THE HIGH CHAPARRAL- REVIEW OF A WESTERN DRAMA
Fighting Over Land
As many new comers to the western territories arrive to their dream land, they find struggles not only in the wilderness of the surroundings, but must fight the natives there before them as well. The Native American is being pushed out of his home by the numbers and battles for the prosperous land continues as the white American settlers come west and the Mexicans from the south invade to get their hands on it. Cruel, but true acts of pirates depending on whose view is taken when learning how the west was won. In the 1870s, the Arizona Territory is facing this tug-a-war among the men who fight desperately to claim it. What a western story this would make as they are fighting Apaches and Mexicans at the same time. David Dortort studies the history of towns and people to bring a story like this to life.
NBC Premiers The High Chaparral
In 1967, NBC premiers a show called The High Chaparral. An attempt not made in a western television series before with conflicts intertwined with the white Americans, Mexicans, and multiple tribes of Native Americans the show takes off without a hitch. A big man with a big dream, a stubborn streak and a stroke of ambition, John Cannon (Leif Erickson) fights to build a cattle empire.
The first episode premiers Sept. 10, 1967, Destination Tucson is the first part of the introduction. Big John as they call him brought along his brother Buck (Cameron Mitchell), his son Billy Blue known as Blue (Mark Shade), and his wife Annalee (Joan Caulfield). They find Vaquero (Rudolfo Acosta) already at the ranch when they arrive. He becomes a valuable help to keep their home running efficiently.
Apaches are on the warpath and the army tells the Cannons to leave, but they refuse. Mexicans claim the property is theirs so John sends Buck to find cowhands good with a gun to help ranch and fight off predators. Buck recruits cowhands he finds in a Tucson saloon. The bunkhouse boys become an important aspect to the ranch. Sam Butler (Don Collier) becomes foreman and with his fellow recruits, Joe (Robert Hoy)his brother, along with Pedro Car (Roberto Contreras), Reno (Ted Markland) and Ira Bean (Jerry Summers) they help fulfill Big John’s dream.
Annalee is curious as to what the vegetation is growing all around the ranch. John tells his wife the vegetation is called chaparral. She names the new ranch The High Chaparral. Unfortunately she doesn’t get to enjoy it long as she is killed by an Apache arrow in the very beginning of the story. John and his son Blue become distant after the death of Annalee. Buck tries to help them become closer as a father and son should be.
A Two Part Pilot
A second episode is needed for the introduction to this series as the pilot is told in two parts. Episode #2, The Arrangement, is focused on John making a defense agreement with Don Sebastion Montoyo, a wealthy rancher south of him in Mexico who he’s fighting with over ownership of the ranch in the first episode. Don Sebastion forces him to marry his daughter Victoria (Linda Cristal) as part of the arrangement and sends his son Manelito (Henry Darrow) to help protect her and keep the peace among their people and the Americans. Both agreements work well to keep The High Chaparral from being a failure. Although the marriage is arranged, John and Victoria become close and learn to love each other with much respect.
The High Chaparral carries on for 98 episodes counting those done in two parts. Four seasons of struggling to bring peace to them and the people who try to stop them. Many a guest star such as, Jack Lord, Jennifer Rhodes, R. G. Armstrong, Kurt Russell, Kathryn Hays, Jack Kelly, Dub Taylor, Paul Fix, Jack Elam, John Dehner, Frank Puglia, Charles Gray, William Conrad, Barbara Luna, Pat Hingle, Ted Jordan, Kathleen Freeman, Roy Jenson, Denny Miller and hundreds of others gave every hour long episode a unique flare of excitement. David Dortort created another winner such as he did with his popular show Bonanza.
Season 4, Episode#18, A Man to Match the Land, brings the series to a halt as John attempts a mustang round up and dealing with Apaches to do it. Promises are made and White Horse oversees the gathering of horses John plans to sell to the army. Buck must stay with the tribe at their camp for reassurance. It is an episode focusing on the relationship between the white man and his Apache neighbor. Simply bringing cause as to why they need to get along.
Vegetation Called Chaparral
A Show to Remember
The High Chaparral is certainly a show to remember. The chaos developed between the mix of white Americans, Mexicans and various Native American tribes has not been attempted at the level we saw in this show since then.
Episode #1, Destination Tucson:
Maybe It's The Cowboys
- MAYBE IT'S THE COWBOYS
Westerns were my dad's favorite shows when it came to entertainment. This is a memorial poem for my dad. His interest is still very much alive in me as I love to watch the old classic westerns, too. I've also added links to reviews I've written about
INSP's Saddle Up Saturday
The INSP channel has added The High Chaparral and The Virginian to their Saturday line up. They join Bonanza and The Big Valley as part of the Saddle Up Saturday featured shows. Thank you, INSP for another year of great entertainment. Classic westerns at their best.