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Retro : High Noon for 'Chaparral' : THE LATE-'60S WESTERN AIRS SATURDAYS ON THE FAMILY CHANNEL

October 09, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Family Channel recently added the sagebrush saga "The High Chaparral" to its popular Saturday-afternoon Western block, which includes "Bonanza," "The Young Riders" and "Gunsmoke."

"The High Chaparral" premiered Sept. 19, 1967, on NBC. In the late 1960s, Westerns were on the wane, and "High Chaparral" was one of the last sagebrush series of that decade. High Chaparral was the name of the ranch owned and operated by the fictitious Cannon family, who lived in the Arizona territory, circa 1870.

Veteran character actor Leif Erickson, who was once briefly married to troubled 1930s movie star Frances Farmer, played Cannon patriarch Big John Cannon, a stubborn, powerful man whose aim was to establish a cattle empire in the territory occupied primarily by Native Americans. Cameron Mitchell played John's wild brother Buck, who loved the ladies, loved to drink and loved to shoot 'em up.

Blond, blue-eyed Mark Slade, who was somewhat of a teen heartthrob, was John's son, Billy Blue, whose mother was killed by an Apache arrow in the first episode. Linda Cristal played John's second wife, Victoria, the daughter of the wealthy cattle baron Don Sebastian Montoya (Frank Silvera). Victoria's dashing brother Manolito (Henry Darrow) accompanied her to the ranch and stayed on as a permanent member.

Don Collier also was featured as the foreman Sam; Ted Markland, Roberto Contreras and Robert Hoy were the ranch hands Reno, Pedro and Joe.

Despite good performances and story lines dealing with racial issues, "High Chaparral" did not crack the top 25 shows during its four-season run on NBC. Several cast changes occurred during its last season: Billy Blue rode off into the sunset, and when Silvera died, so did his character. Rudy Ramos joined the cast as Wind, a young man of white and Native American heritage, who became part of the Cannon household. The series, though, was gone with the wind on Sept. 10, 1971.

"The High Chaparral" airs Saturdays at noon on the Family Channel.

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