originally on TV 1955-63, DVD 2006 (Warner Home Video), $39.98, 5 discs, 780 minutes.
This series debuted on September 20, 1955, 10 days after the debut of Gunsmoke, and it wasn’t long before imaginative kids around the nation began wondering who would be the victor in a fistfight between CBS’ tall and mighty Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) and ABC’s broad-shouldered Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker). The dream match-up never occurred (hey, but it’s still possible, Arness and Walker are actually both still alive!). Of course, at least one kid knew that 6-foot-6 Cheyenne, who once lived with the Indians of that name, could have whipped Matt—let alone Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors of The Rifleman) and Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker of Bonanza)—with one hand tied behind his back. No doubt the ladies preferred the ever-drifting Clint as well, and Warner Brothers’ first television hunk found innumerable excuses for taking off his shirt during the long-running series. Consider the first four lines of the “Theme from Cheyenne,” by William Lava, with lyrics by Stanley D. Jones (feel free to sing along): Cheyenne, Cheyenne where will you be camping tonight?/Lonely man, Cheyenne, will your heart stay free and light?/Dream Cheyenne of a girl who you many never love/Move along, Cheyenne, like the restless cloud up above.
The DVD presents the complete first season, 15 black-and-white “hour long” episodes, and that happened to be the only season that Cheyenne Bodie did not ride alone (he had a sidekick named Smitty, played by L.Q. Jones). The show premiered as one of three rotating shows on what was called Warner Brothers Presents. In 1958 Clint Walker would ride off the set in a dispute with the studio, which opened the door for Ty Hardin as Bronco Lane. Walker returned in 1959, and Cheyenne had plenty of life left in it, though at various times it rotated on the air with two other Warner Westerns, Bronco and Sugarfoot. In all, 107 episodes of Cheyenne were produced, and for the kids (and maybe some ladies as well), Dell turned out 25 issues of Cheyenne comic books. Cheyenne Bodie is also the answer to a trivia question: “Name the only 1950s Western television character whose name is two Old West towns?”
Originally published in the February 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.