Head ’em up, Move ’em out, Move ’em out, Head ’em up

(cross posted at The Impolitic)

It’s 6:30 Saturday morning and a faint glow is just starting to emerge at the horizon. A gentle 70 degree breeze is sifting through my 17th floor window while I surf the blogs and wonder what to write about this morning. I decide on morals and good character.

Integrity: Hard working people with principles and the discipline to stick to them.

Honesty: Telling the truth, and facing the truth, even when it might be uncomfortable.

Courage: The guts to stand up to evil even in the face of danger.

When you’re teaching your children and grandchildren about character and when  you’re searching for examples of those who they can admire, where do you look?

To me, the answer is obvious! What better examples of integrity, honesty and courage than the great American western heroes! It’s a no-brainer.

So lets “whistle me up a memory….” and return to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” with a tribute to the truly great men of America’s past, the TV cowboys.

royanddale551.jpgEarly cowboys wore white hats or rode white horses, smiled alot and hopalong.jpgnever killed anyone. Roy Rogers was a family man with his wife Dale, his horse Trigger, dog Bullit and even his jeep had a name – Nellie Bell. Like Hopalong Cassidy played by William Boyd and Gene Autry, Roy was a singing cowboy. He was a little too goody goody for my taste and when he had his horse stuffed and placed in the family home, I felt just a little queasy.

cisco.jpgAround this same time was The Cisco Kid (Duncan Renaldo) and his lone.jpgjolly but stupid sidekick Pancho. I can still hear them at the end of each episode, smiling and laughing as they exchanged, “Hey Cisco…Hey Pancho!”

One of the most famous and long lasting of the early TV heroes was Clayton Moore, The Lone Ranger. With his immaculate clothes, his white hat and horse, and his partner Tonto, he was the epidomy of truth, justice and the American way.

davey.jpgWho can forget Fess Parker as Davey Crockett which Disney said was the show that opened the floodgates of the ’50s westerns.

I was too young to really appreciate any of those but I did watch them. rinny.jpgMy favorites came a little later. Has it been a while since you thought about Rin Tin Tin and his faithful master Rusty and Lieutenant Rip Masters? And how about Wagon Train with Ward Bond as the crusty but likable Trail Boss, Seth Adams and Robert Horton as his ramrod, Flint.

wagon.jpgAnd we all remember that other Trail Boss, Gil Favor, who along with his young and impetuous ramrod, Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood) and Wishbone the cook, drove cattle every week on Rawhide. (you’re hearing Frankie Lane right now, admit it)rawhide1.jpg

It was around this time that westerns changed. The horses turned from white to brown, the clothes got dirty, the beards were two days old and the six-guns got a lot more use, even killing folks occassionally.

james-arness-dennis-weaver.gifThe two most popular westerns of all time, although not my favorites (I’m saving those for last) were Gunsmoke, which ran for lorne.jpgan incredible 20 years (55-75) and Bonanza (59-73) which ran nearly as long. I can still see the original Chester (Dennis Weaver) running on one stiff leg into the Marshalls office yelling “Marshall Dillon, Marshall Dillon, there’s a fight over at the Long Branch!” And will we really ever know if the marshall (James Arness) was boffing its owner, Kitty?

Didn’t you always love it when Hoss (Dan Blocker) had to defend Little Joe (Michael Landon) by beating the crap out of some wannabe bad guy?  And Bonanza, the first western about rich cowboys, was also the first filmed in colour and the first to introduce magnificent scenery like the big screen. I can almost smell Hopsing’s coffee.

bat.jpgGene Barry, who later gained fame as Charlie of Charlie’s Angels, was Bat Masterson, the professional gambler who was good with a gun and never cheated at cards. He may have been the first of the TV cowboys to get away with wearing a clean suit and a derby.

Another gambler/gunslinger but ultimate nice guy was Bart Maverick mav.jpg(James Garner) and his brother Brett. Garner later played a supporting role in the movie Maverick starring Mel Gibson in the title roll. He also played the scavenger in The Great Escape but my favorite Garner movie was of course, Space Cowboys.

dale.jpgDale Robertson was the star of Wells Fargo and John Smith and Robert Fuller were the law in Laramie. John Russell who looked like a john-smith-robert-fuller.jpgbetter bad guy than good guy and Peter Brown were the take-no-bullshit stars of Lawman.

The legendary Steve McQueen played Josh Randall, a lawman.jpgbounty hunter with a most unusual side arm in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Steve later starred in 5 Card Stud, Papillon, The Magnificent Seven, Grand Prix and of course his classic performance in The Great Escape.steve.jpg

Ty Hardin played the handsome drifter Bronco Lane ty.jpgin Bronco. I can never get that theme out of my head, “Bronco, Bronco tearing across the Texas plain. Bronco, Bronco….Bronco Lane”. And who can forget the huge, rugged and always quiet Clint Walker as Cheyenne Brodie.

Chuck Connors was The Rifleman, a family man with a whinny sonrifle.jpg clint.jpg(Johnny Crawford) had a most unusual rifle.

Replicas of his long gun and Josh Randall’s side arm became popular toys at the time.

sugar.jpg Will Hutchins was the nauseatingly polite Sugarfoot who traveled the west with a law book in one hand and a fast gun in the other and Hugh O’brien was the legendary and no nonsense Marshall Wyatt Earp.earp1.jpg

Sure, these were all great, all honorable men and there were many others as well. But for me, they all paled in comparison to the ugly but elegant… comfortable in both the finest hotels in San Francisco and camping on the open range… dressed in tails and tie or all in black upon his white horse…he carried a gun and a simple business card that read:

Richard Boone – Paladin

(I thought for years that his first name was Wire!)

Who was your favorite?

For great links, stories, clips and soundtracks go here.

For a huge list of links to related sites go here.

Next up: (when I get around to it) Cop Shows

Explore posts in the same categories: America, History, Just For Fun

29 Comments on “Head ’em up, Move ’em out, Move ’em out, Head ’em up”

  1. Buffalo Says:

    It wasn’t until the mid 60s that we had TV. Mom declared TV to be an instrument of satan and she surely wouldn’t allow one in the house. A good number of these I saw only in rerun.

    I never liked Roy Rogers. I kept hoping one of the bad guys would plug his goody two shoes ass. (Watched him mainly at the movies as a Saturday afternoon cliff hanger before the main feature.)

    Johhny Crawford committed suicide. Probably was actually ritual sepuki over his whiny damned ways.

    Burt Reynolds was the blacksmith on Gun Smoke for a while. I like Festus way more than Chester. Years later ol’ Matt had a series where he played the part of a mountain man. Can’t remember the name of it, but watched it regularly. Great show.

    ‘Member Lash LaRue? He became a baptist preacher and was busted somewhere down South for weed.

    Remember Fess Parker, his side kick that later became Jed Clampett, quite well. The Davy Crockett mania infected America. Liked him a lot.

    Never cared for Gene Barry. Thought he was too … city-fied. Didn’t like him later in Burke’s Law.

    I don’t remember Bronco at all – or Sugar Foot. But I do remember The Rebel with ….. shit, I forget his name. Nick Adams. He committed suicide also. Steve McQueen’s death was a loss. Always liked Cheyenne.

    Richard Boone, yeah. He walked tall. Big Jake, the movie he made with the Duke is one of my favorites.

    I miss the oaters. I miss the days when the script and acting was the difference between success and failure of a series.

    Sounds to me as if you are missing the halcyon days of your youth when there was right and wrong and when the good guys won.

  2. expatbrian Says:

    We didn’t have tv till then either and it was black and white. I do miss a simpler and safer society where gangs were something you heard about in the back alleys of New York, only the cops owned handguns and getting caught shoplifting was a huge deal.

    I do fondly remember playing cowboys and indians or “guns” up to the age of about 12. We all had our holsters with six shooting cap guns. I guess that is where the love affair with handguns really started.

    For a while, Bronco, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot and Maverick rotated their slot on night time TV.

    By the way, if you are a Cheyenne fan visit Clints link (above). Its his and his wife’s personal page. Apparently he is not doing so well and they are selling his autographed pics there for about 30 bucks. Seems ashame. I always liked him too.

  3. Buffalo Says:

    I was reared in rural Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. I’m talking small towns and country – the nearest “big city” over 100 miles away and they were no competition for the Big Apple.

    There were gangs aplenty all over the country. Most of the gang members didn’t carry pistols manufactured by Smith and Wesson or Colt. They did carry home made guns. Making single shot pistols and shotguns was a simple thing to do and they were effective. They also carried switchblades and brass knuckles and ‘church keys’ sharpened to a razor edge. And they did rumble.

    I was barely 14 years old the first time I was shot at – by a member of a gang and I lived in a small town.

    Virtually every home had rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Most folk didn’t leave home without a firearm just in case they ran into a varmit. Hell, almost every pickup had a rifle or a shotgun hanging in a rack. These were the homes of WWII and Korean vets. Even if the culture of the areas didn’t make weapons common place they would have had them simply because war often makes warriors want to hold on to the ability to defend home and family.

    My Dad was a cop. I remember him talking about a guy that walked around town with twin Peacemakers strapped to his hips in fast draw holsters. The guy made him nervous cause he wasn’t wrapped all that tight but he couldn’t bring himself to violate the guys rights by telling him to leave them at home. Many other men carried handguns and they didn’t worry him.

    I fired a weapon the first time while I was standing on the front seat of an old Desoto. I was hunting rabbits by the age of 6 with a single shot .22 that was probably be the most accurate shooter I’ve ever owned.

    Playing cowboy, army, and cops and robbers were a part of my life until I was about 12. I hated to give it up but thought it would look silly if I didn’t.

  4. expatbrian Says:

    What a great bit of Americana, Buff, and how totally different from mine. I was also born in a small town in Washington, then to two small towns in Northern California, then finally to a city when I was 9.
    No guns ever in our house, no hunting and no varmints. I was the first, at least in my immediate family to have any experience with guns and that was in the army. Not saying I didn’t like it because I did, quite a lot infact. But later, when I had kids, I saw no need and didn’t want any around with them growing up anyway.

  5. jonolan Says:

    Thanks for the nostalgia! I miss those old westerns – especially the Paladin.

  6. Kathy Says:

    Yes, thanks for the walk down memory lane. Bonanza was always my favorite. I loved Dan Blocker!

  7. In respect of the Lone Ranger it should be remembered that his Native American side kick was called ‘Tonto’, which we all know in Castillian means stupid.
    Maybe the Lone Rangers moral values were a bit corrupted by racial bigotry. Maybe his conception of an ethical, law abiding west had a white man running the show.

  8. expatbrian Says:

    Most agree that the fact that in Italian and Portuguese, the name means “idiot” is a coincidence as the shows originators (radio show) named him after Tonto Basin. And I disagree fully with the idea that the lone ranger was a bigot or portrayed one. Consider ing the 50s when blacks still rode the back of the bus used separate drinking fountains, the lone ranger treated tonto as an equal, and tonto was portrayed as an intelligent partner, and certainly not as a “stupid injun” like some were. As far as white men running the show, they did run the show. While real native americans (and their food source, the buffalo)were slaughtered by the white man, Tonto was portrayed as a partner in justice with the lone ranger. That was pretty progressive for the time.

  9. jonolan Says:

    In 1993, Silverheels was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was named to the Western New York Entertainment Hall of Fame and his portrait hangs in Buffalo, New York’s Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6538 Hollywood Boulevard.

    Yeah, so racist – not.

    Simon, I think you time is Spain has overly colored your perceptions.

  10. Ginia Says:

    I want to mention that Buffalo is incorrect in saying that Johnny Crawford committed suicide. He is currently leading his own vintage dance orchestra in California and I have met him twice in the last 12 months.
    I also want to mention that the brief description of the Rifleman show incorrectly says that it was Johnny’s older brother Bobby who played the rifleman’s son. It was Johnny who played Mark McCain.

  11. Brian Says:

    Thanks for the corrections Ginia.

  12. Jim M. Says:

    My favorite Western-themed TV series were “The Rifleman,” “Fury” and “Lawman.”

    My favorite Western films were “Shane” and “Rio Bravo,” though granted there are some masterpieces I haven’t and still need to see, among them “High Noon,” “Red River,” “The Searchers” and ‘Stagecoach.” I’d also like to see “El Dorado,” a follow up to “Rio Bravo,” mainly to see Johnny Crawford in a feature length Western, acting alongside “The Duke.”

    While I am not a huge fan of Westerns, per se, I do, like most anyone I suppose, enjoy a good yarn. And specifically I enjoy and am moved by films with a good story to tell, warm, familial characters (especially in domestic settings), outstanding ethics and/or morals and great atmospherics or cinematography.

    Of the latter, I should add that a film needn’t be set in the “Great Outdoors,” with sweeping landscape shots, etc., to have great cinematography. Even a picture which takes place in the city, and with many indoor sets, may have great atmospherics. It’s that quality of a film that makes one feel one is actually inside a picture one’s self. Martin Scorsese is an example of a director who makes great, atmospheric films in an urban setting. One has the feeling one is actually in the kitchen of that Italian restaurant, or in that back alley, when watching a Scorsese picture, and his music scores often add to this feeling.

    By the way, “Buffalo,” I think your comment about Johnny Crawford’s character in “the Rifleman” being “whiny” was way off base. Compared with kid characters in many contemporary films and TV series’, Crawford’s “Mark McCain” seemed like an adult in “The Rifleman.” But Crawford did have a higher voice (well after onset of puberty) than some boys his age, a quality which also made him an unusual and outstanding singer, and set him apart from the typical teen idols of his era.

    In fact, perhaps only second to Paul Anka was Crawford’s voice on his many fine records released on the Del-Fi label. Crawford’s version of “Lonesome Town” even seriously rivals the version of the song’s original hitmaker, Ricky Nelson. And on Crawford’s original hits, such as “Rumors” and “Living In The Past,” his reaches heights that are positively stunning for such a relatively novice singer of his then-young age.

    And. oh yeah, more importantly, Johnny Crawford NEVER committed suicide- in fact still performs today with his very successful swing orchestra, which even played at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. After his pop music career ended and “The Rifleman” ceased production, Crawford made some other films, most notable among which was “El Dorado,” which starred John Wayne.

    Crawford also acted in a few episodic TV series’ in guest roles, among them the classic “Mister Ed.” And most exemplary of Crawford’s character, he served honorably in the United States’ Armed Forces, in the Vietnam era when many young people were dodging the draft through college deferments or going to Canada. So much for Crawford’s being a whiner.

    As for your preference for “Festus” over “Chester,” to each her or his own, but you’d be in the minority among true “Gunsmoke” fans, who preferred Dennis Weaver’s comic character with the gimpy gait to the hay-seedy deputy with the perpetual stubble of beard’s growth. Even the character name sounded dirty–as like “that wound is ‘festering’.” But before “Gunsmoke,” Ken Curtis (who portrayed “Festus”) also co-starred as one-half the famous sky-diving team, in the highly successful, syndicated action series, “Ripcord.”

    Also, by “Fess Parker’s sidekick that [“who”-ed.] later became “Jed Clampett,” I assume you mean in “Davy Crockett,” because on the TV series, ‘Daniel Boone,” it was Ed Ames as the Indian “Mingo” who was Parker’s longest-running “sidekick.” And, by the way, that sidekick in “Crockett” was Buddy Ebsen, who besides playing “Jed Clampett” on “The Beverly Hillbillies’ was also a well-known hoofer in films of the 1930’s (who tap danced with Shirley Temple and was originally cast as “The Tin Man” in “The Wizard of Oz,” before an allergy to the metallic make-up resulted in a re-cast with Jack Haley); followed his most famous, “Hillbilly” role with another long-running TV character, that of detective “Barnaby Jones.”

  13. Brian Says:

    Wow Jim. For someone who is not a fan of westerns, you sure know your facts! Thanks for all of the input. Personally, I thought both Crawford and Ricky Nelson were poor singers and far outclassed by many other performers of the day. Like other wannabe’s like Fabian, Nelson needed a strong echo chamber to make his voice sound reasonably good. Many others did, as well. Maybe that’s why so many lip sinked when they performed live.

  14. jonolan Says:

    Well, shucks! My hat has to go off to you, Jim. You sure know you’re westerns and your old film actors. I’m very, very impressed.

  15. HAWKEYE Says:

    I too love the old westerns. I have to correct two things I saw on your site. Gene Barry was not the “Charlie” of “Charlie’s Angels”, that was John Forsythe. And James Garner was not “Bart” he was “Bret” Jack Kelly was Bart….

  16. Brian Says:

    Thanks for the corrections, Hawkeye, and for visiting.

  17. Serpaco Says:

    I remember them all. Great, Great. I think too that Paladine was the last great one. One show I remember was when he faced-off on a shoot out with Charles Bronson. Out in the country he had hunted him down as the bad guy or something. A faucet was dripping into a bucket and at the sound of the drip, both went for their guns. And sure enough, he gunned ol Bronson dead.
    Certainly would like to see some re-runs.

  18. Carlos Says:

    I must agree with the gentleman who said the Lone Ranger was very respectful of Tonto. Tonto was intelligent in speech and actions. That was a great show. I am Black and liked cowboy movies from that period.
    I look on them in a different light now. Hollywood progresses slowly in the racial category, but has always been ahead of American society in general.
    I also agree with the guy who said that Roy Rogers was a little too goody goody. Nobody is that nice and if he was, he would not have lasted too long in the Old West.
    I am glad to be born in the time I am since Blacks would have been slaves before 1865 and under the gun and noose constantly after that until the late 60s.
    I must admit my favorite TV cowboys of all time is Bonanza. Gunsmoke, the Cisco Kid, and the Lone Ranger all were in second place to me.
    When I was very small, I liked Rin Tin Tin.
    Gene Autry may have swooned the ladies, but I did not care for the singing.
    I like a good shoot ’em up western.
    A really good one was with Lance Henrickson who played in Alien. It was called Gunfighter’s Moon.
    Western’s are great action movies in general. I also like Silverado which is one of the best western’s ever made. It had a great cast. Also McKenna’s Gold, with Gregory Peck.
    Man I could name westerns all day.
    Happy New Year to you all.

    • Tony W Says:

      “I look on them in a different light now. Hollywood progresses slowly in the racial category, but has always been ahead of American society in general.”

      That was really insightful, Carlos; thanks for your perspective (and patience).

  19. Thank you!! I love them all—! Chuck Connors and Richard Boone are the best—they made my young girl heart, very happy! I can still in my old age hum all of the theme-songs! Thanks !

  20. Mike F. Says:

    There are some inaccuracies in the above bios of some of the actors. James Garner — not Steve Mcqueen — starred in the movie “Grand Prix”. Steve Mcqueen starred in the movie “Le Mans”. Both were excellent, big screen auto racing movies and both actors gave first-rate performances. Actually, both gentlemen were big auto racing fans (Steve Mcqueen actually did some racing; James Garner may have raced too, but I’m not certain).

  21. Cat Says:

    I was 13 when “Laramie” first aired and it was, and still is my favorite Western ever. The characters’ trials and humor were excellently portrayed. You could tell Bob and John were true friends, even after the camera was turned off. Oh, I did watch other Westerns, like “Lawman” and I’ve gotten to meet Peter Brown and my all-time favorite good-guy with a touch of “dangerous”, “Jess Harper”/Bob Fuller, and in fact, Bob says, “I AM Jess Harper.”
    Unfortunately, John Smith had passed away years before, but a friend got to know him quite well and has made me appreciate the “man” behind “Slim Sherman”.
    “Bonanza” . . . eh. It got so boring, I limited my viewing to whomever was “guest star.” Enjoyed “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and “Rawhide,” but “Maerick” was just too tame for my liking. I suppose you could say I’m like Bullwindle Moose: I like violence . . . because they smell so nice!

  22. Penny Says:

    During here in the US with some guys a couple of years younger than me, who have no idea who Bronco or Champion (wonder horse) is makes me feel old or from another planet, not simply planet UK. Delighted to find a simple list of old favorites but what of Tenderfoot?

  23. Topkat Says:

    I Ilked “TRACKDOWN” Starring Robert Culp, on CBS, The short-lived but dynamic ABC-WB series ”THE DAKOTAS” starring Larry Ward (along with Jack Elam, Chad Everett, and Michael Grenne) , and “COLT 45” , another ABC-WB series starring Wayde Preston .

  24. Andrew Eves Says:

    I grew up in the uk and did not get our first tv until 1956 I was 13 but hell do I remember those westerns ir Sugarfoot BroncoLayne cheyne,Rawhide, wells Fargo, Laramie, Rin tin tin and Gunsmoke. “Mr Dillon Mr Dillon and many more gee they were great days of TV mind you as mere young kids cowboys and Indians was our main playtime what with Roy Rodgers and Hopalong and the cisco kid

  25. 121w.at Says:

    Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. That is a very neatly written article.
    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of your helpful information. Thank you for the post.
    I’ll definitely return.

  26. cruise control Says:

    During the “50s” in the UK we watched The Range Rider,Boots and Saddles,Laredo and Shenandoah .All Brilliant!

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