Premiere episodes can certainly make or break a TV series. I’ll use these posts to let you know some of the premieres (new and old) that I loved and kept me watching a certain TV show through all the seasons.
I just happened to catch the premiere episode of “The Rifleman” TV show on MeTV the other day. My Dad never missed an episode and I watched the reruns. This episode originally aired on 09/30/1958 and was written by Sam Peckinpah (who wrote 6 episodes of The Rifleman, Gunsmoke (11), directed The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Killer Elite, Convoy).
The episode was directed by Arnold Laven (who directed 21 episodes of The Rifleman, Mannix (8), The Greatest American Hero (7), Without Warning!, The Rack, The Monster That Challenged the World, Geronimo, Rough Night in Jericho, and Sam Whiskey. Laven suggested that they focus on the relationship between the rifle-toting settler and his son.
Season one, episode one
Lucas and Mark arrive in the North Fork area looking for a ranch to purchase. They find a place to their liking, and Lucas enters the town’s annual Turkey Shoot for a payment on the ranch. Lewis, the town villain who runs things pretty much to suit himself, threatens to harm Mark because he bet a great deal of money on another man in the Turkey Shoot. To protect Mark, Lucas deliberately loses the match, but Lewis provokes a subsequent gunfight and is killed, and the town welcomes Lucas and Mark as new settlers. [from TheRifleman.net website]
The Rifleman’s opening scene: Armed only with a Winchester .44-40 caliber saddle ring carbine rifle, a lone, lanky figure walks resolutely down a dusty frontier street. Suddenly, with almost machine gun-like speed, he begins levering out shot after shot—nine rounds in about 3.5 seconds! He stops, flips the large loop lever of his ’92 Winchester in his unique style, throws in another cartridge, then grasps it at the hip level when the voice on the TV screen booms out … The Rifleman! Designed along the lines of John Wayne’s famed movie Winchester, with the large lever loop, the Rifleman’s Winchester differed only in its set screw in the trigger guard frame. For his swing-cock motion, Connors flipped the rifle forward to eject the spent case and load a fresh cartridge. On the upswing, the breech closed, cocking the action. As the carbine returned to the firing position, the set screw pressed the trigger, firing the carbine.
Cast for episode one
- Connors, Chuck as Lucas McCain – (April 10, 1921 – November 10, 1992) played in both MLB (Brooklyn Dodgers 1949, Chicago Cubs, 1951) and the NBA (Boston Celtics 1946–48), Old Yeller, Geronimo, Flipper, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Soylent Green, Airplane II: The Sequel, TV episodes of Adventures of Superman, Gunsmoke, Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, The Rifleman, Police Story, Spenser: For Hire, Murder, She Wrote, Werewolf, Paradise
- Crawford, Johnny as Mark McCain – (March 26, 1946 – April 29, 2021) actor, singer, musician, and Mouseketeer, The Space Children, Village of the Giants, TV episodes of The Lone Ranger, Cavalcade of America, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Loretta Young Show, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Danny Thomas Show, Whirlybirds, Zane Grey Theatre, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Matinee Theatre, Mr. Novak, Mister Ed, Hawaii Five-O, Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Crossbow
- Aldridge, Virginia as Waitress – (born September 1, 1938) Guys and Dolls, TVVVVVVVV Cheyenne, Zane Grey Theatre, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Father Knows Best, Death Valley Days, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Star Trek
- Armstrong, R. G. as Sheriff Fred Tomlinson – (April 7, 1917 – July 27, 2012) Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, El Dorado, Dick Tracey (1990), TVVVVVVVVV Have Gun – Will Travel, The Rifleman, Zane Grey Theatre, Sugarfoot, Lawman, The Texan, Maverick, Cheyenne, The Andy Griffith Show, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Perry Mason, Laramie, Death Valley Days, Rawhide, The Fugitive, The Big Valley, Bonanza, T.H.E. Cat, The Virginian, The F.B.I., Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, The Invaders, The High Chaparral, Hawaii Five-O, Alias Smith and Jones, The Magical World of Disney, Cannon, Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty, The Dukes of Hazzard, Trapper John, M.D., Matlock, Silk Stalkings, Quantum Leap, Walker, Texas Ranger, Millennium
- Arnt, Charles as Wes Tippert – (August 20, 1906 – August 6, 1990) Once Upon a Time, Sudan, The Great Gildersleeve, Dangerous Intruder, TV episodes of The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Zane Grey Theatre, The Rifleman, The Californians, The Texan, Bourbon Street Beat, Maverick
- Blackmer, Sidney as Judge Hanavan = (July 13, 1895 – October 6, 1973) The Count of Monte Cristo, Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo, It’s a Wonderful World, Rosemary’s Baby, TV episodes of The Philco Television Playhouse, Suspense, Robert Montgomery Presents, The Sheriff of Cochise, Zane Grey Theatre, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, The Magical World of Disney, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Gentle Ben, Bonanza, The Name of the Game
- Erickson, Leif as Big Jim Lewis – (October 27, 1911 – January 29, 1986) Night Monster, The Cimarron Kid, Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Invaders from Mars, I Saw What You Did, TV episodes of Climax!, The Rifleman, Zane Grey Theatre, Playhouse 90, Rawhide, The New Loretta Young Show, The Great Adventure, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bonanza, The Virginian, Daniel Boone< Gunsmoke, The High Chaparral, Night Gallery, The Magician, Mannix, Fantasy Island
- Hopper, Dennis as Vernon Tippert, the young sharpshooter – (May 17, 1936 – May 29, 2010) Rebel Without a Cause, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Cool Hand Luke, Hang ‘Em High, Easy Rider, True Grit, Apocalypse Now, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Super Mario Bros., Speed, Waterworld, Space Truckers, TV episodes of The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, Petticoat Junction, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Combat!, 24
- Mulqueen, Kathleen as Nancy Hanavan – (August 6, 1899 – May 10, 1990) TV episodes of Highway Patrol, The Sheriff of Cochise, Tales of Wells Fargo, Zane Grey Theatre, Lassie, One Step Beyond, The Rifleman, Dennis the Menace
- Simpson, Mickey as Carl Lamprey – (December 3, 1913 – September 23, 1985) Tarzan and the Huntress, Fort Apache, The Three Musketeers, The Red Badge of Courage, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, The Ten Commandments, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Great Bank Robbery, TV episodes of The Range Rider, Annie Oakley, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, 26 Men, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Rifleman, Have Gun – Will Travel, Colt .45, Captain David Grief, Bat Masterson, Sugarfoot, Bonanza, Bronco, Maverick, Lawman, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, The Virginian, The Joey Bishop Show, Mister Ed, The Big Valley
The TV show was also adapted into a comic book by Dan Spiegle, distributed by Dell Comics. American toymaker Hubley produced a well-made toy copy of McCain’s Model 1892 known variously as The Rifleman Rifle, the Flip Special, and the Ring Rifle. Marx Toys also marketed a version called the Wild West that was simply the Lone Ranger/Roy Rogers Winchester with the loop lever used by McCain replacing the standard straight lever
Besides Connors (168 episodes) and Crawford (168 episodes), other main and recurring cast members were Paul Fix as Micah Torrance, marshal of North Fork, New Mexico (151 episodes), Bill Quinn as Frank Sweeney, the North Fork Saloon bartender (38 episodes), Patricia Blair as Mallory House hotel owner Lou Mallory (22 episodes), Joe Higgins as blacksmith Nels Swenson (21 episodes), Harlan Warde as banker John Hamilton (18 episodes), Joan Taylor as general store owner Milly Scott (18 episodes),
Hope Summers as general store owner Hattie Denton (16 episodes), John Harmon as hotel clerk Eddie Halstead (12 episodes), and Chris Alcaide as a regular baddie (10 episodes). More than 500 actors made guest appearances during the 5-year, 168-episode run. Just naming a few we saw John Anderson, Richard Anderson, Lyle Bettger, Whit Bissell, Harry Carey Jr.,
John Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Ellen Corby, John Dehner, Jack Elam, Med Flory, Dabbs Greer, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., L.Q. Jones, John Milford, Agnes Moorehead, Denver Pyle, Lee Van Cleef, Royal Dano, Adam West, Claude Akins, James Coburn, Mark Goddard, Dan Blocker, James Drury, Dennis Hopper, Michael Landon, Warren Oates, George Lindsey, Harry Dean Stanton, Don Grady, Richard Kiel, Robert Vaughn,
Robert Culp, Martin Landau, Richard Kie, Sammy Davis, Jr., Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, George Macready, Pernell Roberts, Bobby Crawford Jr., Buddy Hackett, and Paul Mazursky.