the saddlebag..... part 2
Larry had a meeting with a man by the name of
Harv Bennett. He had gone there to pitch him an idea for a TV
series. He didn't have anything in mind when he went to the meeting.
While waiting in Harv Bennett's office he picked up a brochure that
listed old 16mm movies that were available for home viewing. In
those days people would actually rent a movie projector and run a
movie on a sheet or wall. On the brochure he came across a movie
called Four Feathers. This was a movie that Larry had seen as
a kid. It was a story of how a man Branded a coward by his
friends, which of each gave him a white feather, a symbol of
cowardice. He had to journey to the Sudan where his friends were
sent as part of an expeditionary force by the British government. He
had to perform an act of heroism and return a feather to each of
these men who Branded him a coward. Larry felt cowardice was
a very interesting idea and westerns were very popular in television
at that time. So when he went into see Harve Bennett he winged it
and made up a story of a captain in the cavalry who had been
court-martialed had to spend the rest of his life proving to himself
and to everybody else that he really wasn't a coward. Harve really
liked the idea and to give him a couple of days to talk with the
people from ABC about it.
In the mean time, Larry's manager, Peter Sabiston, told Larry he
thought he could sell this to Goodson and Toddman. They had
previously produced a popular TV western called The Rebel and
were in with Proctor and Gamble. So Larry wrote up four or five
pages of Branded, which took him about a half an hour and
Sabiston took it over to Goodson and Toddman. Before he knew it they
wanted to meet with them. They told them they thought it was great
and that they had sent it to Proctor and Gamble who owned a time
period 8:30 to 9:00 on Sunday nights on NBC. This time slot came
between The Wonderful World of Disney and Bonanza and
the competition was The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS and The
F.B.I. on ABC. Sunday night was one of the most important nights
of the week for television. Proctor and Gamble went for it as long
as they could deliver them Chuck Connors.
Chuck Connors was available to do the series, but Proctor & Gamble
was shocked when Chuck had asked for the unheard amount of $10,000
an episode. At that time $10,000 for a half an hour show was a lot
of money. Everybody in town was talking about this.
At this time there hadn't been any film shot, or test or promo film
shot, nothing. All they had where these pages that Larry wrote up at
the start and Chuck Connors agreement to do the show and Goodson and
The NBC told them they didn't want the show because they didn't own
it. What they wanted was a percentage of the show. Larry didn't give
in and Proctor and Gamble stuck by him with this decision. Proctor
and Gamble told them they owned the time slot and that they were
putting Branded in that time slot. They were told they would
go on in mid season and the start date was January. They didn't have
any shows or pilot wrote at this time. They had to come up with
sixteen shows at that time, they needed to gear up, they needed a
line producer, and a technical staff. They had to throw everything
together and get it ready for production.
In a 1965 article in TV Guide about the new Branded series,
Larry Cohen talked about the show and Chuck Connors in the starring
role of Jason McCord. "My intellectual concept of the show is that
it's like a Shakespearean tragedy," said Cohen. "You must have a
great man to experience true tragedy. That's why I like Chuck
Connors so much in this part. He's so big — he's the tallest
underdog in the west. I think the trend in television is the
character in a situation week after week. The Fugitive broke
the ice, but this isn't like The Fugitive — because Connors isn't
chasing a one-armed man."
Cohen also described the central; character of Jason McCord as a
man mistakenly, unfairly hated and persecuted — a man who must fight
to destroy the image of dishonor that follows him. And on the
subject of Jason McCord's new weapon, the broken saber, Cohen said,
"He'll take that half sword with him wherever he goes. A western
hero needs a novel weapon, but this sword fits the character — it's
not superimposed like Chuck's rifle in The Rifleman or Steve
McQueen's sawed-off gun in Wanted Dead or Alive.
*Some of this
information, but not all is from David Fury's book
Chuck Connors..... The Man Behind the Rifle
Some is from Larry Cohen's interview included in the
Now available on Kindle.....
Chuck Connors.....The Man Behind the Rifle
by David Fury
Edited version of the 1997 book, with lots of new photos, and
also a complete Rifleman episode/plot synopsis guide.
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