Its 12:20 pm
I heard a thump on my front porch last week and then the cheetah ruffled up at me. Seems like we had just gotten a new package from our contact “MP” from Warner Brothers Archive. We were pretty curious as to what could be possibly be in the box.
The cheetah kept on asking “What’s in the box”? I didn’t know whether to be annoyed by his repeated question or impressed because he sounded just like Brad Pitt.
When we got the box opened,I saw that MP had sent us the 4th and last season of the classic Western show,”Lawman”. I have to admit,I am having mixed emotions because doing this series has been really fun to do and I have recently met some really cool fans in a very active “Lawman” fan page on Facebook. Led by a lady named Nancy,these folks have shared a lot of facts about the show that I wasn’t aware of.
It was because of reviewing this show that I discovered an actor I never heard of in Robert McQueeney and came away a huge fan and looking for his other films/TV shows that he starred in of which one,”The Gallant Men“,we have reviewed.
I find myself wishing there had been a few more seasons of “Lawman” because it was a smartly written and well acted show,I am sorry this is the last season but grateful that I have the series to binge watch on a cool Fall day…so let’s go ahead and take a look at the fourth and last season.
When the 4th season opens,we see that Laramie is still growing but still only has Marshal Dan Troop (John Russell) and his deputy marshal Johnny McKay (Peter Brown) as its only lawmen. By now the railroad has reached Laramie as seen in the episode “Sunday”.
The newspaper gets a new owner from Kansas City who is more into huge headlines then printing the truth in “The Man Behind the News” and even the local barbershop gets a new owner in “The Barber”.
The Birdcage is still owned and ran by the lovely Miss Lily Merrill (Peggie Castle) and a lot of the season’s action runs through the local watering hole. While we never do see Dan and Lily so much as kiss in the show,their relationship is shown more clearly in the fourth season and given the progress of the times,had “Lawman” moved forward,I’m sure we would have seen the two kiss if not going public outright.
In the third season,I noted that the network had asked Warner Brothers to tone down the violence as it seemed that Dan and Johnny were shooting dead every bad guy they encountered. This trend continued into the fourth season,there were a lot more shattered wrists and shots to the arm but the show didn’t shy away from deadly force when called for.
There were some outstanding episodes in season four…some of the best in the series run to be honest as writers John D.F. Black,Richard Matheson,Mark Rodgers and Robert Vincent Wright all wrote excellent stories for season four.
What made these episodes so good? The one thing “Lawman” has to commended for and that were its guest stars. Looking back and seeing how many actors were contract players for Warners,one could understand if these actors just went through the motions,especially the stars who popped up 2-3 times a season,cause a little ruckus and then get killed by Dan and Johnny.
Its a tribute to both the smart writing and the main cast that these guest stars came in and did excellent work. These were the standout episodes that really stood out for us.
“The Four” – Four strangers ride into Laramie and start looking for a young man who has supposedly killed 9 people in cold blood. They take up positions throughout the town and Dan has to figure out if their story is true or is there a more sinister reason. Jack Elam,who often played over the top villains and was famously missing an eye,is a revelation as he plays Herm Forrest,the leader of the four strangers. This is the first of two wonderful performances Elam would give in season four.
“Clootey Hutter” is the second episode where Elam and Virginia Gregg,who was one of Jack Webb’s troupe of actors in his shows and films,both give this episode its heart as Gregg plays a woman who just happens to know how to handle a gun. When she kills Earl Henry,it looks like murder and Dan attempts to take her in. But all isn’t what appears to be and an most unlikely ally steps in to prove Clootey’s innocence.
“Tarot” My favorite Lawman guest star,Robert McQueeney,returns as Joe Wyatt,an old friend of Lily’s,he begins to read fortunes that are coming true. But when one reading spells out death,things become quite tense in Laramie.
McQueeney gives his usual great performance and gives Wyatt some emotional depth which is quite hard in a 30 minute show like “Lawman” was.
“The Vintage” A pair of Italian immigrants from New York,a grandfather and his grandson are passing through Laramie with a precious cargo. When two cowboy friends start fighting each and end up damaging the Italian’s grapevines,it sparks a tragic chain of events. The grandson is killed in self-defense by Kulp (Kevin Hagen),one of the two cowboys who damaged the vines. The grandfather then challenges Kulp to a duel.
Dan has to rush to stop anymore killing…..
Hagen,who most folks know for playing Dr. Hiram Baker on “Little House On the Prairie”,is amazing as Kulp who is brokenhearted at the turn of events. He and his best friend Joe meant no harm. I really loved the ending of this episode and it felt right.
Black’s story allows the viewer to see that despite a cowboy’s rugged life,they also were human beings with a sense of wrong and right.
“Cort” Hagen returns as Cort,a man who has been relentless chasing his brother all across the country. It seems like Cort’s brother betrayed Cort and six other soldiers in a battle in the Civil War. The men were captured and when they attempted to break free,their six companions were killed.
Cort has pressed the chase so hard that he has ruined his health and he is dying.
He has one last chance to extract justice for his fellow soldiers. His brother decides he has to finally this 10 year nightmare,one way or another. Dan and Johnny have to try and talk sense into these two.
I think the only episode that I didn’t like was “The Holdout”. The old vigilantes storm the jail plot just made no sense,after 4 years,the townspeople know Dan and Johnny quite well and it feels forced that a pair of strangers would be able to rile up a vigilante action.
After four years,I think the town would have been much more supportive and in a couple of episodes,we see Jake,the bartender at The Birdcage,who was portrayed as rather spineless in season three,provide back-up to Dan and Johnny with his shotgun.
The only other element that wasn’t in this season was humor,there were only a couple of very lighthearted/comedic episodes and that was a letdown considering it would have allowed for more character development. While developing a character is difficult in a 30 minute show,I think after 3 years and heading into the fourth,it would been nice to see Troop and Lily connect in a more visible manner and maybe having a potential love interest for Johnny as well.
But overall this season was perhaps the second best after the first season….but I might some pushback on this from the “Lawman” group,we’ll see.
Now I like to say that all the main cast members went on to have great and huge careers that this series allowed them to have. Well….
John Russell stayed busy after the series ended. He appeared in several films,including “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “Pale Rider” which starred his old Warner Brothers cohort,Clint Eastwood.
He had a couple of recurring roles in “It Takes A Thief” and “Alias Smith and Jones”.
John also played “The Commander” in the cult favorite “Jason of Star Command”.
A heavy smoker all of his life,John died of emphysema at age 70 in 1991.
Peter Brown was the busiest of the three main cast members as he later co-starred in another beloved Western “Laredo” as Texas Ranger Chad Cooper. He appeared in “The Virginian” in his Chad Cooper role as well. Peter stayed busy in television where he was a popular guest star on many of the biggest shows at their time.
Peter also did several soap operas in his post “Lawman” career including 104 episodes of “The Bold and the Beautiful”.
Peter died of Parkinson’s at age 80 in 2016.
Peggie Castle made one guest appearance on “The Virginian” before she left the acting business. Sadly she slid into alcoholism and died in 1973 at age 45. But for many of her fans,she’ll always be seen in the prime of her life playing Lily and playing a strong woman in a man’s world.
The fourth season of “Lawman” consists of 39 episodes and contains no special features.
You can find all four seasons at the website of Warner Brothers Archives.
You can read our reviews of “Lawman” by clicking on the links.
Share your memories,thoughts and favorite episodes in the comments below.