Cimarron Strip - The Search
A Classic Action Adventure of the Old West on Cimarron Strip. Marshal Crown (Stuart Whitman) arrests Dickie Vardeman for murder and, to prevent a rescue by his outlaw family, sends him, under guard, by train to a neighboring town. The marshal then pretends to transport Dickie by wagon. When Dickie's three brothers attempt a rescue, Crown kills Lou, but Kerwin (Jonathan Lippe) and Strawdy (Zalman King) shoot Crown, and leave him for dead. He is found by a Cimarron Strip scavenger, Lummy (L.Q. Jones), who decides that Crown has a monetary value, dead or alive. When the marshal's empty, bloodied wagon returns to Cimarron City, Dulcey persuades Mr. Lorton (Richard O'Brien) to organize a posse to search for Crown. Clo Vardeman (Jim Davis), the father, arrives in town and kills Lorton. As the posse disbands, Clo offers a $500 reward for Crown's missing body. Cimarron City's only reputable doctor, Dr. Kihlgren, is away, and Dulcey is forced to lean on the unsteady arm of ex-doctor Nathan Tio (Joseph Cotten). Outside town, Tio and Dulcey find a grave and the marshal's badge. Dulcey is grief-stricken. Lummy brings Crown to town in his wagon, but when he claims the $500 reward from Clo Vardeman, the wagon is empty. The Verdemans begin a search for the marshal. When Strawdy discovers Crown in Dr. Kihlgren's office, the marshal shoots him. After Dr. Tio treats Crown's wounds, he insists on returning to the Wayfarer's Inn to face Clo and Kerwin. Crown kills Clo, and three members of the disbanded posses shoot Kerwin. Lummy happily leaves town with the $500 reward money which Clo Vardeman had left on the bar of the Wayfarer's Inn.
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The 23 (90 minute) episodes of the CBS television western "Cimarron Strip" were originally broadcast during the 1967-68 television season, running from 7:30PM to 9PM on Thursday nights. In 1967 a 90-minute time slot seemed reasonable as "The Virginian" (1962-1971) had enjoyed considerable success with this expanded running length; 248 episodes in total. And before that "Wagon Train" made a portion of its episodes this long. Unfortunately for "Cimarron Strip", by 1967 the television western was on its way out and viewers never really warmed up to the show.
Unlike "The Virginian" and "Wagon Train", "Cimarron Strip" is not structured in the anthology style, a format better suited to the longer format because it emphasizes guest stars and a large cast of intermittently appearing characters. If anything "Cimarron Strip" went to the other extreme, focusing on only two regular characters and a single theme; the other regular cast members rarely appear in anything more than supporting roles.
While this narrow focus is a poor match to the longer running length, it is also what makes the series so special. If not television's all-time best western, "Cimarron Strip" is certainly the most ambitious. The episodes are set in the 1880's and revolve around the interplay between Marshall Jim Crown (Stuart Whitman) and Dulcey Coopersmith (Jill Townsend). Crown is a somewhat world-weary lawman tasked with maintaining law and order in the vast Cimarron Strip (named after the Cimarron River and comprising parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico). Dulcey is a compassionate and caring young woman from the East who has inherited (from her father) the local inn; a combination saloon, boarding house, and jail.
Dulcey's innocence and goodness inspire the otherwise disillusioned Marshall, who in turn protects her from what he can and tries to put the rest in perspective for her. Dulcey is obviously symbolic of the arrival of civilizing forces to the frontier but in a larger sense she represents the loss of innocence process anywhere and anytime. The series is in many ways her coming of age story. It doesn't hurt that Townsend is hauntingly beautiful, with a refreshing natural look and a hair-style that swept the country during and after the premiere of the series.
Moral ambiguity is the other regular theme, with guest stars often redeeming themselves with a final act of personal responsibility. Typically these characters are portrayed as individuals who have had to subordinate their basic goodness in order to survive in this tough environment.
Almost every episode included several top quality and well-known guest stars, whose performances were always up to the task.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.