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"Nobility of Kings"
Original NBC Broadcast - 10 November 1965
Executive Producer Norman MacDonnell
Produced by James Duff McAdams
Teleplay by Richard Fielder / Story by James Duff McAdams
Directed by Paul Stanley
(shown in the ride in--all appear in this episode)
Lee J. Cobb as Judge Henry Garth
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker
Randy Boone as Randy Benton
Diane Roter as Jennifer Sommers
James Drury as The Virginian
Charles Bronson [Ben Justin]
Lois Nettleton [Mary Justin]
George Kennedy [Tom Suchette]
Complete Ending Credits:
Vito Scotti as Gilly
Bob Random as Will Justin
Edward Faulkner as Blaylock
Robert P. Lieb as Mr. Howell
Davis Roberts as the Stationmaster
Russ Bender as Doc Linnell
Charles McDaniel as the Storekeeper
James B. Sikking as Sanders
(John Mitchum as the Bartender and Jimmy Lee Cook as Jimmy appear uncredited)
Theme by Percy Faith
Music Score Bernard Herrmann
Director of photography Benjamin H. Kline, A.S.C.
Art director ... George Patrick
Film Editor ... J. Howard Terrill
Unit manager ... Ben Bishop
Assistant director ... Les Berke
Set decorators ... John McCarthy and James M. Walters
Sound ... James T. Porter
Color consultant ... Robert Brower
Color by Pathe
Editorial Dept. Head ... David J. O'Connell
Musical Supervision ... Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor ... Vincent Dee
Makeup ... Bud Westmore
Hairstylist ... Larry Germain
The title "The Virginian" by permission of EMKA LTD.
Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
The Virginian, Judge Garth, brief appearances by Jennifer, Trampas and Randy,
very brief appearance by Ryker
Embittered by his past failures, Ben Justin (Bronson) is determined to be a
success and antagonizes the other ranchers with his foul temper and
disregard of the Cattlemen's Association rules. Although forbidden to
associate with neighbors, Ben's lonely second wife Mary (Nettleton) and his
young son accept the Virginian's and Judge Garth's friendship, angering Ben
who wants no help from anyone. (bj)
Trampas, Randy and neighboring rancher Tom Suchette ride over to Ben Justin's
ranch, the Circle J, where they find Justin and his hired hand branding a
maverick calf. Trampas politely tries to inform the newcomer Justin that
this is contrary to the Cattlemen's Association rules, but Justin reacts
angrily and orders them off his property. Suchette threatens to shoot him,
but Trampas tells him they'll come back after Justin has "had a chance to
cool down." After they leave, Justin's hired hand tells him he's asking for
trouble by going against the Association's rules and quits. Trampas returns
to Shiloh and informs the Virginian of this altercation. The Virginian says
he'll go speak to Justin himself. Trampas offers to go along, but the
Virginian tells him to stay behind, saying, "I'd feel a lot safer without
you...I don't like the idea of taking along a red blanket while I go out
courting a bull."
While riding over to the Circle J, the Virginian sees a bunch of Justin's
cattle roaming onto Shiloh land. He continues on to the ranch where Justin
greets him with a rifle, thinking he's going to make further trouble over his
branding the maverick. The Virginian tells him that some of his cattle
escaped onto Shiloh land through a hole in his fence. Justin accuses one
of the Shiloh hands of cutting the hole, but the Virginian says his men
had nothing to do with it and offers to help him round them up. Justin
refuses the offer and rides off. Justin's wife, Mary, steps up and asks
the Virginian if he's "one of those men who accused (her) husband of stealing
that calf." The Virginian tells her that no one accused him of stealing a
calf, but that the Association has certain rules and branding a maverick
before roundup could get him blackballed, meaning he couldn't ship his
stock out of the railhead at Cheyenne. He repeats that he'd like to help
her husband round up the strays. Mary, who is much friendlier than her
husband, tells him to forget it; "My husband likes to do things by himself,
without anybody's help. It's hard to explain unless you know him." She
invites him inside for coffee and calls for her son, Will, to come outside
and meet him. The Virginian tells Will about the break in the fence and
suggests that he go and help his father round up the strays. Will replies,
"I - I can't. I - I'm sorry," and walks away. Mary says that he doesn't
mean to be rude. It's just that they only have two horses and his father
uses both of them. Besides, Will can't ride. She then says that she must
look rather young to be Will's mother. In fact, she's his stepmother and
his mother died two years ago. "I do what I can, but I'm afraid the boy
still misses her." The Virginian tells her that if her husband "wouldn't
take offense," perhaps they could find a horse over at Shiloh that "would
be just right for breaking in a greenhorn." She thanks him for the offer
and says she'll tell Ben.
That evening, a weary Ben Justin returns home and says that he lost two
head. In the kitchen, Will asks Mary if there's anything he can do. Mary
suggests that he go bed down Ben's horse for the night, which he does.
Without saying a word, Ben goes into the kitchen and fetches a bottle of
whiskey and a glass as Mary looks on with fear. He returns to the living
room and explosively throws the empty glass into the fireplace. "I just
don't know what's the matter with me!" he blurts out, "Sometimes I feel
like the sky's closing in on me and there's no place left to go!...I've
just got to make it here! I've just got to! I can't depend on anybody
...Like back East when my partners ran out on me and left me facing that
bankruptcy. I can't trust anybody again. I'm going to have to work
and sweat until I make it with my own two hands!" "And this," he says,
holding the whiskey bottle, "This is being weak and sick!" breaking the
bottle in the fireplace and cutting his hand in the process. He continues
on, "You know, Mary, we're going to get out from under that debt at the
bank and then we're going to buy us some Aberdeen Angus and we're going
to upbreed every head we own. I do this for you, you know, and for Will.
That boy's going to know he has a father who's worth something in this
world!" While Mary is bandaging his hand, Ben remarks that as long as
a man owns his own spread and manages his own cattle, he can "walk with
the nobility of kings." He suddenly remembers that he forgot to put away
the horse. Mary tells him that Will is taking care of it. She tells
Ben that he needs somebody to help around the ranch now that his hired
hand has left, so why doesn't he let Will help him? She says that the
Shiloh foreman offered to help break Will in with a horse. "You been
talking about me and my son to some stranger?" asks Ben. "I don't see
the harm. It would be so good for Will," she says. "He's not cut out
for working cattle! And he's always been a sickly kid!" says Ben. "At
least give him a chance!" pleads Mary. "Stop gettin' at me about him!
I ought to know what's best for my own son!" snaps Ben. He calms down
a bit and says that he'll try to be a better father but that he just
doesn't like to have anybody around and doesn't like anybody watching him,
"I can't explain it!" "I don't think you even know what you're doing
sometimes to other people, to yourself," says Mary. He gets up and walks
into the kitchen where he finds Will, who has come in after taking care
of the horse and has overheard all this. He tries to speak to his son,
but Will walks away.
We next see Mary and Will in town at the general store, where they run into
the Virginian. They share a laugh as the Virginian holds up a bolt of
flowery material saying it "would make a nice shirt for a cowboy...if it
didn't scare his horse!" Ben walks in, rebuffs the Virginian's attempt to
be friendly and orders his family to load up the wagon. Later, back at
the ranch, Will tells Ben that the stationmaster in Medicine Bow said Ben's
freight has come in. Ben brightens up with this news and prepares to go
back into town. Without knowing what the order is, Will asks if he can
go along to help. Ben at first says no, but seeing Will's disappointment,
says that he wanted it to be a surprise but wants him to come. The freight
order is a purebred Aberdeen Angus seed bull. Ben's wagon isn't big enough
to haul the bull back, so he hires a nearby Mexican migrant worker, Gilly,
to carry it in his wagon while Will rides behind in Ben's. While riding
back to the ranch, Gilly, a recent arrival in Medicine Bow, tells Ben that
he is very anxious to work and pleads with Ben to give him a regular job.
Ben agrees to hire him on until the first snow. When they arrive home,
Ben introduces Gilly as his new hand. Will is disappointed that Gilly
has been hired instead of himself, so he sulks off. Mary also questions
whether they should have spent all their money on a prize bull, but Ben
tells her he is "tired of waiting." Mary goes off to console Will and
tells him that if it means so much to him to learn to ride, she'll take
him to Shiloh the next time they go into town.
We next see Mary and Will at Shiloh, where Will is picking out a horse
with Judge Garth. Will is like a child in a candy store and asks Judge
Garth to select a horse for him since he doesn't know much about horses.
They leave the horse at Shiloh and return to the Circle J without telling
Ben where they've been. In the ensuing weeks they return to Shiloh often
while Will learns to ride. Finally the day arrives when the Judge thinks
that he's fully trained. Judge Garth and Jennifer make a gift of a new
saddle. Will is overwhelmed, but says that his father would never allow
him to accept such a gift. "Well, then we'll let you earn it," says the
Judge, "Next month when you ride in the roundup, I'll expect you to chase
one Shiloh cow out of the brush for every Circle J you find!" Will and
Jennifer go out for a ride and the Judge tells Mary that "it's been fun
teaching a boy as eager to learn as Will." The Virginian enters with some
papers for the Judge, who excuses himself. While walking Mary out to her
wagon, the Virginian tries to make some small talk and Mary says, "I was
telling the Judge how much these trips to Shiloh have meant to Will.
Truth is, they mean something to me, too. Do you understand how I feel?
I love my husband and yet I feel so alone, lost. I can laugh with you.
I can't laugh with him any more." The Virginian, feeling uncomfortable,
tries to interrupt , but Mary continues on, "He wasn't always that way.
When I first knew him, he was so gentle. I was a nurse in a hospital in
Washington and they brought him into my ward on a stretcher. He had been
drinking heavily ever since his wife died a year before. I imagined it
was me who brought him back from the dead. He had a dream about finding a
new life in the West. I fell in love with his dream and then with the man.
He's not the same any more. He's bitter and it's my fault. I'm afraid
to look him the eye any more, afraid of what I'll find there. That's why
I've never told him about these trips to Shiloh." The Virginian is startled
by this revelation. He thought Ben knew about their visits. "I told myself
I was doing it for Will, but now I know it wasn't just for him. I had to
get away myself to be with someone who could make me feel like a woman again.
And it's wrong, I know it's wrong for me to want that!" she says. The
Virginian puts a hand on her shoulder and tells her it wasn't wrong to feel
that way, but it was wrong not to tell her husband. She should tell him as
soon as she gets home and impress him with how their son can now ride a horse
. He tells her that's the reason she came to Shiloh, "the only reason."
Later, at home, Ben is putting on a suit. At Mary's insistence, he's reluctantly
going to a Cattlemen's Association meeting at Shiloh. She starts to tell him
about her trips to Shiloh, but changes her mind. Ben goes out to the barn and
prepares to leave when he spots a bottle of whiskey that Gilly has dropped.
He picks it up, puts it in his saddle bag and rides off to Shiloh. At the
meeting, which is being held to discuss preparations for the roundup, we
learn that the Virginian has been selected to be the ramrod. Judge Garth
enters, sees Ben Justin and tells him they will be taking the northern
route, so his head will be the last to join. He then tells him how happy
he's been having Will and Mary over to visit the past few weeks. The
Virginian, who knows that Ben doesn't know about these visits says, "Well
Judge, I'm afraid you've let the cat out of the bag. We were saving it as
a surprise for when Mr. Justin saw Will." Ben lets his imagination run
wild about what's been going on and angrily starts to leave. The Virginian
tries to stop him, but Ben punches him and walks out. The next morning,
back at the Circle J, Mary, who has been worried that Ben didn't return
home last night, finds him asleep in the barn. She asks why he didn't
return and if anything happened at Shiloh. He rebuffs her, refuses her
offer of breakfast and rides off to go to work.
She follows and catches up with him as he's chopping wood with Gilly. She
apologizes for not telling him about her trips to Shiloh, promises it won't
happen again and asks for forgiveness. He stops what he's doing and looks
at her without talking. Just then Will rides up on his new horse and saddle.
Will and Mary hope to impress him, but Ben responds by saying, "I'm going
someplace and I don't want anyone following me," and rides away. Despite Ben's
orders, Will follows behind. Ben goes into the saloon in Medicine Bow and
orders a double whiskey and a couple of bottles to take with him. Tom Suchette,
who is also in the saloon sees him and cruelly taunts him about the scuffle he
had with the Virginian. This provokes a fight between Suchette and Ben, who
is joined by Will, who has folowed him into the saloon. The fight is broken up
by the Virginian and Ryker. The Virginian pulls Suchette, who is clearly winning,
off Ben, but Ben tells him, "I don't need your help! You stay away from me!
And you stay away from my wife or I'll kill you!" and walks out.
Ben returns home and angrily walks into the house. Mary thinks he's going for
a rifle. She tries to stop him by saying, "No matter what happened, it's not
worth killing for or being killed!" He throws her aside and tells her she doesn't
understand. "No, that's right, I wouldn't understand!" she screams, "I'm not a
man that carries his bitterness and hate like a loaded rifle! I'm not a man who
is so resentful of the way his life is, he can only let himself live in the future!
I just can't live your way. I can't go on watching you hate every moment of your
life and hate everybody else because they have more than you. And hate Will
because he dared to learn how to ride so he could work with you like a son should.
And hate me because I want to smile and enjoy the day. This day! Here and now!"
"Then you enjoy it with him! That man from Shiloh!" Ben retorts, "That's what
you want, isn't it?" "No! That's not true!" she replies. "You wish you were
married to him!" yells Ben as he storms out of the house. Just as he walks out,
he sees Will ride up and take the saddle bag off Ben's horse. Will rides away
and Ben chases after him. Will manages to elude his father and checks the
contents of the saddle bag, in which he finds the whiskey.
We next see Will, drunk, riding into Shiloh, The Virginian takes him into the
house where Judge Garth gives him coffee to sober him up. Will tells them he
is running away and that his father "doesn't care two cents about (him)...All he
cares about is striking it rich and, if he can't do that, picking up a bottle
and drinking himself blind!...There's another thing, that prize bull!" Judge
Garth answers, "That bull is his hope for the future. Maybe it helps him forget
the past." The Judge continues, "Your father has had more than one setback.
It hurts when a man feels he's a failure. I know. It's happened to me...When
I was mustered out after the war, I had that rusty sword they let me keep, three
hundred dollars in my wallet and a handful of dreams. I put every cent into beef
and worked hard for two years and headed north. And I got as far as the Stake
Plains when it hit. It was a simple squall, thunder, rain. The lightning
started them running. I tried to stop them but just couldn't. I can still hear
that bellowing as a thousand longhorns went crashing down a thirty foot bluff.
The whole thing left me with a feeling of maybe I was no good, that the stampede
must have been my fault and I should have been able to stop those cattle. I
tortured myself for a long time after that." Will interrupts this reminiscence
by saying, "Not so long you didn't fight your way back! I'll bet you had a new
herd inside a year or two...You could stand up to what happened to you. My
father can't do that and he never could!" "Why don't you give him a chance,
Will?" asks the Judge.
Just then, Ben Justin arrives at the front door. He's been searching high and
low and it finally dawned on him where his son would be. Judge Garth tries
to explain that Will has had a rough go of it after drinking the whiskey, so
why doesn't he just let him stay at Shiloh tonight? "You'd like that, wouldn't
you, Judge? I know what you're doing. You're trying to buy a man's son with
horses and fancy saddles!" Ben replies. The Judge reluctantly sends them on
their way. After they leave, the Virginian says he wishes Ben hadn't found
him. "He won't hurt him," says Judge Garth, "This is a matter that has to be
settled between father and son. He won't hurt him."
Ben takes Will back to the Circle J barn and angrily throws him down, saying,
"So you want to drink like your Pa, huh?...I'm going to teach you how to
stand on your own two feet like a man so you won't have to get your courage
and your dreams out of a bottle!" He picks up the whiskey bottle and says,
"Now you watch me, boy! This is the way a real drinker hits the bottle,"
and guzzles it down. He then orders Will to stand up and prepares to use a
whip on him. Will pleads that he just wanted to be near him and help him,
but Ben angrily says, "Don't you understand? I couldn't let you near me!
I didn't want you to see me the way I really am! I'm a nobody, boy! I'm
the kind of man that quits and runs as soon as one little thing goes wrong!"
Ben starts to use the whip but can't follow through and sends Will out of
the barn. In frustration, he throws the whip down and knocks over a lantern,
which starts a fire. Mary, Will and Gilly rush in to help put it out, but
Ben's first priority is freeing the bull. Mary asks if he's been burned,
but Ben proudly points to the bull and says, "Just look at that bull! Those
flames didn't even touch him! He's alive and he's free. You know, that
bull is going to be the king of hundreds on this land, maybe thousands!"
A few weeks later, while Ben is rounding up his stock in preparation for the
upcoming cattle drive, Will rides up and tells him that some of the cattle
look sickly. Ben tells him to leave them where they are. He sends Will back
home while he and Gilly stay out with the herd. He tells Gilly to pen them
up in a draw from which they'll join the drive in the morning. Ben looks
admiringly at his stock. He estimates that he'll get $6800 from which he
can make the next payment on the loan, invest the rest in more Aberdeen Angus
and make twice as much next year.
The next morning the cattle drive reaches Ben's herd and just as they're about
to join the drive, Tom Suchette notices one of Ben's cattle laying on its side.
"That animal is infected! That's Aphthosa!...It spreads like wildfire!" he
says. Randy recalls that there was an outbreak of it in Colorado several years
earlier that came across the border and up through Texas on a "coil of hemp along
with some trail hand." This leads Suchette to point the finger at Gilly as the
probable carrier. Suchette is all set to shoot Ben's herd, but Ben warns him
that he'd better "shoot me first!" The Virginian says that "no amount of beef
on the hoof is worth a man's life, no matter how you add it up" and sends Randy
off to fetch the veterinarian and Judge Garth.
Mary joins Ben as they wait for the vet to arrive, but Ben tells her to go home.
The vet arrives and confirms the diagnosis of Aphthosa, meaning Ben's entire
herd will have to be destroyed and buried under quick lime. Suchette tries to
organize the others into destroying the herd, but Ben stops him saying it's his
job. He'll do it and "won't need any help." We hear the sound of Ben's gunshots
as Judge Garth grabs a rifle, hands it to Will and silently urges him to go help
his father. Will does so and joins in the shooting until there is all but one
left. "The black bull's still standing, Pa. You want me...?" he asks. "No.
He's mine," answers Ben, who then cocks his rifle and shoots. With the herd
completely destroyed, Judge Garth tells Ben that he's "done his job" and the rest
of the men will bury them. Mary walks up to Ben and embraces him. He tells her,
"Well, they're gone, Mary, all of them. There's nothing left for us here now...
Yet somehow, I just can't turn my back any more. I can't just leave it end here!
Mary, if we can hang on somehow through the winter, we might be able to..."
"We will!" says Mary. Suchette walks up and says that when the time comes he'll
be glad to give him a few head of cattle so he can get started again. The
Virginian adds that he's sure the other ranchers will do the same, including
Judge Garth. "That's a very decent offer...," Ben replies, "There's nothing a
man can say, except 'Thank you!'." The story ends with Ben, Mary and Will walking
back home hand in hand. [rho]
They can't always be happy stories, but this one is a downer from start to finish!
This is one of those episodes that focuses on the guest star rather than the regular
cast members and therein lies the problem. Charles Bronson's character, Ben Justin,
is so off-putting that it's hard to work up much sympathy for him. Will, the son,
is none too impressive, either. Lois Nettleton, however, manages to score a few
points as the lonely wife.
One of the few good points is Judge Garth's story of how he started out in the cattle
business and lost his first herd during a thunderstorm on the Stake Plains.
This episode was combined with #1.15 "Duel at Shiloh" to make the theatrical
feature "Bull of the West." "Bull of the West" was released in 1972 at the height
of Bronson's popularity, presumably to take advantage of his box-office appeal. [rho]
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Main Contributor for this episode - Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho]