Ayres, Phyllis Avery

    1.05 - The Lariat - Jack Palance, Constance Ford

    1.06 - Death Watch - Lee J. Cobb, BobbyDriscoll

    1.07 - Stage for Tucson - Eddie Albert, Mona Freeman

    1.08 - Quiet Sunday in San Ardo - Wendell Corey, Gerald Mohr

    1.09 - Vengeance Canyon - Walter Brennan, Ben Cooper

    1.10 - Return to Nowhere - John Ireland, Steven McNally

    1.11 - Courage is a Gun - Mr. Powell, Beverly Garland

    1.12 - Muletown Gold Strike - Rory Calhoun, Barbara Eiler

    1.13 - Stars over Texas - Ralph Bellamy, Gloria Talbott, James Garner

    1.14 - Three Graves - Jack Lemmon, Nan Leslie

    1.15 - No Man Living - Frank Lovejoy, Margaret Hayes

    1.16 - Time of Decision - Lloyd Bridges, Diane Brewster

    1.17 - Until the Man Dies -Stuart Whitman, John Payne

    1.18 - Backtrail - Mr. Powell, Catherine McLeod

    1.19 - Dangerous Orders - Jack Elam, Mark Stevens

    1.20 - The Necessary Breed - Sterling Hayden, Jean Willes

    1.21 - Village of Fear -David Niven, George D. Wallace

    1.22 - Black Creek Encounter- Ernest Borgnine, Jan Merlin

    1.23 - There Were Four - John Derek, Dean Jagger

    1.24 - Fugitive - Eddie Albert, Celeste Holm

    1.25 - A Time To Live - Ralph Meeker, Julie London

    1.26 - Black is for Grief - Mary Astor, Beulah Bondi, Chester Morris

    1.27 - Badge of Honor - Gary Merrill, Tom Tully, Robert Culp

    1.28 - Decision at Wilson's Creek -John Forsythe, John Dehner

    1.29 - Man on the Run - Scott Brady, Nancy Hale

    Each episode is 30 minutes in length and features such diverse talent as James Garner at the beginning of his career and Chester Morris near the end of his career. Mr. Powell does appear in some episodes, as you can see from the listing of season one above. Highly recommended if you like the old westerns of the 1950's.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Zane Grey Theatre was a mainstay of German TV in the late 1950's. Many Germans loved American Westerns and there were plenty around at the time, Gunsmoke (TV Series 1955–1975), Wanted: Dead or Alive (TV Series 1958–1961), Have Gun - Will Travel (TV Series 1957–1963), Branded (TV Series 1965–1966), The Rifleman (TV Series 1958–1963), Rawhide (TV Series 1959–1965), Laramie (TV Series 1959–1963), Wagon Train (1957–62 and 1962–65), and Lawman (TV Series 1958–1962).

    Just watching Zane Grey Theatre, you are reminded how good shows were written, how well they were acted and the sets, even though at times cheap, how they ultimately provided a more than reliable Western feel.

    Frequent stars and character actors provided good action and fluid movement in the time allotted. Seeing them now, I am reminded how much I miss 1950's television.

    Claude Akins, Eddie Albert, Martin Balsam, James Garner, Ernest Borgnine, David Janssen, Jack Elam, Burt Reynolds, Sterling Hayden, Cameron Mitchell, Jack Palance are just a few of the great actors that were on the show.

    Of course, no one today will remember all these fine actors, which is a complete shame.