The High Chaparral: Western Drama in the Arizona Territory

by Guy Belleranti
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In the middle to late 1960's westerns were declining number as television medium. Still, a few new ones did come along and achieve success. One of these was The High Chaparral.

This program followed the adventures of those living and working on a ranch in the Arizona territory of the 1870's

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The series ran for 4 seasons, from 1967 to 1971, with 98 hour long color episodes being produced. The ranch building itself was and still is located at Old Tucson Studios just west of Tucson, Arizona.

The series featured drama and humor in a style similar to Bonanza. In fact, the program's creator was David Dortort, the same man who created Bonanza.

The main stars and their characters on The High Chaparral were:

Leif Erickson as "Big" John Cannon

Cameron Mitchell as Buck, John's brother

Linda Cristal as the beautiful Victoria Montoya Cannon, John's second wife

Henry Darrow as Manolito Montoya, Victoria's brother, who also lives on the ranch

Mark Slade as blue eyed Billy Blue Cannon, John's son from his first marriage

Other continuing characters of importance included:

Frank Silvera as Don Sebastian Montoya, powerful father of Victoria and Manolito

Rudolfo Acosta as Vaquero, a jack-of-all trades worker on the ranch

Don Collier as Sam Butler, ranch foreman

Robert Hoy and Roberto Contreras as Joe Butler (Sam's brother) and Pedro Carr, two of the major ranch hands

The series focused on the lives and relationships of the various family members, the lives of the ranch hands themselves, and on the adventures encountered in the rough old west setting.

Some of the important family relationships included:

-the Hard-nosed John Cannon's clashes with his more sensitive son Billy Blue

-Blue's warmer relationship with his Uncle Buck (who often is peacemaker between John and Blue)

-the intercultural marriage between John and Victoria, whom he marries shortly after his first wife is killed in the series' opener.

The lines between good and bad were often blurred on this western. Indians weren't always depicted as savages, but as a people who were losing land and often their way of life to white settler encroachment. And the Mexican characters from the Victoria and Manolito to ranch hands like Vaquero and Pedro had dignity and intelligence.

Indeed, The High Chaparral was an excellent program, and very popular during its four year run.

The High Chaparral Newsletter website (http://highchaparralnewsletter.com/)
The High Chaparral Reunion website - http://thehighchaparralreunion.com/

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