Rawhide is an American Western TV series starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. The show aired for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959 to September 3, 1965, before moving to Tuesday nights from September 14, 1965 until January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 black-and-white episodes. The series was produced and sometimes directed by Charles Marquis Warren, who also produced early episodes of Gunsmoke.
Spanning seven and a half years, Rawhide was the sixth-longest-running American television Western, exceeded only by eight years of Wagon Train, nine years of The Virginian, fourteen years of Bonanza, eighteen years of Death Valley Days, and twenty years of Gunsmoke.
Eric Fleming as Gil Favor
Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates
Set in the 1860s, Rawhide portrays the challenges faced by the drovers of a cattle drive. Most episodes are introduced with a monologue by Gil Favor (portrayed by Eric Fleming), the trail boss. In a typical Rawhide story, the drovers come upon people on the trail and are drawn into solving whatever problem they present or confront. Sometimes, one or more of the crew venture into a nearby town and encounter some trouble from which they need to be rescued. Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood) was young and at times impetuous in the earliest episodes and Favor had to keep a tight rein on him. Favor was a savvy and strong leader who always played “square” with his fellow men – a tough customer who could handle the challenges and get the job done. (Producer Charles Warren called on the diary written in 1866 by trail boss George C. Duffield to shape the character of Favor.) Although Favor had the respect and loyalty of the men who worked for him, a few times, the people, including Yates, were insubordinate under him after working too hard or after receiving a tongue lashing. Favor had to fight at times and usually won. Some of the stories were obviously easier in production terms, but the peak form of the show was convincing and naturalistic, and sometimes brutal. Its situations could range from parched plains to anthrax, ghostly riders to wolves, cattle raiding, bandits, murderers, and so forth. A problem on such drives was the constant need for water, and the scout spent much of his time looking for it, sometimes finding that water holes and even rivers had dried up. In some ways, the show was similar to the TV series Wagon Train, which had debuted on NBC on September 18, 1957.
Eric Fleming postcard
The series was not afraid to face tough issues. Robert Culp played an ex-soldier on the drive who had become dangerously addicted to morphine. Mexican drover Jesús faced racism at times (from people outside of the crew). Anger was still left over from the Civil War which had ended only four years earlier, and the “Poco Tiempo” episode reveals that Rowdy’s father’s name was Dan, that Rowdy came from Southwestern Texas, and that he went off to war at 16 (being later held in a Union prison camp). Trail boss Favor had been a Confederate captain in the war. “Incident on The Edge of Madness” in season one, guest-starring Lon Chaney Jr., had Favor’s old commanding officer attempting to enlist the aid of Favor and his men to start the “New Confederacy of Panama” much to Favor’s dismay; in this episode Favor and Nolan were revealed to have been in the Confederate forces up on Marye’s Heights at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and “felt shamed” at having to gun down so many Union soldiers. Some American Indians demanded cattle as payment for going through their land. Rough characters were in the shows, and in one episode, Gil Favor was tortured by having his face held near a fire. In another, “Incident of The Town in Terror”, people thought a sick Rowdy Yates had “the plague” (anthrax) and guns were used to enforce quarantine of the cattle drovers outside the town. Also, cattle rustlers were around, including Commancheros.
The show could on occasions be eerily atmospheric. “Incident With an The Executioner” featured a mysterious dark rider (Dan Duryea) seen on the hillside following the herd, “Incident of The Haunted Hills” featured a sacred Indian burial ground, “Incident of The Druid Curse” and season two’s “Incident of The Murder Steer” (where anyone sighting a rogue steer with “Murder” carved on its side soon after dies, based on an actual legend of the Old West), plus episodes with ghost towns, cattle with horns lit up by St. Elmo’s fire at dusk, with cowboys struck by lightning, plus a strange totally enclosed gypsy wagon, apparently steering itself, repeatedly turning up, all stand out as curiously “spooky” tales for a bustling dusty cattle drive; the show’s often stark incidental music suited these stories perfectly.
Margaret O’Brien and Clint Eastwood
In episode 67, “Incident Near the Promised Land” (most episode titles began with “Incident” until Bruce Geller and Bernard L. Kowalski became the producers for season six), the cattle drive finally reached Sedalia (for the first time in the series). Unusually, episode 68 continues on from that, where the cattle have been sold and the men celebrate in town and decide on their futures with even Favor thinking of leaving the business. Instead of the usual ending, wherein Gil Favor gives the command “Head ’em up! Move ’em out!” and the cattle move off, this episode had the end titles over a view of a Sedalia street. Episode 69 has Gil Favor visiting his two daughters, Gillian and Maggie, who live with their aunt Eleanor Bradley in Philadelphia. In episode 70, a number of the men are back together and heading back to San Antonio about 650 miles away, with a herd of horses (used in the titles) instead of cattle. Episode 71 has a new cattle drive ready to go, but the owner of 1600 of the cattle wants to be in charge, so Favor reluctantly signs on as a ramrod, but after problems, Favor becomes boss again at the end of the show. These five episodes made up one storyline instead of the usual single-episode stories which could have been set anywhere in the West.
Favor had many bad moments in the series, but none worse than the “Lost Herd” episode wherein, close to drive’s finish, he wants to beat another herd to town to get the best prices. He takes a narrow shortcut; there is thunder and lightning, and the herd stampedes over the cliffs, leaving him just 9 out of 3000 cattle when the drive reaches town. He does not have the money to pay the drovers off and has to face the owner (Royal Dano) whose cattle he has lost, knowing that he might never work in the business again.
From the second season, episodes began to feature individual cast members, notably Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates (sole star in “Incident on The Day of The Dead” which opens season two); later, both Scout Pete Nolan (Sheb Wooley) and even cook G. W. Wishbone (Paul Brinegar) were featured as leads, while Eric Fleming’s Gil Favor remained in overall charge.
Pete Nolan (Wooley), the scout, departs as a regular cast member after “The Deserter’s Patrol” (season four, episode 18, 9 Feb 1962), but returns for a single episode “Reunion” (episode 26, 6 April 1962), and for a further nine episodes in season seven from “Texas Fever” (episode 18, 5 February 1965).
Charles H. Gray‘s character Clay Forester, having played a villain in three episodes of season four (from “The Inside Man”, episode 6), then reforms and replaces Nolan as scout from “The Greedy Town” (season four, episode 19). Gray remained in the regular cast for the rest of seasons four and five (though in a number of later episodes he is credited but not seen). Clay Forrester reappeared later in “Incident of El Toro” in season six (episode 26, 9 April 1964).
John Ireland and Raymond St. Jacques, 1965
Two other minor semiregular cast members were “Toothless” (William R. Thompkins) in seasons five and six, plus one season-seven appearance (sometimes uncredited), and “Yo Yo” (Paul Comi), who makes six appearances in season seven.
Rawhide Season 4 Full Episodes: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLebWvRM0X2RjbjywTyaCPI-ZxL1TbWP5H