The Classic TV Archive - TV Western series
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Original NBC Broadcast - 8 January 1969
Executive Producer Norman Macdonnell
Written by John Kneubuhl
Produced and Directed by Joel Rogosin
(shown in the ride in)
John McIntire as Clay Grainger (not in this episode)
Doug McClure as Trampas (not in this episode)
David Hartman as Dave Sutton (not in this episode)
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger (not in this episode)
James Drury as The Virginian
Herb Jeffries [Frank Hammel]
Jan Shepard [Laura Cooper]
John Kellogg [Mel Dover]
Jay C. Flippen [Judge]
Complete Ending Credits:
William Fawcett as Clem
Douglas Henderson as Ben Cooper
John McLiam as O'Neill
Kevin Hagen as Morgan
Frances Spanier as Mrs. Perry
Myron Healey as 1st Drifter
Med Flory as 2nd Drifter
Stuart Nisbet as Bartender [recurring character]
Robbie Moore as Joey
Russell Schulman as Boy
Anthony Jochim as Crony
Michael Arthofer as Bascom
Theme Percy Faith
Director of Photography Enzo A. Martinelli
Art Director ... William J. Kenney
Film Editor ... Edwin H. Bryan, A.C.E.
Unit Manager ... Harvey Kline
Assistant Director ... Gene H. Law
Set Decorations ... John McCarthy and Perry Murdock
Sound ... Robert L. Post
Color Coordinator ... Robert Brower
Editorial Supervision ... Richard Belding
Music Supervision ... Stanley Wilson
Costumes by ... Helen Colvig
Makeup ... Bud Westmore
Hairstylist ... Larry Germain
The title "The Virginian" by permission of EMKA LTD.
Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
featuring the Virginian, brief appearance by Bart the bartender
During the opening credits we see a stagecoach heading toward Medicine Bow.
This is followed by a voiceover narration by the Virginian setting the scene
and introducing several key characters for the story that will follow:
It's a nice town, Medicine Bow. Good, decent people. Of course it's funny
how little we really know about each other. Take Mel Dover, for instance.
Mel's quiet but he's friendly and hard working. He has a little farm
outside of town and spends his spare time doing chores around the church.
I really didn't know much more about him than that until the noon stage
came in today ... That's Mrs. Perry and her son, Joey. I see them in
town once in awhile shopping. The Perrys don't socialize much. Joey's
a nice kid. A little lonely, maybe. The man on the stage touched their
lives, too." The Virginian rides into town to do some errands, greets
Mrs. Perry and asks how her husband is doing. He then goes into Ben and
Laura Cooper's general store with a shopping list of supplies.
The voiceover narration continues: "We've been doing business with Ben and
Laura Cooper for quite a while. I've wondered about them some. Nice enough
couple, but I've always felt there was something uneasy about them, watchful.
It happened that a lot of people in Medicine Bow were stirred up when that
noon stage drove in and word got around who was on it."
The person "who was on it" is Frank Hammel, a notorious gunfighter. Clem,
a grizzled oldtimer sitting outside the barber shop, excitedly tells his
friend, "Don't be surprised if there's a little action in Medicine Bow
today. That fellow that just got off the stage is Frank Hammel!" Mel
Dover has observed his arrival, too, and he retrieves his rifle, retreats
into the church and locks the door. The Virginian, who has not seen him,
walks into the saloon and orders a beer. Among the others in the saloon
are Albert Morgan, a local wealthy businessman; Carl O'Neill, a rancher,
and two drifters playing cards. Clem excitedly runs in and tells the
others of Hammel's arrival in town. Morgan tells Bart, the bartender,
to get the sheriff because "I don't want scum like that in town!" Bart
tells him that the sheriff has been called away and won't be back for
several hours. The Virginian buys Clem a drink and goes out to find
Hammel. He locates him in the hotel dining room. It turns out that the
two are old friends who haven't seen each other in ten years. "So
you're a foreman now...You've done all right for yourself," says Hammel
admiringly. "And you've become famous," replies the Virginian. "I didn't
go looking for it," Frank replies ruefully, "Someone draws on you, it
doesn't matter why, and you have to defend yourself. The next one tries
to square things up with the first and you have to defend yourself again.
And after that it just grows. Doesn't matter where you go. There's always
somebody wanting to try and then you run from the first one smack bang
into the next one. Comes a time you get tired of running." The Virginian
asks him if he's staying and Hammel answers that he's just passing through
while changing stagecoaches. The Virginian excuses himself to finish his
errands and Hammel tells him, "I've thought about you. I've thought about
you many times." "I've thought about you, Frank. I owe you a lot," says
the Virginian, who shakes his hand and leaves.
As the Virginian leaves the hotel, Clem runs up and asks if he knows Frank
Hammel. The Virginian tells him they used to ride together. Clem asks
why he's in town and if he's after anyone. The Virginian tells him that
he's just passing through between stages. The Virginian continues his
errands by dropping in on the judge in the courthouse to pick up some legal
papers for Mr. Grainger. The judge asks him, "What's so interesting over
at the hotel?" The Virginian explains that there is a "celebrity" in town,
Frank Hammel. "The outlaw?" asks the judge. "So they say," answers the
Virginian, "but he's never drawn first on anyone. It's always been self
The Virginian returns to the general store to pick up his supplies. Ben
Cooper nervously asks him if he's heard about the gunfighter over at the
hotel and asks if he's looking for anybody. "Not likely," answers the
Virginian drawing the attention of Laura and also Mrs. Perry and Joey, who
are customers in the store. Over at the saloon, O'Neill walks over to
Morgan's table and sits down. "Look at them," says Morgan indicating the
other bar patrons, "Ain't one of them I'd put it past. Ain't one of them
wouldn't be happy to see me out of the way." O'Neill laughs and says,
"Nobody begrudges you your success, Albert. Business is business. You're
a hard man, an ambitious man. That's why you've risen so fast to the top.
Some of us might envy you, some of us that you stepped on a little too
hard on your way to the top. Some people might even dislike you. But to
hire a gunman to kill you, that's ridiculous, Albert!" Morgan nervously
gets up to buy another bottle and O'Neill suggests that if he's so frightened,
why doesn't he hire some protection until the sheriff returns, pointing to
the two drifters playing cards at another table. Morgan thinks it over and
goes over to talk to the drifters and make a proposal.
Hammel leaves the hotel and goes over to the general store to buy some candy.
He tries to give some to Joey Perry, but his mother tells him not to accept
it. He tells the Virginian he's going to the saloon to have a beer and
invites him to join him. The Virginian declines saying he has too much to
do. After Hammel leaves, a frightened Ben Cooper asks the Virginian if he
knows him and if he's sure he's not here looking for somebody. "He's leaving
on the two o'clock stage," answers the Virginian. Outside, while loading
up his wagon, the Virginian sees Hammel talking to two boys who are playing
catch. Hammel asks them if they know Mr. Dover. The boys tell him that he's
over in the church. Hammel goes into the saloon and orders a beer. Morgan
calls out to Bart not to serve him. Hammel tells him he just wants a glass
of beer and then he'll be on his way. He doesn't want any trouble. Bart
serves him a beer and tells him he'd appreciate it if he'd drink it and leave.
The two drifters surround him at the bar and order him to leave. "You make me,"
says Hammel. One of them scoots a bowl down the bar breaking his beer glass
while the other draws his gun. He's not fast enough, however, as Hammel shoots
him in the arm. Everyone in town hears the shot. The Virginian runs into the
saloon to find out what happened. Bart tells him that the drifters started it.
The Virginian asks who put them up to it. When they don't answer, the Virginian
tells them to go across the street to the doctor to get patched up and then
ride out of town. The Virginian suspects Morgan and tells him that hiring killers
would make him an accomplice. "I didn't hire them to kill him!" says Morgan,
slamming his glass on the table, "They were only supposed to watch him, guard
him until the sheriff gets back. Ask O'Neill!" The cowardly O'Neill denies
having anything to do with it so the Virginian and Hammel disgustedly walk out
of the saloon.
Outside, the Virginian explains to Frank that Morgan is a "rough businessman"
who is disliked by the other ranchers. A while back, somebody took a shot at
him and Morgan suspected it was a hired gun. He probably thinks Hammel is a
hired gun, too. "I don't hire!" says Hammel. "I know that," answers the
Virginian, "But what happened in there might happen again. If I were you,
I'd go back to that hotel and stay out of sight until the stage leaves."
"Sorry," says Frank, "I like my freedom as much as the next man."
After Hammel walks over to the barber shop for a haircut, Ben Cooper runs up
to the Virginian asking about the gunshot and if he's sure Hammel isn't in
town looking for somebody. "I won't be sure of anything until that stage
leaves and he's on it," answers the Virginian. Ben returns to the store and
takes out a gun just in case, thinking that Hammel has been hired to come
after him over something that happened years ago. Laura tries to stop him,
telling him he's "no good with guns" and that the incident in question should
be long forgotten, but Ben insists upon being prepared and pleads with Laura
to "leave me a little self-respect."
The scene shifts to the judge's office where the Virginian is proposing that
the judge hold Hammel in jail until the stage leaves "for his own protection."
The judge tells him that he can't legally hold him for the incident in the
saloon because it was clearly self-defense. He adds that he doesn't think
that Morgan will cause any more trouble and we should "leave him to his own
guilty conscience." "Well, there may be more than one guilty conscience in
this town, Judge. That's what worries me!" says the Virginian. The judge
agrees, saying that even he himself had some self-doubts, wondering if Hammel
might just be after him over some judicial decision he's made in the past.
"I'll have to admit I was a very pompous young man. Maybe I owe Frank Hammel
a thank you for reminding myself of that, but I'm certainly not going to pass
self-righteous judgment on him now, especially when he hasn't done anything!"
says the judge. The Virginian sees his point, smiles and leaves.
After leaving the judge, the Virginian runs into the two boys playing catch
whom he had seen talking to Hammel earlier. He asks what Hammel had talked
to them about. They tell him that Hammel asked about Mr. Dover and they told
him he was over in the church. The Virginian goes to the church and Mel Dover,
who is doing some carpentry work, warily lets him in. The Virginian tries to
prod him as to why Hammel would be asking about him, but Dover denies knowing
him. "Well then, you won't need these," says the Virginian removing the
shells from Mel's shotgun. Dover finally decides to admit having known him,
saying, "I did a terrible thing once. I've got to pay for it." "Well, I
don't know what it was you did," says the Virginian, "but what's between you
and Frank Hammel, whatever it was you did, you've more than made up for it
right here in Medicine Bow. There isn't a man or woman in this town that
isn't in your debt." "Maybe you don't make up for what I did," says Dover.
The Virginian asks him to talk about it, saying, "Nobody else will know.
You have my word." Mel decides to tell his story. About nine or ten years
earlier, he, Frank Hammel and a third man, Joe Bascom, teamed up with some
others "riding together between nowhere and nowhere." "I don't know where
the idea first came up or whose idea it was," he continues, "but one night
we started talking about holding up a stagecoach. I never done anything
like that before. I was scared. I hid it. I guess we were all scared. We
kept telling each other there wouldn't be any shooting, there wouldn't be any
need for it. So we tried it. Mostly old people as passengers. It all
seemed so easy. Then the driver started shooting from the top of the stage.
He hit Frank two or three times. One of us, Dan Wolf, he must have gone berserk!
He got the driver and the rider. He kept right on shooting. The old people.
All those old people! Somehow we got Frank away and after we'd gone a safe
distance we stopped. Joe Bascom and I got sick to our stomachs. Dan Wolf
and the others, they were all for leaving Frank there. He was dying anyway.
I tried to get them to take Frank along, but the others were against it.
Dan pulled a gun on me and made me go with them. We left Frank there...to die,"
Just then, Hammel enters the church. Mel cringes in fear, but is surprised when
Frank greets him warmly. Hammel tells him he realizes it was the others that
forced him to leave him behind. He asks what happened after they left. Mel
explains, "We split up. Joe Bascom and I rode together. We couldn't shake off
how Dan Wolf shot all those old people. We burned ourselves up trying to forget.
Denver, Seattle, San Francisco. Finally, I found myself here, tired, broke.
We didn't get any money from that stagecoach. I looked around. I thought to
myself, 'Some place you gotta start a new life. Some place you gotta begin
again. This might as well be the place.' I started again." Frank says, "I've
heard how you've spent a lot of time helping folks out, fixing up the church
and all. I've known about you being in Medicine Bow for a long time...I'm glad
for you, Mel!" He then asks what became of Joe Bascom. Mel says the last he
heard, Bascom was in Denver eight years ago but might have moved on since then.
Frank leaves and the Virginian asks Dover point blank if Joe Bascom is living
in Medicine Bow under a different name. Mel repeats that he doesn't know where
he is and the Virginian answers, "If you're trying to protect him by lying, it
may not work. Frank said he'd known you were here in Medicine Bow for some time.
If Bascom was here using another name, he'd probably find him sooner or later."
Dover again denies knowing his whereabouts. The Virginian says he doesn't
believe him and leaves.
The Virginian returns to the judge's office, this time armed with the knowledge
that Hammel participated in a stagecoach robbery years before. The judge still
can't issue a warrant, however, because the Virginian refuses to admit where he
got the information. This would implicate Mel Dover and the Virginian had given
his word that he wouldn't tell. The Virginian tells the judge that he thinks
Hammel is after a man named Joe Bascom, who is probably living under another name.
"This court doesn't go around arresting people on hunches," says the judge, who
then puts the onus on the Virginian by saying, "If this Joe Bascon is murdered
and you knew something all along that could have prevented it..." "I'm sorry.
I gave my word!" says the Virginian. "All right," says the judge, "Then I hope
you're wrong, for your sake. I hope Hammel IS just stopping off between stages."
The Virginian returns to the saloon and asks if anyone has heard of Joe Bascom.
He says that he's probably living under an assumed name and would have arrived
in town about eight years ago. O'Neill hints that that could be Morgan, which
leads to a resumption of the verbal brickbats between Morgan and O'Neill. After
getting the last word, O'Neill and his compatriots walk out of the saloon.
"Don't worry, Morgan. Relax. You're not the man Frank's after," says the Virginian.
The Virginian exits the saloon and goes over to the hotel veranda where Frank is
sitting in an easy chair. "You lied to me, Frank," says the Virginian, "You're
here looking for a man named Joe Bascom, aren't you?" Hammel laughs and says,
"You haven't changed. Always did take a lot of time puzzling things out, mind
working all the time. You're still the same." "But you're not!' counters the
Virginian, "After Bascom and the others left you at that holdup, something
happened to you." "I almost died," says Frank, "Took a lot of time mending.
I've still got a piece of lead in me somewhere, but I've never drawn on a man
first. I've told you that!" "You don't have to. You're too fast," says the
Virginian, "But you've tracked every one of those men down, haven't you? How'd
you get them to draw on you first, Frank? Threaten to expose them? Goad them
into it? Is that it?" "I told you when that stagecoach leaves I was going to
be on it. Now I'm gonna take me a little walk." The Virginian draws his gun
and orders Hammel to go to the jailhouse the back way and he can wait for his
stage there. Once in the jailhouse, however, The Virginian struggles with the
key and Frank turns the tables on him, locking the Virginian in the cell. While
all this has been going on, Mel Dover has left the church, mounted his horse and
Hammel heads for the church looking for Dover. When he doesn't find him there,
a helpful Clem tells him that he just rode off and gives him directions to his
farm. "Are you goin' to see Dover about something special, Frank?" asks Clem.
"No, nothing special. Something personal," says Frank. "Sure never thought
I'd live to see the day when I'd be walkin' alongside Frank Hammel for all the
world to see! Hee-hee! Look at 'em! Their eyes are buggin'! Hee-hee!" Clem
Hammel rents a horse from the livery stable and rides out. He's observed by
Ben and Laura Cooper. Ben wants to find out if he's riding out for good, but
Laura persuades him to stay away from him because she loves Ben so much doesn't
want him to get hurt. Meanwhile, the Virginian is yelling out the jail cell
window for someone to come and let him out. Someone finally comes to his rescue
and the Virginian finds out from Clem that Frank asked where Dover lives and
rented a horse.
Mel notices that Hammel is following him and shoots at him from behind some rocks.
Frank "plays dead" but turns the tables on Mel when he comes to check on the
body. Hammel punches him and tells him, "I told you I wasn't after you!" Dover
falls, hits his head on a rock and is knocked unconscious. Joey Perry happens
along at that moment. Frank tells him that Mel has been hurt and goes off with
him to get help. Mel recovers just as the Virginian arrives in pursuit. Dover
admits that he was riding out to warn Joe Bascom, whom he reveals to be Joe
Perry, Joey's father.
Frank and Joey arrive at the Perry farmhouse, where Mrs. Perry tries to shoo
Frank away. Hammel is surprised when he hears Mrs. Perry call her son, "Joey."
"You call your son, 'Joey.' Is that after his pa?" asks Frank. "Yes,"
replies Mrs. Perry. "You wouldn't happen to know of a man named 'Bascom,'
would you?" asks Hammel, "He came here with Dover about eight years ago."
"You must be mistaken," says Mrs. Perry, "My husband came here with Dover.
I never heard either of them speak of Bascom." Hammel asks if her husband
is around and would he step outside. He says to tell him "Frank Hammel is
here" and he'll come out. She tells him to "get away from here." The Virginian
rides up. "He wants to see my husband," Mrs. Perry tells him. "Stay out here,
Mrs. Perry. There's nothing to worry about," says the Virginian as he and
Hammel go inside the house. Inside, we see that Joe Perry is a bedridden
paraplegic, unable to speak. "Joe was a decent, hard-working man, Frank, doing
a fine job on his farm here. A couple of years ago, a horse threw him and broke
his back. He's been like this ever since." Frank, shocked, takes a long pause
and says, "The years. The years of hunting. The years of waiting. The years
of dreaming of the moment when all this hate could explode. A waste!" Frank
pats Joe on the arm and walks out of the house. "Why did you want to see my
husband? Where did you know him?" asks Mrs. Perry. Frank answers, "Years ago
when I was hurt, your husband, who called himself Joe Bascom, he took care of
me and nursed me back to health. I never had a chance to thank him." "You
were a friend of my husband?" Mrs. Perry asks. "No, he was just a man who
stooped down to help another man," Hammel answers. Touching Joey on the shoulder,
he adds, "If I was a boy who had a father like Joe Perry, I'd be mighty proud!"
Back in town, it's finally time for the stage to leave. "What are you going to
do now?" asks the Virginian. "I don't know," says Frank, "It's ended. It's
over. And after ten years there's nothing else to do, no place to go." As he
gets ready to board the stage, Clem walks up and says, "Bye, Frank. It's been
a real pleasure! Yes sir!" Hammel answers, "Clem, I've got a present for you."
He takes off his gunbelt and hands it to Clem. "Your gun? Frank Hammel's gun?"
Clem asks incredulously. "It's yours," says Frank, smiling as he boards the stage.[rho]
An unusually quiet and introspective story, this is done almost in "real time."
Hammel's stagecoach stopover is only for two hours and that's not much longer
than the actual length of the episode.[rho]
The main reason the Virginian wants to protect Hammel is because he "owes him."
The Virginian was once thrown off his horse during a stampede and Hammel rode
right through it to pick him up and put him on the back of his horse.
"A man doesn't forget something like that," he tells the judge.
The Virginian shows his integrity by refusing to implicate Mel Dover in the
stagecoach robbery because that would mean going back on his word. [rho]
Guest Star notes:
This was Herb Jeffries' only guest-starring appearance in the series and he
delivers a fine performance as the soft-spoken gunfighter, Frank Hammel.
Jeffries was a pioneer in black Westerns in the 1930's and 1940's and was
also a singer in Duke Ellington's band.
Jan Shepard, on the other hand, was a frequent guest star. She can also be seen
in 4.01 "The Brothers", 4.22 "Harvest of Strangers", 5.13 "The Long Way Home"
and 8.06 "The Runaway".
John Kellogg, usually cast as a "bit" player, has a more substantial role here as
Mel Dover. He can also be seen in 3.11 "All Nice and Legal" and 3.20 "Lost Yesterday".
Jay C. Flippen can also be seen in 4.26 "The Wolves Up Front, The Jackals Behind"
and 6.12 "The Barren Ground".
William Fawcett, perhaps best known as ranchhand "Pete" in the tv series, "Fury,"
was also a frequent guest star. He can also be seen in 1.21 "The Small Parade",
2.02 "To Make This Place Remember", 3.10 "Return a Stranger",
4.18 "Long Ride to Wind River", 5.10 "High Stakes", 6.19 "The Gentle Tamers",
6.26 "Seth" and 9.12 "The Last of the Comancheros".
John McLiam can also be seen in 4.02 "Day of the Scorpion", 4.30 "The Mark of a Man",
8.04 "The Power Seekers" and was a recurring character in the early episodes of
the final season when the series was called "The Men From Shiloh" as Parker. [rho]
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Main Contributor for this episode : Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho]