Branded (TV series)
Chuck Connors, William Bryant and John Pickard .In the 1880’s Jason McCord travels the country trying to prove he’s no coward. He needs to do this because the military career of this West point graduate came to an end when he was thrown out of the army after being accused of cowardice. Written by Ed Stephan. In this Western series, Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation. Written by Marty McKee, Season 1, Episode 1: Survival, Original Air Date—24 January 1965. Jason McCord is traveling through the desert when he comes upon a dead horse. He follows the trail of footprints and comes across a tired, thirsty man. His name is Colbee and he and McCord strike out together to make the next town before their water runs out. He’s a family man with a wife and daughter and his fear of not seeing them again forces him to steal the horse and water and leave Jason in the desert.
McCord leaving the fort as the gates close behind him.
Branded is a Western series which aired on NBC from 1965 through 1966, sponsored by Procter & Gamble in its Sunday night 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time period, and starred Chuck Connors as Jason McCord, a United States Army Cavalry captain who had been drummed out of the service following an unjust accusation of cowardice.
The opening title credits scene of the each episode of the series was a depiction of McCord’s cashiering: his hat is pulled off, his epaulets are torn from his uniform, his buttons are pulled off, and his saber is broken, while a drum plays over Dominic Frontiere and Alan Alch‘s theme song: “All but one man died… there at Bitter Creek… and they say he ran away. / Branded! Marked with a coward’s shame. What do you do when you’re branded, will you fight for your name? / He was innocent . . . not a charge was true . . . but the world would never know. / Branded! Scorned as the one who ran. What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man? Wherever you go for the rest of your life you must prove … you’re a man.” He is then sent out of the fort where this occurred, and the gates are closed behind him.
In the pilot episode entitled “The Vindicator” McCord is confronted by a newspaper reporter (Claude Akins) who wanted a follow up story on the “Bitter Creek” massacre. General James Reed, McCord’s mentor, was on a peace mission and was to meet with representatives of the Apache nation at Bitter Creek when his unit of 31 men were outnumbered and attacked by a group of renegade Indians known as “Dog Soldiers” As the attack was underway McCord realized that the old general had taken leave of his senses and relieved him of command, but it was too late. McCord himself was wounded in the battle and left for dead. He remained in a coma for ten days after the attack. McCord was later brought up on charges and cashiered out of the Army after being found guilty of deserting his men in battle.
The newspaper reporter meanwhile tracked down a widow of the “Bitter Creek” massacre whose husband was third in command. She possessed a series of letters her husband had written questioning the mental instability of General Reed. Those letters would have been enough to grant McCord a new trial and possibly exonerate him. But it was McCord who convinced the widow (played by June Lockhart) to burn the letters in order to save the reputation of General Reed. McCord feared that if Reed’s reputation was damaged certain people in Washington DC would try to start a new war with the Apaches. Therefore McCord never spoke out about what really happened at Bitter Creek.
Connors as Jason McCord and guest star Anna Morrell, 1965.
In the series, McCord traveled throughout the Old West, continually confronted by people who refused to believe his notorious reputation for cowardice was undeserved, requiring him to prove them wrong.
John M. Pickard, formerly of the related series, Boots and Saddles, appeared in six episodes as General Phil Sheridan. Notable guest stars included Chris Alcaide, Russ Conway, Burt Reynolds, Don Collier, Burgess Meredith, John Carradine, Pat Conway,Janet De Gore, Chad Everett, I. Stanford Jolley, June Lockhart, Gregg Palmer, Dolores del Río, and Lee Van Cleef.