The tale of Gil Favor, the trail boss, as he drives cattle across the old west. Along the way they meet up with adventure and drama.
's second season keeps "rollin', rollin', rollin'" and fans of one of TV's greatest Western series will not be disapprovin' of these remaining 16 episodes. A pre-spaghetti Western Clint Eastwood at his longest and leanest, and that classic theme song that Jake and Elwood popularized for a new generation who may have never seen an episode, may rope in buyers for this four-disc set. But nearly 50 years later, Rawhide
is as timeless as those majestic landscapes (grandly filmed on location) trail boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming) and his drovers rode across each week. What makes Rawhide
so compelling are its human dramas. As a philosophical Favor notes in one episode, "The expected never seems to happen. The surprises are always poppin' up."
Coming to the aid of a runaway spinster, running afoul of a band of gypsies, or being forced to accompany a wagonload of stolen nitroglycerin provide much more excitement than stampeding cattle. Eastwood, as Favor's protégé, Rowdy Yates, gives Rawhide some "before they were stars" cachet. But this is an ensemble drama in which colorful and memorable characters abound, including Paul Brinegar's grizzled and prideful cook, Wishbone, James Murdock as the simple-minded Mushie, and Sheb Wooley as compassionate scout Pete Nolan. Veteran and greenhorn character actors put their own brands on individual episodes. Frances "Aunt Bea" Bavier turns up in "Incident of the Dust Flower." Warren Oates portrays a gypsy in "Incident of the Dancing Death." Cloris Leachman is an unhappy trading post proprietor's wife in "Incident of the Arana Sacar." And, in "Incident of the Stargazer," who would have thought folksy Buddy Ebsen, clad in a leather jacket, could take part in a Gaslight-scheme to defraud an unfortunate woman? But some of the best episodes in this set revolve around the drovers themselves. In "Incident of the Tinker's Dam," it seems that Wishbone's twin brother is not the paragon his brother steadfastly believes. In "Incident of the Sharpshooter," Rowdy is framed for murder by an outlaw posing as his lawyer. Rawhide galloped into the top ten in its second season. These episodes gloriously recapture a bygone era when Westerns ruled prime time. --Donald Liebenson