Among the tried and true TV formulas, located on the same list that discloses the value of characters like the wisecracking neighbor and the lisping little sister, lies the following directive: stories about children and their preciously-named, loyal animals are a very, very good thing.
The television show My Friend Flicka was based, originally, on Mary O’ Hara’s children’s book of the same name, which was published in 1941 and made into a 1943 movie starring Roddy McDowall. The TV version was a half-hour Western—a children’s Western, we should say—and the first TV series to ever come out of the 20th Century Fox gates. Thirty-nine episodes were filmed in color, but were initially shown in black and white on CBS before the show moved to ABC, where it was finally broadcast in all its multi-hued glory.
My Friend Flicka (Flicka means little girl in Swedish) was set at the Goose Bar Ranch in Montana, and many of young lead character Ken’s adventures were based on those of book author O’Hara, who also grew up on a ranch among equine friends. The dynamic pitted the imaginative Ken, played by child star Johnny Washbrook, against his sternly practical father, played by popular Western actor Gene Evans. Though Ken’s mother tried to make peace between the two, the thing that finally did it was horse Flicka. This chestnut wonder taught Ken the lessons about responsibility and growing up that his father had trouble conveying, and everything—as they say in the animal husbandry trade—was just ducky after that.
There were other horse shows to come—chatty horses and plenty of heroic horse sidekicks—but none of these equine wonders were as wholesome as good old Flicka. She was a horse to call friend.
USA / CBS – TCF / 39×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 10 February 1956 – 1 February 1957
Johnny Washbrook as Ken McLaughlin
Gene Evans as Rob McLaughlin
Anita Louise as Nell McLaughlin
Frank Ferguson as Gus