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Johnny Yuma is an angry young former Confederate Army soldier drifting through an apparently meaningless existence in the 1860's Wild West. While in search of his identity, he defends people from hostile Indians, crooked land developers, and evil ranchers. Written by
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THERE SEEMS TO be a nearly eternal popularity deeply entrenched into the very fiber of the stories dealing with "rebels." Be they authentic guerrilla type fighters or those representing restless and idealistic (and often very naïve)individuals. We need only look at some of our most popular movies of the day.
IN GOINGH BACK some years (being ever since WWII), we have had many films with this particular theme. Often categorized as the "Anti-hero", the characters and their stories have had such appeal as we've been talking. Consider: Marlon Brando in THE WILD ONE, Paul Newman in COOL HAND Luke, Tom Laughlin in BILLY JACK and the premier candidate, James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.
AND SPEAKING OF Mr.Dean, it was his meteoric rise and tragic demise that added to both his own personal legend; as well as to the desire to have "rebellious" movie themes. In typical Hollywood fashion, there was a frantic scurrying about in hopes of finding the "New James Dean"; or at least someone who resembles him and could fill the void.
THIS EXHAUSTIVE SEARCH by "Talent Scouts" did manage to bring forth a number of talented individuals; although none really did the impossible by replacing the fallen Star. Among those who were thought to be viable candidates were: Robert Conrad, Martin Sheen, Ty Hardin, Rip Taylor* and Nick Adams.
SO IN THE casting of the youthful Mr. Adams as the lead in THE REBEL TV Series, the producers essentially fulfilled both rebel types. The character of Johnny Yuma was both young and full of blank and vinegar and was also a veteran of the defeated Army of the Confederate States of America. Indeed, what a coup de tat this was for the producers in "killing two birds with one stone", so to speak.
THE SERIES, WHICH did make it successfully through two seasons of brutal ratings wars of its own, traced the adventures lived by the young veteran former foot soldier. We follow his meandering through the Post-Bellum Western United States. He always has to prove himself to somebody; both as a man (because of his young age) and because he is a former "Johnny Reb".
NO MATTER WHERE Yuma 'wandered', the locals were sure to be able to size him up instantly as a Reb. Why, you ask? Well it was probably because he always wore his Gray uniform and rebel flat-topped brimmed cap; being a dead give away.
AS WAS THE custom, the central character in these 1950s 'Horse Operas' had special weapons. Much like Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) on WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, Johnny's weapon of choice was sawed off. But rather than its being a cut down carbine rifle, This Rebel had a surgically shortened shotgun. OUCH!!!
WE HAVE JUST discovered that in addition to being in front of the camera, Nick Adams was both the co-creator and sometimes writer to the series. He also did own some piece of the series. (Good for you, Nick!)
WHEN ONRE WATCHES one of the episodes of THE REBEL today, there is something very different. The original theme song and signature song, "The Ballad of Johnny Yuma" is not present on these modern day prints. It was very well known and sung by every kid in our neighborhood. It was recorded for the series by a singer named Johnny Cash. It has been replaced on the soundtrack by an instrumental instead. Once again, why you asked?
WELL THIS IS only a guess, but it's probably over either the rights to the song or because it may well require payments of healthy residuals to the Estate of the Late Mr. Cash; a practice abhorred by just about any Hollywood producer.
CAN YOU SAY "bottom line", Schultz?
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