27 December 2007 | Cheyenne-Bodie
John Gavin gambles on his first television series
Likable lawman Harrison Destry was framed for a crime he didn't commit and was sent to prison. When Destry gets out of prison, he becomes a drifter with a goal. Destry hopes to clear his reputation by finding the men really guilty of the crime he was convicted of.
"Destry" borrowed the concept of an unjustly convicted man from "The Fugitive", which had started a few months earlier. But instead of going for the intense noir mood of "The Fugitive", "Destry" was more a remake of "Maverick". Destry never seemed to get very worked up about anything. He always tried to avoid trouble, but he wasn't a coward. He could handle anything thrown his way.
Howard Christie ("Wagon Train") was the executive producer.
Marion Hargrove ("See Here Private Hargrove") was one of the writers. Hargrove wrote the "Gunshy" episode of "Maverick", which was a delightful send up of "Gunsmoke" and Marshall Mort Dooley.
The "Destry" pilot was directed by Don Siegel ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Dirty Harry").
Guest stars included Tammy Grimes, Broderick Crawford, Patricia Barry, Fess Parker, Susan Oliver, Janet Blair, Katherine Crawford, John Astin, Marie Windsor, Una Merkel, Claude Akins and Ron Hayes.
Thirty-three year old John Gavin ("Psycho", "Spartucus") seemed to have all the tools to be a fine series lead. But the execution of "Destry" was uninspired. The great Roy Huggins ("Maverick", "The Fugitive") might have been a better choice for producer.
The premise of the classic 1939 James Stewart-Marlene Dietrich movie "Destry Rides Again" could have made a fine series. When the sheriff of a town is murdered, a drunk is made sheriff by the corrupt town boss. The drunk asks for help from young Thomas Jefferson Destry, the son of a famous lawman who has been murdered. Young Destry turns out to be a tenderfoot, but he is not without resources.
I would have cast Broderick Crawford as the town drunk who decides to stop drinking when he becomes sheriff. And Tammy Grimes would have been fun in the Dietrich role of the strong, wicked woman who runs the dance hall and most of the town. Ray Danton could have been dandy as the evil town boss who was Destry's alter ego. And maybe it turns out Desty's father is not really dead.
Gavin could have been a fine western hero, but even Matt Dillon needed strong characters to play off of. "Destry" could have been a TV version of the entertaining "Rio Bravo", if the regular characters had the right chemistry.
Another poster was dead right when he said the catchy theme song was the most memorable thing about this show.
"Destry" was a mid-season replacement during the 1963-64 season. It was on Friday nights at 7:30 pm eastern time. "Destry" replaced the canceled "77 Sunset Strip".
Universal found another series for Gavin shortly after "Destry" ended its thirteen week run. "Convoy" was a WWII series co-starring John Larch and Linden Chiles. It was described as a sea-going Wagon Train. The pilot was again directed by Don Siegel.
John Gavin had won a Golden Globe in 1959 as most promising new male personality, along with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Bradford Dillman.
John Gavin was apparently a very smart guy. He was a Stanford graduate and a former naval officer. But he should have been more choosy in looking for a series to star in. It was a big decision that was loaded with risk.