“What a Boone, what a do-er, what a dream come-a truer, was he,” so the song stated when Daniel Boone premiered in September 1964.
It was pretty late in the day for a frontier series, but the show managed to remain on the air through 1970, mostly due to a demographic that missed seeing the genial Fess Parker, a 50s phenomenon as Davy Crockett, in a hat that came with its own tail. The TV Boone lived in Boonesborough, Kaintuck, in 1775 and had a wife, Rebecca (Patricia Blair), and 2.0 kids. Most of the time, though, he wandered through the woods at the behest of George Washington or Ben Franklin, finding ways to just get along with the Cherokees, Shawnees, Creeks and Wyandots, discouraging alliances between the Indians and the British, and putting his Pennsylvania long rifle, Ticklicker, to good use.
Boone had many friends, including comic relief Yadkin (Albert Salmi, who, sadly, was no Arthur Hunnicutt) and Mingo (Ed Ames), an Oxford-educated half-Cherokee in a Frazetta Conan wig who had occasion to toss off a line or two in Latin. Meanwhile his evil twin brother, also named Mingo, apparently skipped his Latin lessons to major in butchery and bushwhacking. Ames came from the popular 50s group, the Ames Brothers, and eventually left the series when he started hitting it big on the charts as a solo act with songs like “My Cup Runneth Over.”
Daniel Boone was decent family fare. The best thing about the series, and the two box sets that contain the remastered first and second seasons (57 episodes total), are the guest stars—Slim Pickens, George Sanders, George Gobel, Kurt Russell and Leonard Nimoy, mere months away from his debut as Spock, appearing as a Seminole in a shaggy black wig much like the one he wore in the Star Trek pilot. Also on board is Walter Pidgeon as Virginia Gov. Lord Dunsmore, who turns out to be Mingo’s pop.
Extras include interviews with Parker, who retired from deerstalking to start a successful winery in California. Also on hand are the actors who play Boone’s kids, Veronica Cartwright and Darby Hinton. Too bad the extras don’t include a bottle of Parker’s esteemed Pinot Noir.