Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What Might've Been: Iron Horse (1966)

ABC saw the success CBS was having with Wild, Wild West, which was entering its 2nd season in 1966. They figured, the protagonists on that show use a train to get around, so why don't we come up with a show like that?

Well, it was something along those lines, but not quite. While Wild, Wild West crossed James Bond with steampunk to a degree, Iron Horse was a whole 'nother breed altogether. It was a straight-up Western, in an era where Westerns were still plentiful, but the herd was thinning out, if you will.

Dale Robertson headlined as Ben Calhoun, who won the right to build a railroad in a poker game, and, yes, tooled around on the titular train. Gary Collins (ex-Wackiest Ship in the Army) co-starred. The series lasted two seasons before being cancelled, due to the aforementioned fading interest in the Western genre. Collins would make one more series for Columbia/Screen Gems, that being the first adaptation of Joy Adamson's Born Free, and, as you know, that was preceded by a run with The Sixth Sense for Universal & ABC. As we mentioned before, Robertson moved on to Death Valley Days as its last host while the series was in production. When country singer Merle Haggard took over Days, he was really fronting a "best of" collection with new wraparounds. I digress.

Here's the intro:

Screen Gems was looking for another hour-long drama that would prove to be an enduring hit on the order of Naked City or Route 66. Iron Horse, because of the genre, wasn't it. Wackiest Ship and 1968's Here Come the Brides were classified as comedy-dramas, but you get the idea.

No rating. I barely remember seeing the intro as a child, or at least a commercial.


magicdog said...

I'd heard of this series but obviously too young to have seen it. I will always remember Gary Collins for his hosting "Hour Magazine" back in the 80s.

There is one brief clip of the series I DID see but it was a meta joke in an episode of The Monkees. In the episode, the guys are trying to keep Davy out of trouble with a girl, so they tie him to a chair. They let him watch TV to keep him from getting bored. The show he was watching was "Iron Horse"!

hobbyfan said...

More like an in-house plug, since The Monkees & Iron Horse came from the same studio (Screen Gems).