TV Western Star Leo Carrillo
by Don Bell
Leo Carrillo as Pancho
I found the autographed picture shown above while digging through some old photo albums, and it got me reminiscing about some of the old TV shows I loved as a kid back in the 1950s.
The Cisco Kid western series appeared on TV from 1950 to 1956, and it starred Duncan Renaldo (1904-1980) as Cisco, and Leo Carrillo (1881-1961) as his sidekick Pancho. Although we watched it on black and white TVs in the 1950s, The Cisco Kid was the first western series filmed in living color!
Fans will recall that Cisco's horse was called Diablo and Pancho's was called Loco. And do you remember the show's opening theme with its stirring Spanish music?...
"Here's adventure! Here's romance! Here's O'Henry's famous Robin Hood of the Old West ... The Cisco Kid!"
This was one of my favorite Western shows. Compared to the other TV Westerns of its time, it was an extremely lighthearted adventure centered in 1890's New Mexico. There was very little violence in the episodes, yet justice was surely dealt out to those who preyed on the weak and strayed from the law.
With his funny antics and fractured English, Carrillo played a marvelous Pancho and was remarkable in the action role considering he was a man in his mid seventies at the time, and 24 years older than Duncan Renaldo.
I'll never forget Leo Carrillo's visit to my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, when he was the star of the Peterborough Exhibition's 1960 grandstand show. It happened that my Uncle Art was on the exhibition board then, and he kindly arranged for me to get the autographed picture of Pancho that's featured above.
I thought Carrillo would simply hand me one of the publicity photos that he carried, but he borrowed a pen from my uncle and with a flourish added the words, "Hi Don AMIGO, Pancho" on the photo. He also signed the back of an exhibition program for me. What a thrill!
Leopoldo Antonio Carrillo was such a kind and gentle man. Sadly, the veteran actor died a year later in September 1961, at age 81.
Can you remember how The Cisco Kid show signed off each week? There would always be a funny joke or moment where Cisco and Pancho would both laugh uproariously, and Cisco would cry, "Oh, Pancho!" and Pancho would reply, "Oh, Cisco!"
They would then gallop off into the sunset and shout, "Goodbye Amigos!" "See you soon!"
You were always left with a friendly, happy feeling.