Tag Archives: The Rifleman

Happy Birthday, Richard Anderson

The Bionic Woman (1976-78) came along when I was the perfect age for a female role model.  I loved the show, loved Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Summers, and just barely tolerated Steve Austin (Lee Majors), who fortunately didn’t pop in too often.  Richard Anderson was kept busy starring as Oscar Goldman in both The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78) and its spin-off.  I liked him well enough, but I was too young and he was too old to really give him much of my attention.  Well, neither of us have gotten any younger!  Today is Mr. Anderson’s 86th birthday, and I wish him all the best.

I “rediscovered” Richard Anderson last fall, when I watched his six guest appearances on The Rifleman.  He was suave, charming, and usually on the wrong side of the law.  I guess I finally reached the right age to appreciate him.  It’s great that he’s still making public appearances at various reunions, conventions and autograph shows.  He’s still got that charming smile, too!

Richard Anderson appeared with Robert Fuller in Jungle of Fear (1965), part of the Kraft Suspense Theatre anthology series.   I have an abridged version on my YouTube channel in three parts.  Anderson wears a fairly ridiculous costume, but he manages to keep a straight face.

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Remembering Don Grady

Don Grady has passed away at the age of 68.  I woke to the news this morning when I visited facebook.  I grew up watching My Three Sons, became obsessed with The Mickey Mouse Club in reruns in the early 70s, and watched Grady in his guest roles on The Rifleman just this year.

Born in San Francisco (or San Diego, since different sites disagree) on June 8, 1944, Grady was a musical prodigy.  He was a third season mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club.  After that, he had guest roles on shows like The Rifleman (in the episodes Heller and The Patsy) and Wagon Train.  He was almost signed for the part of Andy Sherman on the western series Laramie, but the role went instead to Robert Crawford Jr.  (More about this here.)  Grady was then cast in My Three Sons, which ran from 1960-1971.

Many younger viewers of My Three Sons thought Grady’s Robbie was the oldest son, because we never got to see the black and white seasons in syndication.  Tim Considine (Mike) was actually the oldest, but he left the show—er, went off to college.  Not enough sons?  Okay, let’s adopt Ernie.  How convenient that he looks an awful lot like Chip.  (Barry and Stanley Livingston are real life brothers.)   The series ran for so long, Grady’s character got married and had three sons of his own—triplets, no less.  I went to elementary school in San Diego for one year with those triplets.  Well, one set of them, anyway.  Don’t ask me if they were the Swansons or the Todds!  It was too long ago.  We weren’t in the same grade, but the kids were always talking about them.

Grady was in a band that had a hit called The Yellow Balloon in 1967.  That’s the name of the band and the song.  He went on to have a long, successful career as a composer.  His death yesterday from cancer has shocked and saddened his many friends and fans.  RIP, Don Grady.

Don Grady in The Rifleman (The Patsy, season 2)

Don Grady in The Rifleman (The Patsy, season 2)

Don Grady in The Rifleman (The Patsy, season 2)

Don Grady in The Rifleman (The Patsy, season 2)

The Yellow Balloon (1967)  Don Grady is in the wig and sunglasses.

The Yellow Balloon (1967) Don Grady is in the wig and sunglasses.

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Happy Birthday, Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors was born on this day in 1921.  He starred in my favorite TV western, The Rifleman, with Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix.  Connors passed away in 1992, but The Rifleman and the character he created are as popular as ever.  There’s even a reboot of the show in development, but Connors left some awfully big shoes to fill.   For his fans, Chuck Connors will always be the definitive Lucas McCain.

Mark (Johnny Crawford) and Lucas (Chuck Connors) celebrate a McCain birthday.

(click for larger, sharper version)

Related posts:  Happy Birthday, Cowboys!    The Rifleman

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Rest in Peace, Joan Taylor

Actress Joan Taylor passed away on Sunday at the age of 82.  She played store owner Milly Scott in seasons 3 and 4 of The Rifleman.  As a love interest for widower Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), she brought mature intelligence and warmth to this classic western.

Joan Taylor on The Rifleman with Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix

Joan Taylor on The Rifleman with (clockwise from top) Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix

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The Elusive Billy Hughes

I’ve spent the last three months doggedly pursuing my goal of watching all 168 episodes of The Rifleman (1958-1963).   With the help of a good friend willing to DVR and send along various episodes, I am down to just one (Heller).  I will be sad when there are no new ones left, but at least the episodes are worth watching repeatedly.  That’s why the series has been in continuous syndication for over 49 years.  I now appreciate the character actors who worked in the classic westerns of the period, and I’m fascinated by several of them.  I’m starting here with the youngest.

Billy E. Hughes Jr. (November 28, 1948—December 20, 2005) was a young actor whose father and uncle were both stuntmen in Hollywood.  Hughes was a small but sturdy boy who was cast in his first movie partly because he could carry a large dog (Ole Rex, 1961).  After a bicycle accident, a broken front tooth made him look like a real kid, so it became part of his distinctive appearance.  Hughes was an emotive, natural actor with an interesting blend of vulnerability and grit.  He had guest roles in many television series and did a handful of movies, mostly low budget productions involving other members of his family.   Hughes appeared in three episodes of The Rifleman in the later seasons: Long Gun from Tucson, Day of Reckoning, and most memorably, The Sidewinder.  He was also in three episodes of Gunsmoke: Milly, Reprisal, and Us Haggens, the episode that introduced the character of Festus (Ken Curtis).

Hughes may have found himself in the business because of his family, but he came to believe that he was born to act.  After a leading role in My Six Loves (1963) with Debbie Reynolds, many more offers starting coming in, and his career was set to take off.  Sadly, his family was going through difficulties, and Hughes was sent to live with his grandmother.  She wanted to get her grandson away from everything Hollywood, so she refused jobs on his behalf and threw away the scripts that were sent.  By the time Hughes was old enough to make decisions for himself, it was too late.  The entertainment business has a very short attention span, and most child actors are unwanted once they grow up.  Billy Hughes found satisfaction in his adult life from raising his son, but he acknowledged in his interview in the book Growing Up On The Set that he suffered from depression and a lack of direction.  He died in his sleep at the age of 57.

I refer to him as elusive because his work is so hard to find.  His three episodes of The Rifleman are not included in the 50 shown on hulu.com, and only a clip from Long Gun from Tucson is currently available on YouTube.  Only one of his movies, Stakeout!, is available on DVD, and it has serious quality issues.  Ole Rex is almost impossible to find in any form, although lobby cards can be found occasionally for sale on ebay.  I have not been able to find any of his other television appearances besides the three Gunsmoke episodes, which are all available on YouTube.  When I watch Billy Hughes in what little there is see, I can’t help wondering what he might have achieved if he’d been allowed the chance.

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Other links:

IMDb page    wikipedia page      in memoriam page      riflemanconnors.com page

Note: The book Growing Up On The Set by Tom and Jim Goldrup is the invaluable source for the biography and background information used in this post. To avoid confusion, the episode from The Rifleman which is described in the interview with Hughes is identified as Day of Reckoning.  It was actually Long Gun from Tucson, directed by Joseph H. Lewis.  The scene with Johnny Crawford is shown in two stills in the slideshow above.

Update: Various TV appearances and the movie My Six Loves pop up on YouTube in various forms, often to disappear again because of copyright issues. Keep searching. I’m pleased and a little proud that the comment section here has become such a lovely tribute to Billy Hughes, with comments from both fans and friends. Be sure to read  them!

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Photoshop: Before and After

I’m always mentioning what I do in photoshop.  It’s time for a little demonstration.  Here are some before and after versions.  I don’t usually save the originals once I’ve done corrections, so putting this together was a challenge!  I use version 7, which is old but effective.  How these look on your computer will depend on your screen and how it is balanced, but hopefully the “afters” will be much improved.

Here’s an example of cropping and improving contrast:

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

No matter how good a movie looks on DVD, the stills can always be better.  The original here was a few seconds before the one I used in my post for A Little Princess:

Liam Cunningham in A Little Princess

Liam Cunningham as Prince Rama in A Little Princess

I enjoy working with images from The Rifleman, because there’s no worry about color balancing.  It’s fun to restore the contrast, but I have to be careful not to wash out the lighter parts.  It’s also fun to remove unwanted elements using my favorite tool, the clone stamp:

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Old family photos fade.  With my Epson scanner, I can scan them and restore the color and contrast quite a bit:

Christmas Party, 1970

Christmas Party, 1970 (I'm on the far right in red)

I’m certainly no expert at photoshop, but I have a great time learning new tools and techniques.  As I learn, I’m tempted to go back and fix the images in older posts, especially since getting a new laptop with a different screen.  I just have to resist the urge!

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Mark McCain

I’ve been neglecting things here, what with the holidays and my obsession with The Rifleman.  I’ve been busy over in photoshop making a Christmas video for friends and family, a project that’s replacing my usual paper Christmas card.  I’m also making a couple of videos for Christmas presents.  Last but not least, there might just be a video tribute to The Rifleman and my favorite character, Mark McCain, played by Johnny Crawford.  Here’s a teaser.

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Update:  Here’s my video tribute on YouTube, where it shall remain as long as the copyright demons allow.  Of course, it won’t be very interesting to anyone who isn’t familiar with The Rifleman, or for those who watch the show for the rifle!

Update:  And yet another video, because I had too many good images for just one.

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