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Thursday, September 20, 2018

TV WESTERNS—A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH

TV WESTERNS
A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH
Scott Harris and I have begun work on 52 Weeks • 52 Western TV Shows, the sequel to 52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels and the just released 52 Weeks • 52 Western Movies. The issue is there were 39 new Western TV shows which premiere on the network schedules in 1959 alone, and that number didn’t even cover the Westerns already on the air. Clearly, having to choose 52 shows out of the hundreds that have aired over the history of television is a daunting task. Some shows deserving of attention are unfortunately going to be left on the cutting room floor. To partially remedy the situation, I’m going to be taking a look at some of the shows that won’t make it into 52 Weeks • 52 Western TV Shows, but are deserving of honorable mention. In this format, I’ll also have more room to feature many of the TV tie-in books, comics, and collectibles from each of the shows. Next up...

A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH
STARRING
ROBERT HORTON
34 TWENTY-FIVE MINUTE EPISODES
SEPTEMBER 1965—MAY 1966
 
 An exceptional 25-minute long TV Western, A Man Called Shenandoah was a sophisticated adult-skewing Western. Featuring tight scripts full of dramatic twists, the show consistently chose cerebral plotlines over simple action. Robert Horton plays a gunfighter shot by an old nemesis (Richard Devon) and left for dead, half-naked, on the trail. Thinking there might be a reward, the two saddle bums who discover him drag him to the nearest small town. There, the would-be Samaritans are disappointed when no one knows who he is, nor is his face on any wanted posters. He is nursed back to health, but when he recovers consciousness, he too has no memory of his name, his past, or who shot him. Diagnosed with amnesia by the town doctor, he takes the name Shenandoah before being forced into a gunfight and killing the one man who might have told him who he is. With trouble brewing, Shenandoah leaves the town to roam the West in search of clues to his identity. Along the way, he learns he was a Union officer during the Civil War, and might have been married. In the final episode, Shenandoah has to settle for being told, "It's not always important who you are, but it's always important what you are."
 
Robert Horton previously co-starred on Wagon Train with Ward Bond from 1957 to 1962. When Wagon Train ended, Horton didn’t want to do another Western and initially turned down A Man Called Shenandoah. After a stint in New York doing theater, Horton bumped into the show’s creator E. Jack Neuman, who had previously written scripts for Horton. At Neuman’s urging, Horton reconsidered and signed on. 
 
E. Jack Neuman had been involved with many Western TV shows before creating A Man Called Shenandoah. Neuman’s co-producer was William M. Fennelly, who had produced an earlier excellent Western with the same high standards and attention to detail—Trackdown, starring Robert Culp. Unfortunately, viewers used to traditional shoot-em-up Westerns didn’t know what to make of Shenandoah, quickly developing their own version of amnesia and forgetting to watch. 
 
The show was cancelled after two seasons, but I’ve recently watched it on DVD, and found it fascinating. Amnesia was a traditional TV trope in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my favorite example being Coronet Blue starring Frank Converse. This cliché didn’t matter when it came to Shenandoah as the episodes are so sharply written, directed, and acted. They have an edge, a silent stiletto of social commentary transcending their era.
 
The stories are as relevant today as when they were filmed. The early episodes of Gunsmoke have much the same impact, as did other early Westerns, but eventually societal censors began to soften the edges of the shows so as not to offend advertisers. The result was generic Pablum for the masses who didn’t want to think about hard problems. The TV Western, like the West itself, would have been much better left wild.
 
On Wagon Train, Horton’s character rode a big, beautiful blanket appaloosa. After several episodes of A Man Called Shenandoah, the same horse became his mount again for the rest of the show’s run. For the show’s theme song, Horton, who had a strong background in musical theatre,  re-worked the lyrics to the traditional American folk tune Oh Shenandoah.
 
In 1967, Columbia Records released an album by Horton of Western standards, including his reworking of Oh, Shenandoah. The other songs on the album included High Noon, Riders In The Sky, King Of The Road, Wand'rin' Star, They Came To Cordura, They Call The Wind Maria, Houston, and El Paso.
 
 

WESTERN WORDSLINGERS—B.N. RUNDELL

WESTERN WORDSLINGERS
B.N. RUNDELL
WRITERS ON BOOKS
As part of an ongoing series of blog posts, I’ve asked bestselling Western wordslinger B.N. Rundell to give us his personal take on what writers read and what books influence their lives...
Born into a ranching/rodeo family, Bob Rundell is the youngest of seven boys. After careers in business, insurance, and 30 years as a Baptist pastor, Bob retired to pursue his dream of writing. In his first year he wrote two #1 bestsellers, including the first title in his Buckskin Chronicles series, To Keep a Promise. He continued to add to the Buckskin Chronicles series, all of which became top ten bestsellers in their genre...His exciting stories are historical westerns set in the mid-19th century and are true to history in every detail. The latest book in his ongoing Rocky Mountain Saint series, Pathfinder Peril, has recently been released by Wolfpack Publishing.
********
IF THE TEXAS RANGERS NAILED UP A WANTED POSTER FOR B.N. RUNDELL, WHAT INFORMATION WOULD IT CONTAIN?
Avoid at all costs! This man is armed with a laptop and is constantly talking to himself and flipping through research material. Has been known to be antagonistic and idiosyncratic and downright cantankerous. At least until he's had his morning coffee!

WHAT WAS THE BOOK YOU LOVED AS A CHILD?
The Hardy Boys mysteries. Always stirred the imagination and brought intrigue, and the brothers reminded me of my own cadre of brothers. Although my brothers and I brought more mystery than solving them. In an era when we had the freedom to go on our own horseback rides into the nearby mountains, packing our own rifles, and pemmican (Vienna sausages in a can) and hardtack and biscuits (PBJ sandwiches) to search out the renegade Indians or outlaws, (Jackrabbits and coyotes).

WHAT BOOKS WOULD YOU READ TO YOUR KIDS OR GRANDKIDS?
The great stories of the Bible can't be beat for preparing youngsters for real life and giving them real answers and guidance. And some classics, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, and The Count of Monte Cristo. And of course, any of my own books!

WAS THERE A BOOK THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?
Not so much a book, but probably the many books of Louis L’Amour. The believable characters and story lines allowed me to project myself into the stories and become one with the characters and gave me the desire to allow others to enjoy the same experience. To take someone by the handle of their imagination and transport them in your time machine and walk with them or ride with them through the pages of history and across the magnificent vistas of our country is better than having a magic carpet registered with Uber.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CLASSIC?
Count of Monte Cristo because it is the classic tale of educating one's self, overcoming unbelievable obstacles, and becoming all you were meant to be.

WHAT CLASSIC HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN ABLE TO READ?
I'm still wading through A Tale of Two Cities. I do most of my reading at night before going to sleep, and this one puts me to sleep too quickly.

WHAT BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION HAVE YOU ENJOYED?
Hondo. Typical Lamour where good triumphs over evil, but has to fight to do it. His interplay with the Apache shows mutual respect between enemies and adversaries.

WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE AS A MOVIE?
The Ohio River Trilogy by Zane Grey. It is set in the late 1700's, a time when our nation was experiencing growing pains and people were showing unbelievable strength and ability to overcome. A time largely ignored by movie makers, (except for Last of the Mohicans), but this series is historically accurate and deals with some of the author's ancestors.

WHAT IMAGINARY PLACE WOULD YOU LIKE TO VISIT?
None, too busy visiting real places.

WHAT GENRE WOULD YOU READ IF YOU WERE LIMITED TO ONE?
Historical fiction, western. Because of its realism and character-building experiences.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RETURNED TO AGAIN AND AGAIN?
All of Louis L’Amour's. I’ve probably read them all at least twice, most three times. His stories are believable and true to life and shows both the good and the bad, without puking vulgarity, blasphemy, and stupidity all over the reader.

WHAT FICTIONAL CHARACTER(S) WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE AS A FRIEND?
I have all the protagonists of my books as friends already. I know them better than most of my acquaintances and even family members. But, every now and then I do have to come back to reality.

WHAT NOVEL MADE YOU LAUGH, AND WHAT NOVEL MADE YOU CRY?
I can find humor in just about any story and when you really get involved in the story, you will be touched with the pathos. As far as any one in particular, perhaps my own novel, Ride Lonesome, that tells the true story of my own grandfather and his courtship of his soon-to-become wife over the objections of her father and the dead body of her brother.

WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
Zane Grey's The Man of the Forest

WHAT SPARKED THE STORY IDEA BEHIND PATHFINDER PERIL?
I live in the area where the story begins. The actual event of Fremont's tragic fourth expedition came through this area and over country I've walked. I live in Fremont county, and our 4H park is call Pathfinder Park. Since his route took him within yards of the fictional cabin of Tate Saint, and Tate was a compatriot of the guides used by Fremont, it seemed like a good fit.

HOW DID YOUR ROCKY MOUNTAIN SAINT SERIES ORIGINATE?
I have always enjoyed Robin Hood type of stories, and when so many mountain men are portrayed as mean or lawless men, I believed it was time to have a good guy who walked the mountains in those times.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BUCKSKIN CHRONICLES SERIES?
As with all my stories, this series is historically and geographically accurate and tell of the times that our country experienced during those early growth and exploration years. While the family (several succeeding generations) is fictional, the types of characters and events are true to history and life. Anyone who delves into the stories, will learn a lot about the history of our nation.
 
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SAINT
BOOK#6 : PATHFINDER PERIL
If the man of the mountains, Tate Saint, had a fault, it was that he had a hard time saying no whenever someone needed his help. But now he has a family and the wilderness makes many demands on anyone that tries to master the mountains. And if a redheaded Irish wife, a curios toddler for a son, a wolf for a hunting companion and a bear cub for a playmate for his son wasn't enough, a legendary mountain man, Old Bill Williams, recruits him to help John C. Fremont on his expedition to find a route through the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains in the middle of winter. When the elder statesman of the mountains, Williams, tells Fremont it can't be done, the Pathfinder expects Tate Saint to get them through...But this venture soon becomes one of the most treacherous and deadly expeditions of the times. Facing the full onslaught of a Rocky Mountain winter with twenty-foot snowdrifts, below zero temperatures, and every other hazard that could be brought to bear, the challenges must be met and conquered. But the things that must be done and the sacrifices that must be made become more than anyone expected or wants to remember. One of the greatest challenges of the young mountain man's life must be met and conquered, or he and many others will die.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SAINT
BOOK#1: JOURNEY TO JEOPARDY
When a young man with big dreams suddenly becomes an orphan, he is faced with big decisions...Holding to the dream of living in the Rocky Mountains that Tatum shared with his father, he begins his journey—a journey that takes him through the lands of the Osage and Kiowa and ultimately to the land of the Comanche...A solitary man by nature, he travels by night and sees a different land than the many pilgrims and settlers of the 1840's. Although driven by a desire to be away from people and their scheming ways, he is repeatedly drawn into the lives and problems of others. Although the ways of the woods are not new to him, he was a novice in his dealings with people, but his upbringing made him interject himself into the problems of others. The passing wagon train had more than its share of conflicts, but when Tatum spotted an impending attack by Comanche his conscience demanded he warn them...Then when that involvement includes a smallpox plague and a defenseless tribe of Comanche, Tatum is faced with a decision to try to free the captive white women or warn the warring Comanche...His journey to the mountains has become a journey to jeopardy.

THE BUCKSKIN CHRONICLES
BOOK#1: TO KEEP A PROMISE
The power of a promise made and a promise kept is realized when Jeremiah Thompsett comes of age and accepts the responsibility of fulfilling his mentor's long-held dream. Raised by an escaped slave in the midst of the Arapaho nation in the Wind River mountains, he now must track down the slave catchers that killed his adopted father and stole their cache. The Vengeance Quest takes him and his companions through the mountains and across the nation to fulfill the promise of freeing the family of slaves held dear to his mentor and adopted father. Accompanied by Broken Shield and Laughing Waters, his Arapaho friend and his sister, the trek through the mountains and to Fort Union is fraught with hazard and ambush. It is here he is joined by Scratch, the crusty mountain man who joins him on his journey downriver and across country to find Ezekiel's family and to seek to free them.

FOR MORE ABOUT B.N. RUNDELL CLICK HERE
 
 

TV WESTERNS—ANNIE OAKLEY

 TV WESTERNS—ANNIE OAKLEY
Scott Harris and I have begun work on 52 Weeks • 52 Western TV Shows, the sequel to 52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels and the just released 52 Weeks • 52 Western Movies. The issue is there were 39 new Western TV shows which premiere on the network schedules in 1959 alone, and that number didn’t even cover the Westerns already on the air. Clearly, having to choose 52 shows out of the hundreds that have aired over the history of television is a daunting task. Some shows deserving of attention are unfortunately going to be left on the cutting room floor. To partially remedy the situation, I’m going to be taking a look at some of the shows that won’t make it into 52 Weeks • 52 Western TV Shows, but are deserving of honorable mention. In this format, I’ll also have more room to feature many of the TV tie-in books, comics, and collectibles from each of the shows—plus I won't be hammpered by the 550 word count limitation for each book entry. First up...

ANNIE OAKLEY
STARRING GAIL DAVIS,
BRAD JOHNSON, JIMMY HAWKINS
81 TWENTY-FIVE MINUTE EPISODES
DECEMBER 1953—MAY 1957
 
Cast as Annie Oakley in 1953, Gail Davis became TV’s first female heroine. It was a role the then 27 year old actress would be associated with for the rest of her life—in much the same way as Clayton Moore was linked with The Lone Ranger. Gene Autry’s Flying-A Productions produced the half hour episodes of Annie Oakley, which ran in syndication across the nation. Alongside deputy sheriff Lofty Craig (Johnson)—considered her silent suitor—and her kid brother, Tagg (Hawkins), the five-foot-two, 95 pounds, and cute as a button Annie was a crack shot and the scourge of badmen who dared show their bandana-covered faces in her mythical hometown, of Diablo, AZ.
Deputy Craig handled all the fisticuffs, but it was the sharpshooting Annie who saved the day—often rescuing the mischievously annoying Tagg in the process. As for parents who might be concerned by her exploits, in one episode Annie refers to her mother’s death, but there was no mention of her mysteriously absent father.

Davis had previously co-starred with Gene Autry in 14 features, but was not originally considered to play the historically iconic female sharpshooter. Autry and executive producer Armand Schaefer auditioned girls who could ride, and girls who could shoot, but they couldn’t find a girl who could do both, not realizing she was right there under their noses. Up until her death in 1997, Davis never stopped being Annie Oakley, visiting kids in hospitals and other venues everywhere. Target, Annie’s horse, was played by three similarly colored Palominos. Tagg’s horse was Pixie.

Each episode opens with Annie shooting a neat hole in the center of a nine of spades playing card, being held up by Lofty, while standing upright on the saddle of her trusty Palomino Target, who is galloping at top speed. For a kid there wasn’t anything more thrilling. In the pilot episode for the series, Bull's Eye, Billy Gray played Tagg, but quickly moved on when the pilot didn’t sell and he was offered the role as James Bud Anderson, Jr. on television’s Father Knows Best. Also in the original pilot, Annie’s uncle was Sheriff Luke McTavish (Kenneth MacDonald), who was always conveniently out of town when trouble came. Convinced he had a great concept, Gene Autry order a second pilot, Annie Gets Her Man, to be shot. This time the episode had more action oriented and less saccharine. This time the show sold and the series went on to huge popularity. Annie Oakley was a show like The Lone Ranger, which the whole family could enjoy. A girl who could out shoot and out ride any male, however, gave a whole generation of girls their first taste of female empowerment.

The show was affectionately referred to as Pigtails and Pistols due to the pigtailed hairstyle sported by Gail Davis as Annie. Davis was usually doubled by Donna Hall or Alice Van. However, Davis’ best friend and look-alike, actress Nan Leslie, filled in for one episode after Davis broke her ankle stepping off a curb.

Annie Oakley collectibles were extensive. Everything from Dell comic books to BB rifles to holster sets, puzzles, and much more were all available. In 1955, at the height of the show’s popularity, officially licensed Annie Oakley merchandise topped $10,000,000 in sales.