The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok

The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok

1958 - United States

"James Butler Hickok, mister" our hero would announce to all and sundry before his sidekick would elaborate, "That's Wild Bill Hickok, mister! The bravest, strongest, fightingest U.S. Marshal in the whole West!" In the 1950s the number of Western series on US television seemed to multiply on a weekly basis. This series began as a syndicated programme for local broadcast. Hickok was a folk hero of the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame. Hickok worked at different times as a stagecoach driver, Pony Express rider, Union Army scout, as well as a scout for General Custer. He also took up the post of Marshal of Abilene, Kansas - all of which he combined with his passion for gambling which would eventually cost him his life at the age of 39 years. The hand that Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back of the head - a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights - became known as Dead Man's Hand and appears variously in popular culture even to this day. 

Playing the title role was Hollywood matinee idol Guy Madison, born Robert Ozell Moseley in California in 1922. Madison did not set out to be an actor but was talent spotted on a visit to Hollywood and signed up for David O. Selznick's newly formed Vanguard Pictures by talent agent Henry Wilson, who was widely known for his stable of good-looking, marginally talented actors. He immediately cast the rechristened Madison in a bit part in Selznick's Since You Went Away. Following the film's release in 1944, the studio received thousands of letters from fans wanting to know more about him. Madison was signed by RKO Pictures in 1946 and began appearing in romantic comedies and dramas, but his wooden acting style hurt his chances of advancing in films. In 1951, television came to the rescue of his faltering career when he was cast in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok

Hickok's sidekick was Jingles, played by US character actor Andy Devine who was known for his distinctive raspy voice. Born in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1905, Devine had definite ambitions to be an actor. Although it was first thought that his peculiar voice would prevent him from moving into talkies, it became his trademark. He appeared in more than 400 films and enjoyed the rare ability to move with ease from B-Westerns to A-pictures. His notable roles included ten films as Roy Rogers sidekick, Cookie, and several appearances in films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). 

Devine and Madison also portrayed their roles on radio at the same time and during the 1950s, several episodes of the show were spliced together and released as feature movies. The series ran for eight seasons from 1951 through 1958. The Screen Gems series began in syndication, but ran on CBS from 1955 through 1958, and, at the same time, on ABC from 1957 through 1958. 

Published on November 27th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

Bat Masterson

Based on the real-life exploits of William Bartholomew Masterson, a Dodge City lawman who preferred to use his wits instead of his fists and his cane instead of his Colt.

Also released in 1958

Ivanhoe

Roger Moore in his TV series debut starred as Sir Walter Scott's 19th century hero Wilfred of Ivanhoe.

Also released in 1958

Alias Smith and Jones

Set in the late 19th Century when the Wild West was no longer so wild and the 'frontier' had been pushed back almost as far as it would go, Alias Smith and Jones was one of US television's last great flirtations with the Cowboy genre...

Also tagged Us Western Series

Westworld

At the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin this dark odyssey begins in a world where every human appetite can be indulged

Also tagged Us Western Series

The Adventures of William Tell

Conrad Phillips starred as the legendary hero from the Swiss settlement of Berglan in Uri, who became a folk hero very much in the Robin Hood mode.

Also released in 1958

Dial 999

Police series made with the cooperation of Scotland Yard, which threw a spotlight on real police methods of the time.

Also released in 1958

The Adventures of Kit Carson

The adventures of an American frontiersman who roams the West, righting wrongs and helping those in need.

Also tagged Us Western Series

The Invisible Man

A scientist becomes victim of his own experiments into light refraction, leaving him permanently transparent.

Also released in 1958