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Russell kept law and order in Laramie the same way that James Arness did it in Dodge City on Gunsmoke. Unlike Gunsmoke, Laramie never developed the all the minor characters that gave you the feel of Dodge City at the time. Instead it concentrated on Russell taking care of business and learning the business of law to his eager young deputy Peter Brown.
Brown played deputy Johnny McKay who was a most respectful young man, constantly referring to his boss as Mr. Troop. He was pretty handy with a shooting iron, but was inclined to be impulsive. Good thing Marshal Troop was around.
The other series regular was the Kitty Russell of Laramie, Lily played by Peggie Castle. This is where Lawman most resembled Gunsmoke. There was an unspoken understanding between Russell and Castle that even the smallest of children couldn't have missed. And I wasn't the smallest of children when Lawman was in first run.
Sadly Peggie Castle developed substance abuse problems after Lawman's run ended. I remember a small obituary marked her passing in the first half of the Seventies. She was one beautiful woman.
Lawman was good no nonsense western from that golden era of the adult television western. It was one of the best.
Russell, a former Marine, was straight and tall and worked wonderfully as the wise lawman who used his six-gun with deadly accuracy and regularity. Peter Brown as Deputy Johnny McKay was also fast in the leather slappin' dept.
Brown brought the young ladies in to view the weekly adventures while Russell, I'm sure, caught the attention of both women viewers and men.
This was a smart Western with a great theme song composed of male voices singing the praises of the "Lawman." Russell's steely eyes made the part of tough-guy Marshall believable. The epitome of what you would expect a real Marshall in the old west to be. Brown's good looks and athletic prowess made for some great action during the series.
I was sad to see Russell cast as a villain in the 1985 Clint Eastwood film, Pale Rider. Russell will forever remain one of the ultimate lawmen in the Old West in my mind as a result of this wonderful old Western series.
"That is a specious analogy!"
Intelligent, believable, well-written and well-acted, and John Russell is still to me the most beautiful man I ever saw. (Peter Brown was no dog, either :o)
I agree that it is one of the most underrated TV series of all time. I hope I can find some episodes for my grandchildren to watch.
Copies of most episodes are available, but are usually of poor quality, being copies of copies of copies.
As I understand it, 92 episodes were produced during its run, but only 15 are noted here.
Some of the series writers, such as Richard Matheson, went on to become noted authors.
Excellent series, well written, well staged and well produced.
Udon Thani, Thailand
FOR THE MOST part, the series did portray the job of frontier Peace Officer accurately. It was a thankless, low paying and potentially very dangerous line of work. The most successful men at this position were bad dudes themselves, both physically and with the six gun. As for their character as human beings; much like all walks of life, the personalities and moral convictions varied widely. Some were very Good, others very Bad. But most fell somewhere in between the two extremes of the graph.
AS TO THE specifics of the story, Marshall Dan Troop (John Russell) was the law in the town of Laramie, Wyoming, circa 1870. He is assisted by young Deputy Johnny McKay (Peter Brown), who provides the sex appeal for the adolescent girl viewers.
AND SPEAKING OF sex appeal, in the second season, Lilly Merrill (Peggy Castle) entered Laramie, opening up a saloon. Much like the relationship of Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty Russell on the flagship of the TV Western, GUNSMOKE, the Marshall and Lilly liked each other (by implication).
WHEN WE THINK back about LAWMAN, we recall a briefly recurring character portrayed by Sig Ruman. In it he portrayed a German immigrant Chef, who opens up a restaurant in town. There were only two episodes featuring him, but it sure seemed like more.
ADDITIONALLY, THIS SERIES boasted of an array of veteran players who made multiple appearances as the same characters. These included, but limited to people like: Grady Sutton, Emery Parnell, Roscoe Ates, William Fawcett, I. Stanford Jolley, Jack Elam, Lane Chandler, Nina Vaughn, Barbara Lang, Whit Bissell, Catherine McLeod, Dick Foran, Lee Van Cleef, Frank Ferguson, Fred Crane*, Don "Red" Barry, Robert J. Wilke, Ken Lynch, Richard Reeves, Roy Barcroft and many others.
THE SERIES LASTED much longer than most, running fort a full four years. We don't recall its ever being rerun or being offered on video,or are we wrong about that?
NOTE: * Hey, that's the same Fred Crane who portrayed one of the Tarleton twins opposite George Reeves in GONE WITH THE WIND.
The bad news? The critics had a point. Marshal Dan Troop is pretty much a clone of Marshal Matt Dillon. Miss Lily is pretty much a clone of Miss Kitty. The good news? John Russell is fabulous as the granite-butt law officer, even better in my judgment than James Arness. The gorgeous Peggy Castle is even sexier at the Birdcage than Amanda Blake was at the Long Branch. These two certainly gave the show a solid foundation.
The third cast regular is the young and handsome deputy Peter Brown. Here LAWMAN departed significantly from GUNSMOKE, in which the eccentric Chester and Festus were often comic relief characters. Brown was a top-of-the-line young Warners heartthrob. His relationship with Russell's veteran marshal had a father to son quality. He was nothing like the old B western comic sidekicks who seemed the inspiration on GUNSMOKE.
The production values on the show were good, better on the whole than the early GUNSMOKE's in which the indoor for outdoor sets and painted backdrops were often obvious. Not here. The guest casts were an interesting combination of young talent like Robert Fuller, Richard Long, James Drury, and Louise Fletcher with established fifties western regulars like Lee Van Cleef, Coleen Gray, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, and Slim Pickins, and a smattering of real old-timers such as Glenn Strange and Lane Chandler.
All in all, this show lacked the penetrating writing which made GUNSMOKE unique, but fine performances by the three regulars, good guest casts and production values, and solid, if perhaps rarely out of the ordinary scripts, make this series one well worth rewatching.
The relationships between both Dan and Lilly as well as Dan and Johnny were excellent. I recall an episode where Lilly in not very subtle terms hinted to Dan about being married. Dan's comeback was priceless. Johnny always treated Dan with respect, calling him Mr. Troop.
Dan was a no-nonsense lawman and as such often a man of few words. Preventing an ambush outside the hotel, Dan walked up, snatched the gun out of the would-be killers hand, and simply said "Let's get on over to that jail." At the same time, his sense of right and wrong and respect for the law were obvious in his actions. He did not arrest every criminal, often just talking to them. He also would not give in to a mob mentality, instead upholding the law.
Some episodes of this show are indeed timeless. In one, Dan and Johnny investigate a murder and the way they do so is similar to modern crime dramas. In another, Dan gives a speech about civic responsibility (jury duty and the law) that still holds true today. In a third, he tells a visiting federal bureaucrat that complained about guns in town "When a man that has business with a gun comes to town, taking everyone else's just makes his job easier." I recall seeing an episode of Gunsmoke where in the opening "Boot Hill" monologue Matt Dillon wanted all guns taken away.
One of my favorite episodes was "The Long Gun" with John Dehner as burned out Marshal Ben Wyatt looking to ambush some killers. The conversation between Dan and Ben was really good dialog as to the stress of being a lawman after 20 to 30 years of service.
The only negative criticism I have involved Lilly's attempts at singing. As others have noted, Peggy Castle was a beautiful woman, but her singing voice was not nearly as beautiful.
It's sad that so many people on this show died at a relatively young age. I would have liked to have seen a closure episode as well, but just as with modern shows I'm sure cancellations can be unexpected.