|Index||5 reviews in total|
I loved this show as a kid but did NOT want to be Cuffy! Not that I
didn't fantasize about being Captain Gallant's little sidekick. But, in
my daydreams I was a child prodigy, rifle toting, kickass legionnaire,
not a putzy little "mascot". Cullen Crabbe was in fact Buster Crabbe's
real life son, but in the series he is actually the son of a dead
comrade and calls Captain Gallant "Uncle Mike". In one particularly
poignant episode, Cuffy's imperious, snobby aunt arrives at the fort
with a court order granting her custody of the boy fathered by her
"black sheep" nephew and born to "some kind of an entertainer". Gallant
immediately and angrily cuts her off with "A good woman and a fine
mother". While the circumstances of his parents' deaths are never
specified, it is implied that they were killed in a massacre of some
type. I won't say what ultimately happens, but in 50's TV Land, things
usually work out for the best.
The first year of the series was great. It was filmed on location in Morocco and many of the extras were real legionnaires or other French colonial troops. While many episodes were a bit too sappy for adults, some of them had good action sequences and more adult themes. The opening scenes feature a powerfully orchestrated version of "Le Boudin", the signature march of the Foreign Legion, and are about as stirring as anything ever televised. Unfortunately, the series morphed into more of a true kiddie show the second season, when political turmoil culminating in the independence of Morocco forced the series onto the back lots of California. In some of the later shows they even cut out the impressive opening.
I once got to meet Buster Crabbe when I was a teenager. A former Olympic swimming champion, he was giving a swimming exhibition at a resort where I was staying with my family. When I tried to speak to him privately after the show, he rather gruffly asked me what I wanted. Needless to say, I was very hurt and said that I just wanted to talk to Captain Gallant and was sorry to have bothered him. As I quickly and angrily turned away, he told me to wait and apologized for being so rude. When I told him how much I liked the show and admired his character, he became quite maudlin and even misty eyed. He spent some time telling me about how much he loved doing the show and what a great time he and Cuffy had traveling around North Africa. Although he didn't come out and say so, it seemed that he considered the show to have been the peak of his career. This made me forgive his initial shortness with me, since I realized that he was now reduced to giving poolside swimming demonstrations. A dream come true that made me happy and sad at the same time. Crabbe's fortunes did subsequently improve and he became a big wheel with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He died in 1983.
In it's first season, a fine show, but not one that would appeal to today's kids and probably even less so to politically correct parents.
Viewed this program when originally aired in the 50's. We all wanted to be Cuffy, Capt. Gallant's waif/son? Fuzzy Knight played the stumbling, bumbling sidekick. It was just one of the many 50's children programs where a cleancut looked-up-at adult was a wonderful role model. Too bad they're gone now.
Well even though I was a girl and not a boy, I wanted to be Cuffy, too! Either that, or I just had a crush on him (along with all the other little boy heroes of '50s TV shows). I could not remember what the little kid's name was until I found this website today. I don't remember as much about this show as I do others like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Leave it to Beaver, but I do remember that I enjoyed watching it. Imagine a time when wholesomeness ruled the airwaves, imagination was more important than crudeness, and bad grammar, bad manners and bad morals were NOT things to which we aspired. Pretty much, people knew what was expected of them as a productive member of society, and bringing shame on your family was unthinkable.
The French Foreign Legion had long been the meat of many a story on
film. We have titles among a long list that included MOROCCO
(Paramount, 1930), UNDER TWO FLAGS (20th Century-Fox, 1936), BEAU GESTE
(Paramount,1939) and ROGUES REGIMENT (Universal-International, 1948).*
On the comedy-spoof side we the likes of BEAU HUNKS (Hal
Roach/MGM,1931) and THE FLYING DEUCES (Boris Moros/RKO Radio, 1939),
both starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy; as well as ABBOTT & COSTELLO
IN THE FOREIGN LEGION (Universal, 1950).
With such a tradition and romantic legend making the Legion such a continuing "Hot Item", it is with little wonder that we saw this series hit the TV Network scene. And much to the credit of the French-Moroccan producers, it was done right there on the locale where it was said to take place, namely Morocco, one of the former Barbary Coast states; along with Tunisia and Algeria. To this now pleasant scene, comes that good, old Olympic Swimming Champion, Clarence Linden "Buster" Crabbe, and his son, Cullen. Cast as Captain Gallant and his son "Cuffy", they gave us the feeling of a high adventure and a kid's fondest dream, all rolled up into one!
Just imagine being a 10 year old, with no school to attend or paper routes; just your horse to ride and a miniature version of your father's Legionnaire Captain's uniform! As for the rest of the regular cast, veteran Fuzzy Knight was cast as another Yank in the French Service as Pvt. Fuzzy. This made for a truly interesting, if highly unlikely trio of Americans present in Saharan Africa, while not being tourists or other visitors. And we must revisit this Fuzzy Knight situation and just how it came to be.
The story goes that during the negotiations for the series, "Buster" Crabbe suggested that they cast his old friend and co-star, "Fuzzy" as a sort of Enlisted Man & Comic Relief. The deal was done and the Producers went out and signed "Fuzzy", just as Mr. Crabbe had suggested. The deal was done and the series was classified as "All Systems Go!" There was only one slight problem. This was the wrong "Fuzzy"! Dating back to "Buster" Crabbe's days at poverty row studios like Producers' Releasing Corporation (or PRC for short) and his "Billy the Kid" 'B' Westerns, he had partnered up with one Al St. John. Being a veteran of silent screen comedy 2 reel shorts (as well as being the Nephew of the blackballed funnyman of the Silents, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle), Al made for a perfect 'Comical Side Kick'. Long and lanky of physique and possessing a whole slough of facial reactions, all that Al needed was the addition of a scraggily old beard to be re-christened as "Fuzzy".**
As for the "CAPTAIN GALLANT OF THE FOREIGN LEGION" Series, it was big on bugling and military procedure and protocol. Problems involved more of the common criminal-type than any rebellious seditionists. I seem to recall that the wrong-doers were pretty much evenly divided between Cut Throat Europeans and Renegade Bedouins; with Captain Gallant, his Troops and Son providing the forces of good in the great, sandy wastes.
In many ways, the series bore a strong resemblance to the previous years' "THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN", which of course was set in the 1870's and '80's in the old Fort Apache of Wild West fame. Even scripts from the two series were somewhat similar and could be easily interchanged, with a little minor cosmetic surgery.
One particular Captain Gallant episode that we remember well was their Christmas show on one of its two seasons. It involved the Legion's necessity to be in the field during the Christmas Holiday Season. "Cuffy" is saddened and yearns for not only being home at the Fort, but also for being back in the USA, where he could enjoy the White Christmas of an old time, seasonal snowfall.
In a very poignant scene, the good Captain holds a sort of impromptu non-denominational Christmas service. And, in what would today be so very "politically incorrect" Captain Gallant relates to his son that the first Christmas was on a dessert and even, "in a land on the other side of the very Dessert we are on now!" In a sense, "CAPTAIN GALLANT OF THE FOREIGN LEGION" put a sort of punctuational period on the Colonial period in Africa, Asia and elsewhere; at least to the genre of colonial era films.***
NOTE: * There were many other films, including a number of versions of BEAU GESTE, the first being in 1926 with Ronald Colman.
NOTE: ** The "B" Western's "innovation" of Comic Relief via "the Sidekick" did a lot for the careers of many an Actor. Other than Al "Fuzzy" St. John, there were guys like silent film comedian, Harry "Snub" Pollard, Broadway Stage Actor, George Hayes (best remembered as "Gabby" Hayes) and many others.
NOTE: *** In a sobering note, it was units of the French Foreign Legion that were defeated in 1954 in the battle of Dien Vein Fu in French Indo-China, that led to US involvement in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Probably the bitter end of French colonialism worked against any long
run for Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion. While this was being
filmed the Algerians, buoyed by what they saw the VietMinh do at Dien
Bien Phu to the Foreign Legion stepped up its campaign to get the
French out of North Africa. Within five years of this show ending the
entire chunk of North Africa that used to be colored on maps the same
as mother country France was several different African countries.
Former swimming champion Buster Crabbe played the title role of Captain Gallant, American expatriate serving in the Foreign Legion very much like an American cowboy hero. That certainly was something he was familiar with having done many a B western. They even gave him a western sidekick in Fuzzy Knight who played that role in many a western back in the day. Fuzzy was his usual funny self, but even to an 8 year old looked jarringly out of place in North Africa. You kind of wonder what he was in the Foreign Legion for.
Crabbe got to work with his son Cuffy whose role was exactly like that of Lee Aaker as Rusty in the Rin Tin Tin series. His parents were killed, no explanations were given and Cuffy sort of attached himself to Gallant and the feelings were reciprocated. I mean who wouldn't want a cowboy hero father, especially when it's your real father.
The Berbers were treated just like the American Indians, good and bad ones from our westerns. Sometimes they were nasty on their own and sometimes some evil white dudes were stirring them up. Just like the plot of a gazillion movie and TV westerns.
The show in its two season run was filmed in Morocco which did give it an air of authenticity to it. But at heart it was a kid show and fast moving political events in Africa as the continent was on the brink of being granted wholesale independence from Europe made the whole concept of Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion unrealistic.
Still it might be nice to see reruns of it now. Even though they would date so badly.
|Ratings||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|