|Index||6 reviews in total|
I'd never seen this series until just recently, catching it
accidentally on a satellite channel. Not even sure if it was originally
shown in the UK, I can't find anyone who remembers it. A lot of the old
half hour westerns could be somewhat corny and maybe weak, but this one
has quite absorbing episodes and manages to pack a fair bit of interest
into each one with very likable characters.
It's a pity it didn't last longer than its 38 episodes, and maybe gone on to longer ones, but perhaps that's what makes it zippy. If you're a fan of 1950's & 60's western series then definitely give this one a try. I haven't managed to catch every episode but the ones I've seen I've enjoyed. What it lacks in sophistication (there's only so much you can do in half an hour) it makes up for in action.
This western series was short-lived ,but was well-produced by the great
Aaron Spelling. Don Diamond was well cast and brought a commanding
presence to the role of the reformed shootist.
The episodes I have seen were fast-paced and fairly realistic when compared to other shows of the era. Unfortunately, the airwaves were filled with cowpoke drama at the time and this interesting show quickly rode off into the sunset.
In many ways, this show compares favorably with Wanted:Dead or Alive , which made a star of Steve McQueen. Don Diamond was not so fortunate.
Some episodes are available on DVD, check them out.... Not half bad !
This rather average western rode into the sunset after one season. As
another reviewer said this was the height of the television western era
and the airwaves were filled with them. Dick Powell's Four Star
Production Company gave us Johnny Ringo.
What I remember best was Don Durant as Johnny Ringo having a pistol that fired seven shots, a shotgun shell came from a barrel beneath the one where the six bullets in the revolving chamber came from. That was one handy gimmick especially to those who were counting Ringo's shots before facing him down. When I saw the first Dirty Harry movie where Clint Eastwood dares the punk to try his luck, I immediately thought back to the short lived Johnny Ringo series. I still do whenever I see Clint as Harry Callahan.
Ringo got far better than he deserved in this series, in real life he was something of a punk himself in the outlaw trade. He was found shot to death at the age of 32, probably done in by Wyatt Earp and/or Doc Holiday.
Don Durant went nowhere after this series, but Mark Goddard played a young trick shot artist who became Ringo's deputy. He of course went on to Lost in Space if you consider that a step up.
Still Johnny's seven shooter was quite something to see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Johnny Ringo' premiered on the CBS television network on October 1st,
1959, and interestingly, it's star Don Durant appeared a week earlier
in the final episode of 'Trackdown', in which he and DeForest Kelley
portrayed a pair of brothers who's mother was going senile. Both of
these shows, 'Trackdown' and 'Johnny Ringo', I used to watch regularly
as a kid and it's been a treat to watch the entire Ringo series again
over the past few weeks.
The origin show of the series introduced Johnny Ringo, a noted gunslinger who arrived in Velardi, Arizona attempting to live down his past. After accepting the town's offer to become sheriff at two hundred dollars per month, French gunsmith LeMat fashioned a newly designed handgun for Johnny consisting of a standard six round .45 caliber cartridge with a separate barrel for a .410 shotgun shell. Having fired a .410 I can say that it doesn't have the kind of firepower Ringo's gun seemed to have, which sounded like a cannon when it went off. My recollection of the show from it's single season on air was that there were quite a few stories where Johnny's seventh shot came into play, but that wasn't really the case as I completed the series today, maybe a half dozen all told.
The show had a number of regulars, including Terence de Marney as Case Thomas, an alcoholic Johnny befriended in the first episode who turned into a respectable citizen and general merchandise shop owner afterwards. Case had a daughter Laura portrayed by Karen Sharpe who became Johnny's romantic interest for the first two thirds of the series. Miss Thomas seemed to be more interested in Johnny than vice versa, and I don't recall now if they ever even shared an on screen kiss. Both characters were written out of the show with Episode #24 'Border Town' when Case was killed by a gunman robbing his store and Laura left town because of his murder. Apparently, Ms. Sharpe and series creator Aaron Spelling had a difference of opinion on how her character was to be portrayed. No mention of the Thomases was made for the rest of the series run.
Johnny had a deputy named Cully, introduced in the second episode as Kid Adonis, a carnival trick shot artist and son of a man Johnny killed years earlier. His real name was William Charles Jr., and after working out their issues over the senior Charles death, Cully became a loyal deputy. He was portrayed by Mark Hammond, who's looks remind me a lot of Michael Landon and another TV show deputy, Peter Brown of 'Lawman'. Hammond almost always wore a black shirt and didn't figure very prominently in any of the stories considering how he might have been a significant threat to Johnny starting out.
As with all TV Westerns, a recognizable list of character actors used to show up as guest stars, including Richard Devon, Elisha Cook Jr., Dean Stanton, Royal Dano, John Carradine, Alan Hale and Warren Oates. Occasionally some bigger names appeared like James Coburn in the first episode, Lon Chaney, Burt Reynolds, and Martin Landau. Buddy Ebsen and Wayne Rogers both appeared in Episode #29 'The Killing Bug', and I was surprised to see Diane Cannon in the following week's show, 'Soft Cargo'.
If I had to pick a favorite story, it would probably be 'Killer, Choose a Card', in which Lurene Tuttle plays a raucous saloon owner from Broken Wagon who's been arrested for murder and calls for old friend Johnny to save her from being hanged. The story goes way over the top in sheer audacity when Mamie Murphy (Tuttle) fakes a suicide, and returns as a ghost to trap the real killer. I'm thinking maybe this is a strategy O.J. Simpson could try.
'Johnny Ringo' lasted only one season on CBS, but it lives on in my memory as one of my favorites. On top of that, a highlight for me back in 1960 (I would have been nine years old) was when my Mom and Dad took me to a local movie theater where Don Durant appeared in person. Up till then, that was probably the high spot of my young life. I only recall seeing him on stage from a distance but that was good enough for me. Having just completed watching the entire series in order, that Johnny Ringo tune now keeps running through my head, compliments of Don Durant, the only TV Western cowboy to write the words and music to his own theme song.
One final trivia note: Just as Don Durant appeared in the final episode of 'Trackdown' starring Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, Culp returned the favor by appearing in the finale of 'Johnny Ringo' in a show titled 'Cave-In'.
Lets be upfront, rated 5 out of 10 because in an age when westerns were a dime a dozen, and you are competing for eyeballs with the likes of Steven McQueen and Richard Boone, this product was nothing more and nothing less than average. In those days (boy do I sound old) every western had a gimmick (except perhaps Gunsmoke, where the gimmick was that there was no gimmick, just tedious dialog.) Boone had his hidden derringer, McQueen had his saw-off with trick holster, Hugh Obrien had his Buntline, etc) here the character had really odd pistol which carried an extra shell. (Trivia note -- the writers based this on a real gun designed in France. Where else?) Invariably, just as Wyatt Earp would end up in a gunfight where the bad guy was too far away to fire back, and Palladin would end up fining his derringer when the bad guy looked the other way, Ringo would face an enemy who believed he was out of ammo (counting shots in a 50s western? wow) and surprise the rogue. The real story however is that this series was part of a "package" that a young producer named Aaron Spelling sold to TV, part of a set of three as I recall. He made them on the cheap (the star of Ringo had to sing his own theme song) and he essentially started a dynasty. So if you are in Business School, the rating is a 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING:Big Spoilers! When I began watching the first episode of Johnny Ringo I expected very little in the way of it being anything noteworthy among the dozens of then current TV westerns. And it did start off pretty ho hum, but I was surprised to find myself really liking the characters of the show, and looking forward to the following episode. Don Durant who stars as Johnny Ringo definitely has a strong and likable presence, and commands respect when the story calls for it. He doesn't underplay and he's not over the top like some western actors can be. The second episode was much better and really drew me into the show as a young Mark Goddard, of Lost in Space fame 6 years later, was introduced as Johnny's new deputy for the remainder of the show. He first clashes with Johnny when a shady manager promotes him as "The World's Fastest Gunfighter" in a stage show. Goddard adds his personal flare to the show and now & then exhibits some very trick gun play. I wondered if the show would maintain it's strong depth to the stories and excellent character portrayals, and after watching a dozen episodes I wasn't disappointed. Like some other shows at that time Ringo took advantage of the many soon to be well known actors and actresses available then. You'll see a familiar face in just about every episode. I just saw an episode titled Uncertain Vengeance with a very young Stella Stevens looking extremely beautiful. One thing that shocked and baffled me was the sudden murder of "Case Thomas" played by Terence DE Marney, Johnny's best friend in town beside his deputy Cully. Johnny helped reform him from the town drunk to his temporary deputy in the first episode. After Goddard/Cully takes the deputy job Case becomes owner of the general store with his lovely daughter Laura played by Karen Sharpe, who is also Johnny's girlfriend. That adds the romance factor to the show, and of course when someone in the show is exceptionally concerned about Johnny's welfare you tend to feel more that way yourself than you would have otherwise. It also made for some interesting episodes like when Johnny's "wife" suddenly appears. With Johnny and his deputy Cully, Case Thomas and Laura Thomas, all together in every episode it gave a really nice cast to become familiar with and enjoy every week. But then very abruptly two thirds into the season Case is shot and killed by a young man robbing his store and in the end Johnny finds a note from Laura saying she's left town and doesn't know when she'll be back. And she never does come back. So in that one episode we lose half of the show's beloved characters. A huge mistake on the producers end. It's no wonder ratings quickly fell and it was replaced the next season. One of the biggest blunders I've ever seen in scripting a show.
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