Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors (1946-Present)

Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors (1946-Present)

Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors (1946-Present)

Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors (1946-Present)

Synopsis

Since the beginning of television, Westerns have been playing on the small screen. From the mid-1950s until the early 1960s, they were one of TV's most popular genres, with millions of viewers tuning in to such popular shows as Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and Disney's Davy Crockett. Though the cultural revolution of the later 1960s contributed to the demise of traditional Western programs, the Western never actually disappeared from TV. Instead, it took on new forms, such as the highly popular Lonesome Dove and Deadwood, while exploring the lives of characters who never before had a starring role, including anti-heroes, mountain men, farmers, Native and African Americans, Latinos, and women. Shooting Stars of the Small Screen is a comprehensive encyclopedia of more than 450 actors who received star billing or played a recurring character role in a TV Western series or a made-for-TV Western movie or miniseries from the late 1940s up to 2008. Douglas Brode covers the highlights of each actor's career, including Western movie work, if significant, to give a full sense of the actor's screen persona(s). Within the entries are discussions of scores of popular Western TV shows that explore how these programs both reflected and impacted the social world in which they aired. Brode opens the encyclopedia with a fascinating history of the TV Western that traces its roots in B Western movies, while also showing how TV Westerns developed their own unique storytelling conventions.

Excerpt

In the early 1950s I’d headed to Hollywood in hopes I might find success as an actor. At first I had small (even bit) parts. Even so, I got to work with such luminaries as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott. Finally came the big break: Walt Disney picked me to play Davy Crockett during Disneyland’s first season on the air (ABC; 1954–1955). All of us knew we were part of something special. I don’t think, though, that anyone had a sense while shooting those shows of the immediate impact our three hour-long episodes would have. For they set off a national craze. One year later, it became evident that even if this phenomenon had started to fade, something else had emerged from it.

In addition to two more Crocketts for the Disney hour, a trio of non-Disney shows—Gunsmoke, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, and Cheyenne— premiered, all successful. Within a year, the tv Western had tied situation comedies and game shows as the most popular fare on the air. Though related to theatrical Westerns, particularly of the B order, the tv Western soon emerged as a genre unto itself.

For the next ten years, I concentrated mostly on films for Mr. Disney and other producers. Then in 1964 I returned to tv with Daniel Boone, which I also executiveproduced. the show ran for six years on nbc. When Boone came to an end in 1970, the tv Western was in decline and would shortly all but disappear, owing to changes in the world around us and what an audience looks for in its popular culture. Bonanza and a few others did remain in place for a little while longer. Since . . .

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