Created by David Dotort, the man behind television's most famous Western family, the Cartwright's, this series attempted to recreate Bonanza's success by following a similar format. Big John Cannon (Leif Erickson) was the head of The High Chaparral, a ranch in the Arizona Territory that was beset by drought, Mexican outlaws and Cochise Indians.
In the first episode John's wife was killed during a raid, leaving him to live with his son Billy Blue Cannon (Mark Slade), and brother Buck (Cameron Mitchell). Big John's widowerhood was short lived though, as he was soon married off to the daughter of Mexican nobleman Don Sebastian Montoya (Frank Silvera) -the beautifully elegant Victoria (Linda Cristal).
Accompanied by his new wife's brother Manolito (Henry Darrow), Big John and the Cannon clan settled in to a series of adventures that reflected the political liberalism of the late 1960's and maintained a sympathetic and well-balanced attitude towards White - Indian relations. When Mark Slade was written out of the series towards the end of its run he was replaced by Wind (Rudy Ramos), a half-breed who came to live with the Cannon's after helping Big John avert a disaster. Although not enjoying the longevity of Bonanza or many other TV Westerns, (the genre had, by the early 1970's, become a television diet of the past), The High Chaparral came across as a highly polished product that included a stirring theme tune and stylish photography. In the UK it was one of the first series to be broadcast in colour.
Published on December 21st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.