It was inevitable that I would get into the television series Laramie (1959-63). Once I’d watched every episode of The Rifleman, it was only matter of time before I turned to another western. Why Laramie? Just keeping it in the family, so to speak. Johnny Crawford co-stars in The Rifleman, and his older brother Robert Crawford Jr. co-stars in Laramie, at least in the first season and the beginning of the second. I’d never watched Laramie before I purchased season one on DVD, since it wasn’t syndicated widely. The DVDs have only been recently released, and the image quality is pretty poor. The color seasons (three and four) are even worse, but the series is good enough to keep me watching.
Slim Sherman (John Smith) is raising his kid brother Andy (Crawford) at the family ranch, which is also a stage stop on the way to Laramie, Wyoming. Old Jonesy (Hoagy Carmichael) helps out around the place. In the pilot, drifter Jess Harper (Robert Fuller) clashes with Slim but is immediately welcomed by Andy. Naturally, Jess sticks around to become a part of the family. The plots tend to swing back and forth between stories centering on either Slim or Jess, who are often away from the ranch having adventures in nearby towns or out in the wilderness. Sometimes they get pretty far from home—The Run to Tumavaca takes them all the way to Mexico. Andy and Jonesy usually always get left behind. This is probably why these two characters fade away by the time season two gets rolling. An elderly housekeeper (the delightful Spring Byington) and an orphan (Dennis Holmes) join Jess and Slim for seasons three and four.
Slim is pretty uptight and stern at the start of the series, but he loosens up and gets more interesting as his relationship with Jess develops. Jess is an impulsive hothead, but his character mellows somewhat under Slim’s influence. I only knew Robert Fuller from his years on Emergency! He’s definitely my favorite actor in Laramie. He makes a great cowboy.
All four seasons of Laramie are available on DVD. Netflix has seasons three and four only.