The Rifleman
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A Rifleman Promotional

    Chuck Connors
                Johnny Crawford
                        TV Stars of The Rifleman

                                                           ABOUT...

CHUCK CONNORS

    While the uninitiated might consider the transition from a baseball career to acting for a livelihood somewhat difficult to bridge, Chuck Connors says it's a snap.

    "Any time a batter is called out on strikes he acts plenty when he returns to the bench," confesses this former major and minor league star.  "First he tries to deceive the umpire -- and, failing this, he does his best to convince the manager the umpire was wrong!"

    Connors, who belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, operating both in the big leagues and for their farm clubs, was so successful at dugout histrionics that his chums called him the Laurence Oliver of the diamond.

    But Connors no longer is concerned with the whims or blindness of the umps.  After several between-season acting chores in action pictures, Connors in 1958 achieved sudden stardom headlining ABC-TV's highly laudable frontier series, THE RIFLEMAN.

    As Lucas McCain, the rangy Connors returns now for a second season the same network, routing out injustice and making a home for his motherless son, Mark,  played by young Johnny Crawford (Tuesday nights, ABC-TV).  The show has continually come up with offbeat plots and characters, taking full advantage of the wide range of beings and experiences which made the West unforgettable as both in era and an area.

    The formula, plus shrewd production values, wrote one of the most dazzling success stories in the TV last year.  Just six weeks after it first hit the air, THE RIFLEMAN had rocketed measuring audience acceptance of video entertainment.  It stayed among the top ten all tear, the only new program to give the old favorites a battle for number-one spot.

    Connors was born in Brooklyn April 10, 1921.  His father is still a bank guard in New York City.  Young Connors played baseball on the sand lots as a kid, and displayed such exceptional ability that he was given an athletic scholarship at Adelphi Academy, one of the few youngsters ever to win such prep school patronage.

    Upon graduation from Adelphi, Connors was a much sought after athlete with offers from more than 25 colleges.  He cast his lot with Seton Hall and continued to earn laurels as an outstanding baseball prospect.

    He was also instrumental in leading Seton Hall to national prominence as a basketball player.

    Never once forgetting that he was at college to further his education, Connors enrolled as an English major and demonstrated he had dramatic ability as well as brawn by winning an elocution contest in his freshman year.  His subject was Vachel Lindsay's sonorous poem, Congo.  This contest turned the handsome athlete's thoughts for the first time to the possibilities of an acting career.

     The lure of baseball, however, held a strong grip on Connors, and in June, 1942, his boyhood dreams came true.  He signed his first professional baseball contract with the then Brooklyn Dodgers and was shipped to Norfolk in the Piedmont League to get experience.

    He played just a few months before enlisting in the Army on October 20, 1942.  After three months at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was sent to West Point to instruct cadets in Armored Force tactics.  He remained there until his discharge in February, 1946.

    In the service, Connors was permitted t play professional basketball with the Wilmington, Delaware, and Patterson, New Jersey, teams.  On leaving the Army he joined the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball Association and played until he was ready to report for spring training with the Newark, New Jersey, team of the International Baseball League.  Later that year he was sent to Newport News, Virginia, where he battered .415.  In 1947 he played for Mobile, Alabama, and in 1948-49-50 he was with the Montreal Royals.

    Through all of this baseball activity he was still the property of the Dodgers.  He came up to the parent team for several trials, but the management always shipped him back to the minors "for more experience."

    Feeling that he was the most experience player in the Dodger farm system, Connors finally called the team's owner and general manager, Branch Rickey, Sr., and asked to be traded in order that he might try his luck, making one of the other big league squads.

    Rickey filled Connors' request and sold him to the Chicago Cubs, who, in 1951 farmed him out to their Los Angles team of the Pacific Coast League.  The Cubs recalled him early in the year and he played 70 games for the Windy City gang.  The following season he re-joined Los Angles, batted .321 and smashed 23 home runs.

At the time he didn't know it, but being sent to Los Angles, while a blow to his baseball aspirations, was the turning point in his life.  His crowd-pleasing performance with the ball team made Connors a celebrity in the city and he became friendly with actors, directors, and producers.

    Eventually he was offered a bit part in MGM's Pat and Mike and took the job to pick up some extra money.  It was at this time, too, that the "ham" in him finally exerted itself.  He gave controversial interviews and was besieged with offers to appear as a guest on all the TV sports shows in town.

    More and more acting bids came his way and Connors finally gave up baseball for show business.  He appeared in several; motion pictures, and his own TV show before and after all Los Angles baseball games, interviewing players. explaining strategy to the fans and giving youngsters advice on how to bat and field.

    Connors soon accumulated more than 50 major TV dramatic credits.  He hit the jackpot when he was offered the lead in THE RIFLEMAN.

    Prior to THE RIFLEMAN, Connors had enjoyed minor fame on air shows reciting Casey At The Bat (See below).  An outspoken man, he gained considerable publicity on a panel show during which he told Zsa Zsa Gabor to shut up.

The big blonds' baseball career, however, led to the most important event of his busy life.  While playing for the Montreal Royals, he met a beautiful Canadian model, Elizabeth Jane Riddle.  On October 1, 1948 they were married.  The couple honeymooned in Havana, where Chuck played winter ball in the Cuban League.

    The versatile young man from Brooklyn kept a diary of his ball-playing activities in Cuba and displayed an additional talent by writing as article entitles Play Ball, Amigo, for Collier's.  He got $500 for the story and had the check photo stated as proof of his literary ability.

    The Connors have four boys: Michael, born November 6, 1950; Jeffrey, July 30, 1952; Steven. September 4, 1953; Kevin, June 9, 1956.

    The husky, 6'5", 215 pound actor still keeps in excellent trim by a rigid workout schedule.  He lifts weights three times weekly, plays baseball regularly, and gets in some batting practice when the Los Angles Dodgers are home.

    His favorite hobby is making home recordings, and he is also a 16-mm motion picture cameraman.  He is now experimenting in synchronizing recordings to the movies he producers.  The Connors live in Woodland Hills, California.




Chuck Connors
                Johnny Crawford
                                            TV Stars of The Rifleman

                                                           ABOUT...

                            JOHNNY CRAWFORD (Johnny Ernest Crawford)

    Johnny Crawford, the twelve year-old who plays Chuck Connors' in the ABC-TV series, THE RIFLEMAN, come to television rich in ancestral theatrical blood.

    Alfred Megerlin, his maternal grandfather, was Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1918-1923, of the Minneapolis Symphony from 1923-1927, and of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1927-1930.

    His grandmother, Frances Megerlin, was a headliner on the Keith and Orpheum, and was also an accomplished violinist, DeSylva, Brown and Henderson, music publishing company.  It later became the Crawford Music Corporation and in 1929 Crawford sold a backlog of songs to Warner Bros. for $7,000.000.

    From the time he was four Johnny was an entertaining wonder.  He charmed his family & friends by dancing, singing, imitating comedians, and talking in foreign accounts.

    When he was five, he made his Hollywood theatrical debut in the Sartu Theatre's presentation of Mr. Belvedere, and in 1955 he became one of the original Mouseketeers in Walt Disney's Club.  His selection was due in large part to the fencing finesse he displayed.  Johnny's father, Robert Crawford, an amateur fencing champion, had seen to it that his son received tutoring in fencing under Ralph Faulkner before anything else.

    When he was nine, Johnny had his first interview for a television part -- the title role in Lux Video Theatre's Little Boy Lost.  In spite of his lack of experience, he showed such inherent acting ability that he won the part.  Other important roles which quickly followed included co-starring in Edward Alperson's Courage of Black Beauty, a top part in Paramount's Space Children, and numerous television productions including The Zane Grey Theatre, Playhouse 90, Climax, and fifteen Matinee Theatres.

    An avid baseball fan, Johnny doesn't miss a chance to root for the Los Angles Dodgers at the ballpark.  He particularly relishes working in THE RIFLEMAN with Chuck Connors, who formerly played with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angles Angels.

    The most recent addition to his many interests is playing the guitar.  He hopes to become good enough to persuade the producers to let him strum it on the air.  And from his past record, it shouldn't take long.

    Johnny's sister, Nancy, is 18 and wants to be a writer; his brother Bobby is 15 and is also an actor.




*Update: Chuck has since passed away.  Born: Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors — April 10, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York.  Died: November 10, 1992 (age 71) in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin P. Connors, Chuck's youngest was born June 9, 1956 in Los Angeles, California, Reseda, California.

Jeffrey Alan Connors was born July 30, 1952 in Los Angeles, California and passed away on February 19, 2014 (61).


Parody on Casey at the Bat – Chuck Connors

(Written on November 11, 1950 to commemorate
the birth of Mike)

Parody on Casey at the Bat – Chuck Connors
(Written on November 11, 1950 to commemorate
the birth of Mike)
It looked extremely gloomy for the Connors pair at first.
Not having any young ‘uns was the feeling that was worst.
So when a year rolled by and nothing was a cookin’,
They felt quite sure that Nature had given them a rookin’.
Persistent in their efforts they wouldn’t take a rest,
With the hope which springs eternal within the human breast.
The thought if only something could be added to their zeal,
They’d revel in the glory of a brand-new baby’s squeal.
Another month went by and sad they were indeed
Until a trip to the Laurentians supplied the vital need.
When some weeks had flitted and they learned what had occurred,
They became extremely anxious for the coming of the third.
The happiness of those two, like the tidings of a bell,
Reached up in the mountaintops and sounded in the dell;
It struck upon the hillside, rebounded in the flat
For, BABY, WONDROUS BABY, was soon to be a fact.
There was joy in Betty’s manner in each and every place;
And pride in Chuckie’s bearing and a smile on Chuckie’s face.
When responding to the well wishes on Betty’s increased size
They knew their Laurentian trip had been very, very wise.
Ten thousand eyes were on them as the weeks just slipped away;
Ten thousand hands applauded the passing of each day.
And when the hour approached for the crisis to be met,
Defiance glared in Betty’s eye but Chuck was in a sweat.
The cravings of the mother-soon knew no earthly range.
And even Chuck, the dad-to-be, was acting very strange.
Once, while with the doctor, a tear had Betty shed:
“May I eat some onions?” --- “Not one!” The doctor said.
From her feelings down inside her there came a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm wave on a stern and distant shore,
“Oh, doctor, I want onions.” was Betty’s loud demand.
And it’s likely she’d have ate them had not doctor raised his hand,
With a smile of Christian charity the doctor’s visage beamed,
He soothed the rising tumult until happy Betty seemed.
And then the day arrived for Betty to depart
And Chuck was all flustered as he had been from the start.
Soon a nurse called him when Betty was in bed
And he sat and held her hand, wild thoughts in his head.
Then the time grew short and finally did halt
And when the nurse took Bet away he knew t’was all his fault.
Seconds seemed like hours and waiting just plain hell
And he prayed and paced and prayed that his Betty love was well.
When the doctor finally came, poor Chuckie was a wreck
And reached to take the outstretched hand before he hit the deck.
Oh somewhere in this favored land the gloom is inches thick;
Things so bad all over it just makes you sick.
But the Connors’ hearts are happy – filled with utter joy!
And the baby’s name is MICHAEL – yes, a little BOY!

**********

*Betty Connors, originally from Canada, became a citizen in 1958.

Michael Connors, 13, the oldest son of Chuck Connors, became a full U.S. Citizen on 8/11/64, he was swore in at the Department of Justice in Los Angeles.  Michael was born in Canada while his father was playing baseball for the Montreal Royals.  This gives Michael dual citizenship.
 


*
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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