Thursday, September 11, 2008

Now that's a familiar face.

I enjoy watching old TV shows. Aside from the usual reasons--interesting characters,themes, plots, and setting--I also have fun recognizing those who were just starting their careers and later became stars of their own shows in the following years.

I just finished a DVD which contained a number of episodes of a favorite Western of mine--Have Gun Will Travel-- starring Richard Boone as Paladin. Boone was a great actor who definitely wasn't just another pretty face. Aside from the usual number of vaguely familiar faces of the supporting cast, I recognized four very young people, who would later go on with careers of their own, either on TV or on film, or both.

One was Charles Bronson, who played numerous roles as a villain or a good guy and was convincing in both, and also some roles that fit uneasily in between. Perhaps his most famous role was that of Paul Kersey, the revenge-seeking architect, whose wife and daughter were attacked by a group of thugs, in the memorable Death Wish. He went on to reprise that role four more times. While most people would probably condemn vigilantism, the same people no doubt would cheer Kersey on as he blows away another gang of bad guys.

Another familiar face on the DVD was Jack Lord, who later gained fame on our island state as Steve McGarrett, head of Hawaii 5-0. He also starred in a short lived series as Stoney Burke, a rodeo rider.

A third was Mike Conners, who had a long and busy career also, but probably is best remembered as Mannix, the PI in the long-running TV show of the same name. The show ran for 8 years, from 1967 to 1975, or 194 episodes.

The fourth face was familiar, but I just couldn't put a name to her until I saw the cast listing--Angie Dickinson. She has numerous film credits, including the two "Big Bad Mama" films and Dressed to Kill. The two I most remember her from are Rio Bravo with John Wayne, and Captain Newman, MD with Gregory Peck. A glance at her TV credits suggests that it would be impossible to watch TV for more than two or three days without seeing her at least once. Her most notable TV role was that of Sgt. Pepper Anderson on Police Woman, which ran for 91 episodes, from 1974 to 1978.

Have Gun Will Travel, I think anyway, holds up well. I remember, though, feeling the same frustration watching the episodes now as I did some fifty years ago: the shows were just too short.


  1. Angie Dickinson also had a role in the "real" Ocean's Eleven. Not the modern atrocity but the real Rat Pack version.

  2. Scott,

    It's been so long since I've seen the film that I don't remember her at all. Of course, I don't remember much about the film either. I should put this one in my queue, when I get some room, that is.

    Do you know if she was in the film because she was associated with the Rat Pack, or just because she fit the part?

    I vaguely remember that there were several people who weren't officially part of the Rat Pack, but hung around with them at times. I think Joey Heatherton was one of the Rat Pack auxilliaries.

  3. Great blog, Fred. I am also a fan of Paldin. Did you know that the show was first conceived of as having Paladin be a modern detective?

    It may sem odd to you, but I see similarites in the motifs of "Have Gun" and "Star Trek." In both cases, you have a powerful outsider intervene in and bring resolution to problems in distant places. Both Kirk and Paldin command powerful death forces (Kirk's is a starship and Paldin's is his own killing expertise), but they choose instead to use power for life affirming purposes.

  4. Jan R.

    Thanks for the nice words. They are appreciated.

    No, I hadn't heard that Paladin was initially conceived of as a modern detective. That also would have been a fascinating show.

    The role of the outsider who rectifies the situation is a very common one in American mythology. I suspect it may have been derived from the Arthurian tales of the knight errant who wanders about slaying dragons, wizards, and knights in black armor, and rescuing damsels in distress. After which, he rides off on his search for the Holy Grail.