22 March 2006 | dougbrode
an apparent gun salesman (wayde Preston) is actually a government undercover agent in the old west
Of all the many westerns that Warner Bros. had on ABC during the late fifties, this was the least successful. More correctly, the ONLY show of this type that didn't succeed for the studio and the network. By the time it arrived on the air, ABC was already airing Cheyenne, Bronco, Sugarfoot, Maverick, and Lawman, all of which had long, healthy runs. Colt .45 premiered in a late evening Friday spot, opposite strong competition on the other two networks. Wayde Preston played a big, rugged fellow who traveled the west, bringing sample guns to stores that could then order them from the Colt firearms company back east. Secretly, though, he was a government agent, and each town he went into not only had a store desiring to order pistols but also some villain who needed to be taught a lesson. One particularly memorable episode featured a mild-mannered small fellow who had read about knights and hid a breastplate under his coat, so that he could shoot it out with gunfighters, allow them to fire at his heart, then (protected by the metal) blow the guy away. When he picked on Chris Colt, though, he made a mistake, for the hero had figured out the guy's strategy and put a bullet right between his eyes. Like Clint Walker over at Cheyenne, Preston was a troublesome actor - he wanted better scripts and more money - and, since the ratings weren't all that great, the show was cancelled. Both the network and studio had second thoughts, though, and brought Colt .45 back for another try, this time on Sunday nights, and it fared better, despite being loaded down with reruns. When the new episodes did appear, Preston sported a mustache that made him look more authentically western, though this was a rarity on TV at the time. Once again, he and the studio clashed, so before long he was gone, with Donald May replacing him as his cousin, Sam Colt, Jr. There was an episode in which Preston turned the job over to May, but in a bizarre move, it wasn't aired as the first of the May episodes but the last - so audiences had no idea why there was a new guy on the series until the series was about to end! By that time, it was on Tuesday nights, and everyone involved in this (and for that matter most TV westerns) had run out of new ideas. So what they did for the final half-season was to imitate a Republic-produced series from earlier in the decade, Stories Of the Century - by having May meet one real-life gunfighter (Billy the Kid, Jesse James, etc.) on his travels. Ultimately, though, it was the first WB/ABC western to "go" - cancelled in summer, 1960. That fall, a Maverick episode had Bart (Jack Kelly) running into the stars of all the other Warner/ABC westerns in a single episode . . . but when he arrived at the home of Chris Colt, there was only a dusty gun hanging from a peg, and the man was gone. Though nobody perhaps knew it at the time, this served as a symbol for the fate of most all such westerns, which would reach the end of the trail within the next two to three years.