post Tim Kelly, Chaparral Scripter

January 15th, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:18 pm

Tim Kelly, Chaparral Scripter

by Katrin Duerlich

I am sure you noticed the names of the High Chaparral authors. Some of them are familiar from other shows. D.C. Fontana wrote for Star Trek, Walter Black for Little house on the prairie, John Black for Charlie’s angels, to name just a few. One day I started to wonder about Tim Kelly. He is the author of such great episode scripts as “Ride the savage land” or “Mi casa, su casa”. At the end of season 1 he became story editor (see table on left). I had noticed that his name kept popping up in episodes dealing with Apache customs and traditions, so I guessed he must have been something of an authority on this matter. And how come he was able to write season 1 (!) scripts for Buck and Mano rather than Blue and Mano as was originally intended? The man intrigued me so much that I read his biography. Through it I found – not just gold, but diamonds! Little gems that show the origins of two High Chaparral episodes. But let me start at the beginning.

Tim Kelly was born in 1931 in Sagus / Mass. as Timothy Joseph Kelley. He started writing at the age of 12, and he never stopped until his dying day in 1998. He published books, wrote for newspapers (Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways, Phoenix Point West), wrote for stage, for radio and also for TV. His works came out under various pseudonyms, but for The High Chaparral (and Westerns in general) he always used “Kelly”.

In 1957 Tim Kelly moved to Arizona and got to know the area through his friend and collaborator Roland Bibolet. In 1964, Tim Kelly published his first Western novel “Ride of Fury”. Out of curiosity, I bought this book, too. When I had finished it, I took a moment to fully appreciate what I had just read.

In 1851 the Miller family (Rawley and Ellie Miller and their children Ann, Jeannie and Lorenzo) sets out to travel to California. However, they take the wrong route. The adults get killed by the Apaches, the Millers’ daughters become slaves, only Lorenzo survives and makes his way back to where they started. Another family takes him in, and a scout known as Doc Lefeur promises to look for the girls.

Nine years later Lefeur sends Lorenzo a locket which belonged to Ann. Unable to find Lefeur, Lorenzo asks Cos Fury to look for his sister (a task the army failed to do twice). Intending to buy the girl, Cos takes gold coins with him. He rides from Yuma to Camp Ajo and on to Fort Gila,

questioning a dying Apache on his way. Since every sign points to Maricopa Wells, Cos expects to find Ann there. But the Maricopa Indians tell him nothing, and he leaves empty-handed.

Feeling depressed and running a fever, Cos arrives in Tucson just when a troop of dragoons from Calabasas rides in. The soldiers refer him to a man called Josh who in turn refers him to a miner called Pete Parker. As soon as he is well again, Cos visits Pete at his mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, then decides to track Lefeur down and question the man about the locket. Reasoning that Lefeur might have gone to Magdalena (a charming town in Sonora), Cos rides for the border, bypassing the ruined mission of Tumacacori. However, Cos’s horse shies from a rattle snake and gets hurt on its flight. The injury draws a wolf pack. Cos valiantly defends his horse, but the injuries are too severe, and he is forced to shoot the animal.

Continuing on foot, Cos Fury meets the gun-runner Tomas from whom he buys a new horse. Tomas agrees to take Cos to Mangas Coloradas in the Dragoon Mountains when he makes the next delivery. His helper is a mute half-breed.

“Don’t he have a name?” asked Fury.

“Sure. Everybody’s got a name.” Tomas laughed. “They call him Johnny-No-Name.”

Promising him safe passage, Mangas Coloradas tells Cos to visit a Mohave band. The Indians are camped out where Fort Lester once stood. Living with these people is the Maricopa Indian Lame Deer who currently owns Ann. There, Cos Fury finally finds the girl. But before he can buy her, Tomas and Johnny-No-Name ambush him at night and rob him. They drop one gold coin in their haste to get away. And this coin enables Cos to buy Ann after all the next morning. But the girl won’t speak. Cos rides with her to the Tumacacori Mission where they bath in a nearby pond. Ann starts to cry and finally begins to talk. Then the Apache warriors come to them with the dead body of Tomas and a warning: the Apaches go to war. The white women will be taken as slaves like Ann, the soldiers will die like the troop from Calabasas, and every other white eye in their territory will also die, like Pete the miner.

Cos takes Ann to Yuma where Lorenzo is waiting, then rides on to the Gulf of Baja California to see the ocean.

Of course you recognized the episodes, didn’t you? Yes. “Ride the savage land” and “Bad day for a thirst”. For the episode scripts Tim Kelly changed the plots considerably, e.g. incorporating the second rescuer into episode 22. But the basics are all there. Critics used to praise Kelly for his ability to construct and develop drama and for his attention to detail. As was the case with Apache customs and traditions, he always did extensive research and took great care to get the details right – for the episodes he wrote himself as well as when he was story editor. And the variety of topics he addressed is simply amazing. While I do not like every single one of the High Chaparral episodes, I have come to appreciate almost all of them, especially those of season 1 and 2. They help to flesh out the characters, e.g. giving us some background on Vaquero in episode 34, on Sam and Joe (ep. 31), on Victoria (ep. 36 and 43) and of course on Buck and Mano. According to his biography, Tim Kelly knew the cast of the High Chaparral. Seeing the actors at work, he must have realized that pairing Mano with Blue would be no good. It is too obvious that the actors who play Mano and Buck have become best friends.

But many “Tim Kelly episodes” also flesh out the show itself. They tell us about the Buffalo soldiers, how hard life could be in a remote area for a child (remember Tina in ep. 37 or the Apache children in ep. 30), the role of the church (ep. 27), the duties of a patrón (ep. 34), what Thanksgiving is all about (ep. 39), how you tame a horse (ep. 29), life on a reservation (ep. 50) or how a madman acts (ep. 42). I wish Tim Kelly had stayed on as story editor. Who knows what else he would have come up with?

Ride the Savage Land / written by Tim Kelly
Bad Day for a Thirst / written by Tim Kelly. Story editor: Tim Kelly
A Joyful Noise / story editor: Tim Kelly
Threshold of Courage / story editor: Tim Kelly
The Promised Land / story editor: Tim Kelly
For What We Are About to Receive / story editor: Tim Kelly
The Deceivers / story editor: Tim Kelly
Sea of Enemies / story editor: Tim Kelly
The Stallion / story editor: Tim Kelly
The Covey / story editor: Tim Kelly
Ten Little Indians / story editor: Tim Kelly
The Buffalo Soldiers / story editor: Tim Kelly
Ebenezer / story editor: Tim Kelly
Tornado Frances / story editor: Tim Kelly
Follow Your Heart / story editor: Tim Kelly
Shadow of the Wind / story consultants: Walter Black, Tim Kelly
North to Tucson / story consultants: Walter Black, Tim Kelly
Surtee / story by Tim Kelly and Walter Black (original title: The kill agent)
The Lion Sleeps / written by Tim Kelly
Mi Casa, Su Casa / written by Tim Kelly

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