Lawman (TV series)

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Lawman
John Russell Peggy Castle Lawman 1959.JPG
John Russell and Peggie Castle
Genre Western
Starring John Russell
Peter Brown
Peggie Castle
Theme music composer Mack David (lyrics)
Jerry Livingston
Composer(s) John Neel
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 156
Production
Executive producer(s) William T. Orr
Producer(s) Jules Schermer
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 25 mins.
Production company(s) Warner Bros. Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run October 5, 1958 (1958-10-05) – June 24, 1962 (1962-06-24)
Chronology
Related shows Maverick
Sugarfoot

Lawman is an American western television series originally telecast on ABC from 1958 to 1962 starring John Russell as Marshal Dan Troop and featuring Peter Brown as Deputy Marshal Johnny McKay. The series was set in Laramie, Wyoming during 1879 and the 1880s. Warner Bros. already had several western series on the air at the time, having launched Cheyenne with Clint Walker as early as 1955. The studio continued the trend in 1957 with the additions of Maverick with James Garner and Jack Kelly, Colt .45 with Wayde Preston, and Sugarfoot with Will Hutchins. One year later, Warner Bros. added Lawman and Bronco with Ty Hardin.

Prior to the beginning of production, Russell and Brown and producer Jules Schermer made a pact to maintain the quality of the series so that it would not be seen as "just another western." At the start of season two, Russell and Brown were joined by Peggie Castle as Lily Merrill, the owner of the Birdcage Saloon, and a love interest for Dan.

Premise[edit]

Dan Troop leaves Abilene, Kansas for the town of Laramie, Wyoming. He is offered the town marshal's job after the previous marshal, David Lemp, is murdered. On the way into town, he meets Johnny McKay, who is placing a tombstone on Lemp's grave. Johnny mistakes Dan for a crook, but they meet up later again at the cafe owned by Lemp's widow Dru, played by Bek Nelson, where Johnny works as a dishwasher. Dan puts a sign in the window of the marshal's office that reads, "Deputy Wanted." Johnny applies for the job, but Dan turns him down, because he believes that, at the age of nineteen, Johnny is too young. Dan later comes across Lacey Hawks, played by Edd Byrnes, in the Bluebonnet Saloon. Lacey tries to coax Dan into a gunfight, but Dan arrests him instead. Lacey promises Dan that his two brothers Flynn, played by Jack Elam, and Walt, played by Lee Van Cleef, will come after him. Johnny tells Dan that Flynn is the one who killed Marshal Lemp, and that the whole town saw him do it, but were too afraid to stand up to him. He again volunteers to help Dan take them down, but Troop refuses. Johnny tells him that he cannot take both remaining Hawks Brothers alone. Dan goes out to face them, anyway. Dan shoots Flynn, but then hears another shot from behind him. Dan sees Walt fall dead, and then turns around to see Johnny standing there with a rifle in his hand. Dan motions for Johnny to follow him back into the office and then takes down the "Deputy Wanted" sign.[1]

During the course of the first season, Dan teaches Johnny the fundamentals of law enforcement. Frequently, while Dan is pursuing outlaws, Johnny remains behind to guard the town. However, in seasons two through four, Johnny becomes more involved in the action and carries some entire episodes by himself. During the first season, the episodes maintain a serious tone. However, when Lily arrives at the start of season two, the scripts include more comedy and some romance.

Main Characters[edit]

John Russell as Dan Troop

Dan Troop, played by John Russell, is the town marshal of Laramie. Russell based the character on an officer that he knew in the United States Marine Corps. Dan is a hardnosed, by-the-book, seasoned lawman, who is quick with a gun, and also good with his fists. Russell, who was 37 years old when he got the part, theorized that Dan would have to be older to have this much experience as a lawman. After the third episode, Russell had white streaks added to his hair to make him appear older. In addition to being marshal, Dan was both a mentor and friend to his deputy, Johnny McKay. According to Peter Brown on his website, Dan and Johnny's relationship mirrored the relationship that he had with Russell. While Dan was teaching Johnny how to be a lawman, Russell was teaching Brown how to be an actor. Dan also had a romantic relationship with saloon owner Lily Merrill. Dan cared for Lily very deeply, but his job often thwarted their happiness. He had one brother, Clay Troop, played by James Drury, four years before the premiere of The Virginian. Clay Troop was killed in the season one episode, "The Gang". It was revealed that the woman Dan loved and wanted to marry, before her death, had instead wed Clay, a gunfighter and an outlaw. Clay said that his wife "couldn't resist trying to reform" him though she had loved Dan a little more. There were times when the townspeople would second guess Troop, but he always stuck to his guns and was determined to do the right thing.

Brown as Johnny McKay

Johnny McKay, played by Peter Brown, is the deputy marshal of Laramie. Dan had been hesitant to hire Johnny as his deputy, because of his young age, but he later proved his worth. Johnny was orphaned at age ten in Kansas. His father was killed by raiders, and his mother died on a wagon train. The season one episode, "The Joker," dealt with Johnny's origin when an outlaw named Barney Tremain, played by Jeff York in the first of two appearances on the series, rides in Laramie and claims to be Johnny's real father. It was never revealed whether or not he was telling the truth. Johnny was more easy going, but he was also brave, extremely fast with a gun, and loyal to Dan, whom he always referred to as "Mr. Troop." He was like a younger brother to Lily. In the first season, Dan many times left Johnny behind while he left Laramie to pursue criminals. In the later years, Johnny got more involved in the action as Dan began to see him as a partner in the fight against crime than as his humble apprentice. Johnny actually quit three times. Once because if Tremain was his father, he thought that meant he had outlaw blood in him. The second time, he thought Dan was taking credit for a kill he made, but he later found out Dan was trying to protect him. The third time, Johnny had to shoot a friend of his, and lost his nerve to be a lawman. Somehow though, he would eventually come back.

In an attempt to attract female viewers,[citation needed] the producers tried to find the right love interest for Dan. They started off with Dru Lemp, widow of the previous town marshal. Dan admitted in the first episode he had a previous relationship with a woman who was killed by a stray bullet. Midway through the first season, the character was dropped due to Russell and Nelson having a lack of chemistry.

Later in the first season, Barbara Lang was brought in as Julie Tate, the daughter of Harry Tate, played by Jon Lormer, who was the editor of the town newspaper. She and Dan did not hit it off right away, because she felt he was not doing enough to find her father's killer. After four episodes, she was never seen again.

John Russell and Peggie Castle

Lily Merrill (Peggie Castle) then came to town as the owner of the Birdcage Saloon. Lily had been run out of Billings, Montana, by a crooked sheriff. At first she and Dan thought each other were crooked. After finding out that they were both wrong, Dan and Lily became very close during the remainder of the run of the series. As their relationship grew, Lily often dropped hints about wanting to marry Dan, and he would pretend that he did not hear. Lily was formerly married to outlaw Frank Quinlaven, played by Mike Road in the season two episode, "The Exchange." They had a son named Tommy, played by Bryan Russell, who lived with her sister. Frank tried to use Tommy as a bargaining chip to get Lily to help him rob the Laramie bank, but Dan stopped him at the last minute. Dan and Johnny often used Lily as a sounding board whenever they had a problem. Lily is beautiful, feisty, courageous, extremely loyal, and occasionally even uses a gun herself to help Dan and Johnny when no one else will. In addition to running her saloon, Lily was also elected the town fire chief, and briefly filled in as schoolmarm.

Recurring Characters[edit]

  • Dru Lemp (Bek Nelson) appeared in eight episodes of season one. She owns a local cafe and is the widow of the previous town marshal, David Lemp.
  • Judge Trager (Harry Cheshire) appeared in fifteen episodes over all four seasons. He oversees all of the court cases in Laramie. He is a member of the town council and a close friend of Dan's.
  • Harry Tate (Jon Lormer) appeared in five episodes in season one as the editor of the town newspaper and a close friend of Dan's. He was killed by mistake when wearing the hat of the intended victim. Tate had a daughter, Julie.
  • Julie Tate (Barbara Lang) appeared in four episodes of season one. She takes over as editor for the newspaper after her father was killed.
  • Tom Pike (Lane Chandler) appeared in four episodes of season one. He is a member of the town council and was constantly second guessing Dan's decisions.
  • Hank the Bartender, (Emory Parnell) appeared in eleven episodes of the first two seasons. He is the bartender at the Bluebonnet Saloon, a precursor to the Birdcage.
  • Doc Stewart, the town physician, is initially portrayed by James Bell and for seven other episodes by Tom Palmer.
  • Timmo McQueeney (Clancy Cooper) appeared in fifteen episodes in season two. He is Lily's main bartender, a big burly guy, who talks with a thick Irish accent.
  • Jake Summers (Dan Sheridan) appeared in thirty-eight episodes in seasons three and four. Jake became Lily's main bartender who informs Dan and Johnny if any strangers come into town. Prior to becoming Jake, Sheridan guest starred twice in two separate roles.
  • Owny O'Reilly (Joel Grey) appeared three times in seasons 2-4. In the episode "The Salvation of Owny O'Reilly" (April 24, 1960), Grey, at twenty-eight, plays the teenager Owny O'Reilly, who is befriended by Deputy McKay. After he finds gold thrown into a well by the partner of his outlaw brother, Owny decides to return the money but only after coming into the crossfire of the marshal and the outlaws.[2] In time, Owny becomes close friends with Dan and Johnny. In the season 3 episode "The Return of Owny O'Reilly", he plays a comical sidekick as Dan's deputy while Johnny is away. Finally, in the season 4 episode "Owny O'Reilly, Esq.", Grey's character blunders his way yet again into catching an escaped criminal.
  • Jack Stiles (Doodles Weaver) appeared in four episodes of season two as the clerk at the Hotel Laramie and one of Dan and Johnny's informants.
  • Oren Slauson (Vinton Hayworth) appeared in nine episodes of seasons 2-4. He is the manager of the Laramie Bank, which seemed to get robbed regularly.
  • Ben Toomey (Grady Sutton) appeared in twelve episodes of seasons 3-4. He took over as clerk at the Hotel Laramie and like Jack before him gave Dan and Johnny information on a regular basis.

In the next-to-the last episode entitled "The Unmasked" (June 17, 1962), Lawman presents an entirely fictitious portrayal of Boston Corbett, the man who shot and mortally wounded John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Played by character actor Dabbs Greer, Corbett is given the name "Joe Brockway" and depicted as a hotel owner in Laramie. In the story line, two former Confederates from Georgia, played by Barry Atwater and Charles Maxwell, arrive in Laramie in search of Brockway, the key, they claim, to the settlement of an estate to which they are all a party. Jack Albertson is cast in the episode as a somewhat comical traveling elixir salesman named "Doc" Peters.[3]

Guest stars[edit]

  • Steve Pendleton and Lee Van Cleef played deputies Kelsey and Clyde Wilson, respectively, in the episode "Man on a Mountain" (June 12, 1960).
  • DeForest Kelley, five years before Star Trek, was cast as Bent Carr, a greedy ranch foreman, in the episode "Squatters" (January 29, 1961). Carr contributes to the death of his pneumonia-stricken employer by raising the window and removing his cover on a cold night. Armed with power of attorney, he then proceeds to expunge from the ranch lands several farm families who had received permission to settle there by his departed employer.[4]
  • Sammy Davis, Jr., appears in the episode "Blue Boss and Willie Shay" (March 12, 1961) as singing cowboy Willie Shay, who sings part of the western song, "The Streets of Laredo," also known as "The Cowboy's Lament".
  • Peter Breck, formerly of Black Saddle and later of The Big Valley, appears as the arrogant Hale Connors in "Trapped" (September 17, 1961), the first episode of the last season of Lawman. In the story line, Connors places "Plague" warning signs to keep people from entering Laramie while he demands all $150,000 of the assets of the bank as the price for releasing stagecoach passengers being held hostage under threat of death. Marshal Troop devises a plan to thwart Connors and return the money to the bank.[5]
  • Robert McQueeney is cast in the episode "Tarot" (December 10, 1961) as Joe Wyatt, an old friend of Lily Merrill's who arrives at the Birdcage. He reads fortune cards for her friends; all become true, but one suddenly points to death. Wyatt tries to halt a robbery but is fatally wounded in the attempt.[6]
  • Billy Booth appears as a young boy, Tad McCallan, in the episode "The Prodigal Mother" (December 17, 1961). Tad's birth mother, now the married Margaret Coleson, played by Catherine McLeod, returns to Laramie to reclaim him legally from his foster parents, who are poor, hardworking farmers. When Tad tells Mrs. Coleson that she is his mother, but not his "maw", she decides to leave the boy with the McCallans but agrees to keep in contact with him.[7]
  • Lyle Talbot in the episode "By the Book" (December 24, 1961) plays Orville Luster, an overbearing assistant to the territorial marshal, who arrives in Laramie questioning Dan Troop's methods of law enforcement. Troop makes a decision to release two drunken patrons of the Birdcage against Luster's recommendation, and the results are unexpected. Luster soon turns into an admirer of Troop because the two drunks save Luster's life from an attack by others. Walter Burke appears in a comical role as Ernie.[8]
  • Marie Windsor in the episode "The Wanted Man" (April 8, 1962) portrays Ann Jesse, a woman who dies in childbirth. Her wanted husband, Frank (Dick Foran), orders their grown son, Ben (Jan Stine) to turn him into Marshal Dan Troop in order to collect the $5,000 reward to have the means to rear his infant brother. Meanwhile, Troop counters Joe Street (Alan Baxter), a bounty hunter seeking the same reward.[9]
  • Andrew Duggan appeared several times on Laramie, including the part of Frank Boone in "Sunday" (April 15, 1962). In the story line, Boone desperately demands that he be allowed to take a young outlaw, Billy Deal (Richard Evans), to Montana Territory, where Boone can receive amnesty for his own past crimes in return for bringing Deal to the gallows. At great risk to himself, Marshal Troop is determined to send Deal on the Sunday train to answer for another crime in Casper.[10]
  • Olive Carey delivers a noteworthy performance as a bullying mother, "Ma" Martin, of three grown sons in the episode "The Youngest" (April 22, 1962). In the story line, Mrs. Martin pushes her sons, particularly the youngest, Jim Martin, Jr. (Joseph Gallison), to take revenge on Marshal Troop for the rightful shooting death of their father, who pulled a gun while involved in a crooked poker game. Jim, however, decides to stand up to his mother upon realizing that his father provoked the shooting.[11]
  • Kevin Hagen and Harry Carey, Jr., appeared as estranged brothers in the episode "Cort" (April 29, 1962). In the story line, Cort Evers (Hagen) seeks revenge against his brother Mitch (Carey), whom he mistakenly blames for betraying six Union Army prisoners from their hometown during the American Civil War. Mitch is compelled to contront Cort in a shootout during which he explains that it had been Cort himself, under the influence of a fever, who betrayed the prisoners. Cort faints to the ground as he remembers the startling truth of the betrayal.[12]

Other guest stars:

Production Notes[edit]

Being part of the Warner Bros. array of westerns, Lawman participated in two crossovers. Russell and Brown appeared in the "Hadley's Hunters" episode of Maverick. Peter Brown and Adam West also appeared as Johnny McKay and Doc Holliday, respectively, in the Sugarfoot episode "The Trial of the Canary Kid", which was a sequel to the Lawman episode, "The Wayfarer." The premise was that the Canary Kid, Sugarfoot's twin cousin, was in the Laramie jail at the same time as Holliday, and McKay and Holliday were called in to testify accordingly.

The studio routinely recycled scripts through their various series to save money on writers, frequently crediting the results to "W. Hermanos" (Spanish for W. Brothers). Two Lawman scripts, "The Payment" and "The Judge" were renamed from episodes of Cheyenne and reduced from sixty to thirty minutes.

Merchandise[edit]

Lawman also spawned a variety of merchandise during the run of the series, including lunchboxes, puzzles, boots, arcade cards, sheet music, action figures, toy rifles, and cap pistols. There was also a Lawman comic, drawn by Dan Spiegle, which ran for eleven issues (1958–1962).

Syndication[edit]

Lawman can currently be seen in re-runs of two episodes on Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. ET on the Encore Westerns Channel. The 156th and final episode of the series aired on June 18, 2013. Lawman was replaced on Encore by rebroadcasts of Laredo, which aired on NBC from 1965 to 1967 which also co-starred Peter Brown.[13]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Lackmabb, Ron (2003). The Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Television. Checkmark Books. p. 195. ISBN 0-8160-4555-0. 

External links[edit]