Four Feather Falls

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Four Feather Falls
Series titles over a waterfall
Genre Action
Adventure
Children's
Fantasy
Western
Created by Gerry Anderson
Barry Gray
Written by Jill Allgood
Mary Cathcart Borer
Phil Wrestler
Martin Woodhouse
Directed by Gerry Anderson
David Elliott
Alan Pattillo
Voices of Kenneth Connor
Nicholas Parsons
Denise Bryer
David Graham
Ending theme "Two Gun Tex of Texas" sung by Michael Holliday
Composer(s) Barry Gray
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 39 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Gerry Anderson
Cinematography Arthur Provis
John Read
Editor(s) Bert Rule
Alan Pattillo
Camera setup Single
Running time 12–13 minutes
Production company(s) AP Films
Distributor Granada Television
Release
Original network ITV
Picture format Black and white
Film (35 mm)
Audio format Mono
Original release 25 February (1960-02-25) – 17 November 1960 (1960-11-17)
Chronology
Followed by Supercar

Four Feather Falls was the third puppet TV show produced by Gerry Anderson for Granada Television. It was based on an idea by Barry Gray, who also wrote the show's music.[1] The series was the first to use an early version of Anderson's Supermarionation puppetry. Thirty-nine 13-minute episodes were produced, broadcast by Granada from February until November 1960. The setting is the late 19th-century fictional Kansas town of Four Feather Falls, where the hero of the series, Tex Tucker, is a sheriff. The four feathers of the title refers to four magical feathers given to Tex by the Indian chief Kalamakooya as a reward for saving his grandson: two of the feathers allowed Tex's guns to swivel and fire without being touched whenever he was in danger, whilst the other two conferred the power of speech on Tex's horse and dog.

Tex's speaking voice was provided by Nicholas Parsons, and his singing voice by Michael Holliday. The series has never been repeated on British television, but it was released on DVD in 2005.

Production[edit]

American Western television shows such as Wagon Train and Gunsmoke were popular with British audiences, therefore Gerry Anderson and his business partner Arthur Provis decided to make a cowboy series, based on an idea offered to them by Barry Gray.[1] Anderson considered the puppets with static heads, made by Christine Glanville for his earlier productions, to be unacceptable because the viewer could not tell which character was talking unless its puppet moved up or down. Anderson's aim was to make the puppets look as realistic as possible, the beginning of the Supermarionation puppetry process, although that term was not coined until his next series, Supercar.

The puppets' papier-mâché heads were replaced by interchangeable hollow fibre glass heads with internal rods that could move the eyes from side to side. The heads also contained sound-activated solenoids, which allowed the puppets' lips to move automatically in synchronisation with the dialogue.[2] The electronics of the day required more space than would be available in a human-scale head, therefore all the puppets in Four Feather Falls had oversized heads.

Except for the pilot episode, which was made in AP Films' studios at Islet Park,[3] the series was produced in a converted warehouse in the Slough Trading Estate.[2] The cast assembled to record each script without seeing the puppets, much like recording a radio series; synchronisation of each character's speech with the movement of its puppet's mouth was performed later.[4] The show was filmed in black and white. [3] Its tight budget precluded the use of sophisticated special effects, and less-costly alternatives were used. For example, to achieve the effect of muzzle flashes, small specks of black paint were carefully applied to the 35 mm negatives so they would appear as white flashes on the finished prints. The wires used to control the puppets were eight feet long and made of tungsten, an improvement on the curtain wire used in the two earlier series, and were only 1/200 of an inch thick. Being shiny, the wires had to be blackened. The puppets were made one-third life size with the puppeteers on a bridge eight feet above the set. The horses moved by being pulled along on a trolley, which meant the viewer never saw their feet when they were moving.

Continuity for the series was provided by Sylvia Thamm who married Gerry Anderson.

Plot[edit]

The series is set in the fictitious late 19th-century Western town of Four Feather Falls, Kansas, and features the adventures of its sheriff, Tex Tucker. In the first episode, Grandpa Twink relates the story of how it all began to grandson, Little Jake. Tex is riding up from the valley and comes across a lost and hungry Indian boy, Makooya and saves him. Tex is given four magic feathers by the boy's grandfather, chief Kalamakooya, as a reward for saving his grandson. Two of the feathers allow his guns to swivel and fire automatically (often while Tex's hands are raised),[a] and the other two allow his horse, Rocky, and his dog, Dusty, to speak. As Tex, his horse, and dog are very thirsty, Kalamakooya also makes a waterfall where there had been no water before, and so when the town was built it was named after Tex's feathers and the waterfall.

The characters of the town are Grandpa Twink, who does little but rest in a chair; his grandson Little Jake, the only child in town; Ma Jones, who runs the town store; Doc Haggerty; Slim Jim, the bartender of the Denison saloon; Marvin Jackson, the bank manager; and Dan Morse, the telegraphist. Other characters appeared from time to time for only one episode, often just visiting town. The villains included Pedro, who was introduced in the first show and Fernando, who first appeared in the second episode as a sidekick and someone Pedro could blame when things went wrong, as they always did. Big Ben was another villain who appeared from time to time, as did Red Scalp, a renegade Indian. Other villains only appeared in single episodes.

Episodes[edit]

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
code
1"How it Began"Gerry AndersonMary Cathcart Borer25 February 1960 (1960-02-25)1
Whilst out in the desert Tex Tucker finds and shelters an Indian boy and is rewarded with four magic feathers by the boy's grandfather. Two of the feathers make his dog (Dusty) and horse (Rocky) speak whilst the last two control Tex's 2 guns. Tex decides to create a town called Four Feather Falls and the townsfolk make him Sheriff.
2"Kidnapped"Gerry AndersonMary Cathcart Borer3 March 1960 (1960-03-03)33
Pedro and Fernando take "Doc" Haggerty and hold him hostage for ransom.
3"Pedro Has A Plan"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler10 March 1960 (1960-03-10)4
Pedro and Fernando plan to rid themselves of the sheriff, by switching his hat with the magic feathers for a normal one.
4"Pedro's Pardon"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler17 March 1960 (1960-03-17)8
Pedro states that he has "gone straight" and will become a respectable member of the town but Tex doesn't believe his story.
5"Sheriff For A Day"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler24 March 1960 (1960-03-24)7
Tex is called away and lends his magic guns to Little Jake, who soon finds himself way over his head.
6"Indian Attack"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler31 March 1960 (1960-03-31)6
Pedro and Fernando fake an Indian attack on Four Feather Falls.
7"A Close Shave"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler7 April 1960 (1960-04-07)5
Pedro and Fernando team up with Red Scalp to plot against Tex.
8"Dusty Becomes Deputy"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler14 April 1960 (1960-04-14)13
Pedro and Fernando set a fire on the outskirts of town to lure Tex away. All the while the bandits aim to rob the bank while Tex and the other townsfolk fight the fire.
9"Gun Runners"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler21 April 1960 (1960-04-21)10
Tex and Dusty go off in search of a gun runner selling to renegade Indians, led by Red Scalp.
10"Trouble in Yellow Gulch"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler28 April 1960 (1960-04-28)2
Pedro and Fernando buy some land where a road into Four Feather Falls is and hold the townsfolk to ransom by making them pay to either use the safe route the bandits have bought or use a more dangerous road.
11"Frame-Up"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler5 May 1960 (1960-05-05)3
Tex rides off to the city to help out another Sheriff, unaware he's about to be set up as a horse thief.
12"Gold Diggers"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler12 May 1960 (1960-05-12)30
Fernando and Pedro try and get arrested so they can spend the night in jail. The pair want dig underneath the jailhouse and on into the bank to rob it.
13"Gold Is Where You Find It"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler19 May 1960 (1960-05-19)29
Pedro and Fernando try to swindle the people of Four Feather Falls out of their savings by claiming to have found gold on their land.
14"Trapped"David ElliottPhil Wrestler26 May 1960 (1960-05-26)12
Little Jake and Makooya head to the creek for some fishing. Finding a cave along the way they decide on a little spelunking. They interrupt Red Scalp at work while he's manufacturing counterfeit money and he quickly seals them in.
15"The Best Laid Plans"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler2 June 1960 (1960-06-02)19
A new face arrives in town, with a plan to rob the bank and quickly teams up with Pedro and Fernando to help his scheme.
16"Escort"David ElliottPhil Wrestler9 June 1960 (1960-06-09)17
Pedro and Fernando overhear a message about a gold shipment heading to Four Feather Falls. So the pair pose as sheriffs so they can steal all the gold for themselves unaware that Big Ben also wants to steal the gold too.
17"The Toughest Guy in the West"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler16 June 1960 (1960-06-16)9
Grandpa Twink is a teller of tales and his buddies tease him about his supposed heroics. Twink redeems himself when he captures Indian Jack, a notorious renegade.
18"Chance Of A Ghost"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler23 June 1960 (1960-06-23)23
Marvin Jackson is trying to sell the Eureka Silver Mine, but the main buyer, Harman, pays Pedro and Fernando to pretend to be ghosts to bring the price down.
19"Gunplay"David ElliottPhil Wrestler30 June 1960 (1960-06-30)16
Two cattle rustlers, Johnny Pasto and The Nevado Kid, challenge Tucker to fight without his magic guns.
20"A Lawman Rides Alone"David ElliottPhil Wrestler7 July 1960 (1960-07-07)14
Sheriff Tucker receives a wanted poster for Blackie and Whitey Strutt who, along with a third man robbed a Wells Fargo office. Soon the trio arrive in Four Feather Falls.
21"Jailbreak"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler14 July 1960 (1960-07-14)11
Zack Morrill a bandit wanted for murder, cattle rustling, horse stealing and train robbery, has a wanted poster outside the Sheriff's office offering a reward of £500 for the capture of him. Pedro sees the poster and decides to help Tex capture the criminal in return for the reward money.
22"A Little Bit of Luck"David ElliottPhil Wrestler21 July 1960 (1960-07-21)18
Tex is away visiting family and the marshal filling in for him, Ike Burns, is hopelessly ineffective. But the sheriff's a crook and is not a real lawman and is secretly in league with Big Ben and another outlaw called Johnny.
23"Landgrabbers"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler28 July 1960 (1960-07-28)25
The Circle Z Ranch is under siege from Morg Fenton and Big Ben, but Tex discovers it is outside his area of jurisdiction and cannot help defend it.
24"Once A Lawman"David ElliottPhil Wrestler4 August 1960 (1960-08-04)24
With the townspeople unhappy with Tex's dealing of a spate of robberies by a gang of thieves, Tex turns in his badge and joins the thieves as a crook.
25"Election Day"Gerry AndersonPhil Wrestler11 August 1960 (1960-08-11)21
On election day for the role of Sheriff, Pedro decides to make a bid for the position but when he tries to cheat the town turns on him.
26"Gunfight On Main Street"David ElliottPhil Wrestler18 August 1960 (1960-08-18)22
Tex's old friend, Cass Morgan, arrives in town looking for two men, Tobin and Billy Pinto, who he says killed his brother during a robbery. He tells Tex to stay out of it which he does until a telegram arrives telling Tex who the real killer is.
27"A Bad Name"David ElliottPhil Wrestler25 August 1960 (1960-08-25)32
Big Ben needs Tex's help after being falsely accused of stealing cattle.
28"Horse Thieves"Alan PattilloPhil Wrestler1 September 1960 (1960-09-01)38
Big Ben tells Pedro and Fernando that a partner of his is paying good money for horses. He persuades the banditos to steal all of the horses in Four Feather Falls, which they do including Tex's own horse Rocky.
29"The Ma Jones Story"Alan PattilloJill Allgood8 September 1960 (1960-09-08)20
Ma Jones falls for a scam by two con men and is almost swindled out of her shop.
30"Bandits Abroad"David ElliottJill Allgood15 September 1960 (1960-09-15)27
Fernando bears a striking resemblance to another master criminal, called Pancho Gomez, so Pedro comes up with an idea to get the $200 reward money for capturing him.
31"A Cure For Everything"Alan PattilloJill Allgood22 September 1960 (1960-09-22)26
A medicine man arrives in town claiming to have a cure for everything and almost puts Doc Haggerty out of business before it is discovered where the true source of the medicine comes from.
32"Teething Troubles"David ElliottJill Allgood29 September 1960 (1960-09-29)34
Rocky has a toothache, but nothing anyone says can persuade him to have his tooth removed by Doc Haggerty.
33"Buffalo Rocky"Alan PattilloJill Allgood6 October 1960 (1960-10-06)15
When several horses are stolen, the only suspects seems to be a buffalo. But it is actually a clever horse thief covering his tracks by wearing false buffalo hooves.
34"Safe As Houses"David ElliottMartin Woodhouse13 October 1960 (1960-10-13)28
Missouri Mike arrives in town claiming to be able to sell things to people they didn't even know they wanted including selling safes $5 each with a free bottle of brandy. But the brandy is drugged and Mike is actually a criminal planning to rob the town blind with a master key to the safes.
35"First Train Through"Alan PattilloJill Allgood20 October 1960 (1960-10-20)31
The railroad finally comes to Four Feather Falls connecting it to Dallas, however someone keeps sabotaging the tracks.
36"Fancy Shooting"David ElliottMartin Woodhouse27 October 1960 (1960-10-27)35
The 'fastest and bestest in the westest' Gunman, Buck Reevers, arrives in town, worrying Tex that he will attract other gunmen to the town.
37"Happy Birthday"Alan PattilloJill Allgood3 November 1960 (1960-11-03)39
The townspeople plan a party for Tex's birthday.
38"Ambush"David ElliottJill Allgood10 November 1960 (1960-11-10)37
Red Scalp leads an Indian war party on a raid to ambush the train from Dallas and steal the $10,000 payroll on board, with the help of the bank messenger William J. Haddon.
39"Ride 'Em Cowboy"Alan PattilloJill Allgood17 November 1960 (1960-11-17)36
Tex takes part in the rodeo against Silver City's best rider, Bart Stevens, who decides to cheat by using Pedro and Fernando to sabotage his opponent.

Syndication[edit]

The series has not been repeated or rerun in Britain since its original broadcast. In December 2004 it was announced that the rights had been acquired by Network Distributing, and it was released on three Region 2 DVDs in May 2005. It is the only Supermarionation series not yet released to DVD in North America as of January 2006. Sylvia Anderson wrote two British children's annuals based on the show, published by Collins in 1960 and 1961. The first book featured a short text story based on the pilot episode of the TV series.

Music[edit]

The show's music and song lyrics were composed by Barry Gray. Michael Holliday provided Tex's singing voice, and Tommy Reilly performed the harmonica pieces.[1] The best known song to come out of the series was "Four Feather Falls", sung in some episodes by Michael Holliday in the style of Bing Crosby and sometimes incorrectly described as the theme song to the series. The closing theme song was "Two Gun Tex of Texas." Holliday was paid £2000 for his singing work on the pilot episode, equivalent to about £38,000[5][b] as of 2010, a significant part of the show's £6000 budget.[3] In all, Holliday recorded six songs for the series: "Four Feather Falls", "The Phantom Rider", "The Rick-Rick-A-Rackety Train", "Happy Hearts and Friendly Faces", "My Home Town", and "Two Gun Tex of Texas".[3]

Cast[edit]

  • Nicholas Parsons – Sheriff Tex Tucker (speaking voice)[1] / Telegraph Operator Dan Morse[3] / Various
  • Michael Holliday – Sheriff Tex Tucker (singing voice)[1] / Various
  • Kenneth Connor – Dusty the Dog / Rocky the Horse / Pedro the Bandit / Big Chief Kalamakooya / Bank Manager Marvin Jackson[1] / Doc Haggerty / Saloon Owner Slim Jim Denison[3] / Various
  • David Graham – Grandpa Ebenezer Twink / Fernando the Bandit[1] / Big Ben the Horse Rustler Bandit / Red Scalp the Renegade Indian[3] / Various
  • Denise Bryer – Martha 'Ma' Jones / Little Jake[1] / Makooya the Little Indian Boy / Various

Denise Bryer had worked with Anderson on The Adventures of Twizzle, and he wanted her to play some of the voices in Four Feather Falls. Anderson visited Bryer at her home with some scripts and asked her husband, Nicholas Parsons, to help by reading some of the other parts, including the sheriff Tex Tucker. Anderson liked Parsons' interpretation and offered him the job of providing Tex's speaking voice.[4]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ The swivelling guns solved the problem of how a puppet cowboy could be quick on the draw without looking like he had gone into a spasm when one of his wires was suddenly yanked.[1]
  2. ^ Comparing the retail price index of £2000 in 1959, when the pilot episode was completed,[3] with 2010

Citations

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Clark, Anthony, "Four Feather Falls (1960)", BFI Screenonline http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/455659/index.html, retrieved 8 January 2013  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b Thorn, Emma, "Supermarionation: Gerry Anderson, a life in puppetry", National Media Museum http://nationalmediamuseumblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/gerry-anderson-1929-2012/, retrieved 10 January 2013  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Four Feather Falls", Television Heaven http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/fourfeather.htm, retrieved 21 January 2013  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b Parsons (2011), The Joys of Television
  5. ^ Officer, Lawrence H. (2009), Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present, MeasuringWorth, retrieved 21 January 2013 

Bibliography

  • Green, Paul (2009), Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, McFarland, ISBN 978-0-7864-4390-1 
  • Parsons, Nicholas (2011), With Just a Touch of Hesitation, Repetition and Deviation: My Life in Comedy, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84596-712-3 
  • Pirani, Adam (1989), The Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide, Titan Books, ISBN 978-1-85286-216-9 

External links[edit]