1950s Television Westerns

by Don Bell
(Peterborough, Canada)

The Lone Ranger & Silver

The Lone Ranger & Silver

A number of the popular radio Westerns made the successful transition to television, and I can remember how exciting it was to finally get to see what my heroes really looked like in action, though sometimes the imaginative scenes that radio inspired proved to be a richer experience.


It's often surprising to the young people of today just how popular Westerns were in the 1950s. Back then, it seemed that every other show on TV was a Western.


Here are my favorite TV Westerns from the 1950s:

The Roy Rogers Show (1951-1957) -- Starring Roy Rogers as King of the Cowboys and Dale Evans as Queen of the West. Roy's horse was called Trigger, and Dale's horse was called Buttermilk. This was the first show I ever saw on television; it must have been around 1952. A friend of my parents had one of the first TV sets in our area, and the picture came in on the antenna so snowy that I could barely make out the horses and riders, but it was so exciting to watch. I barely slept that night thinking about it and praying that we'd be able to get a TV too, though that didn't happen until December 1955.

The Lone Ranger (1949-1957) -- Starring Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as his faithful Indian companion, Tonto. The Lone Ranger's horse was called Silver, and Tonto's was called Scout.

The Cisco Kid (1950-1956) -- Starring Duncan Renaldo as Cisco, and Leo Carrillo as his sidekick Pancho. Cisco's horse was called Diablo and Pancho's was called Loco.

Zorro (1957-1959) -- Starring Guy Williams as Zorro. Zorro's horse was called Tornado.

The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-1961) -- Starring Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp.

Bat Masterson (1958-1961) -- Starring Gene Barry as Bat Masterson. Masterson's horse was called Stardust.

The Rifleman (1958-1963) -- Starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain. McCain's horse was called Razor.

Wagon Train 1957-1965) -- Starring Ward Bond as wagon master Major Seth Adams. Sorry, I don't recall a name for the horse.

Gunsmoke (1955-1975) -- Starring James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon. Dillon's horse was called Buck.

Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963) -- Starring Richard Boone as Paladin. Paladin's horse was called Rafter. Do you remember the Ballad of Paladin?

Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire head's the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, Far, far from home.

He travels on to wherever he must;
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust.
There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin
Of the man with the gun,
of the man called Pa-l-l-l-l-a-din

And his famous business card had the line drawing of the chess knight and the words:

Have Gun Will Travel
Wire Paladin
San Francisco


Davy Crockett deserves a special mention:

Davy Crockett (1954-1955) -- Starring Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, and Buddy Ebsen (later to star as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies TV show) as his pal Georgie Russel.

This was not a typical Western "series," but it proved to be more than a television show; it was an instant phenomenon, a craze -- all stemming from just five TV episodes broadcast in December 1954 through 1955:

Davy Crockett Indian Fighter
Davy Crockett Goes To Congress
Davy Crockett At The Alamo
Davy Crockett's Keelboat Race
Davy Crockett And The River Pirates.

Later in 1955, Disney edited those 5 shows into 2 feature films for release in theaters:

Davy Crockett King Of The Wild Frontier (1955)
Davy Crockett And The River Pirates (1956).

Numerous Davy Crockett lunchboxes, toys and imitation coonskin caps were seen in schoolyards and backyards across North America and in the UK. And the Ballad of Davy Crockett was heard on the radio and sung by children everywhere. What kid from the mid 1950s can ever forget its words...

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so's he knew ev'ry tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three

Davy, Davy Crockett
King of the Wild Frontier!

Many fun-filled afternoons were spent by my best friend and I as we tramped though the fields and woods on our farm taming our own Wild Frontier while playing Davy Crockett and Georgie Russel.


Have you seen the film Alias Jesse James?

In November 1959, my aunt took my cousins and me to see the movie "Alias Jesse James" at the local Odeon Theater in Peterborough. It was a comedy Western starring Bob Hope and Rhonda Fleming, but it was most notable for its exciting ending which features a host of surprise cameo appearances by TV Western stars of the 1950s including:

Roy Rogers as himself (The Roy Rogers Show), Hugh O'Brian as Marshal Wyatt Earp (The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp), Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (Annie Oakley), Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams (Wagon Train), Fess Parker as Davy Crockett (Walt Disney's Davy Crocket), Jay Silverheels as Tonto (The Lone Ranger), and James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke).

Silver screen star Garry Cooper of "High Noon" fame also made a brief appearance, but it was more for the adults as most kids were puzzled about his identity, though he seemed somewhat familiar; he just wasn't as recognizable to the younger set as the 50s TV cowboys were.

This feature length movie was marvelous fun for a kid in the 50s. Today, it's a virtual time capsule of Western heroes from the 50s. Does it ever bring back memories.

Be sure to watch it if you get the chance!




In closing...

Writing this piece certainly brought back lots of happy memories. I hope reading it stirred pleasant memories for you.

And after all these years, I still love Westerns!

Comments for 1950s Television Westerns

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Help Me Remember!
by: Anonymous

Do you remember a kid's TV show similar to "Fury" about a wild stallion? I seem to remember that it was still in the wild but would show up to save his young friend who seemed to be always in danger. I know it existed, but I can't remember the name of the series, or how long it was on TV.

Thanks!

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Westerns
by: Larry Snode

Hi,

What a GREAT site! I intend to study it in more detail tomorrow as it's getting late (almost 11 o'clock) and I just came across your site while surfing.

Congratulations on a beautiful site and thanks for having it out there.

Larry

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Was It Thunder?
by: Don Bell

Anonymous,

Are you thinking of "Thunder," a TV series about a black stallion who ran wild near the Prescott ranch? The Thunder show aired on NBC for just one season in 1977-78. The two children in the series, Cindy and her friend Willie, were regularly having to be rescued by Thunder who always appeared just in the nick of time to save them.

I can remember watching the show with my kids and at the time thinking it looked a lot like the Fury show that I watched as a child in the 1950s. Apparently, the Thunder series was created by the same people who worked on the Fury series that aired on NBC from 1955 to 1960, which explains the similarity between the two shows.

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Westerns
by: Anonymous

I just wish the westerns of to-day were as innocent as the 50s, the youth of to-day would may be a bit more respectful & responsible. Perhaps the entertainment as a whole could do with a makeover.


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Cheyenne
by: Bobby

One of my favorites was Cheyenne, 1955-1963. Clint Walker played Cheyenne. The show is on twice a day, 8 a.m. and 5p.m., weekdays on the western channel (STARS).


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Thanks
by: Michael Dickson

This is a nice roundup, pun intended. You and I must be about the same age, Don. I remember all these things fondly. Good work.

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Westerns
by: Anonymous

Thank you, that was the good old days. I'll never forget those days on tv.

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Answer
by: Anonymous

Are you refering to Flicka?

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Enjoyed Them All Then And Now
by: Hoppy

I was and still am a HOPALONG, GENE, ROY, DAVY CROCKETT, ZORRO, and last but not least a LONE RANGER fan, and a fan of all the other westerns. One of my best moments was meeting and speaking with CLAYTON MOORE, what a great gentleman and hero figure he was.

I still have pictures of myself as a youth in a DAVY CROCKETT shirt, those were good times; you bet ya. Thank you, I enjoyed this!


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Theme Songs
by: Lynnie

How many of these television western theme songs do you remember?

"Cheyenne, Cheyenne, where will you be campin' tonight..."

"Sugarfoot, Sugarfoot, easy lopin' cattle ropin' Sugarfoot..."

"Have Gun, Will Travel, reads the card of a man..."

"Who is the tall dark stranger there, Maverick is his name..."

"Way out west on the Triple R,
Yippeeaa, Yippeeoo
The horses are the best by far,
Yippeeaa, Yippeeoo"

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Answer To Horse Western
by: Anonymous

My Friend Flicka.


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Gunslinger
by: Anonymous

Does anyone remember the cowboy series Gunslinger? Gunslinger was played by .... Young, and he rode up on a black horse, black clothes, etc.

The theme song:

Gunslinger, Gunslinger, Where do you ride?
What do you fight for today?
When folks need a hand you're on their side
Gunslinger, ride away.

You let someone else be the first one to draw,
On your speed you depend.
Gunslinger, will you return and meet your end?
Gunslinger ride on, Gunslinger ride on, Gunslinger ride away.

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The Gunslinger Series
by: Don (Webmaster)

Yes, now that you mention it, I do remember the Gunslinger program on TV. Tony Young starred as Cord, the lead character. I believe this western series was televised in 1961, but only for a short while. There were not many episodes. Frankie Laine sang the show's theme song. Nobody could sing a western song like Frankie Laine. It brings back memories.

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Lost Banned Cowboy Show
by: Angus Birkin

Could anyone tell me the title of an American cowboy show that was banned in the United Kingdom around the 1960's for being too violent but had great music?


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About "Cheyenne"
by: Gigscribe

Thanks, Bobby, for mentioning Clint Walker's series "Cheyenne." I'd just read a news story a few minutes ago about Fess Parker dying, and I was trying to think of the name of another old TV Western actor, who always kind of reminded me of Fess and couldn't for the life of me think of it. I'll try to find the series on cable.

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I Remember
by: Richard

Yes, the 1950s was truly the golden age of television. Have Gun Will Travel, Cheyenne, The Rifleman, Maverick, Gunsmoke, and others had some great heroes who had a real sense of self-respect.

I would rather put in a DVD than deal with what is on television these days. There are certain characters with time honored qualities that never go out of style. Long live video noire. R.

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Clint Walker Is The Ultimate Cowboy
by: Anonymous

Clint Walker was the one that really opened up the TV Western flood. This guy was and is A-ONE in my book. Clint is still with us today. In fact, he will be at the Memphis Film Festival in June. He is a man of conviction, and believes in the good of all man. He is truly one in a million. Thanks for listening. I just can't say enough about him.

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Champion The Wonder Horse
by: Anonymous

... to me was the best series about a horse that would turn up to save the day!


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Not Sure What Horsey Series You Mean
by: Anonymous

However, it may possibly be Champion The Wonder Horse. I recall that the theme music included the furious rumbling of drums, as opposed to the main horse having a name anywhere close to Fury.


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The Adventures Of Champion
by: Don (Webmaster)

I did some checking, and the show was called "Adventures of Champion" which aired from September 1955 to March 1956 on CBS. It starred Barry Curtis as the young Ricky North who lived on his uncle's ranch in the American Southwest. There were only 26 episodes made. The show was rebroadcast in the UK as "Champion The Wonder Horse."

The show's production company was owned by western star Gene Autry who also owned Champion the Wonder Horse. Champion appeared with Autry in films, rodeos, and television during the 1950s. The show's theme song was sung by singer Frankie Laine.

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Western TV Shows
by: Anonymous

I guess I was a lucky kid. Lived on a ranch, rode in "Little Britches" rodeos. Later I became a bull rider, farrier, and working cowboy. I loved my TV cowboys. I wanted to be Cheyenne. Had a Lone Ranger six gun. I watch the western channel and sure enough every night... Paladin, Cheyenne, Maverick, and Gunsmoke. I think we are all pretty dang lucky to have such fond memories of those days. Happy Trails!

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Cheyenne
by: georgetta

The most memorable western series, I think of all time, is Clint Walker's "Cheyenne." Just the best and still is. On Encore Western Channel, his fans are trying hard to get him a well-deserved Six Gun Salute! Why Don't you join us?

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TV Show About A Horse
by: Anonymous

You must be thinking of champion, The Wonder Horse.


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TV Western Songs
by: Kathy

There is a cassette (maybe now a CD) of the theme songs from many of these great old TV westerns. I believe the artist is Esteban.


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Spirits Of The West by Esteban
by: Don (Webmaster)

Kathy, thanks for mentioning this. The cassette is titled "Spirits of The West" by Esteban, and it contains easy listening guitar renditions of classic themes from early Western TV shows and movies. It was released on CD in 2001.

The CD includes the following song titles:

1. El Paso
2. Red River Valley
3. Mule Train
4. The Good The Bad And The Ugly
5. The Magnificent 7
6. Sugarfoot
7. How The West Was Won
8. The Rifleman
9. Maverick
10. Tombstone Territory
11. Hang 'em High
12. Have Gun Will Travel
13. Bronco
14. Big Country
15. Cheyenne
16. Bonanza
17. Rawhide
18. Happy Trails

One reviewer says it best, "Esteban places his stylistic stamp on the tunes, but showcases the song rather than his own skill." The music brings back fond memories of the old Western!

Unfortunately, these tunes are unfamiliar to modern listeners, and the "Spirits of The West" CD is no longer available, though you might find one listed on ebay.

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More TV Westerns From The 50s
by: Bett in Arizona

I just wanted to mention other good 1950s television westerns:

-Rawhide, where Clint Eastwood got his start
-Don't remember the title of the western with Steve McQueen
-The western with Nick Adams
-Sugarfoot
-Bronco
-Cheyenne
-Maverick
-Branded with Chuck Connors

Bat Masterson is presently seen on a satellite channel, and it doesn't hold up; it nearly has cardboard scenery.

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The Rebel with Nick Adams
by: Don (Webmaster)

Brett, you've reminded me of another of my favorite western series with your mention of Nick Adams. He starred in the old ABC series The Rebel which ran for just three seasons from 1959 to 1961. Adams as Johnny Yuma wore a Rebel soldier's cap and packed a unique sawed-off shotgun in his holster.

I always loved the show's theme song which was hauntingly sung by Johnny Cash:

THE BALLAD of JOHNNY YUMA

Away, away, away rode the rebel,
Johnny Yuma.

Johnny Yuma, was a rebel,
He roamed, through the west.
This Johnny Yuma, the rebel,
He wandered alone.

He got fightin' mad, this rebel lad,
He packed no star as he wandered far
Where the only law was a hook and a draw,
the rebel.
(Away, away, away rode the rebel,
Johnny Yuma.)

Johnny Yuma, was a rebel,
He roamed, through the west.
This Johnny Yuma, the rebel,
He wandered alone.

He searched the land,
This restless land,
He was panther quick and leather tough
When he figured that he'd been
pushed enough, the rebel.

(Away, away, away rode the rebel,
Johnny Yuma.)

Johnny Yuma, was a rebel,
He roamed, through the west.
This Johnny Yuma, the rebel,
He wandered alone.

He got fightin' mad,
This rebel lad,
With a dream he'd hold
'til his dying breath
He'd search his soul
and gamble with death, the rebel.

Away, away, away rode the rebel,
Johnny Yuma.


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Three Cowboy Heroes In The 1950s
by: Dave

During the summers, I used to watch a cowboy show/series (?) about 3 cowboys who would meet on a hill outside a town that was having problems. 0ne rode a palomino (blonde), one a paint (I think), and the other (?). They would take care of business and then meet up "on a hill outside town" and ride off. I think one's name was Corrigan, but I really would like to find out what that show was called - I loved it - any ideas/suggestions?

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Old Westerns
by: don

Anyone remember "Wild Bill Hickok" with Guy Madison?


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Some Westerns You Left Out
by: Bill Roach

First off, the Steve McQueen series was "Wanted-Dead or Alive" and it started in 1958. A great show of those days was "Yancy Derringer" with his Indian sidekick, Wahoo. Also "Shotgun Slade" was another good one. And don't forget "Lawman" and "The Deputy" which were good also. These all bring back wonderful memories.


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Fury
by: Tom

Could the show be "My Friend Flicka"?


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Looking For Info About TV Western Show
by: BOB W,

I remember watching a show (I think it was called The Restless Gun) in which the star had a sixgun that could be adapted with a rifle butt to help extend the range as well as an additional barrel attached to the pistol barrel. He could the shoot almost the same distance as a rifle. I got that gunset one Christmas - loved it to death. I want to buy any of the DVDs of that show if I can confirm what show it actually is.

Second, are there DVDs of "Yancy Derringer" and "The Lawman" and "Sugarfoot" available for sale? Where should I look to get them?

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The Restless Gun
by: Don (Webmaster)

Hi Bob.

That was indeed "The Restless Gun" series (1957-59) you're remembering; it was one of my favorite westerns too. It starred John Payne as the mild-mannered drifter Vint Bonner who had an unusual Colt .45 handgun that could be converted into a rifle when he attached its barrel extension and shoulder stock.

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Some Other Western Favorites
by: Bob from the Bronx

"Tales of Wells Fargo" with Dale Robertson, "The Texan" with Rory Calhoun, and most notably "The Restless Gun" starring John Payne, were fairly short-lived westerns that stick in my mind. And let's not forget Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma in "The Rebel."


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Fury With Peter Graves
by: Anonymous

Yes, it was a TV Western show in the 50s.

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The Restless Gun Remembered
by: Anonymous

I do remember The Restless Gun. I had forgotten that western show. I'm 55, so the reruns did it for me. I also couldn't remember the name The Rebel, but I could only remember the ballad, all but one or two words; I thought it was "jack rabbit quick and leather tough"... I bought that one! I don't remember any episodes, I only remember him being the baddest ever, almost as bad as Shelby Stanga on Swamp People. "Here We Go!" It's a shame Nick Adams died in 1966 of a prescription drug overdose, give or take a year? I like you guys! And good ole girls. The world needs good people like you all.

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Saturday Morning Western
by: Anonymous

Does anyone remember a Saturday morning Western with a title that may have had (Young?) Billy the Kid in it? For some reason, I have a vague memory of Robert Vaughn or a look alike starring in the show. It had to be in the late 50s or the very early 60s.

I've not been able to find anything online to spur (to continue the pun from above) my memory.

Thanks!

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Little Blonde Girl & Pony
by: Anonymous

Does anyone remember a little blonde girl riding a pony? I think her name was Sugar. What show was she in?

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1950s Western Series
by: mom pytel

Does anyone remember a TV Western series, possibly in the 1950s, where the hero would ride into a cave and come out an Indian/Native American?

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Help Me Remember
by: Rick

Maybe you are thinking of the show titled My Friend Flicka about a boy and his horse. Hope this helps.

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Thunderball
by: Chris

I too have been looking for a TV series that I saw in the 1950s or early 60s. I thought it was called "Thunderball" but no trace of that. It was a wild black stallion - not Farley's Black Stallion, Champion the Wonder horse, or My Friend Flicka tho. I'm going to check up on Thunder to see if that's it after I've sent this message.

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Blond Curls
by: Anonymous

Yes, who was the little blond girl on the pony in the old black and white Sat. morning show?

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Another Western Mystery
by: Bob W

There was a western series where the main character carried a revolver with a secret shotgun shell chamber. Anyone recall the series?

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Johnny Ringo
by: Don (Webmaster)

Bob, thanks for your question. It brought back memories for sure. The western series was titled "Johnny Ringo," and it starred Don Durant as Marshal Johnny Ringo. It ran on CBS from 1959 to 1960. A mystery solved.

Johnny Ringo

The episodes always began with Ringo rapidly firing six shots at a door in a circle formation.

Johnny Ringo

Then he'd use his reserve shotgun barrel to fire a seventh shot into the center.

Johnny Ringo Show Title

The show's title would dramatically appear from the center of the door.

Ringo's weapon of choice was a custom-made six-shot revolver with a shotgun barrel beneath its main barrel based on the historical LaMat revolver patented by Jean Alexandre LeMat in 1856.

LeMat Patent 1856

The unusual weapon with its surprise reserve shot, and Durant's fine acting made it a favorite show for viewers.

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Little Girl with Blonde Curls
by: Anonymous

Was the little girl called Sugar or was it her Pony? Help. What show was she on? I am in my 70s, so this is a very old tv show.

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Sugar Dawn
by: Don (Webmaster

I wonder if the blonde, curly-headed child star you're thinking of is Sugar Dawn. She starred in several western movies back in the early 1940s, but she was never in a TV series. However, her films were likely shown on TV.

During and after her movie career, Sugar Dawn performed with her pony Chiquita at rodeos, exhibitions, and charity events.

Sugar Dawn

Sugar Dawn appeared in the following films with Tom Keene: Dynamite Canyon, Riding the Sunset Trail, Lone Star Lawmen, and Arizona Roundup. She also starred with Tex Ritter in Pals of the Silver Sage and Wanderers of the West. (Photo source: westernclippings.com)

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Robert Vaughn as Billy the Kid
by: Pat E Garrett

Earlier "Anonymous" Saturday Morning Western question re Billy the Kid:

Robert Vaughn played Billy in one of the the better, Frank Gruber written, episodes of "Tales of Wells Fargo" (Season 2, 1957).

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Fury
by: Marianne

Starred Peter Graves as Jim Newton who operated the Broken Wheel Ranch in California; Bobby Diamond played his adopted son, Joey Clark Newton, and William Fawcett starred as ranch hand Pete Wilkey.

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