|Index||6 reviews in total|
Of all the many westerns that Warner Bros. had on ABC during the late fifties, this was the least successful. More correctly, the ONLY show of this type that didn't succeed for the studio and the network. By the time it arrived on the air, ABC was already airing Cheyenne, Bronco, Sugarfoot, Maverick, and Lawman, all of which had long, healthy runs. Colt .45 premiered in a late evening Friday spot, opposite strong competition on the other two networks. Wayde Preston played a big, rugged fellow who traveled the west, bringing sample guns to stores that could then order them from the Colt firearms company back east. Secretly, though, he was a government agent, and each town he went into not only had a store desiring to order pistols but also some villain who needed to be taught a lesson. One particularly memorable episode featured a mild-mannered small fellow who had read about knights and hid a breastplate under his coat, so that he could shoot it out with gunfighters, allow them to fire at his heart, then (protected by the metal) blow the guy away. When he picked on Chris Colt, though, he made a mistake, for the hero had figured out the guy's strategy and put a bullet right between his eyes. Like Clint Walker over at Cheyenne, Preston was a troublesome actor - he wanted better scripts and more money - and, since the ratings weren't all that great, the show was cancelled. Both the network and studio had second thoughts, though, and brought Colt .45 back for another try, this time on Sunday nights, and it fared better, despite being loaded down with reruns. When the new episodes did appear, Preston sported a mustache that made him look more authentically western, though this was a rarity on TV at the time. Once again, he and the studio clashed, so before long he was gone, with Donald May replacing him as his cousin, Sam Colt, Jr. There was an episode in which Preston turned the job over to May, but in a bizarre move, it wasn't aired as the first of the May episodes but the last - so audiences had no idea why there was a new guy on the series until the series was about to end! By that time, it was on Tuesday nights, and everyone involved in this (and for that matter most TV westerns) had run out of new ideas. So what they did for the final half-season was to imitate a Republic-produced series from earlier in the decade, Stories Of the Century - by having May meet one real-life gunfighter (Billy the Kid, Jesse James, etc.) on his travels. Ultimately, though, it was the first WB/ABC western to "go" - cancelled in summer, 1960. That fall, a Maverick episode had Bart (Jack Kelly) running into the stars of all the other Warner/ABC westerns in a single episode . . . but when he arrived at the home of Chris Colt, there was only a dusty gun hanging from a peg, and the man was gone. Though nobody perhaps knew it at the time, this served as a symbol for the fate of most all such westerns, which would reach the end of the trail within the next two to three years.
This western from the huge stable out of Warner Bros. probably had more things going against than for it. Although seemingly well cast with a soon to be disgruntled Wayde Preston as Christopher Colt portraying a government agent posing as a gun salesman tracking down various types of bad guys the show was basically entertaining as he was not quite as light as Maverick but not as hard nosed as John Russells "Lawman".As the popularity of Colt .45 grew, Wayde Preston felt so should his paycheck. After having to mingle reruns with recently completed episodes and realizing Colt .45 just might have something going W.B. flexed and Preston came back, but not for long. After another dispute with the studio Preston left again and Sam Colt Jr.played by Donald May eventually replaced Preston causing the show to lose its momentum and ceased production in 1960 concluding its three year run. The show was also plagued by several rehashed episodes already used by other W.B. western series.One wonders what could have been.
One of the most memorable of the theme songs, though musically not up to the quality of some such as "Maverick". The ads were a bit silly: "Beneath this salesman exterior..." caused my waggish brother to quip "beats a heart of gold". But though relatively short-lived and suffering from Warner's rehashed scripts, Preston was suitably solid and stolid; and yet, perhaps because of the tie in to the Colt revolver, and the undercover agent aspect, it was great fun!
Producer Roy Huggins ( "Cheyenne", "Maverick", "77 Sunset Strip", "Run
For Your Life") developed and produced the pilot for "Colt 45", which
started in 1957. The villain in the pilot episode of "Colt 45" was
named Jim Rexford (played by Andrew Duggan). Roy Huggins also began
"Maverick" in 1957.
On Roy Huggins' "The Lawyers" segment of "The Bold Ones", one 1969 episode is titled "The Rockford Riddle" because the Darrell's secretive client is named Henry Rockford (played by Charles Aidman).
Roy Huggins turned Jim Rexford and Henry Rockford into Jim Rockford when Huggins re-teamed with "Maverick" star James Garner for "The Rockford Files" in 1974.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though others on this board make the case that 'Colt .45' wasn't one of
your better classic TV Westerns, my own take is that I never ran across
one I didn't like. Perhaps the problem with the series in general, and
Wayde Preston in particular, is that he played the character of
Christopher Colt just a bit too sullen. You would think he'd crack a
smile every once in a while like Cheyenne Bodie or Lucas McCain,
contemporaries during his series run in the late Fifties. Especially
since he wore his shirt with the storm flap buttoned back exposing his
chest in most episodes, a smile would surely have added to his appeal.
The series had a couple of different opening sequences; in the first season Preston faced the camera and double barreled the spelling of Colt .45 on screen. It was effective but kind of static. In the second season, he rode hard into town and started walking into a saloon, and when someone called his name he turned quickly with both guns blazing. That's somewhat curious to me, as it could just as easily have been someone he knew calling out. You can lose a lot of friends that way.
The series theme was set right at the outset, introducing Captain Christopher Colt as a salesman for the Colt Firearm Company of Hartford, Connecticut. His stock in trade was 'The Peacemaker' - the Colt single action .45 caliber Army revolver. It was in the very first episode that Colt uttered the words in my summary line above to a pacifist woman who frowned on his profession. However when the town strongman, played by Andrew Duggan, attempted to belittle Colt into running out of town, Colt was encouraged to stand his ground. Of course he won that showdown, just as he would the rest of the series run. In fact, unless it's a camera trick (and it might be), Colt performs an impossibly fast draw against Don Megowan in Episode #1.11 The Gypsies. I replayed it a couple of times, and it's fast even in slow motion.
Yet even though Colt was outwardly a gun salesman, he also worked undercover as a government agent for the Army, reporting regularly to a Colonel Parker. The show employed a curious method for Colt to send messages to the Colonel. You would see a transcript of what a telegraph operator would send, and it would transform into the underlying message on screen. Thinking about it though, I would challenge anyone to explain how that would have worked for real. But it looked cool.
Like a lot of cowboy actors who became popular, Preston decided he was worth more money once the series got under way. It happened earlier with Clayton Moore, who was replaced by John Hart for a season as the Lone Ranger. Donald May came on board in the second season as Captain Colt's cousin, Sam Colt. Interestingly, one of my favorite episodes occurred in the third season when the pair of them teamed together in 'Phantom Trail'. Both guys were built fairly solid, and they had a resemblance to each other that made the cousin connection work pretty well.
Well, even if it's one of your run of the mill TV Westerns, I'll rewatch the episodes I have from time to time. If you can get your hands on some pre-record copies, you might also get a cool look at some of the era's commercial sponsors for the show, like Mennen Skin Bracer, Aero Shave, Beechnut Peppermint Gum, Liquid Prell Shampoo, and Campbell's Tomato Soup. And don't forget to stick around for the closing theme song - 'A lightning bolt when he used that Colt,...45'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THIS SERIES SAW the light of day during that period when the Adult
Western was king on the TV Networks. We well remember that at one point
there were forty or so being broadcast. We tried to watch 'em all.
AT ONE POINT ABC's Sunday night lineup had three westerns from WArner Brothers Television appearing back to back to back. First up was the hour long comedy-drama, MAVERICK starring James Garner & Jack Kelly. Next up, we had LAWMAN with John Russell and then COLT .45 with Wade Preston; both being half hour dramas.
WITH THE CONCEPTION of COLT .45, the double undercover agent was born to the Western. Christopher Colt, a member of the Colt family of firearms fame, traveled around the Old West as a salesman for "the Colt Patent Firearms Company of Hartford, Connecticut." As any salesman would, Chris Colt carried a sample case with beautiful, gleaming, new Colt .45 Peacemaker pistols.
BUT, NOT SO fast, Schultz, Chris Colt was also a secret agent for the Feds in Washington, District of Columbia. His assigned sales routes coincided with areas of current trouble with bank robberies, counter fitting, cattle rustling and even loud talking & giggling in school lines. In short, Colt covered it all.
IT WAS NEVER clear as to just what was Christopher Colt's office and for which agency that he did work for. At various times he is called an Agent, a Deputy U.S. Marshall and even a Captain in the U.S. Cavalry/Army. Perhaps, we thought, that this member of the manufacturing company either was or still is all of these things at once.
WE DID ENJOY this series very much, in spite of these obvious inconsistencies. Even when a dispute erupted between Warner Brothers and star, Wade Preston. During that stormy, but seemingly brief hiatus, actor Donald May, a Warners' protégé, was brought in as a cousin, Sam Colt, Jr.; being the son of the founder of the company.
TO US THE big, easy going Mr. Preston was the perfect guy to portray a Western hero. Born William Erskine Strange, Mr. Preston (1929-92) was a true Westerner. After having been born kin Denver, Colorado then raised in Laramie, Wyoming; the versatile "hunk" (as the ladies called him) studied pharmacy in college, played football and was active in his high school band, was a First Lieutenant in an Artillery Unit in the Korean War and for a time rode the Rodeo Circuit.
ALL OF THIS served him well in preparation for his acting career and all too brief tenure as Colt Firearms Salesman/Agent/Captain/Deputy Marshall.
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