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Sunday, September 8, 2019

FORGOTTEN TV WESTERNS: TATE

FORGOTTEN TV WESTERNS
 TATE
Airing on NBC from June 8 until September 14, 1960, Tate was conceived by Harry Julian Fink (who later created Dirty Harry and T.H.E. Cat) as the quintessential Western loner. The thirty minute action Western, was a summer replacement show, which didn't develop the needed ratings in its short run to be picked up by the network as a regular series. This was a shame as Tate (portrayed by David McLean) is an interesting character. The first handicapped hero in television history, Tate would establish the trope of a hero being able to overcome his physical challenges, which would later be embodied by Raymond Burr as the wheelchair bound Ironside, James Franciscus as the blind detective Longstreet, and an eventual cavalcade of others.

Losing the use of his left arm at the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War, Tate is forced to wear a sling. His injured arm is covered in black leather with a black glove on his hand. Tate is a widower. However, while the cause of his wife Mary's death is not specified, a gunfight seems the likely culprit. This plays well into Tate's tormented gunfighter status. Forced to leave his hometown as a teenager due to gun-play, Tate finds himself in the pilot episode (Home Town) pushed by Marshal Morty Taw to return and help Taw hang Tate's old childhood friend (James Coburn) who has murdered four people.

In subsequent episodes, Tate roams the West as a bounty hunter-gunfighter. True to the nature of most hired guns on television western series of the day, Tate was discriminating as to whom he worked for. He was also prone to change sides if he found himself misled by his employers.  Wickedly fast on the draw,  he also carries a shotgun under a serape "to help even the odds." Because of his top gun reputation, he is routinely forced into gunfights by other men who quickly regret their rash decision.

Show creator Harry Julian Fink most likely got the go-ahead for Tate based on the well recieved episodes of Have Gun Will Travel. He subsequently wrote most of the Tate episodes, one of which was directed by Ida Lupino. The ultimate demise of Tate was due to the show's cerebral approach to the Western and the fact it was too downbeat for a mainstream audience. The series is available on DVD and is good genre entertainment.


 



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