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Sunday, October 6, 2019

SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON

SERGEANT PRESTON 
OF THE YUKON
Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police, with Yukon King the swiftest and strongest lead dog breaking the trail, set out in the relentless pursuit of lawbreakers in the wild days of the Yukon.

Sergeant Preston of the Yukon is another prime example of the Northwestern genre. The show starred Richard Simmons as the redcoated Preston of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. The upright Preston–along with his dog Yukon King (in reality an Alaskan Malamute doing an impersonation of an Alaskan Husky) and his jet black Arabian, Rex (personally owned by Simmons)–always got his man while battling the elements across Canada’s Yukon territory during the days of the great gold rush of the 19th Century. 

Airing on Thursday nights from 7:30-8pm the series ran for 78 episodes between September 29, 1955, and February 27, 1958, with Ashton, Colorado, passing for the Yukon territory. 

Directed most often by Eddie Dew or Earl Bellamy, the series set Preston and King on the trail of fur thieves, claim-jumpers, poachers, counterfeiters, smugglers and renegades—played by a host of B-movie vets. Because it had been filmed in color, the series continued in syndication long after other shows shot in black and white disappeared from the TV lineups.

The show's original sponsor, Quaker Oats, promoted the show with the Klondike Big Inch Land Giveaway. Genuine deeds to one square inch of the Yukon Territory were inserted into Quaker's Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice cereal boxes.

Originally known as Challenge of the Yukon, Sergeant Preston started life as a popular juvenile radio show on Detroit station WXYZ. Debuting in February 1938, the show was created by George W. Trendle’s Detroit radio show factory, which was also responsible for The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. The radio show ran for ten year with Preston being played by several actors, Jay Michael, Paul Sutton, and (briefly) Brace Beemer—radio’s Lone Ranger.

Classical music openings were popular at the time, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon followed the formula using the Donna Diana Overture for its theme.

From 1951 to 1958 Dell Comics published 29 issues of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. The first four issues appeared bi-annually, then quarterly, in the weekly catch-all series, Four Color Comics. Dell then gave the series its own book, starting the numbering designation with issue #5.

The comic's covers were paintings portraying drama or action, featuring Sergeant Preston and Yukon King—Preston's canine partner—in exciting scenes. When the Sergeant Preston of the Yukon television series debuted, the comic covers began to featured photos from the TV series.

One source states all issues of the comics were written by Gaylord Du Bois (creator of Turok and the writer of Dell's King of the Royal Mounted comics), and illustrated by Alberto Giolitti (best known as the long-time illustrator of Turok). However, another source claims Don Sherwood adapted the show for Dell Comics with scripts by Stan Stunell.

Richard Simmons portrayal of Preston was particularly sincere as Simmons believe it was the role he was born to play. He reveled in sitting tall in the saddle on his horse Rex, attired in his scarlet tunic and shiny black cavalry boots. 

But Simmons was not simply a preening pretty boy. He threw himself into the part doing most of his own stunts and excelling in handling the sled dogs in many scenes, only letting his double step in when his director refused to continue filming until Simmons would stand down.

Each episode of the show would end with Preston hugging his dog and stating, “Well King, it looks like this case is closed.” 














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