Death Valley Days

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Death Valley Days
Stanley Andrews 1953.JPG
Stanley Andrews, the first host of Death Valley Days (1953)
Genre Anthology/Western
Presented by Stanley Andrews (1952-1963)
Ronald Reagan (1964-1965)
Robert Taylor (1966-1969)
Dale Robertson (1969-1972)
Narrated by Merle Haggard (1975 rebroadcasts)
Theme music composer Herbert Taylor
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 18
No. of episodes 452
Executive producer(s) Gene Autry
Louis Gray
Producer(s) Dorrell McGowan
Nat Perrin
Armand Schaefer
Robert Stabler
Editor(s) Jack Wheeler
Anthony Wollner
Cinematography William Bradford
Richard E. Cunha
Running time 25 min.
Production company(s) McGowan Productions
Flying A Productions
Filmaster Productions
Original channel Syndication
Original release March 1, 1952 – 1970
External links

For the radio program of the same name, see Death Valley Days (radio program).

Death Valley Days is an American radio and television anthology series featuring true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. Created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman, the program was broadcast on radio until 1945 and continued from 1952 to 1970 as a syndicated television series, with reruns (updated with new narrations) continuing through August 1, 1975. The radio and TV versions combined to make the show "one of the longest[-running] western programs in broadcast history."[1]

The series was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company (20 Mule Team Borax, Boraxo) and hosted by Stanley Andrews (1952–1963), Ronald Reagan (1964–1965), Robert Taylor (1966–1969), and Dale Robertson (1969–1972). With the passing of Dale Robertson in 2013, all the former Death Valley Days hosts are now deceased. Hosting the series was Reagan's final work as an actor; he also was cast in eight episodes of the series.


The 452 television episodes were introduced by a host. The longest-running was "The Old Ranger" from 1952 to 1965, played by Stanley Andrews. For the first two years the series was produced by Gene Autry's Flying A Productions; then from 1954 to 1956, it was handled by McGowan Productions, also known for the Sky King series.[2] Filmaster Productions Inc., which produced the first several seasons of Gunsmoke for CBS Television, took over production of the series after 1956. Later a Madison Productions was also involved.

Following the departure of Andrews, Ronald Reagan, former host of General Electric Theater, became the host of Death Valley Days. Reagan acted in twenty-one episodes, including the 1965 segment, "A City Is Born". He played mining developer Charles Poston, the founder of Arizona. When Reagan entered the race for governor of California, his Death Valley Day hosting position went to his friend, Robert Taylor. When Taylor became gravely ill in 1969, he was succeeded by Dale Robertson, former star of two other western series, Tales of Wells Fargo and The Iron Horse. Production of new episodes ceased in 1970. Merle Haggard in 1975 provided narration for some previously-made episodes. While original episodes were still being made, older episodes were already in syndication under a different series title with other hosts; the series could even be in competition with itself in syndication. This practice made it easier for viewers to distinguish the new episodes from the older ones. (This was common practice through the early 1980s among syndicated series.) The hosting segment at the beginning and the end was easily re-shot with another performer having no effect on the story. Alternate hosts and titles included Frontier Adventure (Dale Robertson), The Pioneers (Will Rogers, Jr.), Trails West (Ray Milland), Western Star Theater (Rory Calhoun), and Call of the West (John Payne). The last title was also often applied to the series' memorable, haunting theme music.


Under the Death Valley Days title, the program was sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company, which during the program's run changed its name to U.S. Borax Company following a merger. Advertisements for the company's best-known products, 20 Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive, Borateem, a laundry detergent, and Boraxo, a powdered hand soap, were often done by the program's host. Death Valley was the scene of much of the company's borax mining operations. The "20-Mule Team Borax" consumer products division of U.S. Borax was eventually bought out by the Dial Corporation, which as of 2014, as a division of the German consumer products concern Henkel, still manufactures and markets them.

Death Valley Days is by far the most successful syndicated television western series, the most successful television western ever in the half-hour format, and one of the longest-running and most successful of all scripted syndicated series. The end of the series, coupled with the concurrent end of Gunsmoke, marked the demise of the traditional Western era in American television; by the middle 1970s, although western elements were still fairly common in modern series, such as Little House on the Prairie, pure western series were a thing of the past.

The stories used in the series were based on actual events. The episode titled "Death Valley Scotty" was based on the record-breaking run of the 1905 Scott Special, chartered by Walter E. Scott, a.k.a. "Death Valley Scotty".

Guest stars[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1955 Emmy Award Nominated Best Western or Adventure Series
1961 Western Heritage Awards Won Best Factual Television Program Ruth Woodman and Nat Perrin (For episode "The Great Lounsberry Scoop")

In the 1955–1956 season, NBC offered Frontier, an anthology Western series similar to Death Valley Days hosted by Walter Coy. Though Frontier, a springboard for the Western actor Jack Elam, was nominated for an Emmy Award, it was cancelled after a single season.


  1. ^ French, Jack & Siegel, David S. (eds.) (2014). Radio Rides the Range: A Reference Guide to Western Drama on the Air, 1929-1967. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-7146-1. Pp. 43-49.
  2. ^ "McGowan Org takes "Death", "Dr. Christian", The Billboard, June 5, 1954, p. 8
  3. ^ ""The Reluctant Gun", Death Valley Days, December 26, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ "William Tannen". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ ""A Picture of a Lady" on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. December 30, 1965. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Death Valley Days: "A Mule ... Like the Army's Mule", October 5, 1968". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Death Valley Days: "King of the Uvalde Road", January 1, 1970". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 

Listen to[edit]

External links[edit]