Laramie

Laramie

1959 - United States

Ah, the Wild West, where horses and cowboys ruled the frontier. And among the iconic TV shows that transported viewers to the land of gunslingers and saloons was Laramie. This classic American Western, which aired from 1959 to 1964, left an indelible mark on the television landscape. So saddle up as we delve into why Laramie captured the hearts of viewers and became an enduring piece of Western TV history.

Produced by Revue Productions (Later Revue Studios who produced or co-produced Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Arrest and Trial and The Munsters), Laramie featured John Smith as Slim Sherman, the proprietor of the Sherman Ranch and Robert L. Crawford Jr. as his 14-year-old brother Andy as they try to hang on to their ranch after their father is shot by a land grabber. They augment their slight cattle ranch income by serving as a stagecoach station near Laramie. Together, they face numerous challenges that arise in the expansive Wyoming Territory.

Robert Fuller played Jess Harper, a reckless and impulsive drifter who arrives at the Ranch in the debut episode, and Hoagy Carmichael (the musician, singer and songwriter) portrayed Jonesy, responsible for managing the homestead and stage stop, while Slim and Jess took turns in leading roles throughout the first series.

Laramie

The series premiere, which was filmed in colour (the rest of seasons one and two were in monochrome), sets the stage for the partnership between Slim and Jess at the Sherman Ranch and Relay Station. Jess, originally from Texas, arrives in Wyoming with hopes of finding Pete Morgan (John Mitchum), who had betrayed him. Andy Sherman immediately forms a bond with Jess and as the series progresses, a 'brotherly' friendship blossoms between the two, despite their occasional disagreements. Jess and Slim are the quintessential cowboy duo. Jess, the enigmatic loner with a mysterious past, is quick with his gun and even quicker with a quip. Slim, on the other hand, is a dependable and level-headed rancher who always has his friend's back. Together, they make the perfect team, balancing each other out in their pursuit of justice. Be it battling cattle rustlers, trading bullets with outlaws, or navigating the complexities of love, the duo tackled it all while staying true to their cowboy code.

Laramie

At the end of the first season, both Hoagy Carmichael and Robert L. Crawford Jr. were written out of the series, but the producers felt that the dynamic between the characters suffered as a result. The ratings dropped as well, but not significantly enough to cancel the series. To restore the chemistry of the original cast, the actress Spring Byington joined the series as Daisy Cooper, a matronly widow, and Dennis Holmes was introduced as Mike Williams, a young orphan who was given a home on the ranch. That third season also saw the series transition to colour. Ratings picked up but by the fourth season they began to tumble again, and the series was cancelled.

The show attracted a veritable who’s who of American Western stars, established actors and those on their way to stardom. These included Charles Bronson, Eddie Albert, Ernest Borgnine, James Coburn, Alan Hale Jr., DeForest Kelly, Leonard Nimoy, Lloyd Nolan, Warren Oates, Adam West and Cloris Leachman.

Laramie

With the colour transition in 1962, as Laramie was about to be aired each week, NBC introduced a new version of their Peacock Logo in which the bird fanned its plumage against a kaleidoscopic colour background. It was initially only used on shows that were produced by NBC. It was dubbed the 'Laramie Peacock' and although it was later retired (long after Laramie was put out to grass), it has continued to make special appearances throughout the years, the most recent being the network's coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series race held at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina in 2020.

The writing in Laramie was top-notch, offering gripping storylines and well-developed characters. The dialogue was sharp and witty, and the actors brought their A-game to every scene. You can truly feel the chemistry between the cast members, which adds an authentic charm to the show. So, grab your Stetson, strap on your spurs, and mosey on down to Laramie. This timeless Western is sure to rope you in with its thrilling stories, unforgettable characters, and a whole lot of cowboy charm.

Published on December 5th, 2023. Written by Skip Wilson Jr. for Television Heaven.

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