Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre

Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, sometimes simply called Zane Grey Theatre, is an American Western anthology series which ran on CBS from 1956 to 1961.

Dick Powell's
Zane Grey Theatre
Danny Thomas and daughter Marlo on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, episode
"Honor Bright" (1961)
Also known as''Zane Grey Theatre''
Created byLuke Short
Charles A. Wallace
Presented byDick Powell
Theme music composerJoseph Mullendore
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes149
Producer(s)Helen Ainsworth
Hal Hudson
Aaron Spelling
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Four Star Productions
Pamric Productions
Zane Grey Enterprises
DistributorFour Star Productions
Original networkCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseOctober 5, 1956 (1956-10-05) 
May 18, 1961 (1961-05-18)


Created by Luke Short and Charles A. Wallace, Zane Grey Theatre was originally based on the short stories and novels of Western author Zane Grey, but as the episodes continued, new material was included.[1] Aaron Spelling wrote twenty Zane Grey episodes. The series opened each week with a prelude of the episode followed by the introduction, the firing of a gun, with the proclamation: "From out of the West, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater." Much of the musical score was handled by Four Star's Herschel Burke Gilbert.

Powell appeared as various characters in 15 of the 149 episodes and hosted the entire run. A half-hour program, Zane Grey Theatre debuted at 8:30 Eastern on Friday, October 5, 1956, and ran until the end of the 1960-1961 season, when Powell switched to NBC for a new hour-long anthology of drama and comedy called The Dick Powell Show.


Zane Grey Theatre was ground-breaking in that five episodes were developed into subsequent series: Trackdown (from "Badge of Honor") starring Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman,[2] Johnny Ringo (from "Man Alone"), starring Don Durant, both on CBS, The Rifleman (from "The Sharpshooter") with Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain on ABC, The Westerner on NBC (from "Trouble at Tres Cruces"), starring Brian Keith as Dave Blassingame, and Black Saddle (from "Threat of Violence") with Chris Alcaide instead of subsequent series star Peter Breck as the gunfighter-turned-lawyer Clay Culhane), also on ABC.[1]

In addition, Wanted: Dead or Alive, with Steve McQueen playing the bounty hunter Josh Randall, was a CBS spinoff of Trackdown, and Law of the Plainsman, starring Michael Ansara as a Harvard-educated, Native American U.S. Marshal, was an NBC spin-off of The Rifleman.

Outdoor sequences for many episodes of the series were filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

Selected episodes

Walter Brennan played an old outlaw, Joe, in the episode, "Vengeance Canyon," which originally aired on November 30, 1956. In the story line, Joe tries to warn a young gunslinger, Clint Harding (Ben Cooper), of the danger of seeking vengeance. Sheb Wooley played another outlaw, Brock.[3]

Jack Palance was cast in 1956 as Dan Morgan in the fifth episode of the series entitled, "Lariat." In the story line, Morgan spends five years in prison for accidentally causing the death of a man by the misuse of his lariat. Out of prison, he returns to exact revenge on Judge Lovett (Addison Richards) but instead takes a job from the judge and falls in love with the judge's daughter, Laura (Constance Ford).[4]

Celeste Holm was cast as Sarah Kimball opposite Eddie Albert as Sam Barlow in the 1957 episode, "Fugitive." In the story line, Sarah finds the fugitive Barlow hiding in her barn. Barlow soon reveals that he killed Sarah's husband in Civil War fighting. Sarah nevertheless draws close to Barlow. Peter J. Votrian was cast as her teen-aged son, Jody.[5]

Dewey Martin and Anne Bancroft were cast as Ethan Bowan and Isabelle Rutledge in the gripping 1957 segment, "Episode in Darkness." In the story line, Bowan, a cattleman, is framed for robbery and the murder of an elderly passenger on a stagecoach. Isabelle, the witness who can clear him, is blind but possessed with a keen sense of hearing which enables her to solve the case. The murder victim was Isabelle's aunt. Bowan urges Isabelle not to dwell in her past, when she was a dancer, and instead focus on her future.[6].

Sterling Hayden was cast as unreformed bounty hunter Link Stevens in the 1957 episode, "The Necessary Breed." Jean Willes played Kate Asher, his romantic interest who tries to convince him to give up bounty hunting because of the danger in his work.[7].

Tom Tryon played a former Confederate soldier, Jeff Anderson, in the 1957 episode, "Black is for Grief." In the story line, Anderson returns home after the war and finds that his wife, Barbara (Mala Powers) has been unfaithful to him while he was in battle. She is murdered shortly before his return. Though he sets out to find her killer, the surprise ending reveals that he was the actual culprit.[8]

John Forsythe was cast four months before the launching of his Bachelor Father situation comedy in the 1957 episode, "Decision at Wilson's Creek." Forsythe played Confederate lieutenant David Marr who resigned his command to return to his wife, Amy (Marjorie Lord, only to face scorn from the townspeople. Willis Bouchey was cast in this episode as Confederate General Sterling Price.[9] Outdoor sequences for the episode were shot on the famed Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California, known as the most heavily filmed outdoor location in the history of films and television. A number of scenes take place amid a grove of oak trees on the location ranch that later came to be known as the Midway Oaks, with one of the trees — a multi-trunked oak that leans heavily to one side — becoming known as the Forsythe Oak, named in honor of John Forsythe's appearance in the Zane Grey Theatre episode. The Forsythe Oak remains in place today in the back yard of a private estate on the former Iverson Movie Ranch.

Howard Keel was cast the gunfighter Will Gorman in the 1957 episode, "Gift from a Gunman." In the story line, Gorman tries to live down his past. He comes across an old flame, Marcy Overton (Jean Willes), who is married to his friend, Colonel Overton (John Dehner). Michael Landon played Overton's nephew, Dan Overton, who wants to emulate Gorman's prowess with a weapon. Meanwhile, the restless Marcy indicates that she would leave her husband to be with Gorman, but he rejects her suggestion.[10]

Scott Brady, prior to Shotgun Slade, was cast as Jeff Duane, a gunfighter who follows a dead man's horse in hopes of finding water in the desert, in the 1957 episode, "Man on the Run." In the story line, he comes upon an isolated ranch, owned by the two Longstreth sisters, which has been taken over by outlaws. One of the sisters asks Duane to take her away with him.[11]

MacDonald Carey played Tom Baker, a wounded sheriff awaiting the arrival of unruly cattle drovers, in the 1958 episode, "License to Kill." Macdonald Carey played Tom Baker, a wounded sheriff facing the arrival of unruly cattle drovers. The mayor, played by Jacques Aubuchon, hires Lane Baker, portrayed by John Ericson, as the town marshal to assist the sheriff but against the sheriff's wishes. Lane turns out to be the sheriff's younger brother. The two differ on law enforcement techniques but are eventually reconciled from a long-term family split. Stacy Harris plays Doc Currie, who set Tom Baker's broken arm.[12]

In "Let the Man Die" (December 18, 1958), Dick Powell portrayed Dr. Mike Reynolds, who must operate on Dolpf Akins (Brett King}, an unpopular gunfighter with a bullet lodged near his heart. Civic leaders, however, want Reynolds to let Akins die, but his own conscience and the Hippocratic Oath forbid the doctor from doing so. Akins dies in surgery, but the situation is clouded by the revelation that it was Reynolds' stepson, Nick, portrayed by Ralph Reed, not Akins, who was responsible for the killing of popular townsman Tom Menken (Frank Ferguson}. Marsha Hunt appears in this episode as Dr. Reynolds' wife, Julie.[13]

Robert Ryan and David Janssen appeared as Cob Oakley and Tod Owen, respectively, in the 1958 episode, "Trial by Fear." In the story line, Oakley convinces a jury to acquit Owen, an accused gunfighter. However, Owen believes that his acquittal is a trap to capture him after he escapes from jail in expectation of a conviction. Ultimately Oakley is forced into gunfight which results in Owen's death.[14]

In the 1958 episode, "Medal for Valor," Paul Fix portrayed Rufus Stewart, a businessman who hires David Manning (Richard Basehart), a man with an ill wife in need of medical treatment, to substitute in the American Civil War for Stewart's son, Adam (Richard Anderson). Manning wins the Medal of Honor, returns from three years in the Army for an affidavit certifying that he was a substitute so that he can claim western land. Rufus Stewart reneges on the promise because the son, the local sheriff, is running for the United States House of Representatives. Oddly, Rufus winds up being shot to death in a confrontation that he caused, and Adam agrees to provide the affidavit to Manning. The episode does not reveal if the sheriff was elected to Congress but considers the political liability of one having hired a substitute in the war. June Dayton portrays David's wife, Kate.[15]

In the 1959 episode, "Make It Look Good," Arthur Kennedy played Sam Carter, a former Confederate hired as a bank teller in an otherwise all-Union community by banker Clem Doud (Parley Baer). It is revealed that Carter, widely disliked in the town, had for a time been a prisoner of war at Elmira, New York. Carter becomes the inside partner to two brothers, played by Ed Nelson and Richard Rust, who rob the bank, but he changes his mind and does not take part in the splitting of the $30,000 loot. Carter must confront Russ Bowen, one of the brothers who had vowed to harm Carter's wife, Jenny, portrayed by Jacqueline Scott. Robert F. Simon played Sheriff John Hanley in this episode.[16]

In the first of two appearances on the program, Danny Thomas appeared in "A Thread of Respect" (Feb. 12, 1959) as Gino Pelletti, an Italian tailor who arrives in a frontier town to set up a shop with his son, George, played by Nick Adams. The tailor must stand up to Jess Newton, the leader of a group of hoodlums, played by James Coburn, in order to keep his son from straying to the lawless element.[17]

In "Deadfall" (February 19, 1959), Van Johnson is cast as Frank Gilette, a former outlaw falsely charged with bank robbery. He is framed by Hugh Perry, a corrupt prosecutor played by Harry Townes, and Deputy Stover, portrayed by Bing Russell. Convicted of the robbery, Gilette is captured by outlaws while on his way to prison, and the sheriff, Roy Lamont, portrayed by Grant Withers, is killed.[18]

Frank Lovejoy and Beverly Garland co-starred as a married couple, Sam and Margaret Walston, in the 1959 episode, "Hanging Fever." In the story line, a lynch mob forms to apprehend Harry Kelso (Christopher Dark), the prime suspect in a murder case. Sam Waltson, a community leader, seeks the truth, only to learn that his wife is an alibi for Kelso, with whom she had once been romantically involved.[19]

In "King of the Valley" (November 26, 1959), Walter Pidgeon played Dave King, a prosperous rancher who quarrels with his banker over a $10,000 loan. When the banker dies of a heart attack on the job after a confrontation with the rancher, it is revealed that the bank is missing $50,000. Leora Dana plays Anne Coleman, the banker's widow and the rancher's former paramour. The banker lost the funds with a bad investment, but the irate and uninformed townspeople are blaming King. Karl Swenson appeared in this episode as Will Harmon.[20]

In December 1959, at the age of fifteen, Don Grady, who would soon gain fame as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons, appeared in two different Zane Grey episodes, playing opposite Joan Crawford and then Dick Powell. In "Rebel Range" (December 3, 1959), he is cast as Rob Faring, the young son of Crawford's character, Stella Faring, a Confederate widow who tries to reclaim her former home and Rob's birthplace from the Unionist owner, Cass Taggart (Scott Forbes). Character actor John Anderson was cast as Fisk Madden, who tries to drive Taggart off his land and gain Stella's favor. The episode ends with Stella and Rob heading into a nearby town with the understanding that Taggart would call upon Stella for possible courtship.[21]

In "Death in a Wood" (December 17, 1959), Don Grady played a young Unionist, Zachary, who grows to understand that a Confederate soldier named Lawrence (Dick Powell), who is holding him prisoner, is a man of decency and strength of commitment. Simon Oakland appears in this episode as a less sympathetic Confederate named Townsend.[22]

On February 18, 1960, Zane Grey Theatre aired "Guns for Garibaldi" to commemorate the centennial of Giuseppe Garibaldi's reunification of Italy. The episode is set at Indian Creek, a western gold mining town. Giulio Mandati (Fernando Lamas), takes over his brother's gold claim. Though the residents of Indian Creek wanted to use the gold to finance a dam, Mandati plans to lend support to Garibaldi, who had requested financial contributions and volunteers from around the world as he launched his Redshirts in July 1860 to invade Sicily and conquer the Kingdom of Naples from King Victor Emanuel II.[23]

"The Man from Yesterday" (1960), the same title as an unrelated 1949 film, stars Wendell Corey as Adam Mapes, an ex-convict who returns to town to seek revenge on John Duncan (John Anderson), the man who failed to break Mapes from jail preceding his trial twenty years earlier. Cubby O'Brien, a former Mouseketeer, played Duncan's son, Ted.[24]

In th 1960 episode, "The Last Bugle," Robert Cummings was cast as the historical United States Army officer Charles B. Gatewood, who arranges the surrender of the Apache Chief Geronimo without firing a shot. Michael Pate and Robert Warwick was cast, respectively, as Geronimo and General Nelson A. Miles.[25]

Lloyd Nolan was cast as Dr. Elisha Pittman, in the December 8, 1960 episode, "Knife of Hate". In the story line, Dr. Pittman removed one of the legs of Jack Hoyt (Robert Harland) after he sustained a gunshot wound from which infection was developing. Hoyt wants to marry Susan Pittman (Susan Oliver), but her father is at first unyielding on the matter.[26]

In the 1960 episode, "The Mormons", Stephen McNally played Matt Rowland, who tries to block a wagon train of Mormons from entering his town, as they are suspected of carrying cholera. Things change quickly, when Rowland's son, Tod (Mark Goddard), becomes interested in a young lady on the train, Beth Lawson (Tuesday Weld).[27]

Near the end of her acting career, Nancy Reagan played opposite her husband Ronald Reagan in the episode, "The Long Shadow", which aired on January 19, 1961. Credited as Nancy Davis, she played a grieving widow who struggles to accept her son's death as a soldier under the command of Reagan's character, an Army major.[28]

Danny Thomas and his daughter Marlo were cast as Ed and Laurie Dubro in the heart-breaking 1961 episode, "Honor Bright". In the story line, Dubro, a former convict, opposes his daughter's plans to marry a neighbor, Vince Harwell (Ed Nelson). When Harwell's current wife suddenly arrives at the church to stop the wedding, Laurie flees and is crushed to death by a team of horses racing through town. Dubro plots a unique way to punish Harwell, but it costs him his own life in the process.[29]

On February 23, 1961, Jack Linkletter and his father, Art, appeared in "The Bible Man," one of the final episodes of the series. In the story line, the father, the Reverend Albert Pierce, is a traveling evangelist who is estranged from his now grown son, Jimmy, because he had tried to avoid telling Jimmy of the real circumstances of his mother's death. The son accused his father of causing the mother's death by burning down her house. However, she was already dead before the fire because a paramour had beaten her to death. The episode ends in a reconciliation of father and son. "The Bible Man" was Jack Linkletter's only regular acting appearance. When on television, he otherwise played himself.[30]

Other guest stars

The Rifleman pilot was broadcast in 1958, and a few months later, the new series began its five-year run on ABC. That episode is part of The Rifleman rerun package.

The Westerners rerun package utilizes the Black Saddle theme music, with Dick Powell's hosting segments replaced with new ones by Keenan Wynn. That format was used for a separate but connected rerun repackaging of four short-lived Western series from Four Star, Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo, The Westerner and Law of the Plainsman. An earlier rerun package was Frontier Justice, a summer replacement series on CBS in 1958, 1959 and 1961, hosted by Lew Ayres, Melvyn Douglas and Ralph Bellamy, one each summer.


The series finished at #21 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1957-1958 season, at #13 for 1958-1959 and at #22 for 1959-1960.[31]

Home media

In June 2009, VCI Entertainment released the complete first season of the series on Region 1 DVD in the United States.[32] As of September 2014, this release has been discontinued and is out of print.

On April 11, 2014, it was announced that Timeless Media Group had acquired the rights to the series and would release the second season on DVD on September 9, 2014.[33] It was subsequently released on September 30, 2014.[34] Season 3 was released on December 2, 2014.[35]


  1. "Westerns: Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". tvacres.com. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  2. Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 103-106
  3. "Vengeance Canyon on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  4. "Lariat on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  5. "Fugitive on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  6. "Episode in Darkness on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  7. "The Necessary Breed on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  8. "Black Is for Grief on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  9. ""Decision at Wilson's Creek" on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  10. "Gift from a Gunman" on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  11. "Man on the Run on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  12. "License to Kill" on IMDb
  13. "Let the Man Die" on IMDb
  14. "Trial by Fear on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  15. "Medal for Valor" on IMDb
  16. "Make It Look Good" on IMDb
  17. "A Thread of Respect" on IMDb
  18. "Deadfall" on IMDb
  19. "Hanging Fever on Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  20. "King of the Valley" on IMDb
  21. "Rebel Ranger" on IMDb
  22. "Death in a Wood" on IMDb
  23. "Guns for Garibaldi" on IMDb
  24. "The Man from Yesterday on Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  25. "The Last Bugle on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater". Internet Movie Database. November 24, 1960. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  26. "Knife of Hate on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. January 30, 1959. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  27. "The Mormons on Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  28. "The Long Shadow" on IMDb
  29. "Honor Bright on Zane Grey Theater". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  30. "The Bible Man on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  31. Top 30 Shows for each year, from 1950 to 2000!. ClassicTVHits.com.
  32. Lambert, David (2009-04-10). "Zane Grey Theater - Release Date, Revised Cover Art & More for The Complete Season 1". tvshowsondvd.com. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  33. A Timeless DVD Release for 'The Complete 2nd Season' Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine
  34. A Short Delay for 'The Complete 2nd Season' DVDs. Archived 2014-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
  35. Timeless/Shout! Schedule 'The Complete 3rd Season' for 2014 Archived 2014-09-20 at the Wayback Machine
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