When Director Michael Curtiz was shooting 1954’s The Boy from Oklahoma, he probably never imagined this easygoing vehicle for Will Rogers Jr. would become a TV series, but Warner Bros. likely had an inkling that it would.
In the 1957 to 1961 ABC series Sugarfoot, Will Hutchins starred as Tom Brewster, a gentle soul wandering the West and looking for his next cowpoke job, while studying law by mail. Without fail, Brewster stumbles into trouble, and he always tries to figure his way out using country-boy logic, instead of drawing a gun.
Like Bret Maverick, Brewster was a different stripe of character than the career sheriffs and badmen who populated other Westerns. Stepping away from the shoot-’em-up formula became Sugarfoot’s trademark.
Sugarfoot’s tone made it consistently entertaining, but several episodes stand out. The pilot, very much the script for the Curtiz film, has our reluctant hero facing down Billy the Kid, played by Dennis Hopper.
“Misfire,” from a story by Alan LeMay, has Brewster defending a boy accused of murder, with the unwanted help of love-crazy Patience Preston (played by Connie Stevens) and her basset hound. James Garner pops up in a cameo as Maverick.
In a serious episode, “The Bullet and the Cross,” Charles Bronson is a half-breed Indian who goes on the run when authorities believe he strangled his fiancée. The B-movie icon Lee “Roll ’em” Sholem directed. Bronson is tremendous, with Hutchins ably showing his dramatic chops.
Sugarfoot: The Complete First Season is a wonderful rediscovery. The transfers of the 20 episodes are top-notch, although no extras. Perhaps Hutchins will agree to make commentaries for Season Two?