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Westerns
Dick Powell's
Zane Grey Theatre

Title Card - DICK POWELL'S ZANE GREY THEATRE

CBS Network
1956 - 1962
Drama
30 Minutes

Western anthology series hosted by Dick Powell and featuring adaptations of the works of famed American writer Zane Grey (1875-1939) and other western authors. 

Produced for Four Star Productions, the program began with the narrator proclaiming: "From out of the West, Dick Powell's  Zane Grey Theater." Here is a sample introduction by host Dick Powell:

"These were among the last weapons of Bill Longley, a gunman credited with killing 32 people. Bill retired to become a farmer, I guess he figured  it was time to stop raising cane and star raising a few beans. It didn't last long though, so he was hanged October 11, 1878. His newspaper epitaph read: 'Bill Longley got the rope today. Gave up the farm for gunplay. Should have stayed behind the plow. He's pushing up the daisies now.' In the story we have chosen for you this week, "Gift From a Gunman", we'll see how difficult it is for a gunman to retire."

Listen to Opening Narration & Music

Beside providing commentary for the series, Dick Powell starred in a number of the programs as various characters, including Sgt. Major Dravo ("The Deserters"), Sheriff Morgan Winter ("The Open Cell"), Dr. Mike Reynolds ("Let the Man Die"), and Colonel Blackburn ("Ambush").

The series was also a testing ground for a number of TV westerns and unsold pilots, including:

  • Black Saddle - Episode: "Threat of Violence" (May 23, 1958 - 1st unsold pilot) starring Chris Alcaide as Clay Culhane. Peter Breck earned the role for the series.  
  • Doc Holliday - Episode" "Man of Fear" (March 14, 1958 - unsold pilot) starring Dewey Martin as Doc Holliday. Martin later starred as Daniel Boone in four frontier adventures segments produced for Disneyland.
  • Duffy - Episode: "See of Evil" (April 7, 1960 - unsold pilot) starring Raymond Massey as Malachi West. The proposed series was to star Myron Healey.
  • Hardcase - Episode: "The Sunday Man" (February 25, 1960 - unsold pilot) starring Brian Donley as Fred Childress. Dean Jones was slated to star in the series.
  • Johnny Ringo - Episode: "Man Alone" aka "The Loner"  (March 5, 1959) starring Don Durant as Johnny Ringo.
  • The Man from Denver - Episode: "Checkmate" (April 30, 1959 - unsold pilot) starring James Whitmore as Joel Begley.
  • The Rifleman - Episode: "The Sharpshooter" (March 7, 1958) starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain
  • Trackdown - Episode: "Badge of Honor" (May 3, 1957) starring Robert Culp as Hoby Gilman.
  • The Westerner - Episode:  "Trouble at Tres Cruces" March 26, 1959 starring Brian Keith as Dave Blasingame.

TRIVIA NOTE:  Zane Grey Theatre was created by Luke Short and Charles A. Wallace. It featured stories written by western author Zane Grey, but also contained material written by other authors, including Aaron Spelling who went on to become one of Hollywood's most successful producers.

Episodes of  Zane Grey Theatre were repackaged and shown as a CBS summer replacement series entitled Frontier Justice that aired 1958, 1959 and 1961 with hosts Lew Ayres, Melvyn Douglas and Ralph Bellamy, respectively.

Another repackaging of the series was called The Westerners. It featured newly filmed introductions with Keenan Wynn who replaced the old Dick Powell portions of the program.

Four Star Productions also produced the classic western series: Big Valley, Law of the Plainsman ( spin-off of The Rifleman), Stagecoach West, Wanted: Dead of Alive (spin-off of Trackdown) and The Westerner.

A museum dedicated to Zane Grey is located in the town of Zanesville, Ohio.

Obituaries: Dick Powell: 01/02/1963.


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