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Classic TV Revisited: Rawhide

Rawhide

Rawhide was a black and white western adventure based on the lives of a cattle-driving team heading for Kansas.Eric Fleming, Clint Eastwood and Sheb Wooley.

Famed for its “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin'” theme tune sung by Frankie Laine (Frankie is now 90) that was later borrowed for the Blues Brothers film.

What was so special about Rawhide?
It had a strong cast of characters, including the young, rangy Clint Eastwood.

Is that all?
No. It reminded America of its not-so-distant past and was based on material from 1866 in the diaries of a real-life drover called George Dutfield.

And…
It also featured James Johnson, the first black actor to feature regularly in a TV Western series.

Who else was in it?
It’s remembered for Rowdy Yates (Clint) but Gil Favor (Eric Fleming) was its central man. He ran the trail crew with a will of iron and had a Mr No-nonsense “Now git” attitude.

Small ensemble, then.
There was also gnarled old cook Wishbone who also had a tender side (unlike his food). And the country singer Sheb Wooley, who played scout Pete Nolan. Sheb appeared in 60 films and 50 TV shows including High Noon, Clint’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and Giant.

Quit mumblin’, Clint!
It must have been strange working with Clint Eastwood before he became a superstar. It was his co-star Sheb Wooley who recalled how his unique delivery used to cause problems.

Tell me more.
Sheb once said: “We called him Mumbles. He didn’t speak his words very loud. The sound man was always saying ‘Kid, speak up!’ But he mumbled his way to a fortune.”

How?
Sergio Leone saw him in the show and cast him in his first Western.

So Clint was the big star of the show.
No he wasn’t. Actor Eric Fleming was.

Who?
He was Gil Favor, the solid boss who kept the wagon wheels turning until tragedy hit his own life.

How so?
Well, he stayed with the show for seven seasons and planned to retire to Hawaii, where he owned a ranch.

But…
During filming of MGM’s 1965 movie Glass Bottom Boat he drowned after diving into turbulent water.

Do Say:
“Move ’em on, head ’em up.” Or “Keep them dogies rollin’.”

Don’t say:
“Of course they never finished their drive.” Er, they did, actually. Or, “What became of Clint? Those spaghetti Westerns will never catch on.”