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BEHIND THE CHUTES WITH HOLLIMAN AND PRINE, 1962-63
on May 4, 2014
Frank Telford produced this 28-episode rodeo drama for Universal's TV arm Revue Studios. The directors include Alan Crosland Jr., Ted Post and, surprisingly, John Brahm. The scripts--including several by Alan Le May--are consistently intelligent if talky (this is a 50-minute drama, not action, series in spite of the rodeo setting).
The guest "stars" include Ray Danton, Peggy McCay, James Caan, Victor Jory, Diane Ladd, Jerome Cowan, Ray Walston, Dan Duryea, Irene Hervey, Coleen Gray and Edgar Buchanan. (The Danton-McCay episode is really outstanding and is the highlight of the series.) Slim Pickens is a recurring semiregular and contributed the concept for one very solid script featuring Forrest Tucker.
Earl Holliman carries the show with viewer-friendly star power. He is Idahoan Mitch Guthrie, Korean War vet and now 10 years later an all-around champion (three times running) in roughstock events on the Southwestern circuit. Mitch's chaperone is callow but smart younger bro Andy (Andrew Prine) who is baccalaureate-bound but dabbles in rodeo to cover tuition fees. They are a cute pair, bickering amiably like a long-married couple. Mitch is overly inclined to be a do-gooder, but the scripts regularly save him from overt sermonizing. And rangy young Andy with his spaniel eyes makes a perfect reactor/straight man to Mitch's odd moments of rodeo raunchiness (to his credit, Mitch enjoys his beers and cigarettes). Both actors are perfectly cast and very convincing in their roles. Holliman's straw hat, dorky but rakish in 1962, has the "taco crease" that has become iconic down the decades and is still favored by West Texas cowboys.
The intercut stock rodeo footage has minor documentary value--this is literally your grandfather's rodeo--and the outdoors footage is mostly confined to Revue's familiar allotment on the Universal backlot. The 16mm b/w prints have not been remastered but come up well after 50+ years in the vault and are free of splices, scratches and skips. The current price is a steal, the packaging sturdy for the eight enjoyable discs.