The Tall Man (TV series)
The Tall Man
The Tall Man is a half-hour American western television series about Sheriff Pat Garrettand the gunfighter Billy the Kid that aired seventy-five episodes on NBC from 1960 to 1962, filmed by Revue Productions.
The Real Pat Garrett
The Tall Man stars Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett and Clu Gulager as Billy the Kid though Gulager was thirty-two in 1960, eleven years older than Billy the Kid was at the time of his death in 1881 at the age of twenty-one. The highly fictionalized series provides a more humane image of the Kid than has history itself. Garrett eventually shot Billy dead in a night-time ambush at a farmhouse in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, but no concluding episode depicting the grim conclusion was filmed. Set in and about Lincoln, New Mexico, the series opens with a view of the extremely long shadow cast by Sullivan on a western street, hence the name “the tall man.”
In the premiere episode, “Garrett and the Kid” (September 10, 1960), Garrett arrives in Lincoln, depicted in the series as a gold-mining boomtown, as the new deputy sheriff, only to learn that a crooked saloon owner, Paul Mason (Robert Middleton), dominates the community, including the marshal, Dave Leggert (Denver Pyle). When he sees his power threatened, Mason tries to hire Billy to kill Garrett, unaware that the two were then on friendly terms. Vaughn Taylor is cast in this episode as Judge Riley, and King Donovan appears as a Mason henchman.
Andy Clyde was cast in five episodes as Pa McBeam; Judy Nugent plays McBean’s daughter, June. Different actress were cast as the other daughter, May. In “The Reluctant Bridegroom” (February 18, 1961), Ellen Corby is featured as Hannah Blossom, a potential mail order bride, for Pa McBeam. Hannah is lured to Lincoln through a fraudulent letter written by the McBeam daughters. In “Substitute Sheriff” (January 6, 1962), the McBeam daughters enlist their father as an acting sheriff in a scheme to thwart the seizure of their property for right-of-way by the railroad. Bob Hastings appears in this episode as J. S. Chase. Andy Clyde also appeared at the time in the role of the neighboring farmer George MacMichael on ABC‘s The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan.
In “The Reversed Blade” (February 4, 1961), Murray Matheson portrays Billy’s employer, John Tundall, though the name of the historical person is John Tunstall. Tundall grows indignant when the con-man Ben Webster (John Archer), who stole his wife and $10,000 eight years earlier, arrives in Lincoln. Jeanne Cooper plays Tundall’s former wife, now Mrs. Elmira Webster. John Tunstall died at twenty-four, but Matheson was forty-nine when he assumed the role as Billy’s employer.
Two episodes focus on visits to Lincoln by Governor Lew Wallace of the New Mexico Territory. In “The Great Western” (June 3, 1961),Frank Ferguson plays Wallace in a story about Big Mamacita (Connie Gilchrist), the owner of a rowdy cantina outside Lincoln and her grandson, who is a Wallace aide. In “The Black Robe” (May 5, 1962), Robert Burton plays Governor Wallace. In the story line, after the fall of Emperor Maximilian, a French foreign agent is supplying arms to the Mescalero Apaches in a murky plot to reoccupy Mexico. Chief Yowlachie is cast as “The Great Chief”; Slim Pickens as Starr, and Martin Landau as Father Gueschim, a Roman Catholic priest.
In “The Cloudbusters” (April 29, 1961), Frank de Kova plays Mike Gray Eagle, who sells water to Lincoln residents at inflated prices during a drought, during which the only flowing stream is on the Apache reservation.
In “Death or Taxes” (May 27, 1961), Garrett rides into a railroad company town that abuses its workers, runs illegal gambling halls, and refuses to pay its taxes. Character actor Will Wright plays Mayor Hackett in this episode, which features James Seay as Holman.
In “Apache Daughter” (December 30, 1961), J. Pat O’Malley portrays Sam Bartlett, whose daughter, Sally (Sherry Jackson), is released from Apache captivity after nine years. However, Sally wants to return to her husband, Talano, (Anthony Hall, aka Sal Ponti) a Chiricahua warrior.
In “Shadow of the Past” (October 7, 1961), Charles Aidman is cast as Ben Wiley, the father of Billy’s newest girlfriend, Sue Wiley (Barbara Parkins). Sheriff Garrett recognizes Wiley as an informant who stopped Garrett from escaping from a Confederate prison during the American Civil War. Nancy Davis Reagan appears in this episode as Ben’s wife, Sarah.
In “The Girl from Paradise” (January 13, 1962), Billy is framed for murder by his old nemesis, Rafe Tollinger (Kelly Thordsen), the sheriff of a neighboring county. He is sent to the gallows along with Anne Drake (Pippa Scott), a pretty young woman who is also framed for murder. The two are handcuffed together but manage to escape and then must flee from an approaching posse.
In “St. Louis Woman” (January 20, 1962), Jan Clayton, formerly of CBS‘s Lassie, portrays Janet Harper, a widow engaged to marry Tom Davis (Russ Conway), a longtime friend of Sheriff Garrett. While Tom is away from Lincoln on a cattle drive, Janet begins to show a romantic interest in Garrett. Roger Mobley appears in this episode as David Harper, Janet’s young son.
In “The Hunt” (January 27, 1962), a wealthy young man, Edward Van Doren (Richard Ney) hires Billy to guide him into the wilderness to kill a mountain lion. However, Van Doren’s real target is Billy himself. This episode presents details about the Colt Model 1877 .41 caliber, the gun used by Billy the Kid.
In “Three for All” (March 10, 1962), Irene Tedrow portrays the fiery Maw Killgore, who breaks her sons out of the Lincoln jail, where they are being held for having vandalized a saloon. The Killgores then place Garrett in his own cell while they go on a crime spree. George Kennedy plays Hyram Killgore.
In “Trial by Fury” (April 14, 1962), Billy receives a letter from a prospector, Johnny Red (Fuzzy Knight), informing him of the potential discovery of a lost Spanish mine near San Miguel, a ghost town, in southern New Mexico. James Griffith is cast in this episode as James Cutter and Robert Emhardt as Judge Oliver Cromwell.
In “The Frame” (April 21, 1962), Harry Townes is cast as Henry Stewart, diagnosed with a fatal illness and jealous of his wife’s former association with Sheriff Garrett. While mentally unbalanced from his illness, Stewart plots his own suicide and plans to frame his wife, Isobel (Lori March), for murder.
In “The Runaway Groom” (April 28, 1962), the Tugwell Brothers seek the husband of their sister, Sally (Roberta Shore), who deserted his wife right after the marriage a year earlier. They believe Billy the Kid is the missing husband and father of Sally’s baby, rather than Charlie Fox (Gary Vinson).
Ed Nelson, prior to Peyton Place, was cast as a talented but arrogant young physician, Wade Parsons, in the 1962 episode “Doctor on Horseback”. Dr. Parsons, who has assumed the practice of a beloved doctor who retired, must attempt to save the life of a young pregnant woman after she attempts suicide when her husband deserts her.
In the series finale, “Phoebe” (May 26, 1962), George Macready portrays Cyrus Canfield, a vengeful father searching for his runaway teenaged daughter, played by Floy Dean. When Canfield sees Billy with a necklace owned by Phoebe, he suspects that the young gunfighter may have killed his daughter. Billy, however, explains that Phoebe gave him the necklace as a gift after he rescued her in a rockslide.
Other Guest Stars
In addition to the aforementioned, other actors appearing on The Tall Man in individual episodes include: