The western was much less prevalent on television by the middle 1960's, with only a few long-running classics and a couple new series on the airwaves each year. One of these new series was Laredo.
Shot in color and in hour-long episodes, Laredo ran from September 1965 to April 1967 on NBC with 56 episodes being produced. The series revolved around several Texas Rangers and featured a lot of tongue-in-cheek, rowdy fun. Indeed, it was a western that never took itself too seriously.
In the first season Laredo had four major characters: Reese Bennett (played by Neville Brand), Chad Cooper (played by Peter Brown), Joe Riley (played by William Smith) and Captain Edward Parmalee (played by Philip Carey). With the coming of the second season two additional Texas Ranger characters were added: Erik Hunter (played by Robert Wolders) and Cotton Buckmeister (played by Claude Atkins).
When the Rangers weren't chasing down outlaws of one sort or another they were getting into and out of all sorts of trouble with wild schemes of their own, often setting the blood of the boss, Captain Parmalee, a boiling.
The scruffy and often bellowing Bennett was wonderfully played by Brand. A former Union Army officer with a checkered past, Bennett was often the butt of practical jokes from Cooper or Riley, and later by Hunter as well.
Smith's Joe Riley usually dressed in a buckskin shirt and was quick with both gun and knife (the knife part learned from his days of living among the Indians).
Both Chad Cooper and Erik Hunter were attracted by the ladies and, in turn, were attractive to the ladies. Their polished dress was certainly the opposite of both Bennett and Buckmeister. Hunter, especially, wore fancy, almost outlandish, clothing. European born and bred, his cultured education and elegant tastes added considerable humor in the program's second season.
Laredo never was a big ratings hit, but it definitely had a loyal following. I, for one, found the show quite enjoyable.
A couple interesting facts about the program are:
- The series actually had its beginnings on the television series The Virginian in an April1965 episode titled "We've Lost a Train". Bennett, Cooper and Riley all had major roles in this episode, and Philip Carey's Captain Parmalee also appeared briefly.
- Robert Wolders (who played Erik Hunter) was married to Merle Oberon to several years, and then, later, he was the companion to Audrey Hepburn.
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