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"Yancy Derringer" was one of those series that dared to be different, a
'Western' that was set in post-Civil War New Orleans. If your memories of
Jock Mahoney are of him as a lean, middle-aged Tarzan in his two 1960s
appearances as the Ape Man, the show may be something of a surprise. He is
soft-spoken, smooth, and dapper, here, and altogether 'cool'.
Loaded with a laid-back charm, an Indian partner (X Brand) unique in series television in his status as the hero's 'equal' and not just a 'sidekick' (an episode where the pair take the grievances of the Indian nations to Congress is a personal favorite), and one of the most beautiful theme songs of fifties television, the short-lived program is certainly as 'watchable' as the more successful "Have Gun, Will Travel", "Wanted: Dead or Alive" and the other more 'adult' westerns of the period.
If the series re-emerges on one of the 'nostalgia' cable channels, check it out...you won't be disappointed!
I remember the show vividly; it was rerun on NBC afternoons later in the '60's. I live close to New Orleans, locale of the show, and met Mr. Mahoney at a rodeo the summer after the show ended. He was very friendly, let me hold his derringer, which was maybe not wise to do, told me where he bought it, etc. He stayed until the last autograph hound left. What really made the show was his athleticism with stunts, fights, falls, jumps, etc. One show had him trying to open a large box with his back to Pahoo; he made a gesture with his hand, keeping it up in the air shoulder height, and X Brands threw a large knife to Mr. Mahoney who caught it without looking. I read later that they thought it up as a gag, and decided to try it. It went on the first take. He became a stepfather to Sally Field, who seems to have had difficulties with him in that role, but he was really one of a kind in film. Later he had a stroke while horseback in "Kung Fu"; Burt Reynolds made a film about stunt men in the mid seventies with Brian Keith and Sally Field, the name of which I cannot remember, but it was a homage to stunt guys; Brian Keith's character had a stroke in the movie, reminding me of Mr. Mahoney; later, I read that Burt Reynolds said this was a bow to Mr. Mahoney. I was only 12, and got a kick out of the constant westerns at the time, but he gave it a distinctive feel. In TV Guide, he called it a "Southern". What was also interesting was his ensemble which came to include Mickey Morton, Lee Paul, Kelly Thorsen, etc. He was 6-4, and these guys topped him! Frances Bergen, Francine in the role, was wife of Edgar Bergen, whose daughter was Candice Bergen.
Richard Sale (pulp writer and movie writer and movie producer) teamed up with his wife Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) to produce 39 episodes of a syndicated show. Jock Mahoney, the stunt man extraordinary and THE RANGE RIDER, was casted as a ex-confederate soldier coming back to a Yankee controlled New Orleans after the war. Opening episode, he and Pahoo were waving a Confederate Flag in the middle of the river to hitch a ride on a riverboat. Audacious and charming was Yancy.
Yancy Derringer was different from all other westerns on the
during the late '50's in that it was set in New Orleans
than a dusty old west town. Yancy Derringer, as played by
stuntman Jock Mahoney, did not carry the traditional six shooter, he packed
a pistol in his hat. Yancy Derringer was a dapper, smooth, suave gambler
who, along with his Pawnee Indian companion Pahoo, assisted Commissioner
John Colton in keeping the peace in a wide-open city.
Yancy Derringer had a different "feel" to it as compared to the other westerns on the air during the later '50's and was a very welcome change during its too short one season run on CBS.
When I watched Yancy Derringer as a 6 year old, the guns were
especially fascinating. Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah had a big shotgun, maybe 10
gauge. Yancy had several tiny guns that were hidden in his clothes. One
in his hat, one in his boot. He could be searched, but still pull a
derringer out of his sleeve. X Brands, as Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah, had the
biggest shotgun I have every seen. As I recall, it had a single barrel
with a mighty power. If needed, Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah could blast the bad
guys with such force, smoke, kick, and noise, that it was the grand
finale to any fight!
The derringers came in a variety of arrangements, with most of them having two barrels. But some may have had more than two. The smallest derringer had only one barrel. There was a trick derringer, if my memory as a boy serves me correctly. One trick derringer was up Yancy's sleeve on a spring-loaded mechanism. It had scissor shaped metal supports that would expand to full length on command of a gesture. The contraption would spring out of his sleeve into Yancy's hand into the right firing position. The gesture that triggered the spring to release was for Yancy to press his elbow against his side. One derringer was hidden in his belt buckle. Toy stores sold belts with hidden derringers after that show!
Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah would carry his shotgun with him wherever he went, but with poise and dignity which seemed non-threatening. X Brands' dispassionate face would seldom display any emotion. He spoke slowly and deeply, with somber meaning that always was important. Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah was tall and strong. In a fight, I only remember his 8 gauge shotgun: as the ultimate weapon in any New Orleans brawl. It could knock down a wall!
. . . they speak of Yancey D."
So went the theme song to this undeservedly short-lived series. Nominally billed as a "western" (Yancey did, after all, wear a broad-brimmed hat, there were horses about, and his best friend was an Indian), this show was hard to categorize, even in the era of the so-called "adult western."
There was always the hint of a dark side to Yancey, all things considered; a feeling that tucked away behind his reserved manner lay a past that may not always have been too cool (or, alternately, as a friend of mine once suggested, perhaps a bit TOO cool). Moreover, unlike most of his contemporary action heroes, Mr. D. didn't always fight fair: forced into a bare-knuckles match against an huge opponent, Yancey took advantage of his knowledge that the guy had spent the previous night guzzling beer, hammering him into collapse with a series of belly punches you could almost feel through the TV screen.
Not the nicest guy in town, in other words. But eminently effective. And thoroughly watchable. A great series.
Sonmetimes it is hard to understand just why a television series is so
short lived.Lack of popularity is the most common reason of
course;sometimes the death of a star ends its run prematurely.In the
case of Yancy Derringer, it was corporate greed.Originally financed and
owned by the writers and Jock Mahoney, it was so successful in its
initial season that the network insisted on buying it.Jock Mahoney and
the others refused;the network responded by concealing it.End of Yancy
The theme song was one of the most distinctive of 1950's television.It outlived its series,and can be frequently heard as b background music on episodes of "The Rifleman" made in the early 1960's.
It is certainly strange that, considering how many fine TV series were made in the first 20 years of TV, so very few are ever shown,except for "I Love Lucy" and a few others.
This was another good western back in the '50s which gives me fond
memories. I remember how me and my pals thought this hero was "cool,"
something like Richard Boone was in "Have Gun, Will Travel."
The main differences in this western as opposed to most was that the title character
packed a little derringer in his hat, and the setting was New Orleans instead of the old west. Otherwise, he was, like Boone's "Paladin" a smooth, dapper and cool customer.
Jock Mahoney ("Yancy Derringer") was the rugged, silent type, if I remember correctly. The shows were very interesting and we looked forward to them each week. Why this show only lasted on year is a real mystery to me. I don't remember anyone who didn't enjoy it. The mid-to-late '50s was a fabulous era for westerns on TV. If this ever came out on DVD, I would buy it immediately.
I remember this TV show quite well. It was a favorite of mine at a young age. I rarely missed an episode. I do remember Yancy carrying various small derringers. Pahoo carried a shotgun always hidden under some type of blanket as I remember. However I never remember Pahoo uttering much in the way of dialog. He and Yancy communicated thru the use of sign language. This gave the viewer(me)the impression that Pahoo either could not speak at all or wished only to communicate in sign language. As a sidelight of course was the fact that Yancy was indeed a gambler on the Mississippi and old New Orleans was a backdrop to this show. It ended much too soon.
This was a really a neat and fun TV show to watch. I loved the fact that a Native American was given a decent part in a TV show. X-Brands always seemed so cool and aloof as Pahoo. The writers gave him dignity. It was also a cool concept and interesting that it was set in New Orleans. I enjoyed watching Jock Mahoney in almost anything he ever was in. He always looked so debonair, but capable in this series. I really would hope that this series could be released on DVD. If not on DVD, maybe it could be shown somehow on cable or satellite (TV Land?). The "Range Rider", that he was also in, was a cool show, too. I wouldn't mind seeing that show again, too, either on DVD or TV.
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