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Bat Masterson and The Rifleman


pandorainmay

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Not that I'd encourage any disloyalty to TCM, but if you like Westerns, you might be enjoying the 48 hour marathon that ends today on the Encore Western Channel. After this weekend the two shows will be on M-F at 4:30pm and 5pm, respectively and at 6pm on Saturdays. The marathon features back to back airing of The Rifleman with Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford on Saturday and Bat Masterson with Gene Barry on Sunday.

 

As half hour shows, they waste no time setting up the story, focusing on the father-son aspect quite well on the quite violent, but satisfying The Rifleman, and featuring interesting actors from the '50s in good, brief turns, among them Robert Vaughan (pre-Magnificent Seven), Royal Dano, and Michael Ansara. The music by Herschel Burke Gilbert is notably good, if repetitive, but the show's heart is the rapport between the tall, tough, tender Connors & earnest Johnny Crawford as they pursue their sometimes hardscrabble existence. Familiar character man Paul Fix as Micah the sheriff in town is also one of the keystones to this show's evocative power.

 

Bat Masterson's Gene Barry was a stylish clothes horse who could subdue anyone dealing from the bottom of the deck with his twirling cane, wit, and gambler's sense of honor. The shows don't have quite the heart of The Rifleman, but Bat gets around. He's almost always flush with money, attracting girls and trouble, and in just two shows, I happened to glimpse such stalwart character actors as Alan Hale, Jr., Conrad Nagel, Robert Middleton, Elisha Cook, Jr. and King Donovan. It's well worth a look if you're a Western aficionado.

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I would rather have the Encore Western Channel showing " The Gunfighter ", Red River ", or " The Searchers " today. I usually don't care for TV Westerns, and I am sorry to say that " Bat Masterson ", and " The Riflemen " fall into that category of TV Western that I do not care for. Just my biased opinion.

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I am sorry to say that " Bat Masterson ", and " The Riflemen " fall into that category of TV Western that I do not care for. Just my biased opinion. >>

 

Many a western director continued to get a pay check because of their contributions to "Bat Masterson" and other 1950s television westerns.

 

Other up and coming western directors like Sam Peckinpah cut their writing and directing chops on shows like this.

 

Many character actors like Lee Marvin, soon to be stars like Robert Redford and studio era stars guest starred on westerns like "The Rifleman" and "The Virginian".

 

And lest we forget Miss Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley on "The Big Valley".

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Hi, moira,

 

I thought about posting about the Bat Masterson series, too, to let people know, since I figured at least the Gene Barry angle would be of interest but never got to do so. I recorded most of then during the last day because I enjoyed the show when I was a kid. For some reason, I remember a different opening for the show than the one shown. Interesting to see Broderick Crawford in one of the shows.

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Have to chime in expressing my pleasure over The Rifleman's appearance. I know I hurt my grades during the mid 50s-mid 60s tuning in my western favorites religiously until Ma said, "Too much television!" I ran the gamut and didn't miss many of my favorites.

 

But much of what I learned/admired about fatherhood and parenting was modeled on The Rifleman series. Besides, I'm a collector of Winchesters so that's a bonus.

 

I won't miss The Big Valley's departure. Those characters are just too pretty and dust-free for me. Gene Barry seemed tailor-made for the Bat Masterson role but other than Gunsmoke, westerns set in town never became favorites.

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I recorded the first 23 episodes of each show as they were shown last weekend and am just now getting a chance to watch some of them. I remember the Rifleman as a kid and I always emjoyed it. I must of been watching it through Mark's (the son) eyes though, because I remember the action and not all the adult topics that were mixed in the stories. Very entertaining and it works on both levels. I'd never seen Bat Masterson before. It's much lighter in content than the Rifleman, not so "adult" in theme. With his fancy clothes and his way with women Bat's almost a cousin to James West in the Wild, Wild West. Both series are well worth your time if you enjoy westerns.

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"I'd never seen Bat Masterson before. It's much lighter in content than the Rifleman, not so "adult" in theme"

 

Hi Cinemalover,

Even though Bat Masterson wasn't as "adult" or serious in theme as the well-produced The Rifleman, I have the impression that it was geared more toward the mature audience who could get some of the humor, particularly females stuck home with the kids in the fifties who could enjoy the eye candy provided by Gene Barry in all his various, and, amusingly campy poses. I remember that we weren't allowed to watch The Rifleman at all, (too violent), but were allowed to watch Bat Masterson, (I think my Mom harbored a crush). It's interesting that you connected this show with The Wild, Wild West, which indeed does seem to be a distant cousin to Bat M., (and with a far more elaborate budget). Btw, wasn't the theme music for BM monotonously penetrating??

 

Having watched a few of the shows over the weekend, I find that my favorite Masterson episodes are probably the rather serious one with Broderick Crawford and a hilariously uncharacteristic episode in which Bat sings in the bathtub, gets trussed up to a tree with a bag of smelly dead fish hung next to him, and gets into a bear fight with bruin who wanders by to check out that heavenly scent! Of course, Bat also kisses a gal, and bops a few bad 'uns with his trusty cane. What I wanna know is---how'd he keep those fancy duds so pressed and pristine stored in that bedroll? Where'd he put the derby when he was in his "action outfit" out on the trail?!

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Moirafinnie6,

I didn't mean it as a slight that Bat Masterson wasn't as "adult" as The Rifleman. I thoroughly enjoyed the episodes of Bat that I've seen so far and look forward to watching all 108 episodes. My observation was more to the point that as a kid watching the Rifleman I ignored the adult content (or it was just over my head) and anxiously anticipated each episodes' sure-to-come shootout. These series are of such different styles that they are great compliments to each other. I haven't done my homework, but I wonder where Bat lines up chronologically with James Garner's Maverick (another favorite of mine). Those two characters certainly share a flair for comic moments.

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Cinemalover,

Oh, I didn't think that you were slighting ol' Bat, Cinemalover, just noting the facetious tone of the series, about which you were dead right. In perusing a few episodes, I'm getting a kick out of the tongue in cheek performance of Gene Barry, as well as the endless stream of peroxide babes who line up for Bat Masterson throughout the old West. I know that much of the humor in Bat Masterson (which premiered in 1958) and Maverick (which premiered in 1957) was way over my tiny head, but can appreciate it a great deal now.

 

Btw, despite the parental ban on The Rifleman, my siblings and I caught up with it several years later when Mom & Dad were working and it reappeared on the tube in reruns. Funny, when I had a phone call from my brother over the weekend notifying me that The Rifleman was beginning to be shown again, he mentioned to me that he didn't remember the impact of the drama of the stories and was especially struck by his perception of the affecting father-son relationship. I pointed out to him that he's probably more moved by the stories because he's a father himself now, and that and the notably poverty stricken ranch* that the two are struggling to maintain has much more resonance to him at this time. It was one of the few moments when my big brother may have thought his li'l squirt of a sis had something valuable to say!

 

Lzcutter,

As you pointed out earlier, there were some distinctive hands behind the scenes on these series. I've begun to notice the presence of Sam Peckinpah, Budd Boetticher, Frank D. Gilroy, Richard Donner & Ida Lupino as creators, writers and directors on several of The Rifleman episodes and have also noticed that the Masterson series doesn't seem to have quite the same consistent care with writing and characterization, though in the Broderick Crawford episode that I mentioned was quite a vividly Homeric portrayal of vengeance at work. Thanks for alerting me to read the credits carefully.

 

Now, if we could just get the Encore Western Channel or TVland to bring back the original Maverick and Cheyenne with Clint Walker! This child of the 50s/60s would be one happy retro-camper! Thanks for reading my rambles down the memory trail and glad you're along for the ride!

Moira

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*One of the interesting things about The Rifleman seems to be the near poverty of the lead character's subsistence level existence. Quite a refreshingly realistic contrast to the more widely known Cartwright's plush living over on Bonanza or the later Big Valley accoutrements enjoyed by that bright, shiny family!

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I'm so pea-green that I don't have The Western Channel! I just love "The Rifleman"---ever since I watched it in re-runs as a little girl, it was always my favorite of all the western shows.

 

I may have to end up getting the upgrade to receive Encore or buy the dvds of the show.

 

I've never seen "Bat Masterson"---but just re-watched Gene Barry in a supporting role in Clark Gable's Soldier of Fortune.

 

P.S. Did you guys know that Johnny Crawford, the guy who played "Mark" on TR now fronts a swing band in L.A.?

 

Miss G

 

Message was edited by:

MissGoddess

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"P.S. Did you guys know that Johnny Crawford, the guy who played "Mark" on TR now fronts a swing band in L.A.?"

 

Miss G., thanks for the heads up about the orchestra. Funny that you should mention that, since one of my more cynical siblings mentioned that she thought Johnny Crawford had wound up doing adult films, (Not true!), and I was so outraged that I looked him up on the internet. It seems that the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra featuring vintage music is quite well known. His group has even appeared with one of my favorites from NPR and the pages of The New Yorker, Garrison Keillor! Wow, it's good to know that the guy has had what sounds like a creative and positive life after childhood stardom, (and a brief career, if memory serves, as a pop singer in the '60s). Here's his website if anyone's interested:

 

http://www.crawfordmusic.com

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  • 3 weeks later...

This reply is a little late, but did you see the original "Bat Masterson" opening credits as a kid? Sometimes older series' opening and closing credits featured a sponsor's logo and thus had to be altered when the series went into syndication. "I Love Lucy" is one of many examples of this.

 

I'm really enjoying both of these series on Encore Westerns. I've seen "The Rifleman" several times over the years but have never seen "Bat Masterson." That's the first Ziv TV show to receive a national airing in years, I'd say.

 

I wish the other Encore channels would show more TV series, as TV Land and other channels butcher old shows too much for my liking. I think the Mystery channel once aired "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," and Westerns has shown "The Virginian" and "Gunsmoke" (the 1-hour b/w episodes) among other series.

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danthemovieman,

I agree with your wish to see more television series (uncut, as on the Western Channel). Usually, I have little or no use for most of Encore's selections (pan & scan movies, etc..) but their Western Channel not only has carried some great television shows (Lone Ranger and the Big Valley in addition to the ones you mentioned) but they restored and show 89 of the 93 Gene Autry westerns and the entire run of the Gene Autry Show. I wish they'd do the same for Roy Rogers!

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To elaborate on what I mentioned on my "Jean Arthur on 'Gunsmoke'" thread, I wish somebody could remaster and air "Wagon Train." Only about 70 of the more than 250 one-hour black-and-white episodes are in syndication, plus all 32 of the 90-minute color eps. That would explain why I saw the same Suzanne Pleshette ep several times in a year when the old Family Channel used to air the show. Columbia House did 40 eps of the show on 20 tapes, although I think they had access only to the same 70 b/w eps.

 

"Wagon Train" was one of the rare shows that started in b/w, then went to color and back to b/w. Universal owns it, and they're farming out at least two of their shows ("Ironside" and "McHale's Navy") to the Shout Factory for DVD, so maybe they'll do the same for "WT."

 

That's weird about Encore's panning-and-scanning. The Westerns channel will run the occasional movie in letterbox, major films such as "Major Dundee" or certain foreign films, but--like Cinemax--they seem to be averse to letterboxing. When they run a film that was originally shot in CinemaScope or Panavision, it's almost unwatchable full-screen. They do dig up some rarities, though, such as "Northwest Stampede," which aired the other day.

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My wording may have been a little fuzzy, but I meant that all 32 of the color episodes are available for syndication, plus 70 or so b/w eps. I assume the entire run of the show is intact in Universal's vaults, which are crowded with more unreleased/unsyndicated TV product than all the other studios put together, I'd say. I'm not sure if Universal once syndicated more "WT" eps than they do now or if all of those stray eps have been unseen (at least on TV) since their original airing.

 

Someone who has a nice "WT" website, whom I should credit for providing me with the trivia on the available episodes, has rounded up all but about 20 eps. Collectors have obtained film copies of several eps, and it's possible that some eps floating about came from overseas broadcasts, where the syndication package might have had more eps. I've got a tape made from an uncut film copy of "The Bob Stuart Story," a final-season ep with Robert Ryan.

 

A post on IMDb mentions that this year's 50th anniversary of the "WT" premiere ought to be a good excuse to release the series officially, but you never know with Universal.

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To one and all: Greetings

 

This discussion has ranged quite far from the title of the thread, but it has been

a natural progression. I'd like to entroduce another tangent. Many of the 1950's

westerns had theme songs that were sung along with the opening and/or closing

credits. Does anyone know if these musical numbers have ever been collected in

one place for puchase? "Bat Masterson" had a theme song (a bad one!). I think

all the Warner Bros. shows had them: "Cheyanne", " Sugarfoot", "Bronco" and

"Maverick" certainly had them. "Colt 45" came along after I had gone off to school,

and I can't remember if that show continued the tradition.

 

Of the non-Warner westerns, "Masterson", "Wyatt Earp", "Have Gun, Will

Travel" and "The Rebel" had'em, "Trackdown", "The Westener", and "Wanted,

Dead Or Alive" didn't have'em. "Gunsmoke" and "Wagon Train" didn't, but

"Rawhide" did. "Toombstone Territory" and "Yancy Derringer" did have them

but "Lawman" didn't. "Laramie", "Lorado" and "Sheriff Of Cochise"? I'm drawing

a total blank. Again, they hit the screen after my departure for school.

 

For the most part, these numbers were sung by harmonizing male voices, perhaps

a barbershop quartet. Occasionally a soloist took the gig. Frankie Laine sang

the "Rawhide" theme, and it is my firm belief that Johnny Cash sang the theme

for "The Rebel". I know he cut a racord of it which was a radio standard for a while.

 

Anyone having information of how to obtain recordings of these old themes, I

would appreciate having it mentioned on this site.

 

Thanks,

cmvgor, aka flickerfan

 

 

"I'm a peace-lovin' man, son, and I'll kill anybody who says different!"

--The Rifleman (who didn't have a theme song) per MAD Magazine.

for

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Hi Cmvgor,

I've enjoyed all the turns of this thread, and thoroughly agree with your evaluation of the theme of Bat Masterson as BAD. The trouble is, it's bad in the musical sense, as well as its uncanny ability to act as mental peanut butter, refusing to leave the roof of your mind, lol! I've looked around the web for a definitive collection of Western tv theme songs and found an instrumental collection on Amazon and a site that will give you all the inherently laughable lyrics of many such songs. Love the Daniel Boone one, btw, which is another one that sticks in my mind, alas! Wonder if compilation cds are hard to find due to rights issues? Seems a natural fit for some guilty pleasure cd from K-tel or one of those late-at-night infomercials aimed at insomniac baby boomers, doesn't it?

 

Here's a link to the collections of music and lyrics below. The last link seems to be the most enjoyable, and even includes the theme song from one of my favorite comedy Westerns, (intentionally, that is), F Troop:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Western-Theme-Songs-Various-Artists/dp/B000001V4K

 

http://www.tvtunesonline.com/lyrics/western_adventure.asp

 

http://www.angelfire.com/film/cowboystarsounds/index.html

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One of moirafinnie's links shows lyrics to Wagon Train, taken from the jaunty number used I think only in the second season. It's on one of the Columbia House tapes. A less-often-heard instrumental was used in the first season, then the version with lyrics, and then the instrumental most people are familiar with.

 

Incidentally, does anyone know who sang Bat Masterson's theme? A quick search of the Internet failed to turn up a name, although I did unearth the fact that Bill Baldwin is the narrator of the show (someone needs to tell IMDb this).

 

I was also reading on the Net about The Rifleman, trying to learn about the alternate opening-credit sequence, which was on a YouTube video of Rifleman outtakes as of the other day. In that version, he runs toward the camera and fires. I found a long-standing joke about who is he shooting in the opening credits (his wife!) but couldn't solve the mystery of the alternate main title. I saw it ages ago on the Family Channel and assumed it was from the final-season shows, although I have an MPI tape with a 1962-63 episode that has the familiar walking-down-the-street credits. The YouTube post calls it the "original" credits, but I'm not sure about that. Wonder if they replaced that version in syndication because it seemed too violent or scary, as if he was shooting the home viewer?!?

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> Not that I'd encourage any disloyalty to TCM, but if

> you like Westerns, you might be enjoying the 48 hour

> marathon that ends today on the Encore Western

> Channel. After this weekend the two shows will be on

> M-F at 4:30pm and 5pm, respectively and at 6pm on

> Saturdays. The marathon features back to back airing

> of The Rifleman with Chuck Connors and

> Johnny Crawford on Saturday and Bat

> Masterson with Gene Barry on Sunday.

>

> As half hour shows, they waste no time setting up the

> story, focusing on the father-son aspect quite well

> on the quite violent, but satisfying The Rifleman,

> and featuring interesting actors from the '50s in

> good, brief turns, among them Robert Vaughan

> (pre-Magnificent Seven), Royal Dano, and

> Michael Ansara. The music by Herschel Burke

> Gilbert is notably good, if repetitive, but the

> show's heart is the rapport between the tall, tough,

> tender Connors & earnest Johnny Crawford as they

> pursue their sometimes hardscrabble existence.

> Familiar character man Paul Fix as Micah the

> sheriff in town is also one of the keystones to this

> show's evocative power.

>

> Bat Masterson's Gene Barry was a stylish

> clothes horse who could subdue anyone dealing from

> the bottom of the deck with his twirling cane, wit,

> and gambler's sense of honor. The shows don't have

> quite the heart of The Rifleman, but Bat gets

> around. He's almost always flush with money,

> attracting girls and trouble, and in just two shows,

> I happened to glimpse such stalwart character actors

> as Alan Hale, Jr., Conrad Nagel, Robert

> Middleton, Elisha Cook, Jr. and King

> Donovan. It's well worth a look if you're a

> Western aficionado.

 

To: miorafinnes and danthemovefan;

(I don't know what happened here. I typed all of this out, and when I hit "Post Message" everything disappeared except an announcement that the thread

couldn't be found. Trying to start again, I hit "Quote Origional" and the above

appeared. Trying again. Sorry about the duplication.) Anyway:

 

I was delighted at the information you posted. It directly addressed the questions

that interested me, and brought up some more memories. Oh; the image of

persistant,annoying lyrics as mental peanut butter -- spot on, and LOL! I had

forgotten that 'Wagon Train' had a theme for a while, and the 'Lawman' song had

slipped my mind entirely. And I agree about the 'Daniel Boone' theme (What a boon, what a doer, what a dream coming true-er). More mental peanut butter.

I will be purchasing some of these records soon. I found I actually have a favorite,

though not in our major time frame. When James Garner brought back the l981

series, 'Bret Maverick, the Lazy Ace' I liked the theme of that one (Maverick didn't

come here to lose).

 

Another item; some may be interested: A 1991 made-for-TV movie entitled 'The

Gambler Returns--The Luck Of The Draw'. Set in 1905, It has Kenny Rogers' "Gambler"

character dashing across the West to get to San Francisco for a high-stakes

poker game. On the way he crosses paths with a lot, A LOT! of the 50's-60's

western stars in their series personas. Both Bat (Gene Barry) and Lucas (Chuck

Conners) have cameos, and in a seperate scene entirely he meets Mark (Johnny

Craawford) who is breaking into the movin' picture business as a stunt rider. I taped

it off the air (antenna, not cable, but it came out OK). It can be tracked down under that title, or on Rogers' imdb page.

 

Now I want to scratch another itch. Is there any source where one can get ALL the quotations from Bret and Bart' pappy? I thought I remembered them all being

collected in a paperback book in the late 60's, to be found alongside such volumns

as "The Wit and Wisdom of Archie Bunker", and suchlike. My local used bookstore says it ain't happening. Any help on this search will be appreciated.

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>> ...does anyone know who sang Bat Masterson's theme?

 

---No, dan, I don't, but I'm trying to get this entry accepted, and avoid what happened to me last time. I'll describe what I just did, and maybe people more

experienced than I am can take advantage of it.

 

I conjured up a name I thought I remembered from an old screen credit, and typed in "The Ken Darby Singers". This took me to a page that offered three

listings under that name. Clicking onto one that included the word "lyrics",

I eventually got to a listing for "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp", and indications

that the lyrics were close at hand. Of course, we've already found the lyrics, but now we've identified the vocalists. Someone more able than I to get through that maze may be able to find if the Darby group sang any other themes.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-- Did 'The Rough Riders' have a theme song? Did ' Mackenzie's Raiders'?

-- Do you remember 'Shotgun Slade'? That's Scott Brady with a sawed-off double-

barrel and a jazz(!) score.

-- Be honest now: The first time you saw 'The Lone Ranger', were you aware that

that music had belonged to William Tell first?

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The Wagon Train theme may have been rearranged again in the later seasons, come to think of it. It's not unusual for a series to undergo one theme-song change, but WT may have set a record! Shows that replaced themes include Bonanza (changed around season 11 or 12 and then changed back to the original in season 14) and The Phil Silvers Show/Sgt. Bilko (different closing theme in final season).

 

I've got a Shotgun Slade DVD set, which has some drawbacks--the DVD counter doesn't work as you play the episodes--but retains that jazzy score and seems to have uncut episodes. Pretty cool series and another example of a TV western with a gimmick: in this case, a gun that fires shotgun shells from one barrel and rifle bullets from the other.

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