Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
A lone cowboy traveling through the bowels of hell looks for a bed for the night, and some grub for him and his trusty companion, a dog named Brown. He only gets the bed for an hour or two, and never gets the grub.
This series starred Brian Keith (1921-1997). If you still remember that name, you’re either pretty old, a Brian Keith fan, or both.
Born in a trunk—his parents were thespians, with his father, Robert, best known for playing the weakling town chief of police in The Wild One (1953)—Brian Keith was a Marine Corps machine gunner during the war, and would eventually star in nine TV series, star or provide support in numerous mini-series, and do likewise in pictures, including a co-starring turn with Doris Day (in With Six You Get Egg Roll) in 1968, the last picture of the world’s biggest leading lady. (Day then became the biggest star on TV for five years.)
Producers and directors clearly loved him. However, Keith was no ham, and so he never won any awards.
In 1975, Keith gave an acclaimed performance as Teddy Roosevelt, squaring off against a Moroccan Berber bandit Sharif Raisuli (played by Sean Connery)—“the last of the Barbary pirates”—who had kidnapped a businessman who was mistakenly believed to be an American citizen (whom the movie transformed into beautiful, American socialite, Eden Pedecaris, played by Candice Bergen), in John Milius’ The Wind and the Lion. The picture was based on a true incident in 1904.
Immediately after The Westerner, Keith co-starred with Maureen O’Hara (1920-2014), in Peckinpah’s first feature, the Western The Dangerous Companions (1961), which was supposedly ruined by the mischief of O’Hara and her brother, who wouldn’t let the neophyte direct her. Still, I thought the picture was pretty good.
Unfortunately, in spite of the success of the Peckinpah-created The Rifleman (1957-1962), which was going strong at the time on ABC, NBC pulled the plug on this series after a mere 13-episode buy. It was strong drink for viewers and network suits alike at the time, but introduced preoccupations that its creator would spend the next nine years working out, by the end of which he will have taught Western audiences to acquire a taste for the product of his particular still.
According to one report online, one of the network suits asked Keith to make his performances more family friendly, and Keith told him to take a hike. Who knows if the story’s true. Sam Peckinpah was such a throwback
that I dare you to try and disentangle fact from legend.
According to one report, Peckinpah wanted Keith to star in The Wild Bunch (1969), in the Pike Bishop role, but due to the latter’s contractual obligations to his silly hit comedy series, A Family Affair (1966-1971), he couldn’t do it. Another story holds that Peckinpah or his producers wanted Lee Marvin as Bishop, and Keith as “Judas goat” Deke Thornton (eventually played by Robert Ryan). Depending on who’s doing the talking, Marvin switched, when the producers of Paint Your Wagon offered him $1 million, or because he thought the script was too similar to The Professionals (1966) , while Keith simply rejected the Thornton role. Thus, Peckinpah cast William Holden, instead, as Bishop. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Brian Keith’ absence from the picture is why there’s no single work making him immortal, while Bill Holden has three pictures—Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Wild Bunch (1969)—and the pioneering TV miniseries, The Blue Knight (1973) assuring him of immortality.
Nevertheless, there is solace, according to TCM’s Greg Ferrara, in that the seeds that grew into The Wild Bunch were sown in The Westerner.
Brian Keith never retired, and didn’t drink or take drugs. But he did smoke, and that’s the vice that got him. He developed emphysema, and then lung cancer.
On July 26, 1997, Keith committed suicide, at the age of 76.
Jim Beaver wrote at IMDB.com,
At the time of his death, Keith was suffering from emphysema and terminal lung cancer, as well as mourning the recent gunshot suicide of his 27-year-old daughter, Daisy Keith, ten weeks earlier. He committed suicide after he returned from a stay at a hospital.
Published on Oct 18, 2014
THIS SERIES IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE 09-30-1960 THRU 12-30-1960
ENTERED PUBLIC DOMAIN 09-30-2000 THRU 12-30-2000
Episodes of The Westerner (1960) 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)”;
“A Lynching: Classic Sam Peckinpah on TV; The Westerner (1960), Episode 2” “School Days”;
Episode 3: “Brown” (1960), starring Brian Keith and John Dehner; and
Episode 4: “Mrs. Kennedy.”
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.”