Shooting Stars of the Small Screen

(University of Texas Press, $39.95)
(University of Texas Press, $39.95)

Teacher and historian Douglas Brode has published studies such as Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment, as well as slightly breezier books breaking down the film careers of Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Woody Allen and Elvis. More recently, he collaborated on a tribute to Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone with Serling’s widow Carol.

Brode’s new book, Shooting Stars of the Small Screen, is an A-Z encyclopedia of actors who appeared in TV Westerns, from 1946 to the present, from NBC’s Hopalong Cassidy to HBO’s Deadwood.

The book kicks off with Lee Aaker, Rin Tin Tin’s human sidekick (1954-59), and concludes 449 actors and 384 pages later with Anthony Zerbe, who had a recurring role in The Young Riders (1989-92). The book does not provide complete breakdowns of appearances or filmographies, but it does offer a decent overview of the actor, where he or she came from, who they were, where they got their breaks and, sometimes, where they ended up. Brode has spot-on and well-informed opinions on the people and the shows. While he doesn’t gossip, neither does he duck unpleasant facts.

Brode does include the incidental portrayals of historical figures by the actors he lists, which is a nice extra. For example, his book mentions Trevor Bardette, who played Old Man Clanton in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, had, in earlier times, played Sam Bass, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston.

Shooting Stars of the Small Screen is a handy reference guide for Westerns fans. My only qualm is that 68 black-and-white photos for 450 entries leaves a bit to be desired in terms of illustration. Yet I don’t hesitate to recommend adding this to the Christmas or birthday pile of anyone who loves television Westerns.

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