Rawhide Not Your Typical Western … and How About Those Bronze Sculptures

Rawhide

In general, I am not a huge fan of Western television shows with a few exceptions, but I have to say that Rawhide, which aired from 1959-1965, is notable for many reasons. First of all, it made a household name out of a young Clint Eastwood, who played Rowdy Yates. Second, many now famous actors/actresses got their starts as guest stars on the show, sometimes appearing in more than one episode. Third, during the seventh season, the opening sequence featured live action shots of the actors beings portrayed that transform into intriguing bronze sculptures. This is what really piqued my interest and inspired me to dig further and write an article about this unique Western television series. And that led to my fascination with Eric Fleming, who played Rowdy’s boss Gil Favor. A special thanks to Ellen Thorp for creating When Westerns Ruled and her in-depth and touching article on Fleming.

Eric Fleming – Gil Favor

Eric Fleming was born Edward Heddy Jr. on July 4, 1925 in Santa Paula, Calif. His dad was physically abusive towards him, and at the age of 9, there was a particularly sadistic episode in which his dad beat him so badly with the end of a belt buckle, that he was unable to get up for two days. When he recovered, the young Fleming reacted by holding a revolver to his dad’s head, trying to kill him. The gun misfired and Fleming ran away, hopping on a freight train. He ended up in gangs, committing thefts and petty crimes, until the age of 11, when he was badly injured in a gang fight and busted by the police. They were going to send him back to his dad, but when they saw the look of terror in his eyes, they sent him to live with his mom.

Fleming served as a Seabee in the Pacific during World War II, working as a master carpenter. The Seabees have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, as well as completing a myriad of other construction projects, dating back to World War II. Although Fleming claimed to be 17, he was actually only 15, and because he looked older, the Navy never questioned him about his age.

Eric Fleming Gold Key Comic Book Covers

The accident that actually led to Fleming’s hobby as a sculptor occurred in 1942 when he was stationed stateside at a foundry in Seattle. Somebody dared him to lift a 200-pound block of steel, and it slipped from the hoist and shattered his face. Fleming underwent four plastic surgery procedures to repair his face. His life ended tragically on September 28, 1966 at age 41. While filming the final sequences of High Jungle, an MGM adventure in Peru, Fleming’s dugout canoe overturned in the Huallaga River. Fleming was swept away by the current and drowned. The irony is that the never-married Fleming had finally found love and was going to marry Lynne Garber after the film was completed … and retire from show biz.

Surprisingly, I cannot find any information whatsoever about the bronze sculptures and there were no credits in the Rawhide episodes in which they aired. Is it possible Fleming himself created these sculptures? The poor quality photo I found of his somewhat crude sculptures implies probably not, unless these predated the busts by several years and his technique improved. Fleming spent hours painting and sculpting in his time off the set. His introduction to sculpture occurred because of his horrific facial injury. “My nose, as nature made it, was too big. I was fascinated by the way the plastic surgeon worked. I wanted to mould things, too. So I took to sculpture.”

Eric Fleming Sketching and Sculptures Eric Fleming Bust

I wonder whatever happened to these Rawhide sculptures and why they were not used during the entire seventh season or the final season. And why is there a mystery surrounding them – you would think that with the legions of Rawhide fans out there, an article would have been written and posted online.

Clint Eastwood Bust

Some of the notable actors and actresses who made guest appearances on Rawhide:

Eddie AlbertGreen Acres

Michael Ansara – His second wife was Barbara Eden – their son died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2001

Frankie Avalon – Beach Blanket movies with Annette Funicello

Martin Balsam12 Angry Men, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Psycho, Oscar for A Thousand Clowns

Barbara BarrieBarney Miller

John Drew Barrymore – Father of Drew

Richard BasehartVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, La Strada

Frances Bavier – Forever in our hearts as Aunt Bea, on The Andy Griffith Show

Frances Bavier ~ Cloris Leachman

Ed Begley12 Angry Men, Oscar for Sweet Bird of Youth

Ralph BellamyRosemary’s Baby, Pretty Woman, Honorary Oscar in 1987

Theodore Bikel – The Defiant Ones, My Fair Lady

Robert BlakeOur Gang, In Cold Blood, Baretta

Charles BronsonDeath Wish, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen

Rory CalhounHow to Marry a Millionaire, The Texan

John CassavetesThe Dirty Dozen, Rosemary’s Baby, A Woman Under the Influence (Director)

Lon Chaney Jr.Of Mice and Men, High Noon

James Coburn – Affliction, The Magnificent Seven, Our Man Flint

Jeanne CooperThe Young and the Restless

Broderick CrawfordAll the Kings Men, Highway Patrol

Johnny Crawford – The Rifleman

Robert CulpI Spy, The Greatest American Hero, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Jim DavisDallas

Bruce DernComing Home, Nebraska

Troy DonahueThe Godfather: Part II

Buddy EbsenBeverly Hillbillies, Barnaby Jones, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Barbara EdenI Dream of Jeannie

Barbara Eden as Goldie

Anne FrancisForbidden Planet, Honey West

James FranciscusNaked City

Buddy Ebsen ~ James Franciscus

Julie HarrisEast of Eden, Most honored performer in Tony history

Kim HunterA Streetcar Named Desire, Planet of the Apes

Brian KeithFamily Affair, Hardcastle and McCormick

George KennedyCool Hand Luke, Airport, The Naked Gun films

Shirley KnightAs Good as it Gets, If These Walls Could Talk

Martin LandauEd Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors

Carol Lawrence – Broadway star: West Side Story

Cloris LeachmanMary Tyler Moore, The Last Picture Show, Young Frankenstein

June LockhartLassie, Lost in Space

Julie LondonEmergency! Appeared with real-life husband Bobby Troup in one episode

Bobby Troup ~ Julie London

Jack LordHawaii Five-O

Peter LorreM, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon

Gavin MacLeodMary Tyler Moore, The Love Boat

E.G. Marshall12 Angry Men, The Defenders

Dean MartinAt War with the Army, Ocean’s Eleven

Mercedes McCambridgeAll the King’s Men, Giant, The Exorcist

Darren McGavinKolchak: The Night Stalker, A Christmas Story

Burgess MeredithRocky films, Grumpy Old Men, Batman TV show(The Penguin)

Dina MerrillButterfield 8, The Young Savages

Vera MilesThe Searchers, Psycho

Martin MilnerRoute 66, Adam-12

Elizabeth MontgomeryBewitched

Terry MooreCome Back Little Sheba – states she was the secret wife of Howard Hughes

Agnes MooreheadThe Magnificent Ambersons, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Bewitched

Leslie NielsenForbidden Planet, Airplane, The Naked Gun films

Leonard NimoyStar Trek

Warren OatesIn the Heat of the Night, The Wild Bunch

Butch PatrickThe Munsters

Slim PickensDr. Strangelove

Denver PyleBonnie and Clyde, The Dukes of Hazzard

Claude RainsCasablanca, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious

Cesar RomeroCaptain from Castile, Batman TV show(The Joker)

Mickey RooneyBabes in Arms, The Human Comedy, The Black Stallion

Marion RossHappy Days

Harry Dean StantonAlien, Repo Man, Paris, Texas

Barbara StanwyckThe Big Valley, Double Indemnity, Sorry, Wrong Number

Rip TornMen in Black, The Larry Sanders Show

Forrest TuckerAuntie Mame, F Troop

Lee Van CleefThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More

Lee Van Cleef

Dick Van PattenEight is Enough, Spaceballs

James WhitmoreGive ’em Hell, Harry!, The Practice

Dick YorkBewitched

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. – 77 Sunset Strip, The FBI, Hot Shots!

I took the shots of the sculptures, the above photo of a crazed Lee Van Cleef,  and the following photos while watching the episode PineySeason 7, Episode 3. It first aired on October 9, 1964. A bankrupt former cattle baron (Ed Begley) robs a bank and then plans to escape by joining Favor’s cattle drive.

Sources: When Westerns Ruled, WesternClippings.com, MyComicShop.com

 

 

19 Comments

Filed under Art and Culture, Celebrities, Movies, Pop Culture, TV Shows

19 Responses to Rawhide Not Your Typical Western … and How About Those Bronze Sculptures

  1. Kees

    Great overall view of this great series!

    I remember closing the curtains of the living room in the heat of summer, and my dad and I would watch Rawhide. It was probably broadcast with us (in Holland-Europe) in the afternoons. I remember the opening, later openings with alive people becoming statues!!

    About 5 years ago I bought the first season on DVD, and I loved it. However, I vaguely remembered the statues, not in season 1 though. Later I managed to buy the complete series, on bootleg DVD’s. I am now in late season 4, at episode 138, and I don’t remember any of the storylines yet, nor did I see the statues.

    Ok, I peeked, and watched some openings of later episodes, but still did not see any statues. I left it till today, searched the net, and reading the text on this site, it is finally confirmed, and so I was right when I was a kid, must have been 7 or so: the statues are indeed in Rawhide!

    What a feast it will be when I finally come to an episode which I have seen 50+ years earlier!!!!!!!

    • Betsy

      Bedankt voor het schrijven! Hoe gaat het met u? You are the first person to comment from Holland! Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands. Ik woonde er in de vroege jaren 1980. Glad you like this article and are devoted to recapturing your childhood memories of this great series.

  2. Kees

    Wow Betsy, that is a quick reply! Thanks for that. Great that you speak Dutch too. I guess that, if we carry on writing in Dutch we will have a very private conversation here, even more because it took 4 months for one reply to your great story.

  3. J christy

    I am watching Rawhide Episode 166, which originally aired in 1965. Wishbone comes to the aid of an abused woman played by Barbara Barry and her children. The statues and busts are in the credits in the opening of that show. They look fantastic and I would love to order a set of them if I could find them.

  4. Kees

    Hi J,
    Great that you are watching too! Do you have the complete series?
    Last time in August I wrote I reached No. 138. Since then I only came to No. 142. I now know I am not too far from the ‘statue’ episodes!

  5. Kerry

    Earlier this year (having watched a Spaghetti Western with my adult son), I mentioned that while I very much like Clint Eastwood, I had a serious crush on Eric Fleming in my preteens through high school. I told my son how very sad I was to learn of Fleming’s drowning. I loved the way Fleming looked (having NO idea he had suffered a terrible injury to his face requiring the reconstruction of his orbital bone, nose, and jaw on the left side) and his deep baritone voice. Also, he was theater trained and it showed, e.g., his busy hands. As Gil Favor he was constantly reaching into Wishbone’s cupboard to get a biscuit and nonchalantly munching before chastising a drover.

    Also, I recently learned of the terrible degree of abuse he suffered as a child and his club foot. Frequently, cast members wondered why Fleming had a penchant for walking around barefoot wherever and whenever possible. Sheb Wooley was the only cast member to mention that it was obvious one of his feet was malformed and imagined this foot may have caused Fleming pain. Wooley and Eastwood described Fleming as friendly, but not warm and fuzzy, and probably possessing a photographic memory as he could memorize a day’s scripts – all parts – with just a glance.

    ANYWAY, my son purchased the entire Rawhide collection which I am still binging on and enjoying greatly. So many stars: Peter Lorre, George Kennedy, Julie London, Tom Conway (George Sander’s brother), Debra Paget, Abby Dalton, Terry Moore, Victor Jory, Lon Chaney, Jr., etc.

  6. Tina

    Rawhide started on Dutch television in 1963. We got TV at home in about 1966, so my first memories of the show are somewhere in season 4. I also remember my mother told me the actor who played Mr. Favor had already died. As a 9-year old, I found this very strange. I always looked out for Eric and as long as his name was on the list of players, I believed he must exist. But Rawhide disappeared, I grew up and was sure I would never see my hero again.

    Then in 2009 Rawhide came out on DVD in the Netherlands! As you can imagine – this was like a miracle to me. Seeing the first excellent seasons, Eric walking and talking and in very good shape. It’s a pity only three seasons came out here. The rest I found mostly on YouTube. One part called Piney started with these wonderful statues – I watched it over and over again. Then after a short while Piney disappeared from YouTube, never found it again. You could say that I’ve turned the Internet inside out for information about Eric Fleming. I read somewhere that Eric Fleming made busts of his friends (or fellow actors?). I found an interview with Sheb Wooley who said that Eric liked to walk barefoot because he had contracted a fungus on his toes and interesting, although rather vague remarks from Sheb’s widow on Eric’s cause of death.

  7. Kees

    As Tina is obviously from Holland like me, I recognize her experience: Eric Fleming died and he was still on TV, which was very confusing. In fact, my dad cut out a newspaper clipping about his death, which I took to school in 1966. I watched part of the series before February 1965, because we moved houses in that month, and I saw episodes before that.

    By now I have seen all 217 episodes, and besides the opening, the statues and all, in all honesty, I do not recognize ANY of the stories. Along the way I thought that moment would come, but somewhat disappointing, it did not. It is still my favorite series though!

    • Betsy

      Leuk om te horen van een andere persoon uit Nederland. Bedankt Kees voor het delen van je gedachten.

      • Tina

        Like Kees, I don’t recognize any episode, scene or story, only sometimes a vague sense of deja vu – maybe I was to young for this. I also have the impression that there are little differences between the European and American episodes.

        I always watched Rawhide with my father who certainly was a big fan of the show. Sometimes my mother took a look at the screen and I remember her words “Real men have hair on the chest” (probably to tease my father who lacked this at all).
        Somehow I was sure she meant Eric. My mother probably wondered why I liked cows and rough cowboys and she gave it a try: “That’s Clint Eastwood, isn’t he cute?” (by that time Clint became a star in Europe with his Serge Leone films). I must have replied: “Oh, and the boss, who is he?”

        Regarding the bronze statues, I think there’s a good chance that Eric Fleming made them. When he lived in New York he already worked with bronze. The human figure on the right that looks crude seems to be of clay. It is known that in season 7 after the first few months, Eric had serious difficulties with the two directors, who were replaced. Maybe he took the statues back then.

  8. Derrick

    Here I am, sitting watching Rawhide – I bought every series/episode. It brings back a lot of memories – I was about 14-15 at the time.

    I am watching an old B & W western series in 2017, and I thought I had watched every episode when I was a kid back in the 60’s. I don’t remember any of these in series 7; Rowdy quits as Ramrod, episode 4, Gil Favor loses a whole herd.

    I still like the theme song at the beginning and the end. I used to email Frankie Laine in his later years and was shocked when he died in 2007. I still have the 45 he sent me with his autograph – no amount of money could buy it from me.

    I reckon I will have to start all over again and see what I missed!

    The bronze figures you mention here, I wouldn’t mind owning even copies of them, if I could get hold of any of them, I could resin cast them for collectors or just fans of Rawhide

  9. Ken wiley

    I’m a Rawhide fan and often wondered about where the statues ended up.

    At the funeral today for musician and artist Pamela Edith Mary Smith Simpson, the family noted that she sculpted the statues. Family has a picture of Pamela and Clint with the sculpture.

    • Betsy

      Hi Ken – I appreciate your sharing this information. I couldn’t find anything when I did a Google search on Pamela Edith Mary Smith Simpson. Perhaps she went by another or shorter name as an artist. Can you send any other information – e.g., a link to her obituary or the funeral home? Thanks much.

  10. Tina

    Today I found an interesting biography about Eric Fleming online, called Television Western Players 1960-1975. His life and acting abilities are described in detail and objectively. It puts a new light (to me) on why he left Rawhide, why he went to Hawaii and decided to do High Jungle, and explains what happened after his death. This biography answers some questions I had for a long time.

    The recent information about the sculptures is also very interesting!

  11. Wild Bill

    A small correction to a welcome discussion: Clint’s character was Rowdy Yates, not Rowdy Gaines.

    • Betsy

      Thank you for pointing this out, Wild Bill – I have no idea how I made that mistake! It has been corrected.

  12. Sheila Ferguson

    Friday night sitting down after just running to get my sweets from paper shop, with my pocket money. Rawhide on at 7 … happy memories from a working class child in England took us away from our otherwise foggy, dull, dreary class-obsessed England. Thank you.

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