The Classic TV Archive - TV Western series
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"The Laramie Road"
Original NBC Broadcast - 8 December 1965
Executive Producer Norman MacDonnell
Produced by James Duff MacAdams
Written by Halsted Welles
Directed by Charles S. Dubin
(shown in the ride in)
Lee J. Cobb as Judge Henry Garth
Doug McClure as Trampas (not in this episode)
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker
Randy Boone as Randy Benton (not in this episode)
Diane Roter as Jennifer Sommers (not in this episode)
James Drury as The Virginian
Leslie Nielsen [Lightfoot]
Harold J. Stone [Ev Clinchy]
Claude Akins [Hezekiah]
Complete Ending Credits:
Berkeley Harris as Crouch
Margaret Blye as Velvet Rose
Marge Redmond as Mrs. Clinchy
Harlan Warde as Sheriff Brannon [last appearance in the series]
Rory Stevens as Timothy
Shug Fisher as Mr. Peterson
Jimmy Joyce as The Bystander
Leonard P. Geer as The Cowboy
Theme by Percy Faith
Director of photography Benjamin H. Kline, A.S.C.
Art director ... George Patrick
Unit manager ... Ben Bishop
Assistant director ... Les Berke
Set decorators ... John McCarthy and James M. Walters
Sound ... Corson Jowett
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:
featuring Ryker (as Deputy AND Sheriff) with the Virginian, Judge Garth,
and Sheriff Brannon [last appearance]
Two hoboes, Lightfoot and Crouch, arrive at Ev Clinchy's farm seeking food.
They ask Mrs. Clinchy if they can buy a chicken but she offers only bread
and molasses and tells them to leave. When she sees them stealing a
chicken, she sends her son Timothy into town to fetch her husband. She
confronts the thieves and the two men break into the house and force
her to cook the chicken.
Back in Medicine Bow, it's Deputy Emmett Ryker's birthday. He's
celebrating at the saloon with Hezekiah, the blacksmith; Ev Clinchy,
the bartender; and Velvet Rose, the barmaid. Timothy rides into
town to tell his father about the break-in and Ryker, Sheriff Brannon
and Ev ride out to find her murdered.
Over at Shiloh, the two hoboes ride in on a single horse asking how
to get to San Francisco. The Virginian looks at them skeptically
and tells them which road to take. Smooth talking Lightfoot tells
him he appreciates his Westen hospitality and the Virginian retorts,
"You'll appreciate it a lot more if I catch you hanging around here."
The Virginian tells one of the hands to follow them to the river to
make sure they leave. The Sheriff, Ryker and Ev drop by Shiloh
asking about the two men. The Virginian tells them where they went
and joins their posse.
We next see the posse riding into town with the prisoners and the
Medicine Bow citizens are not in a good mood! Sheriff Brannon fires
his gun and orders the crowd to disperse. Inside the jail, Lightfoot
and Crouch profess their innocence and while the Sheriff isn't looking,
the two men hide a knife under the bed. The Sheriff tells them they
are being held for murder. When Ryker and Sheriff Brannon are alone,
the Sheriff asks Ryker, "What do you think?" Emmett replies that
there's no doubt they did it but he doesn't have any concrete proof.
Sheriff Brannon says he's never seen the town so riled up and tells
Emmett to go over to the saloon to try to calm things down. Emmett
reminisces about the dead woman: "Everybody liked her. She used
to sing in the choir. Fellows would come just to hear her sing in
the choir. You know the Bible says something about the unpardonable sin.
I never could figure out what that was. I'll bet it was something
like this." The Sheriff snaps him out of his reverie by insisting he
go over to the saloon before "this town blows up." Over at the
saloon Ev is talking lynching and is being egged on by Hezekiah.
Hezekiah opines that the two suspects might get a slick lawyer
and escape punishment, further riling the crowd.
That evening Emmett and Velvet Rose are having a picnic. She asks
why he doesn't get married. He hesitatingly says, "I just don't
feel settled inside." He then says that the Sheriff "is like a
father to me. He got me out of trouble and believed in me when no
one else did." She replies, "I beilieved in you, Emmett. Even
back home when you were slinging a gun a little. I knew you'd
end up straight." He replies that it's not enough to be "straight."
You have to be "straight and strong." He confides that Ev Clinchy
had asked him outright if he would stop them if they came to the
jail to lynch the suspects. He admits that he's conflicted inside
and maybe should quit being Deputy because he doesn't know that he
could kill two friends just to "save two bums who are going to be
hanged anyway." He says he has to get back to relieve the Sheriff.
She protests and says the Sheriff didn't look so bothered. Emmett
agrees with that assessment and says, "He's the real Sheriff.
If he had to shoot his friends down, he'd do it." He compares Judge
Garth to the Sheriff: "He's strong like the Sheriff. They both
are strong inside. They've got order. They've got convictions."
She assures Emmett that when the time comes, he'll do the right thing.
Back in town at the jail, Crouch is bemoaning his fate to Lightfoot,
but Lightfoot tells him not to panic, it's time to use that knife
they've hidden. Lightfoot calls out to the Sheriff saying they want
to confess. Before going in, the Sheriff removes the key from his
pocket and puts it in the desk. While going through a long drawn-out
confession inside their cell, the two prisoners lure Sheriff Brannon
into putting his arm inside the cell, bushwhack him and kill him!
However, they can't escape from the jail because the Sheriff had
earlier removed the key from his pocket. Emmett returns and finds
the Sheriff dead. Lightfoot and Crouch are screaming that some drunks
broke in and did it. Ryker doesn't believe them, finds the knife
embedded in the Sheriff and in a fit of rage draws his gun on the
two prisoners threatening to kill them here and now. He's prevented
from doing this only by the arrival of Velvet Rose, who reminds him
that he's the Sheriff now and he should act like one.
The next day there are two funerals in Medicine Bow as the town
gathers to watch the procession. Velvet Rose enlists the aid of Judge
Garth, asking him to speak to Emmett because of all the lynch talk
and the fact that Emmett respects him so. Back in the saloon, Hezekiah
goads Ev into action by recounting his own experience of gaining
"peace" by killing the Indian who killed his own wife 19 years earlier.
In the Sheriff's office, Judge Garth attempts to give a pep talk to
Ryker by reminding him that the prisoners haven't yet been found
guilty and he must protect them with his life. He asks if he'd like
help from the Virginian and some of his men but Ryker says no.
The townspeople are building a makeshift gallows as Velvet Rose drops
by with supper. Hezekiah and Ev show up outside the Sheriff's
office and threaten to blow up the jail unless Emmett turns over
the prisoners. He refuses and Velvet Rose suggests that he sneak
out the back and take the prisoners to the Army fort in Laramie in
a delivery wagon. No one will ever know and he can stop at Shiloh
for reinforcements on the way. The crowd soon learns of this ploy
and follows him down the Laramie Road. He pulls up into Shiloh
followed by the angry mob. Judge Garth makes a stand and admonishes
the crowd to "Go home. Is this the kind of life we came out here
to build?" The mob's resolve appears to be weakening, but Hezekiah
says they'll be back in an hour to start shooting. The Judge asks
Ryker why he didn't keep the prisoners in jail. Ryker says because
of the lynch threats and the dynamite planted along the jailhouse
wall, "I guess I ran!" "Ran?" asks the Judge, "or did you move the
prisoners for their own safety?" Realizing that he can't continue
on down the Laramie Road with the prisoners in the wagon, the Virginian
suggests that one of the hands drive the empty wagon on down the road
while the Virginian and Ryker take the prisoners in another direction.
Ryker suggests they go to Silver City where they can catch a stagecoach
to Laramie. After the empty wagon leaves, Ryker is still disgusted
with himself for "running away." He admires the Judge for being
able to stand up to the mob whereas he wasn't able to do so. The
Judge tries to reassure him that he moved the prisoners for their
own safety. Ryker counters that Sheriff Brannon wouldn't have done
that. The Judge replies, "Maybe he wouldn't have. Maybe he would
have considered it knuckling under to the mob." Ryker asks the
Judge what he thinks he should do. The Judge replies, "Sheriff,
you do what you think is right." Ryker then states that they're
going to Laramie. He's going to put them on the stage and they're
going to Laramie.
The mob discovers the empty wagon trick and heads back into town.
Meanwhile Ryker, the Virginian and the prisoners have arrived at
a point where they can see the stagecoach aproaching at the bottom
of the hill. The Virginian tells Ryker, "Well, you ought to be
safe in Laramie by morning." Ryker has a sudden change of heart
and says he's not going. "I've been going down the road to Laramie
long enough. I'm going to take the prisoners back to town and do
what I should have done in the first place. Either I'm going to
be Sheriff of that town or I'm not." He tells a surprised Virginian
not to stop the coach. "What'll I do if the town can push the
law around the first day I'm in office? They can push it around
from here to doomsday!" The Virginian tells him he doesn't expect
him to do it. Nobody will expect him to. Ryker replies that he'll
expect himself to do it.
At dusk, Ryker, the Virginian and the prisoners return to town.
Emmett thanks the Virginian for his help but says he must now go
it alone. He confronts the mob with a new sense of confidence,
warning that the first man who draws will be a dead man, "because
what's the difference if you let a bad man push you or you let your
friends push you? It's still wrong. If there's no law and order
in this town tonight there never will be. Two wrongs don't make a
right." Ev finally breaks down saying he's never shot a friend
before and can't start now. The prisoners are safely returned to
their cells and the Virginian offers to buy the crowd a round of
drinks. Velvet Rose asks what happened and the Virginian replies,
"the Sheriff decided he wasn't going down the Laramie Road."
He then offers a toast: "Let's drink to the new Sheriff, boys.
I think he's going to be all right!" Ev and Hezekiah join in the
Back in the Sheriff's office, Emmett finds the Sheriff's badge in
the desk drawer, pins it on himself and goes outside to sit on an
easy chair as he's joined by Velvet Rose.[rho]
This is an interesting morality play about ethics. The two suspects
are literally "scum of the Earth" types who deserve no mercy. Yet,
as a lawman, Ryker must protect them with his own life, even if it
means killing his friends. The story is greatly enhanced by the
intense performance of Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker. [rho]
Ryker says that Sheriff Brannon was "like a father
to him and gave him a chance when no one else did." But it was Sheriff
Mark Abbott in episode 3.01, "Ryker", who did that.
The character Velvet Rose indicates that she had a history with Ryker
prior to his arrival in Medicine Bow, but nothing has ever been said
before of that, nor is she ever seen again after this episode. [rho]
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Main Contributor for this episode - Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho]