Bonanza's The Avenger debuted on Saturday night, March 19, 1960. Vic Morrow plays the drifter Lassiter, who's searching for the men who had lynched his father in Kansas. Regulars Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker are also joined in the cast by Jean Allison, Richard Devon, Harry Swoger, Ian Wolfe and Nestor Paiva.
NBC-TV's Bonanza (1959-73) rates as one of the most popular TV westerns in history. In the 1960 episode "The Avenger" Vic Morrow guest stars as Lassiter, a drifter who is hell-bent on finding the lynch mob who hanged his father.
Bonanza's The Avenger: Cast & Credits
Clair Huffaker wrote the teleplay for "The Avenger," with Christian Nyby directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:
- Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene)
- Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts)
- Little Joe Cartwright (Michael Landon)
- Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker)
- Lassiter (Vic Morrow)
- Sally Byrnes (Jean Allison)
- Mr. Hawkins (Richard Devon)
- Fred (James Anderson)
- Bert (Harry Swoger)
- Ed Baxter (Ian Wolfe)
- Thornton (Nestor Paiva)
- Sheriff Hansen (Robert Griffin)
- Jimmy (Eugene Martin)
- Hoag (Bill Catching)
- Barney Arden (Robert Brubaker)
- Hangman's Assistant (Bern Bassey)
- Deputy Sheriff Bill (Bill Clark)
- Zeke Jackson (Dan White)
Vic Morrow (1932-1982) in his early years - ABC-TV
The Avenger: Episode Synopsis
Ben and Adam Cartwright find themselves on the wrong end of the law when they're charged with the murder of Sally Byrnes' restaurant owner father. The pair are duly convicted, mainly on the testimony of Sally, who says she witnessed the crime from her window. With Ben and Adam now sentenced to hang, Hoss and Little Joe scramble to garner enough signatures on a petition in order to effect a stay of execution. Ben instructs his two sons to stay within the law – something which may prove difficult to do.
The gallows are built, with the sheriff and his deputies guarding the jail which now houses Ben and Adam. Sheriff Hansen vows that the law will take its due course, as rumors of a lynch mob began to circulate. Ben and Adam are visited in their jail cell by a drifter named Lassiter, who's been hunting the men who had lynched his father back in Kansas. Lassiter eyes the Cartwrights, but pronounces that they are not the vigilantes he's been looking for all these years.
Hoss and Little Joe get some unexpected help from Lassiter, who pays a visit to alleged eye witness Sally Byrnes. He's skeptical of her testimony, asking her if she plans to witness the execution and telling her what to expect when men are hanged.
The Avenger: Air Date & Network Competition
"The Avenger" aired over NBC on Saturday night, March 19, 1960, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening when Dwight Eisenhower was still president was Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show and John Gunther's High Road (ABC) and Perry Mason (CBS).
The Avenger: Analysis & Review
Vic Morrow (1932-1982), who lost his life while working on the set of the ill-fated Twilight: The Movie (1983), is one of TV's more interesting actors. Although most viewers don't associate the Bronx-born Morrow with cowboy roles, the actor did appear in more than a few TV westerns during his early career, including The Restless Gun, Trackdown, Wichita Town, The Rifleman, Johnny Ringo, The Tall Man and Death Valley Days. He of course later moved on to World War II, playing the hard-bitten Sgt. Chip Saunders in Combat! (1962-67).
Morrow also appeared in two episodes of Bonanza, the first of which was "The Avenger" in which he plays a determined drifter name Lassiter who's on the trail of the men who had hanged his father in Kansas. Morrow's Lassiter doesn't quite fit the bill of a stereotypical TV cowboy, as he talks in that tough Bronx accent of his and carries his six-shooter tucked into his britches.
Lassiter gets caught up in "hanging fever" when Ben and Adam are wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to swing from the gallows. Lassiter, who knows a little about injustice, senses that something isn't right here, and sets out on his own to prove the Cartwrights innocent. Lassiter is no one to fool with, whipping out his pistol in a bar when threatened by the town heavies.
"The Avenger" concludes in dramatic fashion, with Little Joe and Hoss brandishing shotguns, ready to stop the execution by force. Lassiter gets Sally Byrnes to recant her damning testimony, but violence occurs anyway when Lassiter kills one man he recognizes from his father's necktie party and Joe and Hoss blow away a bad guy each. The segment ends with Lassiter riding off into the night, still hell-bent on avenging his father's hanging.
"The Avenger" comes from Bonanza's inaugural season and is episode #26 of 430 in the series. "The Avenger" can be watched in its entirety on YouTube and other Internet venues.
- The cast of Bonanza, l-r: Pernell Roberts, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker, Lorne Greene - NBC-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.