Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
Twenty-two years ago, I started reading a biography of Sam Peckinpah. The author argued that there was a point at which Peckinpah went from being a hack to someone who made TV shows like they were movies. That moment was in this episode. The camera focuses on a bottle of hooch being tied with a string, and hoisted form the street to a roof.
Having seen some of Peckinpah’s earlier work on the series The Rifleman, which he’d also created, and his two previous episodes of The Westerner, I think the author’s judgment was unnecessarily severe. This episode is extraordinary, compared to other TV Westerns, but not for Peckinpah, and certainly not for The Westerner, a uniquely brilliant series, from what I’ve so far seen. The show starred Brian Keith as itinerant cowboy Dave Blassingame. Keith wasn’t much to look at, and played with the greatest restraint, and as a result, he was one of the most underrated actors of his generation, but he never wanted for work.
This episode introduces the character of Burgundy Smith, a scoundrel played by John Dehner, who was a hugely successful ham on TV. He wasn’t a better actor than Brian Keith, but Hollywood loves a ham. The chemistry between the two is as splendid as the contrast between the understated Keith and the over-the-top Dehner.
“Brown” has one of the longest, funniest fight scenes you’ll ever see, and the most unique in its motivation.
Peckinpah wrote three episodes in which he paired Dehner and Keith as friends, enemies, rivals, you name it, and between the affection he held for the characters, and the storyteller’s (like the composer’s) habit of “cannibalizing” material, he updated it in a legendary teleplay set in the present on the anthology series, The Dick Powell Theatre, The Losers, starring Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynn as the same characters! That teleplay aired on January 15, 1963, when Lee Marvin was just about the world’s hottest actor, and was appearing constantly on the small and big screen.
Original air date: October 21, 1960
Published on Oct 18, 2014 by Sam Peckinpah's The Westerner (1960).
Original series run 09-30-1960 thru 12-30-1960.
Episodes previously aired at WEJB/NSU:
“TV Like You’ve Never Seen It! A Foray into Hell: The Premiere Episode of Sam Peckinpah’s The Westerner (1960)”; and
“A Lynching: Classic Sam Peckinpah on TV; The Westerner (1960), Episode 2” “School Days.”
See the earlier classic, Sam Peckinpah-created TV Western, The Rifleman:
“The First Episode Ever of the Classic Western Series, The Rifleman, Starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford: ‘The Sharpshooter’ (1958)”;
“Classic TV: The Rifleman: ‘Home Ranch’; Season One, Episode 2”;
“‘End of a Young Gun’: Season 1, Episode 3,” The Rifleman, Written by Frank Gilroy, Directed by Jerry Hopper, and Guest Starring Michael Landon;
“‘The Marshal’: Season 1, Episode 4,” The Rifleman, Guest Starring Paul Fix, Robert Willke, Warren Oates and James Drury, and Written and Directed by Sam Peckinpah”; and
“Chuck Connors is… The Rifleman: ‘The Brother-in-Law’ Season 1, Episode 5 (1958) Created by Sam Peckinpah (Complete Video).”
Of related interest, at WEJB/NSU:
“Ride the High Country: A Christian Western from… Sam Peckinpah?!
“Unforgettable TV Music: Two Themes from The Rifleman, Composed by Herschel Burke Gilbert”;
“Classic TV Western Themes from Bonanza, Rawhide, Wagon Train and The Rifleman, with Pics of Young Clint Eastwood, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Chuck Connors, John McIntire and the Great Ward Bond!”; and
“The Ballad of Paladin from the Classic Richard Boone TV Western, Have Gun Will Travel, Sung by Johnny Western.”