post Reflections on The High Chaparral and the Civil War

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:21 am

By Jane Rodgers

“Gettysburg was the price the South paid for Robert E. Lee.” Historian Shelby Foote

The High Chaparral is rife with allusions to the Civil War.  Even the most casual viewer quickly learns John fought for the Union while Buck signed on with the Confederacy. Arizona provides a new post-Civil War start for the brothers Cannon and family.

In the fourth season’s episode “The Badge,” John and Buck recall Gettysburg.
“You were at Gettysburg?” Buck asks John.
“You too?” the elder Cannon replies.
“Ain’t that something? You and me takin’ pot shots at Gettysburg without knowin’ it,” says Buck, who in this prequel episode set in 1866 is clearly more interested in avoiding a murder charge than in reminiscing about the good old days in Pennsylvania.

“The Badge” is not the first High Chaparral episode to include references to Gettysburg.

Buck tells Jake Lanier, his former captain who has commandeered the Hacienda Montoya in “The Filibusteros,” that experiences at Gettysburg and elsewhere in the war have made him think little worth dying for any more. Lanier recalls seeing Buck “high tailing it across that field in Pennsylvania with five of my best men, blowing up that ammunition pile.”

Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, in which Buck often proclaims having served as part of the Fifth Virginia infantry, only crossed into northern territory twice during the war: once at Antietam in Maryland, and the other, into Gettysburg.  After turning down Lincoln’s offer of the Union command in the early days of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee had resigned his commission in the United States Army, pledging in a letter to his old commander, General Winfield Scott, “Save in defense of my native state shall I never again draw my sword.” Lee’s words prove prophetic. Each time Lee took the offensive in the Civil War, venturing north of Virginia, he failed. As long as Lee kept the war on a defensive footing, he generally won.

If Buck Cannon did serve at Gettysburg, he was as lucky to make it out alive as Lee’s army was to escape across the Potomac after the third day of the carnage.

Actually, if Buck were at Gettysburg, it’s likely he was more than lucky. It’s likely he was nearly superhuman, the 19th century equivalent of Superman or the Flash, because it seems Buck also served at Vicksburg. In “The Buffalo Soldiers,” Buck remembers serving in Mississippi when talking to the soldier who is fixing Mano’s boot.

“Hey, Corporal, small world. I was at Vicksburg fighting for the Rebels,” Buck announces.
“I was on the other side of the creek, Mister, firing right back at you,” rejoins the corporal.

The battle of Gettysburg occurred from July 1-3, 1863. It involved Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, to which the Fifth Virginia, Buck’s regiment, was attached. The 47 day siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4, 1863, when CSA Lieutenant General Pemberton and his half-starved men surrendered the city to Grant’s forces. Could even Buck Cannon be in two places at once? Had he been present at the siege of Vicksburg, he would have been trapped inside the city. And Buck would not have been with his oft touted Fifth Virginia regiment. Pemberton’s unit was under the overall command of General Joseph E. Johnson in what was considered the western theater of the war.

How could even Buck have been in two places at once? True, throughout the course of the series, he manages to sport enough hair colors to make a stylist do a double take, sometimes in the same season. Maybe Buck’s mysterious military service is as magical as Victoria’s magic closet which seamlessly offers clothes of every size to whatever underdressed female happens along. Fashion is uppermost on the High Chaparral.

Here’s my theory, because we know Buck would not lie. Nor could avid historian David Dortort have allowed such mistakes, although he may have misjudged the Civil War savvy of his audience.

Buck must have been dispatched from the Fifth Virginia as a messenger to Pemberton in Mississippi, tasked with acquiring intelligence and returning to report to Lee. I refuse to think that Jake Lanier had the authority to send Buck on such a mission, but no one could say no to Bobby Lee, least of all good old Virginia boy Buck.

Buck was not in the prolonged siege of Vicksburg, but rather participated in the battle preceding the siege: the initial assault upon Vicksburg which occurred on May 19 and 22. Pemberton inflicted massive casualties upon Grant as the assault was fought to a bloody draw. Grant realized he could only win by waiting out the Confederates who had retreated within the city walls. Grant, at his best when fighting, eventually turned to drinking during the waiting game. Somehow, in the early days of the siege, Buck must have escaped through enemy lines in the confusion. Perhaps he shed his Confederate grays for black leather…and changed his height by donning those moccasin boots he favored in season one. Buck Cannon can do anything.

Regardless, he must have hoofed it up to Pennsylvania just in time for the three days of hell called Gettysburg.  Knowing Buck, he likely ran across that “field in Pennsylvania” with the division of dandified General George Pickett, whose casualties were massive in the third day’s bloodbath, Pickett’s Charge—a futile infantry attack across an open field into the jaws of death, or in this case, massive Yankee artillery. Possibly Jake Lanier lurked safely behind some tree during the slaughter. Pickett never forgave Lee for sacrificing his men needlessly. Jake Lanier never forgot Buck.

We know that John Cannon recovered from Gettysburg in time to be present at Petersburg where he cut off the arm of Finley Carr in one of the final engagements of the Civil War.  Somewhere along the way, John, rigid and rule abiding, also found time to capture and turn in his old pal from back home, Jim Forrest, to a Union POW camp, thus adding Forrest to the long list of ex-Confederates who wished to see John Cannon dead.

Thankfully, none succeed and the Cannons live on at the High Chaparral, having survived the war, Cochise, and numerous former Confederates with grudges aplenty. Perhaps a fifth season would have brought still another Rebel blast from the past…Blue, returning from his mysterious absence, toting a mysterious stranger: his fiancée—a young lady who is the daughter of another crazed ex-Confederate seeking retribution. Alas, we shall never know.

post Estrada Joins Law Dog

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:20 am

Law Dog Productions Producers and Co-Writers Ray Normandin, Travis Eller and Tino Luciano recently welcomed Erik Estrada to their western film project as Producer and one of the lead actors.

High Chaparral’s Don Collier is slated to appear in this Law Dog film opposite Jeff McCarroll.

Estrada is well known for his co-starring lead role in the 1977–1983 police television series CHiPs, reality TV, infomercials and as a regular voice on the Adult Swim series Sealab 2021.
Excitement continues to build around this project as the script is being written and production details are being discussed.   

post 2015 Hollywood Walk of Fame

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:19 am

The National Veterans Memorial/Henager Museum (aka Hollywood Support Group) announced the Museum’s 2015 Hollywood Wall of Fame inductees 1. William Smith 2. Henry Darrow 3. Don Collier 4. James Drury 5. Robert Fuller 6. Clint Walker 7. Linda Cristal 8. Michael Dante

post Double-dose of Cameron Mitchell 

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:19 am

Cameron Mitchell fans will be happy to know that there are two new Facebook sites devoted to him and his work.

The first is the new Buck Cannon (Cameron Mitchell) Friends and Fans at  This discussion group, authorized by The High Chaparral Reunion, talks about our favorite Uncle Buck.  Fans are welcome to join this open group and enjoy photos, videos and great discussions regarding Buck and episodes of The High Chaparral.  We also have celebrity comments from The Foreman Don Collier and Rudy Ramos, as well as some other surprises ahead.  Come join us today!

The other is Cameron Mitchell, Actor at This page incorporates more of Cameron’s other film, stage and television work.  More importantly, it follows the growing movements to honor Cameron in many different ways in his hometown and around the world.  

post Outlaws

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:18 am

By Ginny Shook

Where were you on September 29, 1960? Who can remember? At least we know what Don Collier was doing – starring in the very first episode of the series, “Outlaws,” from 7:30PM to 8:30PM on NBC.  The dramatic theme song got the audience’s attention right from the start:

Outlaws!  Runnin’ from the hang rope.
Outlaws!  Runnin’ from the gun.
Outlaws!  Ridin’ through the night trails
Hidin’ from the sun.
But there’s no use hidin’ when the law starts ridin’,
And there’s no use runnin’ when the law starts gunnin’
For the Outlaws!

Don didn’t even have to audition for part of U.S. Deputy Marshal Will Foreman. He did, however, make screen tests for three other series, none of which every made it on the air. The Producer of Outlaws, Frank Telford, saw one of those tests and knew that Don was perfect for the stoic, no-nonsense Deputy, helping to keep law and order in the violent Oklahoma Territory in the 1890’s.

The star of the first season of “Outlaws”, playing U.S. Marshal Frank Caine, was veteran movie & TV actor Barton MacLane (you saw him in The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, G-Men, and hundreds of other classic films).  Even with Barton’s outstanding credentials, it was obvious after the first season of “Outlaws” that the audience wanted to see more of Don. At the closing of the Season One, Marshall Caine is promoted to Governor of the Territory of Oklahoma and Will gets the Marshal’s badge.

Season One of “Outlaws” made this Western one of the most unique Westerns to ever appear on television. Each story was told from the point of view of the outlaws instead of the usual “round ‘em up and bring ‘em to justice” episodes of all the other Western shows. The villain of the story was in a sense the hero and the star of the episode. Of course, Will Foreman always did catch his man. But the focus was on the outlaw – how he thought, his motivation, and just how desperate he’d become to succeed. This gave the series a dark, noir feel to it. It was definitely not a Western to share with the kids. As a matter of fact, “Outlaws” was pulled from British TV after only three episodes; it was just too dark and violent for their taste.

Season Two of “Outlaws” was a very different show.  The darkness was lifted and the focus turned to that of the more typical Westerns of the time. Will Foreman was the new reluctant Marshal and Don Collier got the majority of screen time. Will hires the hot-headed and not-at-all qualified Chalk Breeson as his deputy, mostly to keep Chalk on the right side of the jail cell door.

Chalk was played by handsome (but not as handsome as Don), 6’5” Bruce Yarnell. Not at all a cowboy, Bruce had a resume of Broadway musicals and opera performances as long as he was tall. You can hear his beautiful baritone on the original cast recording of Camelot, Irma La Douce, and in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun opposite Ethel Merman. Bruce was under contract to Paramount Studios and they needed a series for him, so they stuck him on a horse next to Don for his first non-musical role. He brought humor to the role and Chalk made an enjoyable side-kick to the always-serious Will Foreman. Bonanza fans might remember Bruce’s two appearances in “Bonanza” as the Cartwright cousin Muley Jones.

Another important addition to the “Outlaws” cast in Season Two was the character of Slim, played to perfection by Slim Pickens. Slim was definitely the comic relief of the show. While sometimes he could be a bit of a buffoon, Slim Pickens was a fine dramatic actor who brought realism and dignity to serious moments as well. Did you know that Slim began his career as a rodeo clown? He was a true professional with horses. His own horse, Dear John, appeared in the episode “A Horse of a Similar Color” in which Roberto Contreras appeared as an Indian.

Slim altered the words to the song “Back in the Saddle Again” to showcase the tribulations of co-star, horse-novice Bruce Yarnell:
I’m out of the saddle again
I’ve found out my horse ain’t my friend
Everytime he changes gears, I wind up ’round his ears
I’m out of the saddle again

During its two-year run, “Outlaws” had an incredible list of guest stars; already famous actors and actresses and some who would come to fame in a short amount of time. Academy Award-winner Cliff Robertson appeared in two episodes, one which he also wrote and directed (The Dark Sunrise of Griff Kincaid).  Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared in the first season as outlaws, though sadly, not in the same episode. Steve Forrest (Johnny Rondo in the High Chaparral episode of the same name)  opened the series with co-stars Robert Culp and Warren Oates. Jackie Coogan and Gerald Mohr starred in the two-part pilot episode “The Rape of Red Sky.” The first season also had Jack Warden, Cloris Leachman, and Iron Eyes Cody. Jack Lord and Simon Oakland star in a particularly chilling episode titled “The Bell,” a baby-faced Ted Markland AND Roberto Contreras appear alongside their High Chaparral co-star in the episode “The Little Colonel.” Brian Keith starred in “My Friend the Horse Thief” in which Chalk’s old pal is on the wrong side of the law but he can’t see it. Walter Slezak appears as would-be bank robber. Lloyd Nolan plays Chalk’s con-artist father. Dub Taylor, Martin Landau, Sue Ann Langdon, Dean Jones, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Lansing (the Marshal in High Chaparral’s Mark of the Turtle), Dick York, Ray Walston, David Wayne, Ed Asner, Alejandro Ray, Johnny Washbrook, Nancy Culp and Jack Elam made appearances. Two new co-stars of the second season rounded out the talent – Judy Lewis (daughter of Loretta Young) and the dog who starred in the Disney classic “Old Yeller.”

Don Collier enjoyed his time playing Will Foreman and wishes the series could have gone on longer than two years. Though it always did well in the ratings, NBC had made a deal with the famous Ralph Edwards (This is Your Life) to produce a new Western. Ralph demanded Outlaws time slot. His show, “Wide Country” only lasted one season, which just goes to show that the network should have stuck with the success they already had.

Don has nothing but great things to say about everyone who appeared on Outlaws. He particularly enjoyed working with James Coburn, Robert Culp and Cliff Robertson for their professionalism. His most favorite guest star was Myron McCormick, who returned to Outlaws more than once. Myron originated the role of Luther Billis in the original cast of South Pacific on Broadway, and held the record for the most consecutive performances at the time.
Maybe most important of all, Outlaws is the show that forged the friendship of Don and High Chaparral producer Kent McCray. Kent was the associate producer of Outlaws for the first two episodes of the first season, and the production manager for the entire season two. And Don’s pal Bobby Hoy did stunt work on several episodes.

Best episodes? My favorites are “The Bell”, in which a escaped psychopathic criminal holds a family hostage in a church during a blizzard, while Will Foreman’s life hangs by a thread. “My Friend the Horse Thief” has Chalk turn in his deputy’s badge rather than believe his old friend is an outlaw. “Farewell Performance” gives Bruce Yarnell a change to demonstrate his singing ability when a traveling show comes to town. “The Cutups” is a showcase for Slim Pickens when Ray Walston makes it appear that Slim is a crook. In “The Outlaw Marshals,” Will Foreman sees that the law is not always black and white and jeopardizes his job to do what’s right. And last but not least, the final episode of the series,“All in a Day’s Work” – another nail-biter when a hardened criminal Will sent to prison is released and it’s said he wants revenge. Perfect parts of drama, suspense and comedy (in one scene the town undertaker begins to measure Will for his inevitable coffin, so as not to waste time later), in which Don Collier excels.

Unfortunately, this great show has never made it to DVD or even to VHS (except for a boxed set of four episodes). Keep your eye on Ebay and other online sites to get yourself some bootleg copies. YouTube also has several for viewing.
Don will be glad to share his memories of the show during his one-man show ‘Confessions of an Acting Cowboy‘ at The High Chaparral Reunion in March, Tucson.  

post Tarrantino Film and HC

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:17 am

Listed as one of the most anticipated original films of 2015, director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino’s 10th feature-length motion picture “The Hateful Eight” has made a lot of headlines. The award-winning film auteur cited unusual sources of inspiration in a recent ‘Deadline’ interview.

“It’s less inspired by one Western movie than by Bonanza, The Virginian, High Chaparral,” Tarantino said to Deadline.

“Twice per season, those shows would have an episode where a bunch of outlaws would take the lead characters hostage. They would come to the Ponderosa and hold everybody hostage, or to go Judge Garth’s place – Lee J. Cobb played him – in The Virginian and take hostages. There would be a guest star like David Carradine, Darren McGavin, Claude Akins, Robert Culp, Charles Bronson or James Coburn. I don’t like that storyline in a modern context, but I love it in a Western, where you would pass halfway through the show to find out if they were good or bad guys, and they all had a past that was revealed. “I thought, ‘What if I did a movie starring nothing but those characters? No heroes, no Michael Landons. Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.’ ”

“The Hateful Eight” is scheduled for release  in 2015 in North America in theaters.

post Mitchell in A Novel Romance

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:17 am

Actress Camille Mitchell will co-star in the Hallmark Channel original movie “A Novel Romance,” which premieres on the cable network at 9 p.m. Jan. 10.   It airs again on Feb. 5 10pm/9:00c

“A Novel Romance” is the story of Liam Bradley, played by Dylan Bruce, a romance writer with a nom de plume who meets a journalist, portrayed by Amy Acker. Mitchell plays Jackie, Bruce’s literary agent and confidant. The drama also stars Charles S. Dutton.

A stage and screen star, Mitchell was tough-talking Sheriff Nancy Adams on the Warner Brothers’ “Smallville” for five seasons. She is the daughter of the late actor Cameron Mitchell, a York County native known for his role in NBC’s Western series “The High Chaparral” and numerous TV and movie roles.

To learn more about “A Novel Romance,” visit

post Re-visit The High Chaparral

January 19th, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:16 am

Re-visit The High Chaparral

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1:00 am

TUCSON — There once was a time when the western film and book genre was pretty much a given.

Movies, television shows, radio programs, novels and comic books that focused on the cowboy lifestyle were almost always successful.

That time may have passed for the younger generations, but in the minds and hearts of many, it lives on.

Not as well known as some of the John Wayne classics or the hugely popular “Bonanza” TV show, “The High Chaparral” held its own with the best for four seasons on NBC from 1967-1971, featuring an Arizona theme.

More than 40 years later, the show’s message, beloved characters and syndication omnipresence have given it a following that reaches around the globe.

This following has spawned a series of bi-annual, and now annual, reunions featuring the cast and crew that continues to grow each year.

This year’s High Chaparral Reunion takes place near Tucson from March 19-22 at the Casino del Sol Resort. Activities include a meet and greet with the cast and crew, panel discussions, a Friday night sponsor dinner featuring the Tucson Boys Choir, one-man shows by two of the actors, a silent auction, autographed mementos and memorabilia purchasing, and a Saturday, March 21, visit to the High Chaparral ranch house, which still stands as built at Old Tucson Studios.

“What NBC attempted to do was have a real western on TV,” said actor Don Collier, who played working cowboy and ranch foreman Sam Butler, “with a cattle ranch, working cowboys and problems with Indians, neighbors, robbers, cattle, horses, bad guys and nature. All the problems real ranchers would cope with.”

In the show, Buck Cannon hires Sam Butler and his brother Joe to work the ranch after a bar fight in the pilot episode, which actually first aired as a two-hour movie of the week.

The Cannon family runs the High Chaparral Ranch in the Arizona Territory in the 1870s. Big John wants to establish his cattle empire despite Indian hostility. John’s brother Buck and son Billy Blue aid him in his quest.

When Blue’s mother is killed, in the first episode, John unites his family with the powerful Montoyas by marrying their daughter Victoria, whose brother, Manolito, now lives with them as well.

David Dortort, the man behind Bonanza, created “The High Chaparral,” a show that still garners thousands of fans who regularly discuss the actors, characters and the episodes.

Their presence is all the more evident online, where the High Chaparral Reunion and the High Chaparral Facebook pages have more than 15,000 fans, plus more than 5,000 newsletter subscribers around the world.

According to Penny McQueen, producer of the High Chaparral Reunion and CEO of A Penny for your Thoughts Productions, the High Chaparral’s message was far ahead of its time — a belief that all people, no matter their race, background or beliefs — could learn to live together with mutual respect.

With groundbreaking innovations in casting, it put Latinos in some of the first aristocratic roles in cinema, and it had a policy of casting Latinos and Native Americans in the appropriate ethnic parts. High Chaparral broke new ground for minorities in television and set a standard for the industry.

“I think we had a good cast and a variety of characters. There’s a character to please almost everyone, to please a bunch of different personalities,” Collier said. “The fans have expressed that they enjoyed all the cast members and the various personalities and the fact that we were working a cattle ranch.”

Bobby Hoy, who played Joe Butler, was instrumental in starting and organizing the first High Chaparral Reunion in Los Angeles in 2003, but it was a small event and attracted only about 30 people. McQueen took it over in 2007 because she thought it would be a shame to see the experience end, as appeared likely.

After fans asked Hoy to bring the reunion to Tucson, where it all started, McQueen did just that. In 2009 she brought it to Tucson, highlighted each year with a trip to the ranch house at Old Tucson Studios, which is still in use to this day.

“The fans want to come to Tucson because that’s where it was filmed, the ranch house is still there,” McQueen said. “For fans, it’s like a pilgrimage, they want to see the set where the scenes took place for the show they’ve watched all these years. Instead of this little tiny group, we have people that come from all over the world. It gets bigger every year.”

In fact, the show means so much that one fan from Greece held a year-round auction on eBay to finance her trip to Tucson. Fans from England and Pitcairn Island also attend the reunions.

Another group of fans from South America traveled to the U.S. for the first time to meet Henry Darrow, who played heart-throb Manolito Montoya. They arrived speaking practically no English except “High Chaparral.”

Reunion attendees can expect to see Collier, Darrow and Rudy Ramos, who portrayed Wind. Darrow also has a biography available, “Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle.”

Ramos, who currently stars at the Whitefire Theatre in Los Angeles, brings his one-man show, “Geronimo: Life on the Reservation,” to High Chaparral fans in Tucson Saturday night during the reunion festivities.

Collier, 86, still travels the country to various celebrity events and will perform his one-man show, “Confessions of a Working Cowboy,” the final night of the reunion, Sunday.

During his performance, Collier will talk about how he first broke into the picture business in 1948 as an extra, then took it more seriously in 1956 and landed his first major TV role in 1959 with “Outlaws,” where he played a marshal for two seasons.

Kent McCray, production manager on “Outlaws,” recommended Collier for the ranch foreman Sam Butler on “High Chaparral” in 1966 during casting.

“The show (High Chaparral) helped me quite a bit, personally and professionally,” Collier said. “Of course, steady work for four years is great news in the acting business. There’s usually 1,000 actors trying to get two jobs.”

Collier also loves to speak about the great people he worked with, including Wayne, Anthony Quinn, Hoy, Jack Elam and Slim Pickens. Collier starred with Wayne in “War Wagon” (1967) and “The Undefeated” (1969). He also appeared in “Five Card Stud” (1968) with Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum.

“John (Wayne) would drink with you and gamble with you if he had the time, but he had most of the lines in his movies so he was usually busy at night going over his dialogue,” Collier said. “The John Wayne school of acting is show up on time, know your dialogue and hang around the camera. Do that and you’ll work with John Wayne.

“If you’re late, if you’re confused about your dialogue or the director says cut and you run away to do something else, you ain’t going to last with him,” Collier continued. “Every inch the professional guy. A good man, it was a pleasure to work with him.”

The longtime actor isn’t afraid to discuss the controversial movie “Flap,” which he starred in alongside Quinn, either.

Filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the 1970 film had an original title of “Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian.” After droves of Native Americans protested that title, Warner Bros. changed it to “Flap” after Quinn’s character, Flapping Eagle.

Additionally, reunion-goers will be able to see and meet McCray, who managed production on “High Chaparral,” “Bonanza,” “Outlaws” and more. McCray’s wife, Susan, a casting director, also will be on hand to offer the added touch of what went on behind the scenes.

The McCrays also partnered with Michael Landon to do “Little House on the Prairie,” “Father Murphy” and “Highway to Heaven” as well as several award-winning movies of the week.

“Our cast and crew keeps dwindling as years go by,” Collier added. “We keep getting older, but we hope we can continue for another few years.”

While it aired, “The High Chaparral” was ranked in the top 10, and thousands of fans hiked through the Tucson desert to visit the location set. For years it was the most widely syndicated show in the world.

Today, the Inspiration Network (INSP) airs all 98 original episodes as part of its regular, family-friendly television package, attracting an entirely new generation of fans.

Even the title has become an iconic part of popular culture with many businesses named after it and references to it around the world, such as a theme park in Sweden, a restaurant named Pizzeria Manolito and a small village in Malaysia that raises cattle.

“I was 9 when the show premiered,” McQueen said. “It was my favorite show and I never dreamed I would be doing something like this. I never thought I would meet any of them or let alone become good friends with them. Sometimes things happen in life and you end up doing things you never imagined.”