The Cisco Kid (TV series)

The Cisco Kid is a half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, the Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho. Cisco and Pancho were technically desperados, wanted for unspecified crimes, but instead viewed by the poor as Robin Hood figures who assisted the downtrodden when law enforcement officers proved corrupt or unwilling to help.[1] It was also the first television series to be filmed in color,[2] although few viewers saw it in color until the 1960s.

The Cisco Kid
Duncan Renaldo as the Cisco Kid, with Diablo
Written byO. Henry
J. Benton Cheney
Barry Cohon
Directed byPaul Landres
Lambert Hillyer
StarringDuncan Renaldo
Leo Carrillo
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes156 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Frederick Ziv
Philip N. Krasne
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Ziv Television Programs
DistributorZiv Television Programs
Original networkFirst-run syndication
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 5, 1950 
March 22, 1956

Production notes

The central character was created by the American short story author O. Henry in "The Caballero's Way", published in 1907 in the collection Heart of the West. Radio, television, and films have depicted the Cisco Kid as a heroic Mexican caballero, but in the original story, the Kid is non-Hispanic and an authentic, unusually vicious outlaw.[3] The character was adapted as the radio drama The Cisco Kid in 1942–1955.[4][5] Jackson Beck played the title role 1942–1945, and Jack Mather from 1946–1955.

The TV series began production in 1949, and was filmed by ZIV Productions at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley, California; in Pioneertown, California; and at other southwestern U.S. locations.[6] Carrillo, a Los Angeles native of Castillian ancestry, was the first regular Hispanic television star. (Renaldo was a native of Romania; Desi Arnaz, Sr, of Cuban descent, went on the air with his wife and co-star, Lucille Ball, in I Love Lucy a year later.)[7] When the series began, Carrillo was already 70 years of age; Renaldo, 46. Part of the humor of the series is reflected in Carrillo's mangling of the English language.[6] Pancho's catch-phrase, when amused by Renaldo, was a drawn-out "Ohhh, Ceesco!" Viewers also became acquainted with the characters' horses, Cisco's Diablo and Pancho's Loco.

The program, somewhat similar to The Lone Ranger, aired via syndication from 1950–1956. It was originally filmed in 16 mm Kodachrome,[8] later in 35 mm when the network owned-and-operated stations preferred the higher quality format.[9] Because the 156 episodes were filmed in color, the series was in demand until the 1970s.[1] However, most viewers of the original run saw the program in black-and-white.[10] In 1956, the year the original run ended, only 0.05 percent of U.S. households with a television set had a color set, and 10 years later only 9.7 percent had a color set.[11] The television series was sponsored in its first run by local bread companies owned by Institute Brands as the radio series had been.

The Cisco Kid was nominated in 1953 for an Emmy Award for children's programming. By 1955 it was the most popular filmed television series among American children.[12]

In the 1960s, the series was distributed by Walter Schwimmer with the ZIV Television logo deleted from the opening/closing credits and replaced with a title card still: "A Walter Schwimmer Presentation."

Guest stars

A number of recurring guest stars on The Cisco Kid later had television series of their own:

  • Tristram Coffin appeared in nine episodes as banker Tom Barton. He later portrayed the real Thomas H. Rynning, first commander of the Arizona Rangers, in the syndicated series 26 Men (1957–1959), with co-star Kelo Henderson.
  • William Fawcett appeared seven times as "Grampaw" between 1953 and 1956, at which time he joined the cast of NBC's Fury in the role of cantankerous Broken Wheel ranch hand Pete Wilkey.
  • Gail Davis appeared five times on The Cisco Kid in the role of Ruth Drake. First, however, she portrayed Nancy King in the 1950 episode "False Marriage", the story of a young woman planning to marry a gangster named Duke Ralston played by Robert Livingston. Nancy's uncle, played by Russell Hicks, asks Cisco to help him to halt the pending marriage. Davis's co-star on her Annie Oakley series, Brad Johnson, appeared once on The Cisco Kid as Johnny in the episode "Water Toll" on November 5, 1951.

Other guest stars included:


Sample episodes

In the third episode entitled "Counterfeit Money", Cisco and Pancho are asked by Marshal Ben Lane to track down a gang of counterfeiters. Cisco cannot prove his hunch that the local banker and his clerk are involved in fraud until Pancho poses as an alleged bank robber. Other episodes included:

  • "Rustling" – Joe Dawson, foreman at a ranch in San Saba, asks Cisco to stop a gang of cattle rustlers. The gang leader orders two of his henchmen to kill Dawson but to blame the murder on Cisco.
  • "The Big Switch" – a sheriff orders his deputy to bring the murderer, Jim Hardy (a name later modified in the Dale Robertson NBC and ABC western Tales of Wells Fargo as "Jim Hardie") to the state prison for hanging. En route, the deputy is killed from a shot by a man who brings Hardy to the man's boss, Jim Holbrook. Holbrook plans to kill his employer, ranch owner Henry P. Murdock, and replace him with Hardy, who resembles Murdock. Through this switch, Holbrook would gain control of the ranch. Meanwhile, the sheriff believes that Cisco has killed his deputy, and Cisco and Pancho must solve the mystery to prove their own innocence.
  • "Wedding Blackmail" – Cisco and Pancho try to help a bank teller, whose marriage to the daughter of the bank president is endangered by two gunmen who are blackmailing the young man about a secret from his past.
  • "Lynching Story" – a bank president is murdered and the townspeople accuse the man's future son-in-law of the crime. A lynching party is formed, and Cisco and Pancho attempt to find the real killers before the mob can hang the innocent man.
  • "Confession for Money" – a young woman asks Cisco and Pancho to help her fiancé, who has confessed to a robbery and murder he did not commit to get money for his mother's surgery.
  • "Phony Sheriff" –Cisco and Pancho are tricked by a cattle buyer, who uses a fake sheriff and deputies to force them to surrender the cattle of a friend. The pair pursues the swindler to procure the return of the cattle.
  • "Uncle Disinherits Niece" – a rancher threatens to disinherit his niece unless she stops seeing her boyfriend. When the rancher is found murdered, suspicion falls on the niece's lover. Cisco and Pancho seek the real killer to clear the young man.
  • "Water Toll" – Cisco and Pancho come to the aid of a woman rancher at odds with a cattle baron who charges for the watering of herds.
  • "The Bates Story" – Cisco and Pancho are forced to switch clothing with two escaped convicts and are thereafter arrested when mistaken for the criminals.
  • "Quicksilver Murder "– Cisco and Pancho investigate when a crooked prosecutor robs quicksilver shipments and uses chemical weapons to commit murder.
  • "The Raccoon Story" – Cisco and Pancho deliver the death certificate of an old miner, Stanford Jolly's character of Gus Brown, only to determine that Brown left all of his property to his best friend—his dog.[15]

DVD release

MPI Home Video released four-volume sets of The Cisco Kid on DVD in Region 1 in 2004/2005, each set contains 20 episodes. However, the releases feature a random collection of episodes, not in original broadcast order.

On January 15, 2008, Mill Creek Entertainment released Best of the Cisco Kid, a three-disc set which included 35 episodes from the first two seasons of the series. Many of the set's episodes, along with several others, have also been issued on the company's multi-series Western anthologies.

The series was parodied on the comedy series Second City Television ("SCTV") in the sketch depicting Cisco and Pancho in "Friendlyville." The SCTV series' producer-distributor, Rhodes Productions, acquired the distribution rights to the series in the mid-1980s and rebroadcast on Chicago's WGN-TV among other stations, hence the closing credits again altered at the end as: "A Rhodes Productions Presentation."

On the children's show Wonderama, a character in a Western-style costume called "The Disco Kid" would appear during the dance segment.[16]

The group War had a song called "The Cisco Kid" on their album The World Is a Ghetto, released in 1972.

In 1994, Turner Network Television carried a "Cisco Kid" television movie, with Jimmy Smits as Cisco and Cheech Marin as Pancho.

The chamber of commerce office in Cisco, Texas, has a small exhibit on The Cisco Kid, but the character is not related to the community, the seat of Eastland County.

The Deep Purple song "Hey Cisco" from the album Purpendicular [sic] references the ban on Duncan Renaldo using the copyrighted character to profit, albeit minimally, from the character he portrayed on television. The song can also be heard on the live Deep Purple DVD Perihelion where lead singer Ian Gillan explains briefly what inspired him to write the song.

Sublime's 1994 album Robbin' the Hood features the song "Cisco Kid", which includes voice clips from the series.


As of 2014, reruns of The Cisco Kid are only being shown on Heroes & Icons network. [17]

See also


  1. Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, 4th ed., p. 165
  2. Interview with Frederick W. Ziv, in: Irv Broughton, Producers on Producing: The Making of Film and Television, McFarland, 1986, p. 18. ISBN 978-0-89950-199-4.
  3. "He killed for the love of it — because he was quick-tempered — to avoid arrest — for his own amusement — any reason that came to his mind would suffice." O. Henry, "The Caballero's Way", Heart of the West.
  4. "Program Reviews", Billboard, November 7, 1942, p. 8.
  5. Humongous Old-Time Radio Database, The Original Old Time Radio (OTR) WWW Pages.
  6. "The Cisco Kid". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  7. "The Cisco Kid:Summary". Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  8. The History of Cinematography, Part 3: Advancing the Art Form, Kodak.
  9. Interview with Frederick W. Ziv, in: Irv Broughton, Producers on Producing: The Making of Film and Television, McFarland, 1986, p. 19. ISBN 978-0-89950-199-4.
  10. "To date there have been only experimental showings of color prints." "Ziv Producing Sixth Year of 'Cisco Kid,' Its Oldest", Billboard, April 30, 1955, p. 8.
  11. Christopher H. Sterling and John Michael Kittross (2002). Stay tuned: a history of American broadcasting (3 ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 975. ISBN 0-8058-2624-6. page 864
  12. "'Cisco Kid' in Top Kid Spot", Billboard, April 30, 1955, p. 8.
  13. "TV Show – The Cisco Kid: Dutchman's Flat". The Classic TV Archive (CTVA). Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  14. "TV Show – The Disco Kid: Dutchman's Flat". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  15. List of The Cisco Kid episodes on IMDb
  16. The Bootleg Files: Wonderama at Film Threat
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