The Adventures of Champion (TV series)

The Adventures of Champion is an American children's Western series that aired from September 23, 1955 to March 3, 1956 for 26 episodes on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the series was re-broadcast under the title Champion the Wonder Horse.[1] Unusually for a black and white show, the series was repeated on and off by the BBC in the UK throughout the 70s, 80s and early 90s, with its final BBC broadcast being the episode "The Stone Heart" on 23rd January 1993.[2]

The Adventures of Champion
Adventures of champion.jpg
The Adventures of Champion Titlecard
Also known asChampion the Wonder Horse
GenreWestern/Children's
Written byOliver Drake
Peter Dixon
Paul Franklin
Eric Freiwald
Paul Gangelin
Orville H. Hampton
Robert Schaefer
Directed byGeorge Archainbaud
Ford Beebe
Thomas Carr
William McCarthy
Frank McDonald
Robert G. Walker
StarringBarry Curtis
Jim Bannon
Theme music composerNorman Luboff (music) Marilyn Bergman (lyrics)
Opening theme"Champion, the Wonder Horse"
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes26
Production
Executive producerArmand Schaefer
ProducersGene Autry
Louis Gray
Eric Jenson
Production locationsNewhall, California and Lone Pine, California
Running time30 minutes
Production companyFlying A Productions
DistributorCBS Television
Release
Original networkCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 23, 1955 (1955-09-23) –
March 3, 1956 (1956-03-03)

SynopsisEdit

Set in the 1880s in the Southwest,[3] the series starred Barry Curtis as 12-year-old Ricky North, who lived on his uncle's ranch in the American Southwest. Ricky's uncle, Sandy North, was played by Jim Bannon. Ricky's companions were a wild Mustang stallion, Champion, and a German Shepherd, Rebel, played by Blaze.[4]

Related showsEdit

The television program used characters similar to those in the 1949-50 radio serial, The Adventures of Champion. The radio serial told of young Ricky West (rather than Ricky North), who was raised on a ranch by his adoptive Uncle Smoky (rather than Sandy). Ricky was often accompanied by his German Shepherd, Rebel.

Beginning in 1950, The Gene Autry Show, a western/cowboy television series, aired for 91 episodes on CBS.[5] The Adventures of Champion was a prime time spinoff for the 1955-1956 season.

TV ChampEdit

In real life, the Wonder Horse, Champion, was owned by Gene Autry who, over many years, owned a succession of celebrity horses bearing the same name. The horse starring in The Adventures of Champion was known as Television Champion, or TV Champ, for short. He was distinguished by his chestnut coat, blond mane and tail, four white stockings and broad white facial blaze. TV Champ made frequent appearances with Autry in films and television during the 1950s. Unlike his fictional namesake, TV Champ was a gelding.

The horse that played Champ was bred in the United Kingdom. The mare rejected the foal then called Dawn that was hand reared by Walter Ellams and his daughter Patricia. Due to the foal being hand reared it was extremely tame and was then later sold to play Champion.

BlazeEdit

Ken Beck and Jim Clark, in their book, The Encyclopedia of TV Pets: A Complete History of Television's Greatest Animal Stars, quote animal trainer Bob Blair as identifying the dog as J.R., the canine that had the title role in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin TV program. "Rebel was played by J.R. and was owned by Frank Barnes. He was the best-trained dog in the business," Blair said.[6]

FilmingEdit

Filmed by Flying A Productions,[7] the series was shot on location within California. Vasquez Rocks. 34°28′48″N 118°19′00″W / 34.479887°N 118.31657°W / 34.479887; -118.31657 was used for the introduction and episodes. The Andy Jauregui Ranch at Placerita Canyon, Newhall 34°22′37″N 118°28′30″W / 34.377°N 118.475°W / 34.377; -118.475 was also used for several exteriors.

Episode listEdit

No.TitleOriginal air date
1"The Saddle Tramp"September 23, 1955
2"Crossroad Trail"September 30, 1955
3"Salted Ground"October 8, 1955
4"The Medicine Man Mystery"October 15, 1955
5"Lost River"October 22, 1955
6"Renegade Stallion"October 29, 1955
7"Canyon of Wanted Men"November 5, 1955
8"Challenge of the West"November 8, 1955
9"The Outlaw's Secret"November 15, 1955
10"Hangman's Noose"November 22, 1955
11"King of the Rodeo"November 29, 1955
12"A Bugle for Ricky"December 6, 1955
13"The Stone Heart"December 13, 1955
14"The Deer Hunters"December 20, 1955
15"The Golden Hoax"December 27, 1955
16"Johnny Hands Up"January 3, 1956
17"Black Kachina"January 10, 1956
18"Mystery Mountain"January 17, 1956
19"Rails West"January 24, 1956
20"The Real Unfriendly Ghost"January 31, 1956
21"Andrew and the Deadly Double"February 7, 1956
22"Bad Men of the Valley"February 14, 1956
23"The Return of Red Cloud"February 21, 1956
24"Brand of the Lawless"February 28, 1956
25"The Die-Hards"March 3, 1956
26"Calhoun Rides Again"March 3, 1956


Title songEdit

Although uncredited, the title song was sung by Mike Stewart, and later recorded by Frankie Laine. It was written by Marilyn Bergman and Norman Luboff.

"Champion the Wonder Horse! Champion the Wonder Horse!
Like a streak of lightnin' flashin' cross the sky,
Like the swiftest arrow whistlin' from a bow,
Like a mighty cannonball he seems to fly.
You'll hear about him everywhere you go.
The time'll come when everyone will know
(Up to episode 2, this line is "I wish there's not a man who doesn't know")
The name of Champion the Wonder Horse!"

The version recorded by Frankie Laine contains an additional verse, and repeats the chorus. (According to YouTube, Laine had intended to record an album for children, but this was never completed.) Laine's version was recorded on the Philips label, with Paul Weston and his Orchestra.

In 1991, the song was re-issued on Laine's album On the Trail Again.

Print mediaEdit

During the years 1953 to 1960, comic annuals were published by World Distributors, Daily Mirror and Purnell. Second-hand copies of these may be obtained. 'Ricky North' became 'Ricky West' in these, as with the radio serial.

Champion also had his own comic book, Gene Autry's Champion, published by Dell Comics from 1951 to 1955, which continued as Gene Autry and Champion from 1955 to 1959.

Starting from the issue dated 4 June 1966, Champion the Wonder Horse ran as a comic strip in the UK comic book Buster. Minor characters in the strip included Sheriff Sean Kelly, Gentleman Tom, the bare-knuckle boxing champion, Dick Crabtree, the town's ambulance-chasing lawyer, and Nicky Brandwood, queen of the saloon.

DVD releaseEdit

In 2005, a set of six DVDs was released in the UK, by Pickwick Group Limited, under license from Encore Home Video. The set is entitled The Adventures of Champion the Wonder Horse and sub-titled "the complete television series on 6 DVDs".

The set includes 23 of the original 26 episodes. The missing episodes are "Mystery Mountain", "The Golden Hoax", and "Real Unfriendly Ghost". DVD 6 includes a bonus film entitled Horses and Guns, starring Gene Autry and one of his several horse-stars named Champion.

In August 2018, a 16mm film of "Real Unfriendly Ghost", dubbed in French, was discovered in the Archives of the University of Maryland by missing episodes hunter Ray Langstone.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Hughes, Howard (2007). Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers' Guide to the Great Westerns. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9780857730466. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/200/20?order=asc&q=%22champion+the+wonder+horse%22#search
  3. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. ^ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  5. ^ IMDb: The Gene Autry Show (1950)
  6. ^ Beck, Ken; Clark, Jim (2002). The Encyclopedia of TV Pets: A Complete History of Television's Greatest Animal Stars. Thomas Nelson Inc. ISBN 9781418557379. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Television Film" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 11, 1955. p. 27. Retrieved 27 June 2019.

External linksEdit