The Westerner (TV series)
Brian Keith as Dave Blassingame and Spike as Brown, 1960
|Created by||Sam Peckinpah|
|Written by||Jack Curtis
|Directed by||Sam Peckinpah
André de Toth
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Executive producer(s)||Hal Hudson|
|Running time||25 mins.|
|Production company(s)||Four Star Productions|
|Distributor||Fox Television Studios|
|Original release||September 30– December 30, 1960|
The Westerner is a highbrow American Western series that aired on NBC from September 30 to December 30, 1960. Created and produced by Sam Peckinpah, who also directed some episodes, the series was a Four Star Television production. The Westerner stars Brian Keith as amiable, unexceptional cowhand/drifter Dave Blassingame, and features John Dehner as rakish Burgundy Smith, who appeared in three episodes.
The pilot for The Westerner appeared on CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. The musical score was largely the work of Four Star's Herschel Burke Gilbert. For rerun syndication, it was grouped with three other short-lived Western series from the same company, Black Saddle starring Peter Breck, Johnny Ringo starring Don Durant, and Law of the Plainsman starring Michael Ansara, under the umbrella title The Westerners, bracketed with hosting sequences featuring Keenan Wynn.
Blassingame was realistically portrayed as a basically decent, ordinary man who was handy with a gun and his fists (and when the occasion arose, the ladies). A cowboy and itinerant drifter, Dave could sometimes behave amorally in his quest to get enough money together to buy his own ranch, but always did the right thing in the end, and remained true to himself. His equally amiable dog Brown was played by Spike, who was trained by Frank Weatherwax and is best known for playing the title role in Old Yeller. Brown figured prominently in a number of episodes, appeared in all of them, and was always seen faithfully following Blassingame in the end credits.
- Jeff - Sep 30, 1960
- School Days - Oct 7, 1960
- Brown - Oct 21, 1960
- Mrs. Kennedy - Oct 28, 1960
- Dos Pinos - Nov 4, 1960
- The Courting of Libby - Nov 11, 1960
- Treasure - Nov 18, 1960
- The Old Man - Nov 25, 1960
- Ghost of a Chance - Dec 2, 1960
- Line Camp - Dec 9, 1960
- Going Home - Dec 16, 1960
- Hand on the Gun - Dec 23, 1960
- The Painting - Dec 30, 1960
The critically acclaimed series ran for thirteen episodes, but it was canceled because of low ratings (due to being placed in the same time-slot as The Flintstones and Route 66). One of the episodes, "Line Camp," was the basis for the 1968 Charlton Heston film Will Penny.
Updated Version with Lee Marvin
An unsuccessful attempt to update and revive the hardbitten series aired as a January 1963 episode of The Dick Powell Theater, "The Losers," directed by Peckinpah and featuring Lee Marvin as Dave Blassingame and Keenan Wynn as Burgundy Smith but set in the modern West. Rosemary Clooney portrayed the leading lady.
In other media
Brian Keith briefly played the same character again in 1991's The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, which featured a number of 1950s and 1960s television western series leads reprising their roles in quick cameo appearances (Gene Barry as Bat Masterson, Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp, Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie, David Carradine as Kung Fu's Caine, Chuck Connors as The Rifleman, and so on).