Zane Grey Theatre: A Blast from the Past

Zane Grey TheatreDo you know what the following names had in common? Eddie Albert, Mary Astor, Ralph Bellamy, Ernest Borgnine, Beaulah Bondi, Walter Brennan, Lloyd Bridges, Rory Calhoun, Lee J. Cobb, Wendell Corey, Robert Culp, John Derek, Bobby Driscoll, Jack Elam, John Forsythe, Beverly Garland, James Garner, Sterling Hayden, Celeste Holm, John Ireland, David Janssen, Carolyn Jones, DeForest Kelley, Cloris Leachman, Jack Lemmon, Julie London, Ida Lupino, Strother Martin, Ralph Meeker, David Niven, Jack Palance, Robert Ryan, Robert Vaughn, Stuart Whitman, and James Whitmore?

Besides being accomplished and well-respected actors, they all appeared in the first season of Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre. The show ran for five seasons on CBS and this great lineup lit up TV screens in 1956 and 1957.

Wonderful tales of the Old West laden with history and adventure were presented each week in a half-hour western anthology series. Dick Powell, who served as the host for the entire series, also starred as various characters in 15 episodes.

Rifleman

The Rifleman 1960

The series was originally based on the short stories and novels of western author Zane Grey, but as the series continued, new material was added. Aaron Spelling, who later became a legend in Hollywood, wrote twenty of the Zane Grey episodes.

The popular show was also ground-breaking for producing five episodes which were spun-off into subsequent TV series: (1) Trackdown (2) The Rifleman (3) Black Saddle (4) Johnny Ringo & (5) The Westerner. 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.The entire first season of 29 episodes has been digitally remastered and restored by VCI Entertainment and includes some vintage TV commercials.

Besides restoring Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre, VCI is also offering the re-transfer and restoration of Buck Rogers, the 12-episode serial from 1939 in a 70th anniversary edition re-release.

More great news for serial fans… VCI has also released the two The Green Hornetserials from the 1940s, The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Back. They went back to Universal to have the elements of some of the chapters completely restruck from the nitrate negatives… and the Black Beauty looks great!

We were able to find an old trailer for The Green Hornet serial. Enjoy a slice of nostalgia from 1940:

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  • btweber

    sounds great

  • Bruce Kerner

    I like the new blog, but ask why in a Zane Grey Theatre piece, TV, there is a misleading reference to The Westerner…… not the TV series from Sam Peckenpah, but to the old feature? Is the TV series not available on DVD, or at all? I was keen to see info on the TV series, The Westerner, not to be brought to another subject all together.

  • Jerry Frebowitz

    Good detective work, Bruce. We made a mistake and linked to the Gary Cooper feature film. Sorry, we don’t have The Westerner TV series for sale at this time. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • sailorbob

    WoW!!! Flashback city.

    This series was a great anthology, with a lot of greats and soon-to-be greats. By the way, there is a display window at the Texas Ranger Hall Of Fame dedicated to “Trackdown.”

  • Jim

    Any chance of releasing Four Star Theater and Fireside Theater?

    And, did anyone save the kinescopes targeted for the West Coast for (I remember) Mama with Peggy Wood, Robin Morgan, Dick Van Patten et al?

  • Len

    Do you know if there are any plans to release the Maverick western series on DVD?

    I remember it as a great piece of western escapism, with great performances from the three main leads and guest artists

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Jerry Frebowitz

    Jim: Four Star Theatre might be coming but no firm release date. Can’t say about the West Coast shows. There are rumors they do exist but not yet surfaced.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Jerry Frebowitz

    Len: we used to have Maverick episodes from 2005 until 2008 when Warners pulled the plug. We’re hoping they bring them back, this time in full seasons.

  • Lewis Dayton

    What about Wagon Train(we called it Maggot Brain, but never missed an episode)?

  • BRIAN

    How about Bronco(Ty Hardin)and Johnny Yuma(Nick Adams)?

  • albert camper

    i’m looking for one movie in particular…can someone out there help me find it.

    THE BIG FISHERMAN.
    a biblical epic done between 1954 to 1959..it starred howard keel in the title role of Peter. knowing it was done by walt disney, has not helped locate this film/dvd. i have a nice library of biblical films, but so far this one has escaped me……………………..thanx