Bat Masterson (TV series)

Bat Masterson is an American Western television series which was a fictionalized account of the life of real-life marshal, gambler, and journalist Bat Masterson. The title character was played by Gene Barry, and the half-hour black-and-white series ran on NBC from 1958 to 1961.[1] The show was produced by Ziv Television Productions. "Bat" is a nickname for Masterson's first name, Bartholemew, although in both the 1958 pilot "Double Showdown" and 1961 episode "No Amnesty For Death", he says his name is William Barkley Masterson.[2]

Bat Masterson
Gene Barry as Bat Masterson, 1958
StarringGene Barry
Narrated byBill Baldwin, Bob LeMond
Theme music composerHavens Wray (David D. Rose)
Ending themeBill Lee (Singer)
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes108 (list of episodes)
  • Frank Pittman
  • Andy White
  • Frederick W. Ziv
Running time30 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseOctober 8, 1958 (1958-10-08) –
June 1, 1961 (1961-06-01)

Although the series was fiction, it was based on the biography Bat Masterson, by Richard O'Connor, as noted by the closing credits.[3]: 143 [4]

Overview edit

Barry's Masterson often dressed in expensive Eastern clothing and preferred to use his cane rather than a gun to get himself out of trouble. Masterson was also portrayed as a ladies' man who traveled the West looking for women and adventure. He also came to the aid of innocents wrongly accused of crimes.[1]

Masterson, like other heroes of television Westerns, had a gimmick weapon. His cane contained a hidden sword.[2]

The black derby, fancy decorative vest, black jacket, and elegant gold-topped cane were his trademarks. When dressed more casually in episodes centered on outdoor action, Masterson would sometimes wear a gray derby with a slightly broader brim in place of the black one.

Cast edit

Allison Hayes appeared in 7 episodes (1958)
With Jacqueline Scott in "The Black Pearls"
Jean Willes, Gene Barry and Adele Mara in first series episode

Main cast edit

Guest cast edit

Bat Masterson guest stars included the character actor Robert F. Simon, who appeared as Harrison Whitney in the episode "Death by Decree", and Richard Eastham, who appeared in the 1961 episode "A Lesson in Violence". Stefanie Powers appeared in the 1961 episode named "Dead Man's Claim" (using the name Taffy Paul) as Ann, the niece of the boarding house owner. George Macready appeared as Clyde Richards in the 1961 episode "Tempest at Tioga Pass". Quentin Sondergaard appeared in various roles on the series five times between 1958 and 1961. Dan Sheridan was cast as Joe Rankin in the 1959 episode "Election Day". Allison Hayes had a recurring role as card dealer Ellie Winters in 7 episodes.

Yvonne Lime Fedderson was cast as Lola White in the 1960 episode "The Snare". Ron Hayes appeared four times in the role of Wyatt Earp. Gary Vinson appeared as Billy Thompson in the 1958 episode "A Noose Fits Anybody". Tyler McVey appeared from 1958 to 1961 in different roles in three episodes ("Dynamite Blows Two Ways", "Incident at Fort Bowie", and "Dead Man's Claim"). Ron Foster (1960) appeared twice as Toby Dawson in "Six Feet of Gold" and as Sheriff Buck Simpson in "Jeopardy at Jackson Hole" (1961). James Coburn also appeared in "Six Feet of Gold". Tom Greenway guest starred twice, as Charlie in "Buffalo Kill" (1959) and as Ben Pick in "Dagger Dance" (1961). Brett King appeared four times, beginning with the role of Hub Elliott in "License to Cheat" (1959); Douglas Kennedy was cast as Sheriff Jeb Crater in that same episode. William Tannen was cast in four episodes of Bat Masterson.

Diane Brewster played the role of Miss Lynn Harrison in the 2-part episode "The Conspiracy" (1959). Kevin Hagen appeared as Ace Williams in "The Fourth Man" (1961). Lon Chaney Jr. played the role of Rance Fletcher in "Bat Trap" (1961). Patrick Waltz, Ray Kellogg and Marie Windsor had guest-starred in the episode "The Fighter". Donald Murphy made one appearance in 1960. Anna Navarro and George Sawaya both made one appearance in 1961.

Episodes edit

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
137October 8, 1958 (1958-10-08)July 29, 1959 (1959-07-29)
237October 1, 1959 (1959-10-01)July 1, 1960 (1960-07-01)
334September 29, 1960 (1960-09-29)June 1, 1961 (1961-06-01)

Production edit

Development edit

The series is a fictionalized account of the life of real-life Bat Masterson, who had been an Army scout, Indian fighter, lawman, and a deputy of Wyatt Earp.[5]: 58  It was produced by Ziv Television Productions,[6] and is loosely based on Richard O'Connor's 1957 biography of Masterson.[3]: 143  This was highlighted by the book's front cover being shown at the end of the closing credits with an onscreen notation "based on". A 1959 TV Guide article quoted the producer as stating they wanted the show to be as accurate as possible.[7] The series was sponsored by Kraft.[8]

Casting edit

Gene Barry originally turned down the role of Bat Masterson because he preferred to stay working in film,[6] and he did not like ordinary cowboys. But when Barry, who wore a homburg and chesterfield coat when looking for work as an actor in New York, found out the character carried a cane and wore a derby hat, he jumped at the opportunity.[3]: 144  Barry was selected for the part directly by Fred Ziv.[6] Barry was the only regular cast member of the series, while guest stars each week included both name and soon-to-be-name performers.[5]: 58 

Production design edit

While Bat Masterson's dapper attire and gold-tipped cane might not seem like the look of a typical Wild West hero, Bat Masterson's derby hat and cane were trademarks of the real-life Masterson, having been presented to him by the citizens of Dodge City and were thus incorporated into the character as portrayed in the series.[1][3]: 143  In the series, his cane contained a hidden sword.[2]

Music edit

The popularity of the singing cowboys of the fifties led to several classic Westerns having themes resembling cowboy ballads, and Bat Masterson was no exception.[5]: vi  According to BMI and the sheet music, the theme music was written by Havens Wray (although incorrectly spelled by BMI as Ravens Wray). However, it was likely written by David Rose, an ASCAP member who couldn't use his own name for a BMI composition.[9] The words were by BMI writer Bart Corwin. The theme song was sung by Bill Lee, a member of the Mellomen.

Cancellation edit

Although Bat Masterson was positively reviewed by critics, the show was aired at a time when there were many other Westerns, and it was lost in the crowd. It never appeared in the Nielsen top 25. The show was cancelled after only three seasons.[3]: 147 

Release edit

Broadcast edit

The show originally aired on NBC from October 8, 1958 to September 21, 1961. It was placed in a different time slot for each of its three seasons:[1]: 106 

  • October 1958–September 1959, Wednesdays from 9:30–10:00
  • October 1959–September 1960, Thursdays from 8:00–8:30
  • October 1960–September 1961, Thursdays from 8:30–9:00

Home media edit

TGG Direct released the first and second seasons on DVD in Region 1 on January 29, 2013.[10][11] The third and final season was released on November 5, 2013.[12] Due to licensing issues, the episode Terror on the Trinity is not included.

Reception edit

Prior to the Bat Masterson series, the character appeared in thirty-four episodes of the unrelated ABC/Desilu western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, from 1955 to 1959. Mason Alan Dinehart played the role of Bat Masterson with Hugh O'Brian as the frontier peace officer Wyatt Earp. Dinehart was so associated with the role of Masterson, that it was difficult for television audiences to adapt to a different actor in the role in the unrelated series.[13]

Other media edit

Front cover of Bat Masterson number 3 (Dell Comics, June, 1960)

Guns of Paradise (1990) edit

Barry recreated the role of Bat Masterson in an episode of the television series Guns of Paradise (1990), alongside Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp.

The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) edit

In The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) Barry played Masterson, also with O'Brian as Earp, as well as Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick and Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie.

Comic book edit

Dell Comics issued nine issues of a quarterly Bat Masterson comic book between Aug./Oct. 1959 and Nov. 1961/Jan. 1962 with the initial issue a Four Color tryout (#1013).[14]

Comic Strip edit

Columbia Features syndicated a comic strip from September 7, 1959 to April 1960 written by Ed Herron and drawn by Howard Nostrand (Sept. 1959–Dec. 1959) and Bob Powell (Dec. 1959–April 1960).[15] Nostrand was assisted (on backgrounds) by Neal Adams who had just graduated from the School of Industrial Arts; it was among his first professional art jobs.[16]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television: the Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. New York: Penguin Books. p. 77. ISBN 0-14-02-4916-8. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Yoggy, Gary A. (1995). Riding the Video Range: The Rise and Fall of the Western on Television. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-0021-8.
  4. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Bat Masterson - The Fighter, Full Episode Classic Western TV Series". YouTube. January 4, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Marill, Alvin H. (June 1, 2011). Television Westerns: Six Decades of Sagebrush Sheriffs, Scalawags, and Sidewinders. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-8133-4.
  6. ^ a b c Aaker, Everett (May 16, 2017). Television Western Players, 1960-1975: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-4766-2856-1.
  7. ^ Nadel, Alan (2005). Television in Black-and-White America: Race and National Identity. University Press of Kansas. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7006-1398-4.
  8. ^ McDonough, John; Egolf, Karen (June 18, 2015). The Advertising Age Encyclopedia of Advertising. Routledge. p. 913. ISBN 978-1-135-94906-8.
  9. ^ "Bat Masterson".
  10. ^ Bat Masterson Complete Season One
  11. ^ Bat Masterson Complete Season Two
  12. ^ Bat Masterson Season 3
  13. ^ Brode, Douglas (January 1, 2010). Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors, 1946–Present. University of Texas Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-292-78331-7.
  14. ^ Magers, Boyd. "Comic Book Cowboys - Bat Masterson". Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  15. ^ Apeldoorn, Ger (September 2, 2010). "The Badmouths of the West". The Fabuleous Fifties. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  16. ^ Offenberger, Rik (December 17, 2008). "Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part I". Archived from the original on December 17, 2008. Retrieved April 5, 2023.

External links edit