One of the winners in TDOY’s Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: Confidential contest, David O., sent me an e-mail this morning to give me a heads-up that the once-proud American Movie Classics has for some odd reason scheduled a slate of reruns from the classic TV oater The Rifleman tomorrow (April 23) and next Saturday (April 30) beginning at 6am EDT. April 23’s lineup will showcase the episodes “Shivaree,” “The Dead-Eye Kid,” “The Indian,” “The Boarding House,” and “The Second Witness” and on April 30 you can watch “The Trade,” “One Went to Denver,” “The Deadly Wait,” “The Wrong Man,” “The Challenge,” “The Hawk.” and “Three-Legged Terror.” As David rightly pointed out to me in his electronic missive, “For those of us who don’t have Encore Westerns or the DVD’s this is kind of nice”—to which I can only add that it’s also a pretty sweet deal if you don’t have access to a Retro Television Network affiliate in your neck of the woods…Atlanta’s WSBDT2 reruns the series at 11am weekdays.
Of particular interest among this group of episodes is the outing entitled “The Indian” because it features actor Michael Ansara (who celebrated his 89th natal anniversary last Friday!) in the role of Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart, a character who would return for one more Rifleman episode (“The Raid”) before spinning off into a separate series in the fall of 1959 on NBC with Law of the Plainsman. Plainsman only lasted for one season (though ABC reran the program in the summer of 1962) before being folded up with several other short-lived oaters in a syndication package entitled The Westerners (the other series were Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo and, appropriately enough, The Westerner). Ansara was certainly no stranger to TV westerns; before Plainsman he had co-starred in Broken Arrow, a 1956-58 series based on the 1950 feature film starring Jimmy Stewart (Mike was Cochise, played in the movie by Jeff Chandler) and he also made the rounds in guest appearances on the usual suspects: Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, etc.
And speaking of Wagon Train (smooth as glass, I tells ya) Bette Davis devotees might want to mark Tuesday, April 26 on their calendars because one of her three appearances on that series, “The Elizabeth McQueeney Story,” turns up in the rotation on Encore Westerns and will air on that channel at approximately 5:48pm (I know; the times on EW for their afternoon oaters are a little wonky). I wasn’t aware that La Bette had ever appeared on Wagon Train until I happened to catch her first outing, “The Ella Lindstrom Story,” a week or two back…and had I been aware of this I certainly would have offered a heads-up here (no need to worry—I scored a copy for SBBN’s The Bette Davis Project, which is why I was so richly rewarded with that haul that included Laramie: The Complete First Season). Davis’ final appearance on Train, “The Bettina May Story,” is a season five episode so that’s a bit of a ways off but I will keep an eye on the schedule and poke you (thanks, Facebook!) when Encore Westerns has it scheduled.