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THE MONROES (1966-7) 26 EPISODES             

Ma and Pa Monroe die in an accident in the first episode, leaving their five orphaned children to survive as a family on the frontier, in the area that is now Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming. Clay is eighteen, the oldest of the five, and is played by Michael Anderson Jr. Barbara Hershey portrays his oldest sister, Kathy, Keith and Kevin Schultz play the twins, Jefferson and Fenimore. The youngest in the family is Amy (Tammy Locke).

The series benefited from the lead-in of ABC’s popular Batman series, but it struck problems when it clashed with the last hour of NBC’s The Virginian and the second half of CBS’s Lost in Space and The Beverly Hillbillies. The series was not a ratings success; being unable to attract sufficient audience numbers to remain on the air. After just twenty-six episodes it was canned in March 1967, despite its two leads winning American Heritage Awards for their work.

The Monroes (TV Series 1966–1967) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Michael Anderson Jr & Barbara Hershey

I first saw Michael Anderson Jr in the 1965 John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder, when he portrayed the youngest brother. Then came The Monroes.  It came, therefore, as a surprise to learn that he was actually born in Middlesex, England, although he later studied Drama & Ballet in New York City at the Centre for Arts Education. Singer/actress Doris Day took Barbara Hershey under her wing when the girl was twenty. Both fervent Animal Rights activists, their friendship lasted for fifty-one years until Doris’s death in 2019.

My Friend Flicka (TV Series 1955–1960) - IMDb

MY FRIEND FLICKA (1956-7) 39 EPISODES                

In praise of older books: Thunderhead by Mary O'Hara (1943)

Johnny Washbrook, Flicka, Anita Louise & Gene Evans

This series was based on the novels by Mary O’Hara and the 1943 film of the same name that starred Roddy McDowall. The TV show was shot in colour but released by CBS in black and white (few people had colour TV in those days), between February 1956 and August 1957, although it enjoyed syndicated re-runs for several years afterwards. The story was set around 1900 on the fictional Goose Bar Ranch near Coulee Springs, Wyoming, focusing on the rancher Rob McLaughlin (played by Gene Evans), his wife Nell (Anita Louise), their son Ken (Johnny Washbrook), and his relationship with his horse Flicka. Incidentally, Flicka is a Swedish name that means ‘little girl’. Exteriors were shot at the 20th Century Fox Movie Ranch, now part of Malibu State Park. Northwest Passage, 2 DVD Set (Original TV Series): Keith Larsen, Buddy Ebsen: Movies & TV

NORTHWEST PASSAGE (1958-9) 26 EPISODES          

This is a spin-off from the successful 1940 film of the same name that starred Spencer Tracy and Robert Young. Set during the French and Indian War (1754-9), the series follows the exploits of ‘Rogers Rangers’, with particular focus on three individuals – Major Robert Rogers, explorer/Indian fighter Hunk Marriner, and Harvard graduate and map-maker Langdon Towne – played respectively by Keith Larsen, Buddy Ebsen and Don Burnett. Although they are ostensibly seeking the ‘Northwest Passage’, the alleged waterway across North America, they spend most of their time fighting both the French and the Indians.

Northwest Passage (a Titles & Air Dates Guide)

(L to R) Keith Larsen, Don Burnett & Buddy Ebsen

Larsen was a native of Salt Lake City, Utah who, unknowingly, started a trend in TV western series. In one episode of Northwest Passage, he was stripped of his shirt, stood against a post and flogged. In effect, he paved the way for Robert Horton in Wagon Train, Ty Hardin in Bronco, and Lee Majors in The Big Valley to suffer similar ordeals in their shows. For a while, it seems, being ‘stripped and whipped’ became a highlight that many viewers looked forward to watching. To each his own, I guess. More importantly, it was Larsen who was cast in the title role in Brave Eagle (1955-6), the first series in which an American Indian was the lead character. The series reflected the Native American viewpoint in the settlement of the American West. Sadly, it only survived a solitary 26 episode season. Larsen was married to Vera Miles for eleven years (1960-71). He passed away in 2006, aged eighty-two.

Vera Miles - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times

Vera Miles, former wife of Keith Larsen

Buddy Ebsen’s career, both in film and on television, was a long and distinguished one. An accomplished dancer, he hoofed it with some famous partners on celluloid – Eleanor Powell, Frances Langford, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple – to name but a few. His movie career had been in eclipse for about twenty years when Walt Disney cast him as Davy Crockett’s off-sider Georgie Russell in a few episodes of Disneyland; episodes that Walt joined together to make into a couple of phenomenally successful feature films about the legendary frontiersman. Ebsen’s stint in Northwest Passage came next, followed by his role as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962, another huge success. Barnaby Jones (1973) was yet another successful series for him. Buddy passed away in 2003. He was ninety-five.

Gia Scala - Community | Facebook

Gia Scala, former wife of Don Burnett

Don Burnett met beautiful but troubled Italian actress Gia Scala on the set of Don’t Go near the Water (1957) and they wed in ’57. They divorced in September 1970, two years before Gia took her own life at thirty-eight with an overdose of barbiturates. Fans of The Guns of Navarone (1961), will remember her playing Anna the traitor. Burnett married Barbara Anderson (the blonde cop in TV’s Ironside) in February 1971, and they have remained husband and wife to this day (April 2021). He met Rock Hudson in Malibu and they became fast friends through their shared love of swimming and sailing.

The Complete Rod Taylor Site: The Oregon Trail

THE OREGON TRAIL (1976-8) 14 EPISODES               

A last minute alteration to the storyline saw the character of Evan Thorpe (the hero played by Rod Taylor) change from a married man with three children to a widower with three children. In the series they leave their Illinois farm in 1842 and join a wagon train on the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. Deleting Thorpe’s wife from the script actually suited Taylor quite nicely. ‘We’ll have a lot of beautiful guest stars’, he quipped with a grin, ‘which is what I like.’ His reputation as a ladies man was well and truly established by that time. Charles Napier became a series regular playing a trail guide named Luther Sprague. He and Taylor immediately hit it off as drinking buddies, often playing practical jokes on each other on the set.

Rod Taylor-Oregon Trail TV series | Tv westerns, Sheepskin throw, Mens gear

Rod Taylor as Evan Thorpe

NBC initially spared no expense on the series. The crew went on location to Flagstaff, Arizona and each episode was budgeted at $380,000, a sizeable sum. Unfortunately, it was also decided to place it in the same time-slot as the fourth highest ranking show in the country – Charlie’s Angels. It was a bad idea. The Oregon Trail and its star received very positive reviews but it arrived on TV screens at the end of the era in which Westerns had held sway. In short, it was about ten years too late. The American viewing public had had their fill of cowboy shows by 1976, preferring cop or private investigator shows – and comedies. When The Oregon Trail ratings only averaged 14.3 (as opposed to Charlie’s Angels’ 25.5), the money dried up and the cast and crew were brought back from Arizona to Los Angeles where final episodes were shot indoors on sound stages. NBC cancelled the show after only six episodes, although the remaining eight were later aired on BBC2 in the UK.


  1. I did read that about Tommy and that his career ended due to his being gay. Many at Disney felt that he was one of the best young actors that was ever in the business. Hard to believe that he, and his Hardy Boys co-star Tim Considine have both left us so recently.
    I watched the two Disney Hardy Boys TV series that were part of the Mouseketeer Club TV show.
    “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” is still fun and entertaining. “The Mystery of the Ghost Farm” is not as good but is watchable.

    I’ve always liked Rod Taylor’s performances too, Alan. As a science fiction fan I liked him in the George Pal classic SF film The Time Tunnel. Years later Rod was on a made-for-TV SF movie/pilot called The Osiris Chronicles aka Warlord for the Galaxy (I cringe at that second title). The pilot had great possibilities but unfortunately was not picked up by any network.

    Rod’s earlier western The Bearcats was very entertaining and it had plenty of welcome humor so that it wasn’t one of those grimly serious westerns.

    I saw a Youtube interview with Johnny Washbrook and Bobby Diamond at a convention from a few years ago. Johnny seemed nice but was rather quiet and reserved. The very outgoing Bobby Diamond was a hoot! His recollections when he starred on Fury were usually quite amusing, and boy, could Bobby talk up a storm.

    Beautiful Vera Miles was also married to one of the greatest Tarzan movie actors ever: Gordon Scott.

    I was very saddened to read about Gia Scala’s ending. How often we read about performers who seemingly have it all and yet end their lives due to depression and other factors.

    I watched The Guns of Navarone a few years back and found that it holds up very well as an action adventure espionage tale of World War II. The critics are correct in that the most of the male lead actors are too old for their roles. I see that it in quite a number of WWII films from the past. But they’re still entertaining and powerful.
    I was saddened to see that Bobby had passed away a few years back.

    • There was a very good series in the sixties called ‘Hong Kong’, starring Rod Taylor and Lloyd Bochner, Mike. Very popular in West Oz. We got ‘Fury’ here as well (Peter Graves and Bobby Diamond). As a boy I was a big fan of Gordon Scott as Tarzan. About a decade ago I saw ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure’, in which his female co-star was a gorgeous girl named Sara Shane. I had never heard of her. To cut a long story short, I found she was living in Queensland, contacted her, and was thrilled to be invited to spend several days interviewing her at her home. A lovely lady and days I shall always remember with affection.

  2. I remember watching The Monroes. It was a well written and acted western series. The magnificent scenery of beautiful Wyoming impressed me greatly.
    As a lifelong fan of westerns I could tell immediately that this was not a show shot in Hollywood, California as 99% of the TV westerns series were.
    It did get rather stale to see the same outdoor locales each week on Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Wild, Wild West, The Virginian, and so many other western shows. Wyoming proved new and refreshing and was a welcome change.

    The episode “Ghosts of Paradox,” from March 15, 1967 was the final episode of The Monroes. It was also notable because the guest stars were the terrific Michael Dunn (Nemo) and Richard Kiel (Casmir.) Dunn & Kiel appeared together on three episodes of The Wild, Wild West as Dr. Loveless and his gigantic henchman, Voltaire. They made a formidable team on TWWW. For some reason, according to Kiel, Dunn did not care for him (Kiel), so the Voltaire character was written out. Too bad Michael could not realize just how great they were together.

    Tommy Kirk was originally cast as youngest brother Bud Elder in The Sons of Katie Elder. He was fired from that film after his arrest for possession of marijuana at a 1964 Christmas party. His career never recovered afterwards.
    Michael Anderson, Jr., was then cast as Bud Elder.

    My Friend Flicka had higher-than-average production costs at the time. It had some of the finest camera work and other technical attributes for any TV series. It was filmed in color when most viewers owned a black-and-white television set.
    All of those costs incurred by the show are believed to be the reason that the popular series did not get renewed for a second season.

    Terry Wilson, who played Bill Hawks on Wagon Train on all eight seasons of the hit western, served as production supervisor on The Oregon Trail.
    Terry and Frank McGrath, who played cook Charlie Wooster on Wagon Train, were two of the finest stuntmen in the industry.

    Always seems unjust to me that the Academy Awards refuses to have a category for Best Stunt Choreography for films to this day.

    Rod Taylor & Charles Napier co-wrote the theme song for The Oregon Trail: “Oregon Bound” with Danny Durst.

    The Oregon Trail was another western series that I enjoyed seeing different scenery (Arizona) than the usual hills of California that the majority of TV westerns all used.

    Rod Taylor had previously filmed his Bearcats TV show on location in Arizona. And both The High Chaparral and Young Riders would also shoot their respective series in AZ.

    Would have liked to have seen a TV western production film entirely in Texas at the Alamo village set of San Antonio constructed for the 1960 movie epic The Alamo.

    I realize that few TV producers and networks would invest in filming a weekly TV series out-of-state because of the added expenses. Also, what if the show required other different looking western replica towns, not to mention ranches? I believe that there was only the western replica of San Antonio, and the Alamo Mission, of course.
    I’m also unsure of how scenic the landscape was in that area for filming.
    Perhaps there were just too many drawbacks for a series to shoot there?

    • Actually, Mike, possession of marijuana was the official studio-sanctioned charge that supposedly finished Tommy Kirk’s promising career. In fact he was found with a young guy in intimate circumstances and Disney had the charge changed so as not to affect the box-office for the Disney films he was appearing in at the time. Being a huge fan of Rod Taylor, I have been searching for a DVD of ‘The Oregon Trail’ for some time but have had no luck. As for outdoor locations, it is hard to go past Monument Valley in John Ford’s westerns, in my opinion. Great scenery in ‘Last of the Mohicans’, as well, the Daniel Day-Lewis version. Great soundtrack too.

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