The Adventures of Champion (TV series)
|The Adventures of Champion|
The Adventures of Champion Titlecard
|Also known as||Champion the Wonder Horse|
|Written by||Oliver Drake|
Orville H. Hampton
|Directed by||George Archainbaud|
Robert G. Walker
|Theme music composer||Norman Luboff (music) Marilyn Bergman (lyrics)|
|Opening theme||"Champion, the Wonder Horse"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Executive producer(s)||Armand Schaefer|
|Production location(s)||Newhall, California and Lone Pine, California|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Flying A Productions|
|Original release||September 23, 1955 –|
March 3, 1956
The Adventures of Champion is an American children's Western series that aired from September 23, 1955 to March 3, 1956 for 26 episodes on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the series was re-broadcast under the title Champion the Wonder Horse. Unusually for a black and white show, the series was still being repeated in the UK during school holidays as late as the early 1980s.
The series starred Barry Curtis as 12-year-old Ricky North, who lived on his uncle's ranch in the American Southwest. Ricky's uncle, Sandy North, was played by Jim Bannon. Ricky's companions were a wild Mustang stallion, Champion, and a German Shepherd, Rebel, played by Blaze. (Ken Beck and Jim Clark, in their book, The Encyclopedia of TV Pets: A Complete History of Television's Greatest Animal Stars, quote animal trainer Bob Blair as identifying the dog as J.R., the canine that had the title role in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin TV program. "Rebel was played by J.R. and was owned by Frank Barnes. He was the best-trained dog in the business," Blair said.)
The television program used characters similar to those in the 1949-50 radio serial, The Adventures of Champion. The radio serial told of young Ricky West (rather than Ricky North), who was raised on a ranch by his adoptive Uncle Sandy. Ricky was often accompanied by his German Shepherd, Rebel.
In real life, the Wonder Horse, Champion, was owned by Gene Autry who over many years owned a succession of celebrity horses bearing the same name. The horse starring in The Adventures of Champion was known as Television Champion, or TV Champ, for short. He was distinguished by his chestnut coat, blond mane and tail, four white stockings and broad white facial blaze. TV Champ made frequent appearances with Autry in films and television during the 1950s. Unlike his fictional namesake, TV Champ was a gelding.
The horse that played Champ was bred in the United Kingdom. The mare rejected the foal then called Dawn that was hand reared by Walter Ellams and his daughter Patricia. Due to the foal being hand reared it was extremely tame and was then later sold to play Champion.
- "The Die-Hards"
- "Brand of the Lawless"
- "Calhoun Rides Again"
- "Bad Men of the Valley"
- "Johnny Hands Up"
- "Black Kachina"
- "Mystery Mountain"
- "The Deer Hunters"
- "Salted Ground"
- "Rails West"
- "A Bugle for Ricky"
- "Andrew and the Deadly Double"
- "Canyon of Wanted Men"
- "Hangman's Noose"
- "Lost River"
- "Challenge of the West"
- "The Saddle Tramp"
- "Renegade Stallion"
- "The Outlaw's Secret"
- "The Return of Red Cloud"
- "The Stone Heart"
- "The Medicine Man Mystery"
- "The Golden Hoax"
- "King of the Rodeo"
- "Crossroad Trail"
- "Real Unfriendly Ghost"
Although uncredited, the title song was sung by Mike Stewart, and later recorded by Frankie Laine:
"Champion the Wonder Horse! Champion the Wonder Horse!
Like a streak of lightnin' flashin' cross the sky,
Like the swiftest arrow whistlin' from a bow,
Like a mighty cannonball he seems to fly.
You'll hear about him everywhere you go.
The time'll come when everyone will know
The name of Champion the Wonder Horse!"
In 1991, the song was re-issued on Frankie Laine's album On the Trail Again.
During the years 1953 to 1960, comic annuals were published by World Distributors, Daily Mirror and Purnell. Second-hand copies of these may be obtained. 'Ricky North' became 'Ricky West' in these, as with the radio serial.
Champion also had his own comic book, Gene Autry's Champion, published by Dell Comics from 1951 to 1955, which continued as Gene Autry and Champion from 1955 to 1959.
Starting from the issue dated 4 June 1966, Champion the Wonder Horse ran as a comic strip in the UK comic book Buster. Minor characters in the strip included Sheriff Sean Kelly, Gentleman Tom, the bare-knuckle boxing champion, Dick Crabtree, the town's ambulance-chasing lawyer, and Nicky Brandwood, queen of the saloon.
In 2005, a set of six DVDs was released in the UK, by Pickwick Group Limited, under license from Encore Home Video. The set is entitled The Adventures of Champion the Wonder Horse and sub-titled "the complete television series on 6 DVDs".
The set includes 23 of the original 26 episodes. The missing episodes are "Mystery Mountain", "The Golden Hoax", and "Real Unfriendly Ghost". DVD 6 includes a bonus film entitled Horses and Guns, starring Gene Autry and one of his several horse-stars named Champion.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- Beck, Ken; Clark, Jim (2002). The Encyclopedia of TV Pets: A Complete History of Television's Greatest Animal Stars. Thomas Nelson Inc. ISBN 9781418557379. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
- IMDb: The Gene Autry Show (1950)