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"Stoney Burke" is a contemporary and realistic short-lived western series (one season and 32 episodes) whose leading character (played by Jack Lord) walks in the path of David Miller's downbeat film: "Lonely Are The Brave". During the same period (1962-1963), Revue studios launch a rival show: "The Wide Country". The quality of "Stoney Burke" lies in the production values, thanks to writer-director Leslie Stevens and his Daystar productions. Most of the cast and crew come back the next season in the sci-fi anthology, "The Outer Limits". Composer Dominic Frontiere's soundtrack is recycled all along the 1960's series ("The Rat Patrol", "The Fugitive"). Above all, this is the first official assignment by academy winner cinematographer Conrad Hall. This cow-boy drama is shot like a harsh Film Noir and deals with the daily miseries of maverick Rodeo contestants! From the pilot, "The Contender", we learn all about the characters, especially Ves Painter (Warren Oates). Stay with us, Stoney!
In 1962 I used to watch this program religiously. Stoney Burke was a masterpiece. From deep character studies to the metaphysics of good and evil, every episode held something new. And over all, there was Stoney. No matter what he kept on trying to win the champion's belt, even when tempted by the devil himself. This was more than just television. This show inspired me as a teenager. Stoney's determination and courage to go after what might be the holy grail of bronc riding without the word "Quit" ever entering his mind gave me courage to pursue my own career goals. Now I'm David Curran IV on IMDb.com. I don't think without the inspiration this show gave me I'd have been able to take the ups and downs that lead to my having a short movie on Broadway in 2012. I suppose I can be philosophical, if this show hadn't ended Lord never would have been on Hawaii Five-O. Whatever would crooks call cops these days without that show? Nor would be all know "Book Em, Dano." Sometimes things just come along at the time in our life when we need them. But for a television show to really inspire required creativity and character on an almost magical scale. This was one of the most amazing shows ever on television.
I just finished watching the 32nd and final episode of the recently
released DVD set. I was curious about it from having been a fan of the
Outer Limits and knowing that Leslie Stevens, Dominic Frontiere and
Conrad Hall all worked on both series. I had never seen Stoney Burke
before. I was too young when it was on ABC originally and it never made
it to reruns in NYC.
This series far exceeded my hopes or expectations. The formula is an old and good one. Stoney Burke (Jack Lord) can be viewed as a knight on a quest to win the Gold Buckle (National Rodeo Championship), with Cody (Bob Dowdell), Red (Bill Hart) and E.J. (Bruce Dern) as squires. Burke can at other times be viewed as an almost messianic or Christ-like character with the others as his disciples. Either way, he is a man who is pure at heart and dedicated to winning the Gold Buckle. He is NOT however a man who will do ANYTHING to win that Gold Buckle. He is highly principled and honest. His high principles and morality are contrasted against another of his followers, Ves Painter (Warren Oates), who is one of the least moral or principled characters ever to play a regular role in a series.
The series is much like other 1960s television, with the main characters traveling from town to town, meeting different people in each episode, and becoming embroiled in their dramatic life struggles. This gives the best character actors from the era lots of opportunities. The format enables the writers to examine every dramatic possibility. There is romance (of course) and corruption and greed and dilemmas of conflicting commitments and self-destruction and small-town prejudice and salvation. In one way, the earliest episodes are some of the best.
Leslie Stevens wrote all the earliest and he understood the characters the best. He obviously LOVED the Ves Painter character, and the episodes Stevens wrote are those that Ves is his most vivid and vile. Warren Oates steals many of those shows, spouting some of the best and most colorful dialogue and providing both comic relief and intense frustration. Stevens also made sure that Stoney's followers/friends had a lot to do with the action. They get into many scrapes with- and on behalf of- Stoney. In the middle of the 32 episodes, when other writers took over, the followers move farther into the background and the series suffers a little for it. Still, that being said, I can't say there's a dog in the entire 32 episodes. Even the weakest shows are good, solid TV drama. I was hoping that the series would end strongly and I was not disappointed. Stevens wrote and directed the final episode, in which all the recurring cast members play an important part. Stoney takes a mythological journey during which his soul and faith are at stake and he is almost literally staring at the abyss. 'Nuff said. You'll have to watch it.
You can't talk about Stoney Burke without talking about the music and photography. Dominic Frontiere's music is very lush and romantic and is employed judiciously throughout the series. Just as he did the following year with the Outer Limits, he provides just the right flavor to the emotion of each situation. Outer Limits fans will be shocked at how much of that series' music was lifted directly from Stoney Burke. At times, it almost felt like I was watching an Outer Limits episode, but without the aliens.
Conrad Hall took over all the photography after the first 6 or 7 episodes, when Ted McCord fell ill. Hall was McCord's camera operator. I cannot possibly praise Hall's B&W photography as much as it deserves. Under the least visually interesting directors, such as Tom Gries, he is perfectly competent and quite good. Under the more daring or innovative directors his work is sublime. He does things with camera movement, lighting and angles that gives me chills. His work makes good scenes great and great scenes unforgettable. His work here is some of his best B&W work- and that's saying a lot.
I highly recommend the series to anyone who likes old B&W-era TV, and especially to fans of Jack Lord (you'll see some of Steve McGarret's stalwart integrity here), Warren Oates, Conrad Hall or 1963 Lincoln Continentals, Thunderbirds and pick-up trucks, for that matter.
Theoretically I have little interest in a show about a stoic, pure,
gentlemanly rodeo cowboy, but this show was beautifully done in all
departments. Ambitious executive producer Leslie Stevens really showed
greatness in his first TV series.
Jack Lord never gave a better, more heart-felt performance than as Stoney Burke, but Warren Oates almost stole the show as his shifty but lovable best friend Ves Painter. Jack Lord played Stoney as quietly noble, while Warren Oates played Ves as the opposite of quietly noble. They made a great team. Bruce Dern was also memorable as another of Stoney's friends. Three superb actors.
Dominic Frontiere's rousing theme music was impossible not to respond to.
Conrad Hall's black and white photography was stunningly beautiful, turning "Stoney Burke" into a moody noir rodeo drama.
Leslie Stevens created another superb series the next year with "The Outer Limits". Sadly, Stevens shows weren't business successes, and his production company Daystar went out of business. From then on, Stevens was a hired gun (mostly at Universal), and his work was never again as striking.
I wish ABC had given "The Fugitive" to Leslie Stevens to produce, rather than to his fellow independent producer Quinn Martin. Stevens was much more creatively ambitious than Martin, if not as astute a business man. Leslie Stevens did two of televisions' greatest, most original noirs: "Stoney Burke" and "The Outer Limits". Stevens would have been a perfect fit for "The Fugitive". Conrad Hall's black and white photography was made for "The Fugitive" as was the great directing of Gerd Oswald and Byron Haskin on "The Outer Limits". Stevens' touch could have made a fine series even better, although you have to wonder who he would have cast in the lead.
I have recently learned that this show was my mother's favorite when she was a little girl. I have acquired the first twelve episodes in order to learn more about the mother I never knew. In doing so, Stoney Burke has become one of my favorite TV heroes. No matter what scrape he gets himself into, he always manages to work through it the right way. The character of Stoney is a truly wonderful character and this show is more than a rodeo story. This was a well written and acted show that I will brag about whenever possible. I only wish I knew who to talk to about trying to get this properly released onto DVD format before the episodes become even more scarce. How about a DVD box set? Let's hope so.
Six years before the role of Steve McGarrett made him a household name
on "Hawaii Five-O",actor Jack Lord starred in this critically acclaimed
short-lived series about the life of a modern day rodeo rider who
competes for the Golden Buckle,the award given to the world champion
saddle bronc rider titled "Stoney Burke" that was produced by the
multi-talented writer,producer,director Leslie Stevens under his
production company Daystar Productions(United Artists Television)that
produced an astounding 32 episodes(all in classic black and white) that
was on ABC-TV from October 1,1962 until the final episode on May
20,1963. The series aired on the network's Monday night schedule where
it ran opposite "The Lucy Show",and "Saints and Sinners" which by the
way didn't improve things in the Nielsens,but "Stoney Burke" was the
show that replaced "Surfside Six" after more than 2 seasons. This
series was especially good but with Leslie Stevens at the helm this was
technically about as good as television got in the early-1960's. The
quality of this series lies in it's production values,thanks to
producer-writer-director Leslie Stevens who made this one of the more
intelligent "modern" westerns ever committed to television. This series
launched the careers of Warren Oates(Ves Painter),and Bruce Dern(E.J.
Stocker)who would go on to bigger and better things in their careers
because of this series. Out of the 32 episodes that this series
produced,"Stoney Burke" brought along interesting guest directors(like
Tom Gries and Gerard Oswald)made contributions to some of the episodes
along with superb writing that was essential to the stories presented
along with the best acting cast ever assembled. But what made this show
stand out was it's beautiful stunning black and white photography
coming from up and coming photography directors who would go on to
become big time Hollywood heavyweights...from Conrad Hall to Ted
McCord,Joesph MacDonald,and Haskell Wexler. Jack Lord gives a stunning
performance as the title character,but Warren Oates steals the show as
his shifty but resourceful best friend Ves Painter. While Lord and
Oates make a great team,Bruce Dern also gives a memorable performance
as Stoney's trusty sidekick E.J. Stocker....all given by three superb
actors in the roles of their careers.
What also made this show stand out were some of the guest stars that made the show a noir classic...top notch actors ranging from Ina Balin to Robert Duvall, James Coburn, Scott Marlowe, Sally Kellerman, to Charles Bronson, Burgress Meredith, James Mason, Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, Michael Pollard, Diane Baker, to Dyan Cannon just to name a few. After 32 episodes the show was canceled due to low ratings with the final episode of the series that aired on May 20,1963. After the success of "Stoney Burke",Leslie Stevens created the following year an anthology science fiction series that would become one of ABC's biggest hits of the early-1960's "The Outer Limits"...the phenomenal success of that series lasted two seasons before it was gone by mid-1965. After the success of "The Outer Limits",Stevens tried his hand an another TV-series and it wasn't as successful and by 1966 Daystar Productions went out of business. From then on,Stevens was a hired gun at Universal where he produced and directed several shows,among them was "The Name Of The Game"
If ABC had given "Stoney Burke" a chance it would have been around much longer which would have blossomed into a full run series....imagine if "Stoney Burke" stayed around to make the transition to color during it's second season which never happened.....Imagine if ABC have given Leslie Stevens the chance to produce "The Fugitive" rather than independent producer Quinn Martin or better yet imagine if Leslie Stevens was given the chance to helm "Star trek" at NBC instead of Gene Roddenberry...but that never happened. During the early-1960's Stevens did two of television's greatest most original noirs...the modern day western "Stoney Burke",and the science fiction anthology "The Outer Limits"...who knows what the outcome would have been since Stevens put a touch that could have been even better,much less given it a longer stay.
My brother and I loved this programme as teen-agers, and tried to see it again in brief syndication on Detroit television in 1963-64. I have not heard of it since. STONEY BURKE was, yes, uplifting in a way. The music by Dominic Frontiere (sp?) who also did THE OUTER LIMITS was some of the best for television in the 1960s and sticks with me through the decades. Much of STONEY BURKE was shot on location with the allure of the exotic in a modern, but still great west. Perhaps as a westerner the previous comentator found the series especially compelling, along with a religious angle which is quite unique in a television review of a pretty secular offering. The "Golden Buckle" is a thinly veiled take-off on the Golden Fleece, so there was the flavour of a grand quest in which the hero and his company meet adventures and interesting characters. Maybe the "stuff of legend" (such as it was) attracted my brother and me, as it did the previous writer. If memory serves, STONEY BURKE gave Warren Oates his start, a pity he died young, and the same for Jack Lord who bounced back with HAWAII FIVE-O.
I didn't realize that I was only 14 when I originally watched these shows. This morning, I read an article about old TV shows that are being released on DVD. The newspaper asked to vote on your favorite. I honestly hadn't thought about "Stoney Burke" in decades. The show must have made an enormous impression on me because my 58 year old brain instantaneously retrieved from memory banks usually reserved for deeply held resentments. I couldn't tell you anything except Stoney Burke was a rodeo rider played by jack Lord and that Warren Oates was a member of the cast. My memory is poignant story lines - far ahead of the drivel that was typical of the early 60's.
Before Jack Lord went to Hawaii and told Danno to "book 'em" he starred
in a short lived television series about a modern saddle bronco rider
named Stoney Burke. Western fans please note the closeness in the name
of that Three Mesquiteers character Stoney Brooke that John Wayne among
others played on the big screen.
Two shows went on television about the rodeo circuit Stoney Burke and The Wide Country. Sad to say that both failed to find an audience in an increasingly urban viewing audience.
That is sad because the rodeo itself is drama and any number of decent stories were created with that background in this series. The characters too were a likable bunch. Having been a PBR fan and having met some real bullriders I can attest that most are definitely a likable people.
Jack Lord was just such in this series. But he had a quest for the championship Golden Buckle in his chosen event to be given in Las Vegas. Just like the PBR today has its finals there. It was the Holy Grail Of Saddle Bronco Riding.
Stoney Burke had the usual collection of peers cast like Bob Dowdell of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and a rising Warren Oates who would soon be pretty much on the big screen. Oates played a character named Ves Painter who was quite an operator. It was the first real notice that Oates got.
Both Lord and Oates had really good careers and Stoney Burke gave them quite a boost.
I was born in 1960 and don't remember much about the television series, except for the fact that my mother tells me that I used to get on my rocking horse at about age 3-4 and yell,"Stoney Burke". Ha-ha, It must have made some kind of impression on me. The shows that I do remember were "Rifleman" and "Branded". Both of those shows had Chuck Connors in them. I was quite rambunctious as a youngster I spent a lot of time in my "cowboy" outfit, cowboy hat, boots, spurs, gun & holster. Although I am a female, I was an avid horse lover even way back then! I would love to find the "Stoney Burke" show on TVLAND or the western channel. If anyone ever sees it please let me know!
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