Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Virginian: The Old Cowboy (1965)

On March 31, 1965, the 28th episode of the 3rd season of The Virginian aired. "Old Cowboy" starred Franchot Tone and Billy Mumy and featured The Virginian's regular cast, including Doug McClure and James Drury (who had worked alongside Franchot in 1958's Bitter Heritage.)

Franchot is Murdock, the old cowboy who struggles to come to terms with his age and limitations. Billy Mumy (who you will recognize from Twilight Zone episodes among many other things) is Willy, Murdock's grandson and under his care. Murdock and Willy set out to find the biggest ranch because they need money and according to his stories, Murdock is the best cowboy and ranch hand that ever lived. Grandson Willy is his grandfather's biggest fan and proud of his grandpa's past. Willy sees that Murdock has trouble keeping up and doesn't make the smartest decisions with their money, but he still adores him.

Murdock's stories always make him out to be the hero and come back to the Double Eagle $20 coin that he was rewarded and keeps in his boot at all times.

When they reach town, Murdock quickly gambles away their money. Trampas (Doug McClure) feels sorry for the old man and his grandson and offers him a job at Shiloh.

At the ranch, Murdock doesn't fit in. He expects to be the top ranch hand and given the most important jobs, but the young cowboys view him as weak. Murdock's boastful ways alienate him from his coworkers and Willy begins to look up to Trampas. Trampas is Murdock's biggest supporter on the ranch, but Murdock only views him as competition.

Murdock is an enthusiastic, hard worker but continues to make mistake after mistake at Shiloh. He brands the wrong cattle, causes a dangerous stampede, and accidentally burns down the barn. But when he is needed on an important mission to move cow herds in a treacherous storm, Murdock proves what he's been telling everyone all along: that he is the most reliable, brave cowboy and will stop at nothing to get the job done. 

Franchot is the star of this 1.25 hour-length episode and he shines as the aging cowboy struggling to prove his worth to a changing generation.  This is some of his best television work (I truly believe that all his television work is really great) and I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoyed his performances in Bonanza and Wagon Train.

 Old Cowboy is available on The Virginian Season 3 dvd. It's also currently playing On Demand if you have DISH as your provider.