Do You Remember... "Riverboat". 

RIVERBOAT (1959-61) 44 EPISODES                 

Darren McGavin who played Ralphie's father in "A Christmas Story" |  Сериалы, Голди хоун, Марлон брандо

Darren McGavin & Burt Reynolds in Riverboat 

Set in the nineteenth century, mainly on the Mississippi River, this series follows the adventures of Captain Grey Holden (Darren McGavin) after he wins a river boat in a poker game. Burt Reynolds, in his television debut, plays Holden’s partner and chief pilot, Ben Frazer, but only in twenty episodes. It appears that the co-stars did not get along and Reynolds departed the series part of the way through season one. He claimed his character’s part was ‘stupid’, but it would seem that both reasons may have been responsible for his departure. Noah Beery Jr. replaced him and played Bill Blake in Season Two. While McGavin was embroiled in contractual disputes, Dan Duryea replaced him as Captain Brad Turner for two episodes until things were sorted out. That is why McGavin appears in only forty-two of the forty-four episodes. Character actor Dick Wessel portrays chief stoker Carney Kohler in forty-one episodes.

Riverboat (TV series) | PureHistory

Dick Wessel with McGavin

Most western television series were set in post-Civil War America but not Riverboat. It focused on America in the 1830s and 1840s, even devoting one episode to the Texan Revolution that saw the fall of the Alamo in 1836. Along the way the riverboat crew encountered such historical figures as US President Zachary Taylor, General Winfield Scott, and even a pre-presidential Abe Lincoln. The show featured an array of guest stars, male and female, of the era. Among the men were Eddie Albert, Charles Bronson, Richard Chamberlain, Ricardo Montalban, Buddy Ebsen, Cliff Robertson, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Vaughn and Vincent Price. The ladies included Mary Tyler Moore, Anne Baxter, Arlene Dahl, Mercedes McCambridge, Vera Miles, Debra Paget and Stella Stevens. And there were many more significant players from both genders. Given the people at their disposal, it is surprising that the series did not survive long. NBC optimistically hoped it might defeat Maverick, (James Garner would head off a season later to pursue a movie career). They were mistaken.

The Road West | Tv westerns, Western movies, The age of innocence

ROAD WEST, THE (1966-7) 29 EPISODES                     

This short-lived series was produced by Universal and was given a solid cast headed by the highly watchable Barry Sullivan and co-starring young Andrew Prine and Glen Corbett. It followed the trials and tribulations of the Pride family as they made their way from Ohio to carve out their new home in Kansas Territory. Even though stars of the quality of future Oscar-winner George C. Scott guested, the screenplays struggled to unearth anything fresh and new. Consequently, the first episode aired in September 1966 yet the series folded inside a year. Vintage photo of Brenda Scott with Andrew Prine attended the opening of the new Private club"The Bronze Door" in the San Fernando valley.: Entertainment Collectibles

Brenda Scott & Andrew Prine

Sullivan portrayed Ben Pride, the pioneer who takes his family to homestead in Kansas. Prine plays his son Timothy and Brenda Scott (already wed to Prine in real life) plays Midge Pride. Brenda and Andrew would marry and divorce each other no fewer than three times, which is unusual even by Hollywood standards. They were yet to meet when he became romantically involved with actress Karyn Kupcinet back in 1963. The twenty-two year old beauty was found murdered on November 28 that year. Prine and two other actors were interviewed by police over her murder but none of them was charged. Her father, a journalist, was convinced he knew the identity of her killer but was unable to prove it. There never was an official suspect. Karyn had been found strangled six days prior to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Karyn Kupcinet 1963 death still unsolved - Chicago Tribune

Karyn Kupcinet

Barry Sullivan stood 6’2” (1.88m) when he played Tom Buchanan opposite Alan Ladd’s Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1949). Ladd was just a touch over 5’6” (1.67m). In their scenes together Barry would stand in a hole and Alan atop a box. Barry’s daughter, Patsy Sullivan, would go on to wed the great songwriter Jimmy Webb, the man responsible for such classics as ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix, ‘MacArthur Park’, ‘Galveston’, Up, Up and Away’, ‘Wichita Lineman’ and many more. He and Patsy were married for twenty-two years and had six children before divorcing.

The Rough Riders (TV Series 1958–1959) - IMDb

ROUGH RIDERS, THE (1958-9) 39 EPISODES             

The Rough Riders (TV series) | PureHistory

(L to R) Peter Whitney, Kent Taylor & Jan Merlin

After the American Civil War had ended, two former Union soldiers and an ex-Confederate teamed up to travel the West. The two Union veterans are played by Kent Taylor (former Union Captain Jim Flagg) and Peter Whitney, (ex-Sargent Buck Sinclair). Their unlikely comrade in arms, (ex – ‘Johnny Reb’ Lieutenant Colin Kirby is portrayed by Jan Merlin. ZIV Television produced the series, one of several in their stable, Bat Masterson, Highway Patrol and Sea Hunt, being three of their more successful ventures. As of 2019, however, The Rough Riders is yet to have an official DVD release. The problem was the plethora of half-hour, black & white western series preponderant at the time of release in the late fifties.

Kent Taylor was a tall, dark and handsome man with a pencil-thin moustache, not unlike Clark Gable and Errol Flynn, but lacking the leading man charisma they possessed. Consequently, he usually found himself in secondary roles in ‘A’ features and leads only in ‘B’ features. When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, they looked about for inspiration to name the Man of Steel’s mild-mannered alter-ego. Siegel’s boyhood hero was Clark Gable and Siegel’s wife’s brother-in-law was none other than Kent Taylor. Result – Clark Kent.

Peter Whitney was one of those character actors whose face was instantly recognizable but whose name was not. He managed to rack up 143 screen credits (mostly on television), but his career was tragically cut short at fifty-five. His obesity contributed to an early fatal heart attack that took him in 1972.

Jan Merlin served as a torpedo-man in the US Navy during World War Two. A decade later he would land his first film role in Six Bridges to Cross (1955). In 1950, his face was well known to watchers of the children’s programme Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, in which he played Roger Manning for five years. Many of his one hundred plus screen credits saw him portray psychotics or bad dudes. The Rough Riders proved to be one of the few times he was cast as a good guy. And he was good in the role, too. Jan lived a long life before succumbing to an undisclosed illness in 2019, aged ninety-four.


  1. Cute line by Burt about Darren. Didn’t know anything about his psychological makeup. I’ll just stick with the image of him as the “Old Man” in the imperishable “A Christmas Story.”

    Boy, there were a LOT of Westerns on the three networks from the fifties through the sixties. Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, all hard to beat. In the second tier, Bonanza, The Virginian, The Rifleman, all with much to recommend them. If they are all available on streaming, cable or DVDs, that’s well over 1,500 hours of solid TV entertainment. Might be awhile until I get to “Riverboat.”

    Highly entertaining today, Alan.

  2. Michael McGreevey who played the cabin boy on Riverboat confirmed in an interview that Darren & Burt did not get along at all on the show. Mike felt badly because he liked both of them and it was upsetting for him to see them at odds.
    Part of the problem he felt was that Burt, at 23, was just not ready for stardom at that point in his case.

    According to Mike, the final straw came when Burt felt that Darren had insulted a female extra on an episode. Burt & Darren got into a shouting match, then a shoving match. Finally Reynolds picked up McGavin and tossed him off the riverboat and into the water on the back lot. That was when Warner Brothers let Reynolds go from the series.

    Years later, Burt spoke about his feud with Darren. He said that Darren constantly upstaged him trying to steal scenes. “McGavin will be stunned after he dies that he didn’t arise on the third day” Burt said referring to Darren’s huge ego.

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