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Riverboat was a television that never quite developed it's audience. My
guess is that the reports of the fighting on set which I well remember
got more attention than the show itself.
Darren McGavin who had a few film credits, most notably The Man With The Golden Arm and a half hour version of Mike Hammer that ran in the middle fifties was the captain of the Riverboat Enterprise and star of the show. Who could possibly have known what an illustrious history that name for vessels would have?
His co-star was young Burt Reynolds in what was to have been his first big break. Like John Wayne in The Big Trail which was supposed to make him a big star, it flopped and Reynolds would have to wait a few more years for stardom.
The main thing was how the two of them didn't get along, McGavin and Reynolds. If we had tabloid TV back in those days, McGavin and Reynolds would have been feature stories. Maybe one day Burt Reynolds will tell us the reason, we certainly can't hear it any more from McGavin.
John Mitchum's rollicking memoir, Them Ornery Mitchum Boys, does devote a bit of space to Riverboat. Bob's younger brother was a series regular and he does say that the cast generally sided with Reynolds, feeling that McGavin was the heavy here. He also said that everyone else also felt that Reynolds was a star in the making.
It wasn't a bad series, but it will be more known for the offstage battling than anything else.
I remember Darren McGavern speaking some decades later on two talk
shows about this series. The series was based on the riverboat freight
transport system that operated in the New Orleans and Lousiana area
during the late 1800's.
Mc Gavern stated on at least two occasions that there was great disharmony among the writers and producers because, he said, the network and the sponsors didn't want any Black people in the show.
Rightly so, McGavern thought this restriction stupid, since at that time in that area depicted in the series, the majority of the laborers on the docks and piers were Black and Creole.
Then again, it was the late 50's to early 60's and such was the policy of the networks.
I watched the 3 DVD set of the Riverboat series and was surprised at
the poorly conceived stories and mediocre acting. I think that I was
more in love with the idea of traveling along on the river in what
appears to be an authentic paddle wheel river boat. All of the scenes
of the boat moving along the river are what seem to be what I
What really stands out are the parallels between Riverboat and Star Trek. Of course the name of both ships was the Enterprise. One of the characters in the crew that the captain interacted with had a heavy Scottish accent. Probably the one thing that stood out the most was comparing Darren McGavin and William Shatner. Both played captains that were full of bravado, and both way over the top with swagger. It's almost as though William Shatner was playing an intergalactic version of Captain Grey Holden.
I hardly remembered Burt Reynolds, and after watching him in these DVDs, he seemed like a real stiff.
Definitely not as good as I remembered from my childhood.
15 Episodes of "Riverboat" are available from Timeless Media.com and can be purchased from Amazon.com and Deepdiscount.com as well. This is a great series and unless I am mistaken it depicts travel on the Missippippi in the antebellum period not after the Civil War. As I student of history I think the time period of the costumes fit that period. As always Darren McGavin turns in a sterling performance and a young Burt Reynolds just learning his craft is great as the pilot. Also some very prominent guest stars like Debra Paget and John Ireland appear on the show. Take my word for it and get this series. This brought back a lot of fond memories for me. I remember watching it as a child.
'Riverboat' may not be considered a television classic, but it is one of the most enjoyable shows of the late 50's early 60's period! A 'big budget' show for it's time, it works mainly because of Darren McGavin, at his handsome, dynamic best as the dashing Captain Grey Holden of the riverboat 'Enterprise'. Plenty of big name guest stars, and up and comers like Robert Vaughn etc. keep it interesting. It's said that McGavin and Burt Reynolds didn't get on, why, no one's quite sure? Probably a clash of similar personalities? But as far as personality, charisma and acting ability goes, Darren McGavin wins hands down! At any rate, after the first 21 episodes, Reynolds was replaced by Noah Beery Jnr. Finally, all 44 episodes have been released onto DVD, picture and sound quality are pretty good, but unfortunately, not re-mastered like 'Rawhide' or 'Maverick', other shows from the same period, but then the Timeless Media Group don't appear to do that? Still, great to have this wonderful old series made available at last! I enjoyed it all those years ago when it was screened in Australia, and I'm enjoying it all over again now!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 44 hour long episodes (all in B&W) of the adventure series
"Riverboat" ran from 1959- 1961 on NBC. If you wanted to see a lot of
boats in those days your choices were "Tugboat Annie" and "Riverboat".
Set in the 1840's, the title character is "The Enterprise" (a pre-Star Trek version), a 100-foot paddle wheel steamer on the Mississippi River. The Captain is Grey Holden (Darren McGavin) who won the boat in a poker game. Bert Reynolds, fresh off the Florida State University football team, plays the ship's pilot Ben Frazier. Apparently their work together on this series made McGavin and Reynolds lifelong enemies and poor Burt was replaced by Noah Berry (Rockford's dad and Davy Crockett's sidekick) after the first season.
The 15 episodes on this DVD release (which is viewable but not of great quality) are a mix of the two seasons and have some notable guest stars. Each episodes title, original air-date, summary, and notable guest star(s) are detailed below.
A Race to Cincinnati: 4 October 1959 Three ruthless men try to block the Enterprise's path so a farmer's crop of peaches will spoil and he won't be able to make the last payment on a valuable plot of land (Anne Baxter). The Unwilling: 11 October 1959 Even though Dan Simpson (Eddie Albert) lost his last cargo, he refuses to give up his dream of building a general store in the West. The river pirates that made $20,000 stealing his merchandise the first time are planning to stage another robbery, in spite of Ben Frazer's precautions (Debra Paget). The Fight Back: 18 October 1959 Seeking cargo for his riverboat, Captain Holden docks in the town of Hampton and discovers that Fowler, the town boss, won't allow the farmers to ship their crops. Desperate for work, Holden agrees to host the wedding of a local townsman. When Fowler's brother dies trying to kill the groom, the boss leads a lynch mob against Holden and his ship John Ireland, Joan O'Brien). Escape to Memphis: 25 October 1959 A woman (Jeanne Crain) kills her brutal husband (Claude Akins) in self-defense and flees her plantation, with the husband's ne'er- do-well brother in pursuit. She takes passage on the Enterprise and meets with an unscrupulous man who has stolen a fortune from his wife and wishes an accomplice to help him evade police pursuit. Witness No EvilA Night at Trapper's Landing: 8 November 1959 The U.S. Army plans to commandeer The Enterprise to launch a punitive expedition against the Indians and avenge the loss of Lieutenant Devereaux (Ricardo Montalban) and his men. Frazer tries to convince the army brass that the local Indian agent and his men are the cause of the Indian uprising. The Boy from Pittsburgh: 29 November 1959 Holden agrees to ship a box full of valuable diamonds, not realizing a pickpocket has already switched the box with the real stones for worthless paste. Complicating matters are a beautiful widow and a young stowaway who wants to become a riverboat pilot. The Blowup: 17 January 1960 A woman (Whitney Blake) with a load of unstable, experimental, gunpowder connives to draw Holden and his men into a barroom brawl and then agrees to bail out the entire crew from jail if the captain will agree to ship her volatile cargo to her father's diamond mine. Path of the Eagle: 1 February 1960 A wealthy but inexperience party of pioneers (Dianne Foster) hire Captain Holden to transport them to Independence, Missouri, so they can join a wagon train for California. One of the group's organizers connives with river pirates to hijack the riverboat and rob the party before they can reach their destination. The Fight at New Canal: 22 February 1960 Charged with building an canal that would shorten the river voyage and avoid rapids, Captain Holden runs into murderous opposition from the freight and stagecoach line that hauls cargo and passengers along the proposed route (Jean Allison). Fort Epitaph: 7 March 1960 In the absence of Captain Holden, Captain Brad Turner takes a cargo of military supplies to an outpost on the Little Missouri River - in the middle of Sioux country and must use the cannon he is delivering to disperse an Indian attack. He discovers the once peaceful Indians have been driven to the warpath by the actions of the fort's commander - a martinet who commandeers "The Enterprise" and its crew to fight the Sioux. The Quick Noose: 11 April 1960 Someone has stabbed the son of Judge Wingate in the back with Carney's knife and unless Captain Holden can find the real murderer, Carney will hang for the crime (Nan Leslie).
The Two Faces of Grey Holden: 3 October 1960When a pretty Cajun girl (Suzanne Pleshette) catches Captain Holden's eye, he's naturally interested in a bit of romance, until he learns that the young lady thinks he is her fiancée, who was killed in a riverboat explosion over a year before. Trunk Full of Dreams: 31 October 1960 Captain Holden fishes a pair of actors out of the river and soon the Enterprise is fitting out to become a floating theater (Mary Tyler Moore). Devil in Skirts: 21 November 1960 Knowing Holden is desperate for a cargo, Colonel Ashley offers a profitable load if the Captain of the Enterprise will agree to take along a woman (Gloria Talbott) his son is smitten with. Listen to the Nightingale: 2 January 1961 Desperate for passengers, Holden and Blake agree to transport an opera singer and her musicians (DeForest Kelley) to New Orleans for a share of her concerts' gate receipts.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
This was a very good series. In each town the riverboat stopped in,
some little drama would take place, with crew members getting involved
in the local intrigue. The plots were always watchable and interesting,
with occasional but excellent humor, and the acting was first rate.
Darren McGavin was dashing as the captain (think Kolchak minus fifteen
Darren McGavin was the star of this series. Yet, on his page, he's credited with being in one episode, and on this page appears not at all. IMDb's television series pages used to be pretty accurate, now a lot of stars show as limited guests on their own shows. What happened?
There were Afro-Americans in the series. I just watched Path of the
Eagle and there are several and the Captain is very polite with them.
I always liked Darren McGavin. He was a very good actor. I remember that Burt Reynolds had problems with him. But, I wonder if Burt's ego didn't get the better of him. Darren had all ready been the star of another great series Mike Hammer, Burt was just starting out. He probably should have listened more and mouthed off less. I think Burt clashed because they have they same kind of swagger.
So, where are the other episodes??? Same with Mike Hammer, where are they???
According to a biography on Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, this: "Roddenberry was asked to write a series called Riverboat, set in 1860s Mississippi. When he discovered that the producers wanted no black people on the show, he argued so much with them that he lost the job." Perhaps this is why there is similarity in the naming of the vessels in Riverboat and Star Trek. BTW Kudos to Roddenberry for taking a compromising moral stance way back then.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Darren McGavin seems like the kind of riverboat captain you wouldn't want to work for. He has his nose in everything and gives new meaning to the term,"micromanaging". He knows everybody's business, personally greets each passenger, conducts bed checks, inspects all cargo personally, and constantly offers advice. He's like a cross between Sigmund Freud and Dear Abby as he instantly diagnoses people's behavior disorders and offers unwarranted, contrary opinions.Oh - and the chicks really dig him while barely noticing 23-year-old stud Burt Reynolds. Then, he has to be the most macho guy in the West. Burt Reynolds cringes at gunfire while McGavin fearlessly delves into the fray, dodging ricocheting bullets and planting a well-timed fist to the face while sporting a rakish grin. No wonder Reynolds quit halfway through the first season. You can't compete with God. This show, which was half frontier Love Boat and half frontier Untouchables managed to chug along for two seasons.
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