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TV Western Stars

by Legacy Staff

If you were watching American television in the 1950s and ’60s, you were probably watching a Western. Hundreds of TV shows about the Wild West were broadcast in the middle of the 20th century. Some featured actors who had made their mark on the silver screen, such as singing cowboys Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, or movie stars Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. For other actors, like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, Westerns were a proving ground, a launchpad to Hollywood superstardom. Last but not least, there were the stalwarts, the incredible actors who year after year saddled up and took us on an amazing journey through the Wild West, actors like James Arness of “Gunsmoke,” Lorne Greene of “Bonanza,” Fess Parker in “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone,” and Clint Walker of “Cheyenne.” Join us as we tip our hats and remember the stars of our favorite TV Westerns.

Clint Walker (1927 – 2018)

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Clint Walker (1927 – 2018) starred as cowboy hero Cheyenne Bodie on the popular TV western series “Cheyenne” from 1955 until 1963.

View Clint Walker’s obituary


James Garner (1928 – 2014)

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James Garner (1928 – 2014) starred as card shark Bret Maverick in TV’s “Maverick.”

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James Arness (1923 – 2011) 

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For two decades, James Arness (1923 – 2011) starred as Marshal Matt Dillon on TV’s “Gunsmoke.”

View James Arness’ obituary

Fess Parker (1924 – 2010)

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Fess Parker (1924 – 2010) is known best for his title roles as frontiersmen “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone.” Later in life, he traded in his coonskin cap and became a winemaker and hotelier.

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For more than a decade between 1959 and 1973, America loved to watch the adventures of the Cartwright family on “Bonanza.” From left: Dan Blocker (1928 – 1972) as Eric “Hoss” Cartwright, Michael Landon (1936 – 1991) as Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright, Lorne Greene (1915 – 1987) as father Ben Cartwright, and Pernell Roberts (1928 – 2010) as Adam Cartwright.

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Gene Barry (1919 – 2009)

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In “Bat Masterson” Gene Barry (1919 – 2009) portrayed the real-life marshal and gambler.

View Gene Barry’s obituary

David Carradine (1936 – 2009)

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In “Kung Fu” David Carradine (1936 – 2009) starred as Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine, who travels the West and protects himself with his expert martial arts skills.

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The Lone Ranger

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Clayton Moore (1914 – 1999) played the title character in TV’s “The Lone Ranger” alongside his trusty companion, Tonto, portrayed by First Nations actor Jay Silverheels (1912 – 1980).

Roy Rogers (1911 – 1998) and Dale Evans (1912 – 2001) 

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Husband and wife Roy Rogers (1911 – 1998) and Dale Evans (1912 – 2001) were already well-known movie stars when they co-starred in “The Roy Rogers Show.” Evans wrote the show’s popular theme song, “Happy Trails.”

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Gene Autry (1907 – 1998) 

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Singing cowboy Gene Autry (1907 – 1998) starred in “The Gene Autry Show” after a successful movie career.

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Gail Davis (1925 – 1997) 

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Gail Davis (1925 – 1997) portrayed the legendary sharpshooter in “Annie Oakley.”

Guy Madison (1922 – 1996)

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Guy Madison (1922 – 1996) played the title character in “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok.”

Chuck Connors (1921 – 1992)

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ABC’s “The Rifleman” starred Chuck Connors (1921 – 1992) as Lucas McCain, a rancher known for his skill with a Winchester rifle.

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Michael Landon (1936 – 1991)

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After his long run on “Bonanza,” Michael Landon (1936 – 1991) updated the Western for a new generation by bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic “Little House on the Prairie” book series to the small screen. By the 1970s, the same baby boomers who grew up watching Landon as young Little Joe on “Bonanza” had children of their own and could watch Landon as patriarch Charles Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie.”

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Barbara Stanwyck (1907 – 1990)

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As frontier family matriarch and widow Victoria Barkley, Barbara Stanwyck (1907 – 1990) earned an Emmy in 1966 for her starring role in “The Big Valley.” She had previously been nominated four times for an Academy Award for best actress on the big screen.

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Guy Williams (1924 – 1989)

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Actor and fashion model Guy Williams (1924 – 1989) had his most prominent roles in two very different TV series: “Zorro” and “Lost in Space.”

Amanda Blake (1929 – 1989)

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Amanda Blake (1929 – 1989) was beloved by television viewers for her portrayal of saloon owner Miss Kitty on the long-running TV Western “Gunsmoke.”

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Victor French (1934 – 1989)

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Victor French (1934 – 1989) spent 20 years playing villains in Westerns like “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” before finding his gruff guy with a heart of gold niche on “Little House on the Prairie” with his pal Michael Landon.

Read more about Victor French

Ross Martin (1920 – 1981)

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Ross Martin (1920 – 1981) portrayed Secret Service agent Artemus Gordon opposite Robert Conrad in the series “The Wild Wild West.”

Richard Boone (1917 – 1981)

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Richard Boone (1917 – 1981) starred in “Have Gun – Will Travel.”

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Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980)

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Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980) starred as bounty hunter Josh Randall in “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”

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Eric Fleming (1925 – 1966) 

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Eric Fleming (1925 – 1966) starred opposite Clint Eastwood in “Rawhide.” As trail boss Gil Favor, Fleming was billed over Eastwood.

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