Robert Bray as Corey Stuart
|First appearance||"Disappearance" (1963)|
|Last appearance||"The Holocaust" (1968)|
|Created by||Jack Wrather
Bonita Granville Wrather
|Portrayed by||Robert Bray|
|Family||Lassie (companion animal)|
Corey Stuart is a fictional character in the long-running television series, Lassie (1954–1973). Stuart is a middle aged bachelor and a Ranger with the United States Forest Service. The character was portrayed by Robert Bray. Corey Stuart first appeared in the series as a one-shot character in the tenth season episode, "Disappearance" (1963). He was a hit with the audience and returned full-time the following season as the series' only human lead. His last appearance occurred in the two-part episode of the fifteenth season, "The Holocaust" (1968).
As the eleventh season of Lassie approached in 1964, series star Jon Provost was a fourteen-year-old with his contract up for a three-year renewal. Provost however was not interested in remaining with the show, and did not renew his contract. He later recalled,
"I was just tired of being Timmy everywhere I went. I couldn't see myself being Timmy until I was seventeen or eighteen years old...If they had let him grow up a little, maybe I would have wanted to stay on."
A few episodes in the last farm seasons were set in wilderness locations, and proved audience favorites. With Provost leaving the show, producers decided to scrap the farm scenario, and fashioned instead a plot about Lassie teaming up with Forest Ranger Stuart. The groundwork for their pairing was laid in the tenth season five-part episode, "Disappearance". Stuart rescues Lassie from a storm in the first part and reunites her with the Martins in the final-part. In the meantime, Lassie helps Stuart rescue others lost in the storm, stops a poacher on Federal land, survives avalanche and forest fire, and forms a profound bond with Stuart.
With the new plot good to go, the Martin family was shipped off to Australia to teach agriculture in the eleventh season opener. Lassie remained in the States due to Australia's strict quarantine regulations and found a home with Stuart. The two would share adventure in America's national forests and scenic wonderlands. The show transitioned to color filming in 1965 with the twelfth season, and episodes became mini-travelogues with some locations being seen for the first time on television on color.
Several actors tested for the role of Corey Stuart with Bray and a popular Western star competing in the finals. While the Western star was liked by the producer, sponsor, and advertising agency, Bray proved to have a more appealing on-camera relationship with Lassie and was awarded the role.
With the cancellation of the Martin characters and the farm plot, Lassie began a steady decline in ratings.
Robert Bray's emotional problems and alcoholism brought about his departure from the series. According to dialogue coach Lloyd Nelson,
"Robert Bray left Lassie because of alcoholism. It was a very tragic situation...It was so sad the way he allowed alcohol to take control of him...The reshooting and looping he caused cost a lot of money, but nobody wanted to run him off. We all understood he had personal problems, and for years they gave him every chance to work them out."
Corey Stuart was last seen in "The Holocaust," a two-part episode of the fifteenth season, (1968). There, he suffers serious injuries fighting a forest fire that require extensive treatments. Lassie meanwhile finds a home with two of Corey's co-workers Bob Erickson (Jack De Mave) and Scott Turner (Jed Allan). Both characters remained in the series as duo-human leads another season before disappearing without explanation. Lassie then saw a year alone before settling at a children's home for her final two syndicated seasons.
- Jenkins, Henry. "Lassie." Museum of Broadcast Communications, nd.
- Collins, Ace. Lassie: A Dog's Life. Penguin, 1993.
- Raddatz, Leslie. "Robert Bray: The Man with Dog Appeal." TV Guide, 14 August 1965.
- Jenkins, Henry. The Wow Climax:Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture. NYU Press, 2006.
- Provost, Jon. Timmy's in the Well: The Jon Provost Story. Cumberland House, 2007.