The Rough Riders (1958–1959)

TV Series   |    |  Western


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The Rough Riders (1958) Poster

After the Civil War, two former Union soldiers and an ex-Confederate team up to travel the West.


8.3/10
51

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25 September 2017 | lorriefarrelly
9
| Old West version of "Route 66"
After the end of the Civil War, three war-weary veterans – intrepid, quietly authoritative ex-Union Captain James Flagg, big, jack-of-all-trades Tennessee woodsman and former Union Sergeant Buck Sinclair, and dashing, sunny-natured ex-Confederate cavalryman Lt. Colin Kirby – form their own small Band of Brothers and head west toward California. Their adventures along the way are reminiscent of a sort of pre-automobile "Route 66."

The trusting, brotherly relationship of the three vets is very appealing, with the two younger men looking up to Capt. Flagg as their natural leader. Sinclair and Kirby have an enjoyable, "Hoss and Little Joe"-like teasing relationship. Sinclair good-naturedly grouses that the irrepressible Kirby, who has gone fishing, is so lucky that, should there be only 3 fish in the river, "he'll catch two and the third will trip on a rock and flop at his feet."

The writing is well done for a 1950s western series, with humor, emotion, and lots of action. There does not seem to have been any real pilot to the series explaining why two ex-Yanks are partnered with an ex-Reb (who, when the two Yanks introduce themselves as "formerly of the Union army," makes a point of clarifying that he is "NOT formerly of the Union army"). However, in a later episode, Kirby explains that the two Union vets at one point saved his life, he came to trust them, and now they head west with common purpose.

It's a shame this series did not last longer, for it's an interesting show with fairly complex lead characters and a unique premise (but terrible theme music). The three lead actors were well-known character actors: urbane Kent Taylor, gentle giant Peter Whitney, and a very young, high-energy Jan Merlin. Merlin, a native New Yorker, spoke his role with an easy, authentic Southern accent that never slipped, and he was completely believable as a dashing Virginia cavalryman.

To me, the most appealing aspect of this series was the relationship of the three veterans, which seemed genuinely trusting and full of brotherly affection. Easy humor between the men was evident in every episode, despite typical western, shoot-'em-up action and a limited filming locale that seemed to indicate the men were constantly riding the same circle of trails. But the appealing writing held sway: in one episode, daring Lt. Kirby objects to Capt. Flagg's cautious flanking approach to an outlaw enclave. Kirby says when he'd been part of General Jeb Stuart's Cavalry, they'd have charged, full speed, directly at their opponents. When told that he and (the long-departed) Jeb Stuart are welcome to go ahead and charge the outlaws head-on, Kirby pauses, thinks better of his reckless plan, then shrugs and cheerfully announces that "Ol' Jeb's decided to charge down that road all by hisself." How can you not chuckle?

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