A famous Italian opera singer is invited to sing at the local Virginia City opera house. One snag: he may resemble on paper a runaway slave they were just notified about; and some of the townspeople want him arrested or worse.

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Thomas Bowers
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Sam Kiley
Alice Frost ...
Mrs. Sarah Gable
Ken Renard ...
Jed
Ena Hartman ...
Caroline
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Luke
J. Edward McKinley ...
Charlie Simpson
Robert P. Lieb ...
Mr. Walker
Jeanne Determann ...
Minnie Watkins
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Hotel Clerk
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A famous Italian opera singer is invited to sing at the local Virginia City opera house. One snag: he may resemble on paper a runaway slave they were just notified about; and some of the townspeople want him arrested or worse.

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Western

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26 April 1964 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Thomas Bowers was a real life African-American opera singer in the 19th Century. See more »

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Embarrassing but vital social drama
4 March 2015 | by (Bigtown, Montana USA) – See all my reviews

This is 1960s liberal television at its best--daring to discuss and promote the most vital issue of its day, the fight for racial equality. This episode was broadcast in late April, 1964 at a time when it was still legal for Americans to discriminate against each other because of the color of their skin. In February the House of Representatives passed the first part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it took until June for the Senate to agree and President Johnson didn't sign into law until July 2. It is the Civil War era in the Virginia Territory and opera singer Thomas Bowers (William Marshall) is booked to play at the Virginia City Opera House before the darling ladies see Bowers is a black man -- when he steps off the stage. Which, as a black man, he never would have been allowed to ride in the first place. He is befriended by Hoss Cartwright. (Also pretty unlikely, if only due to Pa's pro- neutrality feelings made clear only two years earlier in 1962's "The War Comes to Washoe.") The plot is further stirred with the sub-plot of a runaway slave, making reference to the horrendous Dred Scott decision. As in ALL Bonanza episodes, in the end, the Good Guys win, and the Evil is defeated. And if only a fraction of the evil of America's racism is glimpsed in a Hollywood TV show, at least someone tried. Still, looking back after 50 years, Enter Thomas Bowers makes you feel less proud than small. Why was there even a need for this episode? Because there was there a need for such a law in 1964. Worse yet, there still is.


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