Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The High Chaparral
This show struck a deep nerve with me. It was very progressive for a western, yet it really appealed to my anything but progressive Dad. The biggest red flag was a white man, Big John Cannon played by Leif Erickson, married to Victoria, a Mexican woman played by the smoking hot Linda Cristal.
That was pretty racy stuff in the late 60's early 70's. I'm sure Bag of Nothing can confirm the level of racism that existed then. I can only hope it's decreased, but from my POV, I honestly couldn't tell you.
But there were people back then that were determined to change the culture of America. They wanted to rid us of the hatred between the races. David Dortort was one of those men. He made his mark with Bonanza. He took that and used all the Hollywood cout he had banked with NBC and gave us The High Chaparral. A bold social experiment on our still mainly monochromatic screens.
This was one of the few shows my father made a concerted effort to watch. M*A*S*H was the other. That's pretty exclusive company. Buck Cannon (Cameron Mitchell) the rebellious younger brother of Big John was my Dad's favorite. Billy Blue Cannon (Mark Slade) the green but well intentioned son of Big John by previous marriage was mine. It was always a heated argument who would be the hero at the end of the episode. It was also the reason this series, shot in the Arizona desert outside Tucson, will always hold a special place in my heart. We always agreed on M*A*S*H, but The High Chaparral was a fun debate.
One of the few tourist traps he agreed to stop at when I rode with him as a kid was Old Tucson, the set for The High Chaparral. Another biggie for me was the Tucson Truck Terminal. It was frequently featured in Overdrive magazine and was my vision of a trucker's oasis. Time is a cruel mistress.
You can catch restored episodes of The High Chaparral on The Inspiration Network (DirecTV 364). Inspiration Network also runs Daniel Boone, JAG, The Big Valley, Matlock, The Waltons, Little House and much, much more in between evangelical services. A pretty good channel for the classic TV fan.