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THE RIFLEMAN- Review of a Classic Western

Updated on November 16, 2014

The Rifleman

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The American West

Westerns have come and gone throughout the years. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s they were plentiful, each television sensation had their own special place in our hearts. As many were set around the late 1800s, it was an era of excitement to explain America’s history in a unique way. With television viewing being a newcomer in the 1950s, people were drawn to the technology. What better a subject to start the adventures with than that of the old west still fresh in many of the minds of our grandparents who had stories passed down to them. After all with the Civil war behind them our forefathers had many reasons to move west and conquer a new life for themselves and their families. The introduction of the Winchester as a peacemaker had an important part in winning the American West.

A Four Star Production

In 1958, Four Star Television produces a show surrounding the life of a man searching for the perfect place to raise his motherless young son. The widowed single father finally finds such a place near a town called North Fork in the New Mexico territory. The town becomes a center point of interest to the western drama. A man by the name of Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) acquires a ranch to call his own. As he struggles to ward off the dangers of riff raff by whatever means possible, which usually involves using a rifle, he tries to teach morals to his son, Mark. Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford) learns many values from his father who desperately tries to protect him. Lucas teaches Mark to believe in God and to only use violence as a last solution to any trouble. Lucas, a sharpshooter carrying a Winchester around like it was his friend and having a bit of a disturbed past becomes a character admired by those who want both action packed adventure and a warm hearted family man trying to live by the golden rule. The acts of violence somehow seemed less dramatized for the younger viewer when it was associated with good intentions. The Rifleman became a popular source of family entertainment.

The Sharp Shooter

The Rifleman was created by Sam Pickinpah and the pilot (The Sharp Shooter) was part of Dick Powell’s Zane Theater which aired on CBS at the time. Dick Powell’s Zane Theater was also a Four Star Production. ABC brings The Rifleman to a series which runs five seasons from 1958-1963.

The first half hour episode called The Sharp Shooter introduces Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) fighting to keep his ranch and protect his son from being killed with the cross fire exchanged by evil men. Toting a Winchester, his first battle is won. He is a true marksman with skills to thrill an audience bound to the western drama. Special guest stars like Leif Erickson, Dennis Hopper, Kathleen Mulqueen, Virginia Aldridge, Sidney Blackmer, R. G. Armstrong and many more bring another smash hit to the television screen. Later in episode #4, The Marshal, Sheriff Tomlinson (R. G. Armstrong) introduces the character Marshal Micah Torrance (Paul Fix) as a cast regular.

Season Five Theme Song Opener:

168 Episodes

The Rifleman runs 168 episodes entertaining a vast majority of western enthusiast. The cast which includes Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford), Marshal Micah Torrance (Paul Fix) and guest stars known for their talents of capturing an audience would return week after week. For the early days of black and white television when westerns were steadily showing on the three major networks, The Rifleman could certainly hold a candle to any of the other success stories of its time.

The last episode called Old Tony, has Mark and his friend Lorrie, keeping time with an elderly gentleman who is lonely and bitter. As the man becomes fond of the boys he sees things differently. He even helps in the hunt when the youngsters become lost. Special guest stars Stefan Schnabel, Karen Sue Trent and Martin Kosleck help make the final show as good as the first.

I got to meet Chuck Connor's son Jeff.

I got to meet Chuck Connor’s son Jeff at the Memphis Film Festival back in 2012. I was standing in line at the dealer’s table. As his table was not far from the cast members of The Virginian who at the time were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their show, the line was moving very slowly, I welcomed the chance to get acquainted with Jeff Connors. He was very friendly. He had pictures of him and his dad on the set of The Rifleman. Chuck Connors had previously signed these pictures. Jeff addressed one personally to me and added his signature to it.

Jeff told me of how much he enjoyed being in one of his dad’s shows no matter how brief it was. He talked about the merchandise he had for sale and his plan to extend the apparel by having a larger selection of t-shirts and hats compared to what he was showing me. Then he told me some about his singing career. He planned to sing and play his guitar at the festival. I was not able to stay for that, but I saw a video clip later of the performance taken by friend of mine.

Many people may assume Jeff was the one playing Lucas McCain’s son when it was not him. It was Johnny Crawford who owned the character Mark McCain. Johnny and Jeff had something special in common as they grew up in the shadows of such a talented man.Sadly we lost Jeff Connors earlier this year. Another talented young man is singing at Heaven’s gate. I know he will always be remembered fondly by everyone who knew him. I am so honored to have had that one and only meeting with him. It carries a happy memory for me to cherish the rest of my days. One of my greatest treasures will always be the picture he signed just for me. RIP Jeff Connors, I know your dad is enjoying your company and your songs as much as we did here when you were with us.

In Memory of Jeff Connors, 1952-2014 Part 1

In Memory of Jeff Connors Part 2

This is a page from my collection of autographed pictures.

Autographed pictures are fun to collect especially when you meet the stars in person.
Autographed pictures are fun to collect especially when you meet the stars in person. | Source

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    • Diana Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana L Pierce 

      7 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      So much value went into these old classics. It was a time when censorship kept both profanity and extreme violence from the eyes of our children. I had the privilege of meeting Jeff Conners, the son of Chuck Conners this year at the Memphis Film Festival, May 31, 2012. Jeff had pictures of him and his dad on the set of rifleman with his dad's autograph on them which he also would autograph personally to the fans there. A true treasure for sure. Thanks for visiting my hub. I hope you checked out my other reviews.

    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      7 years ago from Hammond

      Being the child of a single mother, I was especially drawn to shows like this and Little House On The Prairie and Bonanza with their strong father figures.

    • Diana Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana L Pierce 

      7 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      I'm glad they are still showing it today. If CBS does reboot The Rifleman, I hope they keep the family values as strong as they did in the original show.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      This was a very popular show and still is.

    • Diana Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana L Pierce 

      7 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Chuck Connors was a very talented man. It's very interesting reading about all the things he did. Thanks for stopping by.

    • RetailRich profile image

      RetailRich 

      7 years ago

      I loved the Rifleman series. I still watch it today. It was my favorite half hour western. Reading about Chuck Connors is pretty interesting as well, based on what I read on Wikipedia. He played for the Dodgers, The Cubs and was a basketball player with the Boston Celtics as well!

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