The Loner

What made me want to watch a western television show that only aired one season from 1965-1966? Rod Serling…that is the reason and a good enough reason for me.

Do You Remember... "The Loner"

This is the show that he started a year after the Twilight Zone. The show didn’t make it past one season. That is not because of the content. It was an adult western…Serling hated some of the westerns at the time and wanted to make this one more realistic. While he didn’t bring in the Twilight Zone scifi take he did bring his own way of conveying mortality tales.

That didn’t fly with some viewers who only wanted the shoot’em up cowboy tales.

Lloyd Bridges starred in this show about a man named Bill Colton who roamed the west a month after the Civil War ended. Along the way we would meet new characters every week. I watch this show and think…why didn’t it catch on? Was it too smart for some viewers? You did have action but the shows were character and story based.  Another reason it didn’t last is the Western theme at that time had been mined  and mined bare but Serling’s western wasn’t like many of the others.

This series I have to recommend to anyone. There are only 26 episodes all 25  minute each so it’s not a huge investment of time. Serling wrote 75 percent of the scripts so you know the dialog and stories are good. Lloyd Bridges is excellent in the staring role.

If you are looking for an intelligent western with good stories, dialog, and action when needed…get The Loner.

You can watch many if not all on youtube. They were released in 2016 on DVD.

Bob Dylan – Knocking On Heaven’s Door

This song is one of Bob Dylan’s best known songs. There has been many covers but I’ll take this one over all. I read a review Thursday of the soundtrack of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid by Bob Dylan written by Cincinnati Babyhead.

Dylan  wrote the lyrics of the song from the perspective of a dying sheriff living his last moments played by Slim Pickens. The song plays beautifully to that scene in the movie

Last night I decided to watch the movie again. It’s a great movie and if you get a chance… watch it. Dylan had a part in the movie as the character, Alias. Knocking On Heavens Door peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100, #14 in rhe UK, and #12 in Canada in 1973.

Booker T. Jones (musician on the album): “He [Dylan] lived over in Paradise Cove and I lived on Winding Way in Malibu. I bought Lana Turner’s old house and I’m not sure where he lived, but he had a house just across the road there and he would come over and pick up my guitar and work on songs and stuff. They were working on the movie with Jason Robards late one night, and for some reason [Dylan] just called me up and asked me to come over to the studio and to play on the song, and I played bass on it.”

The other musicians on “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” are:

Vocals, Guitar: Dylan
Guitar: Roger McGuinn
Drums: Jim Keltner
Harmonium: Carl Fortina
Flute: Gary Foster
Backup Vocals: Brenda Patterson, Carol Hunter, Donna Weiss

From Songfacts

Dylan wrote it for the 1973 Western film, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. It plays while Sheriff Colin Baker is dying from his gunshot wounds. 

Guns N’ Roses covered this on their 1991 album, Use Your Illusion II. They played it in 1992 at a tribute concert for Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, who had died of AIDS. 72,000 people attended the concert, which was held in London’s Wembley Stadium. In case you’re wondering, towards the end of the end of this version, the man on the telephone says, “You just better start sniffin your own rank subjugation Jack, ’cause it’s just you and your tattered libido, the bank and the mortician, forever man and it wouldn’t be luck if you could get out of life alive.”

In 1996, Bob Dylan allowed the Scottish musician Ted Christopher to record a new verse for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” which Christopher had written in memory of the schoolchildren and teacher killed in the Dunblane massacre. This is one of the rare times Dylan has officially permitted someone to add to or change the lyrics to one of his songs. Christopher’s version reached #1 in the UK.

One of the few times Dylan authorized a sample was when he let the British singer Gabrielle use this song as the basis of her 1999 track “Rise,” which went to #1 in the UK. According to Gabrielle, Dylan not only allowed it, but waived some of the royalties he was entitled to.

Warren Zevon recorded this for his 2003 album The Wind. Zevon was dying of lung cancer when he recorded the track, and died shortly after the album was released.

This song has been covered in reggae style by multiple artists including G.T. Moore & The Reggae Guitars, Arthur Louis and Eric Clapton.

Other artists to have covered this song include Avril Lavigne, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Cold Chisel, Neil Young and Aretha Franklin.

The title of the song was used as the original title for the Cowboy Bebop movie. Cowboy Bebop is a popular Japanese Anime that made a big hit in America when the dubbed version (done in the late ’90s) was broadcast on Cartoon Network in 2001. Bebop was known for taking influences from pop culture (example: The title of episode 6 is “Sympathy for the Devil,” obviously a take off of the Rolling Stones Song). When a full length Bebop movie was made in Japan, it was titled Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. When it was dubbed and brought to theaters in America for a short time, they changed it to Cowboy Bebop: The Movie so Dylan wouldn’t take any legal action against them. 

This song is musically similar to Neil Young’s “Helpless,” which was recorded in 1969 and features on the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album, Déjà Vu.

In October 2007, 1,730 guitarists in Shillong, India strummed this song for five minutes to set a world record for the largest ever guitar ensemble.

Knocking On Heavens Door

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Tombstone – 1993

I’m always late to the party discovering movies and bands…I saw this movie for the first time last year. I just started to get into westerns in the past couple of years when I discovered “Have Gun Will Travel” and the black and white 30-minute episodes of Gunsmoke.

This is a classic movie. Val Kilmer fan was fantastic in this film. The entire cast did a great job but the way Kilmer portrayed Doc Holliday was iconic. The movie centers around the Earp brothers arriving in Tombstone to make their fortune but they get pulled into fighting the “Cowboys.”

I’m not sure how accurate it is to the real story but its a very entertaining movie nonetheless and I cannot believe I didn’t see this years ago. If you haven’t seen it…make plans to see it. I don’t think you will be disappointed. You will never hear the word “huckleberry” the same again.

The cast included Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston, Jason Priestly, Jon Tenney, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delany, Paula Malcomson, Lisa Collins, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Michael Rooker, Billy Bob Thornton and Billy Zane.

I looked up the Oscars for 1993 and it is a crime that Val Kilmer wasn’t nominated for anything.

The trailer for Tombstone

 

Alias Smith and Jones

This television show only last three seasons from 1971-1973 and from reading the reviews of the day it attracted young viewers because of the young male leads Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. It’s a western comedy about two reformed non-violent bank robbers who are trying to go straight.

The Governor has promised them amnesty if they stay out of trouble for a while but no one can know so, they are still wanted. The episodes are humorous and different from the two big westerns at the time…Gunsmoke and Bonanza. The episodes tended to be uneven though but overall it was a good show.

Pete Duel was going through problems in his life at the time. During the first season, he was driving drunk and pulled into the path of an oncoming car. Two people were injured and one hospitalized. This would haunt him till his death and he would fight a drinking problem to the end.

Pete and Ben are in about every shot of the series. They both worked 12-14 hour days 6-7 days a week. Pete was never happy with the show. He was restless and wanted to do different things. When the second season started he was put on 2-year probation for the accident and lost his drivers license.

One quote from him around this time about being in a TV series was “It’s a big fat drag to any actor with interest in his work. It’s the ultimate trap.” He was very environmentally conscious and often spoke out on issues like pollution.

After being driven home from the set on December 30, 1971, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the early hours of December 31, 1971.

The show continued on with Roger Davis taking over Duel’s character in the series. It lasted only 17 episodes after Duel’s departure.

This is from Wikipedia… it’s a sad commentary

Upon learning of Duel’s death, executive producer Jo Swerling, Jr., initially wanted to end the series, but ABC refused.  Swerling later stated:

ABC said, “No way!” They said, “You have a contract to deliver this show to us, and you will continue to deliver the show as best you can on schedule or we will sue you.” Hearing those words, Universal didn’t hesitate for a second to instruct us to stay in production. We were already a little bit behind the eight ball on airdates. So, we contacted everybody, including Ben (Murphy), and told them to come back in. The entire company was reassembled and back in production by one o’clock that day shooting scenes that did not involve Peter — only 12 hours after his death.

The Intro

Narrator: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry – the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone. This made our two latter-day Robin Hoods very popular – with everyone but the railroads and the banks.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: There’s one we thing we gotta get, Heyes.

Hannibal Heyes: What’s that?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: Out of this business!

Sheriff Lom Trevors: The governor can’t come flat out and give you amnesty now. First you have to prove you deserve it.

Hannibal Heyes: Ah. So all we have to do is just stay out of trouble till the governor figures we deserve amnesty.

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: But in the mean time, we’ll still be wanted.

Sheriff Lom Trevors: Well, that’s true. Till then only you, me and the Governor will know about it. It’ll be our little secret.

Hannibal Heyes: That’s a good deal?

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry: I sure wish the governor’d let a few more people in on our secret!

Gunsmoke the Early Years

I grew up watching the hour-long color episodes (seasons 12-20) of Gunsmoke in reruns and I liked the show. Now I’m watching the first 6 seasons…they are black and white and very different. There is no Festus or Newly…we have Chester (Dennis Weaver) and he is a refreshing character. They just never played these episodes on television when I was younger. There still is Doc Adams  (Milburn Stone)and a very young good looking Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake).

These episodes dealt with murder, rape, human trafficking, and plenty of Matt Dillon (James Arness) decking bad guys with his fist or the butt of his gun. They are 30 minutes long which is great. They got to the point quickly. Some of the stories were grim but it matched the look of the series.

I was surprised at how rough, violent and authentic they were and that is not knocking the later episodes but there is a difference. The violence was toned down as the series continued.

The later color episodes centered more around the guest stars and the old black and white ones centered more on the local cast of Dodge City.

Have Gun Will Travel was also on CBS along with Gunsmoke. You will see some of the same character actors and sets. Some Have Gun Will Travel scenes were filmed in a redecorated Long Branch… Too bad there wasn’t a crossover at least once.

Chester…I’ve always liked Dennis Weaver as an actor…in McCloud, Duel and anything he was in… He brings his character Chester alive as a real person. Chester had a limp on the show and Dennis Weaver said he would take yoga classes so he could do things like putting on a boot look believable with a bad leg…he also put a pebble in his boot on his right foot so he would not forget which leg was lame.

Chester could be lazy but he was invaluable and loyal to a fault to Matt Dillon. Dennis Weaver left the show after the 9th season with no explanation on what happened to Chester as was the way back then with TV shows.

If you are a fan and have seen only the later episodes…check these out.

Man with No Name Trilogy

A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Three great movies that happen to be westerns…maybe the best three or at least in the very top tier. At least once a year I make time to binge watch these movies back to back to back.

All were directed by Sergio Leone and were brilliant. If you watch a regular Hollywood western from this time period or a little later…they seem a little too polished…this one feels raw and realistic.

These movies started the Spaghetti Westerns…They made Clint Eastwood a movie star. He was famous for Rawhide on television but this put him over the top.

The three films are not really an ongoing story but Eastwood plays pretty much the same character in every one with different name.

The best part of all three is the atmosphere. The editing and cinematography of these movies are great…The showdown scene in The Good, Bad and the Ugly is worth watching just by itself. Personally, I like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly the best because of that scene.

You don’t have to be a big western fan to enjoy these movies… they transcend regular westerns.

 

Have Gun Will Travel

I never got into TV westerns very much but this one was different. It was on for 6 seasons from 1957 – 1963 that featured very different leading man type…Richard Boone.

24 episodes were written by Gene Roddenberry before he tackled Star Trek. The writing and the stories set this show apart from Bonanza and many other westerns from this time period. That is not a knock on the other westerns but this one was unique.

A rich sophisticated gunslinger (that goes by the name Paladin)…with morals…. lives in a 1880s hotel in San Francisco. Anyone in trouble can hire him at his normal fee of 1000 dollars (if the cause is good….he sometimes doesn’t charge)… He is a problem solver and only kills if he has to.  Paladin never reveals his real name but during each episode, he will flash his business card to a prospective client and then Paladin changes from socialite clothing to an all-black outfit. He is a man’s man who is a fast draw and quotes Shakespeare, Homer, Oscar Wilde and many more… Not your average western gunslinger…

Guest stars included Charles Bronson, Jack Lord, Buddy Ebsen, Harry Morgan, Dan Blocker, DeForest Kelley, Ken Curtis, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine and many more.

I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did because they did not dumb it down like so many shows did then and especially now.

If you decide to give this series a try…watch the 1st episode of the 6th season (Genesis) first… because it explains where Paladin got his name…but still never gives his real name.

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