Trackdown (TV series)

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Robert Culp as Hoby Gilman (1957)
Written by
Directed by
Narrated byEd Prentiss
Theme music composer
ComposerHarry King
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes71 plus pilot
ProducerVincent M. Fennelly
CinematographyGuy Roe
Running time25 minutes
Production companyFour Star Productions
Original networkCBS
Original releaseOctober 4, 1957 (1957-10-04) –
September 23, 1959 (1959-09-23)

Trackdown is an American Western television series starring Robert Culp that aired on CBS between 1957 and 1959. The series was produced by Dick Powell's Four Star Television and filmed at the Desilu-Culver Studio. Trackdown was a spin-off of Powell's anthology series, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre.


Trackdown stars Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman. It is set in the 1870s after the American Civil War. In early episodes, stories focused on Gilman going to different Texas towns in pursuit of wanted fugitives. At midseason, the series became set in the town of Porter, Texas. Episodes touched on multiple Western themes and topics, so it was known as "the thinking man's Western".[1][2]

Gilman is the de facto sheriff in Porter. His friends in the town include Henrietta Porter (portrayed by Ellen Corby). She is the widow of the town's founder and owns The Porter Enterprise newspaper. Occasionally, Gilman's duties as a Texas Ranger took him out of town, where he used his fast gun to "track down" and apprehend wanted criminals throughout the Lone Star State.

The pilot episode, "Badge of Honor", directed by Arthur Hiller, aired on Zane Grey Theatre on May 3, 1957. Gilman, then an ex-Confederate cavalry officer, returns to his Central Texas hometown, called "Crawford", after the war. He finds the town under the control of a ruthless gang led by an ex-Confederate colonel, Boyd Nelson (played by Gary Merrill). The town sheriff (portrayed by Tom Tully) is a drunken shell of a man Gilman had once known, who is afraid to face the outlaws. When a Texas Ranger came to arrest Colonel Nelson, he is fatally shot in the back. His Ranger badge falls on the dusty road. Gilman, who previously had served with the Texas Rangers, was weary of the Civil War and did not want to continue as a lawman, but after learning of the Ranger's death, he picks up the badge and finishes the job of bringing Nelson and his gang to justice.

Trackdown carried the endorsement of both the State of Texas and the Texas Rangers, an accolade no other Western television series has received. Some episodes were inspired by the files of the Rangers.[3]


Season 1: 1957–58[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"The Marple Brothers"Thomas CarrJohn McGreeveyOctober 4, 1957 (1957-10-04)
22"Law in Lampasas"Thomas CarrNorman JacobsOctober 11, 1957 (1957-10-11)
33"The San Saba Incident"Don McDougallD.D. BeauchampOctober 18, 1957 (1957-10-18)
44"Easton, Texas"Thomas CarrJohn RobinsonOctober 25, 1957 (1957-10-25)
55"Like Father"John EnglishJohn RobinsonNovember 1, 1957 (1957-11-01)
66"Sweetwater, Texas"Don McDougallNorman JacobsNovember 8, 1957 (1957-11-08)
77"Alpine, Texas"Thomas CarrFred FreibergerNovember 15, 1957 (1957-11-15)
88"Self-Defense"Thomas CarrJohn RobinsonNovember 22, 1957 (1957-11-22)
99"End of an Outlaw"Thomas CarrCurtis KenyonNovember 29, 1957 (1957-11-29)
1010"Look for the Woman"Don McDougallDaniel B. UllmanDecember 6, 1957 (1957-12-06)
1111"The Town"Don McDougallSam PeckinpahDecember 13, 1957 (1957-12-13)
1212"Man and Money"Don McDougallDaniel B. UllmanDecember 27, 1957 (1957-12-27)
1313"The Reward"Don McDougallFred FreibergerJanuary 3, 1958 (1958-01-03)
1414"The Farrand Story"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonJanuary 10, 1958 (1958-01-10)
1515"Right of Way"Don McDougallDon ClarkJanuary 17, 1958 (1958-01-17)
1616"The Witness"Thomas CarrChristopher KnopfJanuary 24, 1958 (1958-01-24)
1717"The Toll Road"Don McDougallFred FreibergerJanuary 31, 1958 (1958-01-31)
1818"The Young Gun"Thomas CarrDaniel B. UllmanFebruary 7, 1958 (1958-02-07)
1919"The Wedding"Don McDougallSidney MarshallFebruary 14, 1958 (1958-02-14)
2020"The Trail"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonFebruary 28, 1958 (1958-02-28)
2121"The Bounty Hunter"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonMarch 7, 1958 (1958-03-07)
2222"The Judge"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonMarch 14, 1958 (1958-03-14)
2323"The House"Thomas CarrJohn RobinsonMarch 21, 1958 (1958-03-21)
2424"The Boy"Thomas CarrJohn RobinsonMarch 28, 1958 (1958-03-28)
2525"The Pueblo Kid"Don McDougallFrank BertApril 4, 1958 (1958-04-04)
2626"The Winter Boys"Don McDougallFrank BertApril 11, 1958 (1958-04-11)
2727"The Mistake"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonApril 18, 1958 (1958-04-18)
2828"The Deal"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonApril 25, 1958 (1958-04-25)
2929"The Jailbreak"Don McDougallJohn McGreeveyMay 2, 1958 (1958-05-02)
3030"The End of the World"Don McDougallJohn RobinsonMay 9, 1958 (1958-05-09)
3131"The Brothers"Don McDougallD.D. BeauchampMay 16, 1958 (1958-05-16)
3232"The Governor"Don McDougallFred FreibergerMay 23, 1958 (1958-05-23)

Season 2: 1958–59[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
331"Killer Take All"UnknownUnknownSeptember 5, 1958 (1958-09-05)
342"Outlaw's Wife"UnknownUnknownSeptember 12, 1958 (1958-09-12)
353"Chinese Cowboy"UnknownUnknownSeptember 19, 1958 (1958-09-19)
364"The Set Up"UnknownUnknownSeptember 26, 1958 (1958-09-26)
375"A Stone for Benny French"UnknownUnknownOctober 3, 1958 (1958-10-03)
386"Trapped"UnknownUnknownOctober 10, 1958 (1958-10-10)
397"Matter of Justice"UnknownUnknownOctober 17, 1958 (1958-10-17)
408"Tenner Smith"UnknownUnknownOctober 24, 1958 (1958-10-24)
419"The Avenger"UnknownUnknownOctober 31, 1958 (1958-10-31)
4210"The Schoolteacher"UnknownUnknownNovember 7, 1958 (1958-11-07)
4311"Deadly Decoy"UnknownUnknownNovember 14, 1958 (1958-11-14)
4412"Sunday's Child"UnknownUnknownNovember 21, 1958 (1958-11-21)
4513"Day of Vengeance"UnknownUnknownNovember 28, 1958 (1958-11-28)
4614"Three-Legged Fox"UnknownUnknownDecember 5, 1958 (1958-12-05)
4715"The Kid"UnknownUnknownDecember 12, 1958 (1958-12-12)
4816"Guilt"UnknownUnknownDecember 19, 1958 (1958-12-19)
4917"Every Man a Witness"UnknownUnknownDecember 26, 1958 (1958-12-26)
5018"McCallin's Daughter"UnknownUnknownJanuary 2, 1959 (1959-01-02)
5119"Bad Judgment"UnknownUnknownJanuary 28, 1959 (1959-01-28)
5220"Terror"UnknownUnknownFebruary 4, 1959 (1959-02-04)
5321"The Feud"UnknownUnknownFebruary 11, 1959 (1959-02-11)
5422"The Samaritan"R.G. SpringsteenD.D. Beauchamp and Mary M. BeauchampFebruary 18, 1959 (1959-02-18)
5523"The Gang"UnknownUnknownFebruary 25, 1959 (1959-02-25)
5624"The Threat"UnknownUnknownMarch 4, 1959 (1959-03-04)
5725"Hard Lines"UnknownUnknownMarch 11, 1959 (1959-03-11)
5826"Fear"UnknownUnknownMarch 18, 1959 (1959-03-18)
5927"Stranger in Town"UnknownUnknownMarch 25, 1959 (1959-03-25)
6028"The Protector"UnknownUnknownApril 1, 1959 (1959-04-01)
6129"False Witness"UnknownUnknownApril 8, 1959 (1959-04-08)
6230"The Trick"UnknownUnknownApril 15, 1959 (1959-04-15)
6331"The Eyes of Jerry Kelso"UnknownUnknownApril 22, 1959 (1959-04-22)
6432"Gift Horse"UnknownUnknownApril 29, 1959 (1959-04-29)
6533"The Vote"UnknownUnknownMay 6, 1959 (1959-05-06)
6634"The Unwanted"UnknownUnknownMay 13, 1959 (1959-05-13)
6735"Toss Up"UnknownUnknownMay 20, 1959 (1959-05-20)
6836"Inquest"UnknownUnknownSeptember 2, 1959 (1959-09-02)
6937"Back to Crawford"UnknownUnknownSeptember 9, 1959 (1959-09-09)
7038"Blind Alley"UnknownUnknownSeptember 16, 1959 (1959-09-16)
7139"Quiet Night in Porter"UnknownUnknownSeptember 23, 1959 (1959-09-23)

Background and production[edit]


All Trackdown episodes were produced by Vincent Fennelly.[citation needed] John Robinson wrote 14 segments, including the pilot. Richard Donner was one of the directors. Sam Peckinpah wrote one episode, "The Town", about a cowardly community afraid to resist the clutches of an outlaw gang, but he did not direct any Trackdown episodes.

Robert Culp wrote one episode, titled "Back to Crawford", which features his then-wife, Nancy Asch-Culp. The episode was directly related to the first regular series episode, "The Marple Brothers", as Nancy portrayed a former childhood friend of Hoby's, Merrilee Quintana, with whom Hoby was once in love, who was out to kill his sister Norah as revenge for his killing her young husband in the line of duty, and who was one of the evil Marple Brothers he encountered in Episode 1.[citation needed] Gilman's sister was played by actress Peggy Webber, reprising her role from the series pilot.[citation needed]

In an interview, Robert Culp stated that Trackdown was conceived by its creators as "the Western Dragnet".[1][4][5] The pilot of the series was written by John Robinson, who, according to Culp in that same interview, was partly responsible for the creation of Dragnet.[5]

The series narrator was character actor Ed Prentiss.[citation needed]

Guest stars[edit]



From 2016 to 2020, episodes of Trackdown aired Saturday mornings on MeTV.[6]

Cultural references[edit]

The episode, "The End of the World", received considerable media attention after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, nearly 60 years after the episode first aired.[7][8][9][10] In the episode, a rabble-rousing doomsayer named Walter Trump (played by Lawrence Dobkin) comes to town. He scares the townsfolk with talk of an impending disaster and claims to be the only person who can save them – by building a wall. He also threatens to sue Hoby when accused of dishonesty. By the end of the episode, he is arrested as a conman and fraud. The coincidental similarity to Donald Trump's name and proposed border wall was noted.[7]

A Vanity Fair author wrote, "Of all the books and movies that presaged the rise of our reality-TV President... none are so eerily on the nose as this once-obscure, 1958 episode of Trackdown in which a demagogue named Trump attempts to convince a town that only he can save its citizens... by building a wall."[8] The Wrap asked, "Want to talk about a weird coincidence?.... Some may call this episode titled 'The End of the World' the ultimate illustration of life imitating art, considering the episode aired May 9, 1958... it is pretty amusing, especially when the TV character threatens, 'Be careful, son. I can sue you.'"[9] The San Francisco Chronicle stated, "The character's speech is so similar to the President-elect's, it almost seems as if Donald Trump borrowed some catchphrases from Walter Trump."[10]


  1. ^ a b "Do You Remember... "Trackdown"". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Culp interview". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Trackdown Television Series Archives, 1957-1959". Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Robert Culp". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Trackdown". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Schedule".
  7. ^ a b Evon, Dan (13 January 2017). "Did a 1950s TV Episode Feature a Character Named Trump Who Offered to Build a Protective Wall?". Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b Nguyen, Tina (9 Feb 2017). "This Television Show Predicted Donald Trump... in 1958". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b Rossi, Rosemary (9 January 2017). "1950s TV Show Had Villain Named Trump Who Promised to Save World by Building a Wall". The Wrap. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Moffitt, Mike (10 January 2017). "Did '50s TV show feature a con artist named Trump promising to build a wall?". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 9 January 2019.

External links[edit]