Tuesday, August 18, 2020

LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK: The Barbara Stanwyck Show, A Man's Game, 1961

Hamlette's Soliloquy and Along the Brandywine are our hosts for the online celebration Legends of Western Cinema Week, during August 17 - 21. The celebration of your (our) favourite westerns will certainly brighten the summer of 2020.

I am joining the Legends of Western Cinema Week with Barbara Stanwyck and her career turn that made her a television western icon. Let's begin the Emmy-winning The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Barbara's anthology show ran in the 1960-1961 season on NBC.

Our hostess introduced each episode and advised us not to take tonight's gentle spoof of the old west too seriously.

written by David Harmon and Albert Beich
directed by Lewis Allen
aired July 3, 1961

Narrator (Barbara Stanwyck): "In the old days around 1950 Hollywood used to make westerns about Indians. Then the Indians gave way to cattle drives and cattle rustlers. But lately, the cattle, in turn, have retired in favor of the gunslinger." 

Charles Drake as Ben Stockton

Narrator: "Here's one now riding up to a cantina on the Mexican border in 1875. Notice that he is alone. The gunslinger is always alone. Just riding through minding his own business until he runs into some fool kid trying to make a name for himself."

Clinton Sundberg as Billy Deevers and Charles Drake as Ben Stockton

In this case, "the kid" has his sights on two gunslingers, and Ben steps in to help his colleague Billy Deevers.

Narrator: "The kid calls him out so naturally, he has to shoot the kid. But then he's disgusted. He hangs up his guns, changes his name, and goes west - somewhere beyond his reputation."

Ben takes Billy at his word never to recognize him should they ever meet again.

Edgar Buchanan as Judge Franklin

Narrator: "Notice that old man with the white kitten named Snowflake? There's always an old man in westerns. Sometimes he's a doctor but in this case, he's Judge Franklin. We'll see him again in about a year in the Oklahoma Territory where the Buffalo roam."

Barbara Stanwyck as Chris Mathews

Narrator: "And here I am, Miss Chris Mathews. Where else? In my saloon, the Ace High."

A year later and Ben Stockton is a seller of buffalo hides going by the name of Ben Weedon. He has made a killing, so to speak, and with $2,000 in his pocket, or more precisely in Chris's safe, Ben asks Chris to be his bride. They will go to St. Louis and live the high life. However, Chris does not have any intention of leaving her built-from-the-ground-up business to live the life of and with a "floater" which is how she sees the noticeably gun-free "Weedon."

Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Drake

Discussions, romantic and otherwise are put on hold as the latest sheriff and a bad guy shoot it out in the saloon and the town - once again - is looking for a new sheriff. Since none of the town's menfolk are interested in the job, and if people keep shooting up the saloon and each other there won't be a saloon or any customers either, Chris takes the job.

 Barbara Stanwyck, Edgar Buchanan, Charles Drake

Narrator: "Here I am. It's what all the lady sheriffs are wearing."

Chris is top-notch when it comes to handling the not-bad-just-high-spirited cowboys who get rowdy on Saturday nights. She is so good, in fact, that she decides to run for election when the time comes. It is a four-year term. Ben does not want to marry a sheriff, and he does not want to wait four years. Chris does not want to be some piece of fluff dancing in St. Louis. The road of true love ne'er runs smooth.

Sam Buffington, Charles Drake, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Albin

Judge Franklin: "There's more to this than meets the eye, boys. And I don't refer to the romantic situation of our friend here. There's a larger evil."

Red Quincy: "How's that again, Judge?"

Judge Franklin: "I'm speaking of women. I make a firm prediction. Someday they'll all wear pants."

Vic Trenton: "Judge, they won't go that far. Congress will pass a law or something."

Judge Franklin: "They'll probably be in Congress! Take Wyoming, they've had a woman sheriff there for years. Why, they even let women vote. Make no mistake about the female of the species. We know they're inferior. They know they're inferior. But will they admit it? On the contrary, they seize every opportunity to get out of the kitchen and the nursery; their natural habitat. I tell you, it's horrendous."

Edgar Buchanan, Charles Drake, Barbara Stanwyck, Clinton Sundberg

Eventually, a situation arises which Chris can't handle. That situation is Billy Deevers. Told to leave town he only responds that he will consider the sheriff's request. Ben calls upon that favor owed from their time at the border a year ago. Unfortunately, he also slips up by mentioning the $2,000 in Chris's safe.

 Barbara Stanwyck, Andy Albin

Chris can't bring herself to shoot anyone, even a gunslinging thief. Ben puts his guns back on to face Deever, and in the process discovers that the Judge has known about his real identity all this time.

Clinton Sundberg, Charles Drake

Narrator: "The inevitable gunfight on TV has grown longer and longer. However, you've seen one gunfight, you've seen them all. So we thought we'd get this one over fast."

Charles Drake, Barbara Stanwyck, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Albin, Snowflake

Secrets are out in the open. Money is locked in the safe. Chris still wants to keep her business. Ben still wants to get married. So ...

Narrator: "The gunfighter is now the sheriff, and the sheriff is back to her nice saloon."

Judge Franklin performs the wedding ceremony.

Barbara Stanwyck

Our hostess (Barbara Stanwyck): "I guess that was a case of a woman getting too big for her britches. It's a common failing. Happens to a lot of us --- in more ways than one."

The two other western-themed episodes of The Barbara Stanwyck Show were Ironbark's Bride with guest star Charles Bickford and Little Big Mouth with scene-stealing Judy Strangis and Buddy Ebsen. A Man's Game was the final episode of the series aired and its cheeky humor is a delight.

1961 Primetime Emmy Awards
Barbara Stanwyck's first competitive acting award win was for The Barbara Stanwyck Show.

NOTE: Tomorrow we'll visit two of Barbara Stanwyck's guest appearances on Wagon Train.


  1. Did anyone look better in western chaps than Barbara Stanwyck? I don't think so!

  2. EDGAR BUCHANAN guest starred on an episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW(a black and white one). Interestingly, Edgar and Andy both got to play JUDGE ROY BEAN. Edgar-on his own series JUDGE ROY BEAN and Andy- on an ep of FANTASY ISLAND. WALTER BRENNAN and PAUL NEWMAN also played the part. Andy Griffith is the only one that I saw play Judge Roy Bean.

    1. Funny. Andy is the only one I haven't seen in the role.

  3. This sounds like a fine episode. Would love to see it. Always liked Charles Drake. Though not sure about that moustache!

    1. Yeah. I'm glad they ditched the moustache when Ben started his new life, or tried to because - well, gunfighter.

  4. Paddy Lee, another very enjoyable write-up. There were none better than Barbara Stanwyck in Western Movies and TV shows. If my memory serves me right, Stanwyck was once asked why she liked making Westerns and she said, "Because you get to ride horses and shoot guns."

    Look forward to your WAGON TRAIN write-up.

    1. I like her answer. Barbara found the fun in her work.

  5. Really enjoyed this. Besides eps of The Big Valley here and there, I realized I haven't seen her in much else besides the 1939 Union Pacific, which I love. I'll have to look this up sometime!

    1. Speaking as a fellow Union Pacific fan, I'm sure you'll enjoy Barbara Stanwyck's television work. It is surprising that while she never won a competitive Oscar, she won three Emmy Awards. The appreciation must have been gratifying.

  6. Oh man, I haven't seen this yet, but I have the DVDs of her show, so I'm bumping it up on my to-watch list! It sounds like such a hoot! And I love Stanwyck in just about anything, but especially a western ;-)

    1. I believe she enjoyed her westerns as much we fans enjoy her westerns. I know you will find much to enjoy in the program. I find anthology programs of that time period continually impressive.

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