The dogies kept a-rollin’.
Eight seasons (1959-1966) of rollin’, actually, from San Antonio, Texas, to Sedalia, Kansas, in rain and wind and weather, and boy were their hooves tired. Eric Fleming starred as the trail boss, Gil Favor; the unknown Clint Eastwood played Rowdy Yates, the younger ramrod; and Sheb Wooley, as Pete Nolan, stirred the vittles when he wasn’t busy re-cording “The Purple People Eater.” The whole deal was baked by Charles Marquis Warren, who also directed Cattle Empire (1958), a smart Joel McCrea Western, which is the missing link between Red River (1948) and Rawhide. Western fans have been waiting quite a while for this First Season seven-disc box set (no extras). It doesn’t hurt that the gangly Eastwood matured into the Man With No Name during the course of the series. Still, the guy to watch is Fleming, who did for the series what Gil Favor did for the lumbering beef, with a force of will, decent intentions and an authentic basic character that came from years of tough times and odd jobs. Fleming’s brutal Depression-era childhood, his success as a TV actor and his bizarre death in a Peruvian river in 1966 (“though the streams are swollen”) are the stuff of Werner Herzog’s wildest fantasies.