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Interesting Actors on Classic TV Westerms

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On a 1957 episode of Tales of Wells Fargo Steve McQueen played gunman Bill Longley who like another of his characters, Tom Horn, finally met the rope.  The ending credits read "introducing Steve McQueen"; did I just see a star being born?  As this was just about the time before The Blob came out I think so. 


In this story Longley was a sympathetic character and McQueen worked well with Dale Robertson.  It was kind of like a changing of the guard as Robertson's career began winding down after this show ended in the 60's while McQueen's took off after getting his own Western series, Wanted:  Dead or Alive.   And "I was there" even if 60 years later.     

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Am I the only one who didn't know that Art Fleming, the original host of Jeopardy, had a previous life as an actor? Alex Trebek and contestants still mention him on occasion but I never heard this said.


Grit is running the 1957-59 Western, The Californians, and Fleming plays Boston turned San Francisco lawyer "Jeremy Pitt" during the second season.  It's similar to the character Ben Cooper briefly played on Gunsmoke. and he's believable.


On paper this series should have been a big hit.  It was produced by Desilu while they were also making The Life and legend of Wyatt Earp.  it's set in San Francisco  in the early/mid 1850's just after California became a state but before the Civil War.  It's very corrupt politically; most of the police force is dirty.  The honest folks, lead by the newspaper publisher, have become vigilantes to try and keep some law and order.  When they finally find an honest man to be marshal, he's a gambler who came there to run a clean casino but was getting squeezed by the crooked ones.  He has to fight both the villains and the vigilantes to keep order. 


Most of the scripts were written by veteran screen writer Carey Wilbur and the principal director was Jacques Tourneur who gave us Out of the Past; Paul Henreid  and original star Sean McClory also did some later ones.  At 30 minutes, the stories move quickly and believable.


If there was a flaw it was in the continuity of the characters.  The original lead, Adam Kennedy, wasn't around long while McClory and Nan Leslie, who played the married general store owners were gone by the end of Season 1.  Soap star Richard Coogan came on the first year as "Marshal Wayne" and got help from Fleming and Carole Mathews as his business partner and would-be-wife but they were on sporadically and you didn't know how long they'd be around.  I do like most of what I've seen. 


P. S. RO was in an episode I saw last week but didn't recognize.  I saw a clip on either the 'Surprise Party" or Alec Baldwin interview yesterday.  He was the "bad guy" who got his at the end. 

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