Who Are Those Guys #7

January 2, 2013

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Wagon Train continues to serve as my go-to comfort food whenever I have the sniffles and don’t feel up to watching something that might be, y’know, good.  Over the holidays, I plowed through a middle chunk of the third season, which yielded such mild discoveries / pleasures as a twenty-five year old Louise Fletcher (as Estella in “The Tom Tuckett Story,” a credited adaptation of Great Expectations!) and Elisha Cook, Jr., as a dangerous trail weasel named Cadge Waldo (in “The Tracy Sadler Story”).  If you’re going to name a character “Cadge Waldo,” you pretty much have to get Elisha Cook to play him.  Leonard Nimoy as a drunken Indian and Susan Oliver, loudly proclaiming that her name is Margaret Hamilton (which is hilarious if you know your character actresses), as a spoiled teenager in “The Maggie Hamilton Story.”  “Look at that beautiful rabbit!” Susan exclaims dimly, and Flint (Robert Horton) blows it away for dinner.

Minor pleasures amid hazy naps.

The way Revue Productions did its screen credits around this time (1959-1960) was procrustean.  Most shows had one or two end credit cards for the guest stars, and if everyone fit, they got screen credit; if not, they didn’t.  A Wagon Train episode with few guest stars had room in the credits for all of them, including bit players and even stuntmen.  In an episode with a large cast, however, actors with major secondary roles might get left out.  If a top-lining guest star required extra-large type or single card billing, that would further serve to crowd out some of the supporting actors.  Nobody really cared whether the actors received credit or not – which leaves fussy historians, fifty-odd years later, waiting for each set of end titles with fingers crossed.

The 1959 Christmas episode, “The St. Nicholas Story,” sees the train’s Santa Claus arrow-speared by unfriendly Indians.  Missing children from both sides find each other on the plains and frolic together, thus brokering an uneasy truce.  And Ward Bond saves Christmas.  Somehow, it’s less nauseating than it sounds, but amidst the chaos the actress playing the Indian boy’s mother went uncredited:

Indian

“The Lita Foladaire Story” is a rare off-campus episode for trailmaster Major Adams, who solves a frontier-town murder mystery with the help of sidekicks Bill Hawks and Charlie Wooster.  Too many suspects for the end credits; left out are the sheriff (top, on the right with Ward Bond) and one “Jason Arnold,” attorney at law, who pops in briefly to deliver a bit of exposition (bottom, also on the right with Bond; shall we say that director Jerry Hopper’s sense of composition was, er, consistent):

sheriff

Arnold

Then in “The Christine Elliott Story,” the title character (Phyllis Thaxter) shepherds a dozen mischievous boys onto the wagon train once her father drops dead and his orphanage closes.  This one is about as nauseating as it sounds.  Oddly, while seven of the twelve child actors receive screen credit, the elderly fellow playing Thaxter’s father, “John Russell,” does not, even though he has a lengthy deathbed scene:

Russell

So can anyone ID these uncredited Wagon Trainers?  As it happens, all three of these episodes are on Youtube in their entirety.  For “The St. Nicholas Story,” see 26:50; for “The Lita Foladaire Story,” see 01:45 and 30:00; for “The Christine Elliott Story,” see 02:50.  But don’t watch Wagon Train on Youtube for pleasure; these copies are way too compressed.  Spring for the DVDs.)

P.S. Bonus screed against the IMDb et. al.: Look around the internet and you’ll see the titles of many Wagon Train episodes, most of which incorporate the names of the primary guest characters, misspelled on many data aggregation sites.  As the screen grab below makes clear, it’s Elliott with two T’s, and yet it’s spelled as “Elliot” on IMDb.com, tvguide.com, starz.com, tvrage.com, tviv.org, zap2it.com, and even most of the Youtube accounts that have posted the video illegally.  “The Vittorio Botticelli Story,” also from the third season, is often garbled as “The Vittorio Bottecelli Story.”  Yet another reason why I still transcribe the credits of most vintage TV episodes that I watch, even though the internet has made some of that work (but not every detail of it) redundant.

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8 Responses to “Who Are Those Guys #7”

  1. John Nelson Says:

    I can help a little… “the Sheriff” is Larry J. Blake; “the lawyer” is Don C. Harvey. I’m still working on the “John Russell” character…

  2. Mike from Jersey Says:

    I too thought the lawyer was Don Harvey. I note the Indian chief in the Wagon Train pic is Henry Brandon, who must have appeared in every single western extant as a Indian, notably Scar in The Searchers, but he also was Barnabas in Laurel and Hardys March of the Wooden Soldiers, a fact that has won many a bar bet for me. By the way, Westerns seem to be making a comeback in reruns. Bonanza,The Virginian, High Chaparral on INSP, Lone Ranger/Tales of Wells Fargo/Roy Rogers on COZI,and of course the ENCORE Westerns channel. Ironically, the Christian channel INSP runs westerns such as High Chaparral for its good old fashioned values yet I dont think anyone there has watched the series. In the first episode Uncle Buck takes his nephew Blue to a saloon/cat house and buys a girl for him. The men constantly get drunk, Victoria Cannon’s father would steal the coins off a dead mans eyes, her brother Manolito beds anything that walks and he steals her Paris dresses to give to the town whore Pearlita.
    Seeing this series as an adult is eye opening, it has to be one of the 5 best western series ever made, from the producers of Bonanza, who constantly sneak in generation gap, pro civil rights and anti army messages as per the times.
    Stephen, this series is big budget and filmed beautifully, you ought to check it out.

  3. John Nelson Says:

    I think I have a good guess on the elderly “John Russell” character… try the veteran character actor Raymond Greenleaf (1892-1963). See if you think that’s him…

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Yeah, certainly looks like him, although it’s hard to tell from that angle. I’d be tempted to try a “voice match,” but it sounds like he’s doing a bit of an accent (Irish?) in that Wagon Train clip, so I’m not sure it’d help. Sure with those Revue production records were accessible….

  4. Phil Says:

    For ‘The St. Nicholas Story’, I played the video from 26:50 thru 27:10 – that lady looks and sounds like Lee Meriwether.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Wow. Is that Lee Meriwether? It certainly does look and sound like her, and she was doing small parts (including one on another Revue show, Leave it to Beaver) around that time. What does everybody else think?

      (Also, I had the timecode wrong for this clip — it’s 26:50, not 28:50. Sorry about that.)

  5. Jessi Says:

    Has anyone been able to identify the actor who played John Russell. That man looks so much like my grandfather, and I wanted to find out if he’s an Irishman, and more about who the man was. Please let me know if you have discovered the man’s name. Thank you.


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