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The typical "Rawhide" story involved ther drovers coming upon people on the trail and getting drawn into solving whatever problem they presented or were confronting. Sometimes one of the members of the cattle drive or some of the others would venture into a nearby town and encounter some trouble or other from which they needed to be rescued. Some of the stories were obviously easier in production terms but the peak form of the show was convincing and naturalistic,and sometimes brutal. Its situations could be from the apocalyptic-parched plains,anthrax,ghostly riders,wolves,cattle rustlers,bandits,murderers, and so forth. Some of this were just simple,friendly in some aspects stories about the same Old West you read as a kid,but lets face it,during those times,especially if you're a drover in charge of a cattle drive in the Old West,you had to deal with some tough issues and face tough challenges--which is something the contestants on these reality shows like "Survivor" or "Fear Factor"-wouldn't have a clue about,especially with the conditions that those cattle drovers had to go through....for instance....What do you do when the local townsfolk are set to hang a cattle rustler who is guilty of taking their livestock,but you know he is innocent? What do you do when a disease comes between the livestock and threatens not only the herd,but one of your own? How do you cope with a slaughter of innocent people during an Indian raid and the only thing that is there is the only survivor--a child who is frighten to death and does not know that the identity of the parents? How do you cope with a proud boss when you need his best judgment whose wife has ran off with another man? What do you do when the local Sheriff is set to hang your man who is found guilty of murder,but do know he did not commit the crime?
These were stories that were powerful,and sometimes emotional drama,since this is a Western. The stories relied on an attention of plot and character by the viewer as necessary to the variety of presentation of morality that nowadays are a memory of the past,and those types of plays you don't see anymore. Since "Rawhide" was very realistic in its time,it was more on the endless cattle drive and it placed more emphasis on character study development and less emphasis on the degree of violence,since it was more rugged and more like another Western of its time:Wagon Train. The men on those drives encounter drought,plague,sickness,poison water,fatigue,strain of command,temperatures(heat and dust,not to mention the cold),and a host of characters. For eight seasons Trail Boss Gil Favor(Eric Fleming),and his assistant foreman,Rowdy Yates(Clint Eastwood)encounter a host of characters;a horse opera of guest stars that would appear which include:Barbara Stanwyck,Buddy Ebsen,Lon Chaney,Jr.,Frankie Avalon, Claude Akins,Robert Culp,Mary Astor,Earl Holleman,Alan Hale,Jr.,and Duane Hickman,along with regulars Sheb Wooley,Paul Brinegar,John Ireland,and during its run others including Raymond St. Jacques.
It was from this show that "Rawhide" launched the career of Clint Eastwood,whom when on the star in several features films and also become a Oscar-winning director and producer(for 1992's Unforgiven) and as a jazz musician as well. Yes,Clint Eastwood was the man! Currently,after years out of circulation,and the last time that "Rawhide" was seen was back in the early 1970's in syndication,cable's The Hallmark Channel is rerunning this legendary series every Saturday Afternoon during its Western Theatre Hour,so check local listings.
What can i say, i'm totally hooked on it now, i think i held some unfounded prejudices about shows from that era being a bit slowly plotted or not hardhitting or dramatic enough, well i was well off the mark there. The plots are really involving, the way Gil and Rowdy get drawn into these situations is really believable.
The moral issues and even social ones that are addressed are always at the forefront of the plots and many are still relevant today. I can see why its been so popular over the years.
I'd recommend this to anyone who likes westerns, beyond that i'd say anyone who appreciates moral dramas, thats twice i've used that word now and thats because the central characters have very admirable morals, particularly Gil Favor.
I hate to sound corny, but i think its a good point, its re-assuring in a way to see that kind of attitude, in amongst the more "morally questionable" entertainment (that i do enjoy as well) of todays TV.
"Head 'em up, move 'em out" awesome.
The drovers who worked for trail boss Gil Favor as played by Eric Fleming were no different. But Fleming was a man of all business, he had a job to do and hired a top crew to do it.
With the long run of Rawhide and the fact that the regulars stayed with it for the most part, we got to know all the drovers at some point. A some point story lines were focused around all of them, though the bulk were with Fleming and Clint Eastwood's character Rowdy Yates, the number 2 guy with the herd.
Clint Eastwood's western image was molded by Rawhide, it's a shame that these are not shown more often. Probably because they were done in black and white. Had this been an NBC show, this would have been done in color like Bonanza and be running as often as those shows are. We'd get to see a lot more of a man who became a move legend.
Ironically enough it was Eric Fleming who left the show before it closed to do films. He did a few them and was hoping the show would give him a bankable movie name. Sadly he was killed on a movie location doing an action film, drowned in a river. Had he lived he might have become a name like Eastwood's.
Clint took over as trail boss in the last season and then the show completed its run. And he of course became the icon he is today and not just in the western genre.
Rawhide was a tough western who had some tough guys in it. No frills in this one, these were working cowboys just doing a job and battling the elements and whatever situations they were thrown into every year.
They really don't make television series like these any more. What a pity.
Don't know if I ever actually saw an episode of it when it was originally on, but I'm really captivated by it. Offbeat, unusual, surreal stories set in a mythical West. Kind of the "Naked City" of Westerns.
And the guest stars are there: Dan Duryea, Lyle Bettger, Brian Donlevy, MacDonald Carey, Rick Jason (as a treacherous Mexican), a young Dick Van Patten, Jack Lord, Noah Berry, Jr. (as a colorful Mexican), Martha Hyer, Marguerite Chapman, even Ann Robinson ("War of the Worlds"), Gloria Talbott ("I Married a Monster from Outer Space")
It ran for EIGHT SEASONS, over 200 episodes, from January, 1959, to December, 1965.
Eric Fleming is quite remarkable as trail boss Gil Favor, the most stolid man that's ever lived, with the code of honor of a Samurai, and just the right balance between toughness and open-handedness. I would vote for him for President any day. (P.S. He had a very interesting biography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0281661/ )
And a young Clint Eastwood is quite striking as his impulsive right hand, "Rowdy" Yates. Also, veteran Western actor and country music figure (the immortal "One-eyed, One-horned, Flying Purple People Eater") Sheb Wooley is there as seasoned scout Pete Nolan. And Paul Brinegar makes the most cantankerous character of a cook you could ask for as "Wishbone".
And then there's that great theme song, performed by the immortal Frankie Laine. (Between that and the "Maverick" theme, I've got Western theme songs running through my head all day.)
I look forward to every episode; I'm collecting the whole set. A good time (not to mention a moo-ving experience) is always guaranteed, as one waits to see if the boys will get their difficulties straightened out before the commercial.
"Rollin', rollin', rollin' . . . "
If you want to be reminded of just what a great storytelling medium TV can be, watch this show (currently on the Hallmark Channel, c. 2003). Be warned, though: you'll be spoiled for such fare as "Fear Factor" and "Dawson's Creek," thereafter. Maybe even for "Buffy," though I know you don't believe that.
And of course, Clint Eastwood, co-stars as Rowdy Yates. I was told that back in the day, critics said he wouldn't amount to anything. Guess he showed them.
I have often wondered why Rawhide didn't switch to color filming for it's last season? Most of the big westerns of the 1960s had gone over to color by 1965. CBS was broadcasting in color that autumn, for many of their sitcoms, but westerns like Gunsmoke and Rawhide remained in black and white. Gunsmoke was the last western (and last prime time network series to switch to color) on September 17, 1966, for the episode Snap Decision.