The Rifleman's Long Gun from Tucson: Peter Whitney & Whit Bissell Guest Star
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The Rifleman's Long Gun from Tucson: Peter Whitney & Whit Bissell Guest Star

The Rifleman's Long Gun from Tucson premiered on Monday night, December 11, 1961. Peter Whitney plays John Holliver, a gunslinger who comes looking for revenge in North Fork, New Mexico Territory. Regulars Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford are also joined in the cast by Brian G. Hutton, John Harmon, Whit Bissell, Joe Higgins and Billy Hughes.

The Rifleman (1958-63) starred Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. The 1961 episode "Long Gun from Tucson" guest stars Peter Whitney as John Holliver, a professional gunfighter who comes to North Fork to exact revenge for an incident five years earlier.

The Rifleman's Long Gun from Tucson: Cast & Credits

Calvin Clements penned the teleplay for "Long Gun from Tucson," with Joseph H. Lewis directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors)
  • Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford)
  • Henry Waller (Whit Bissell)
  • Eddie Halstead (John Harmon)
  • Nils Swenson (Joe Higgins)
  • Jeffrey Waller (William E. "Billy" Hughes Jr.)
  • Deecie (Brian G. Hutton)
  • John Holliver (Peter Whitney)

L-r: Whit Bissell, Chuck Connors, John Harmon and Joe Higgins in "Long Gun from Tucson" - ABC-TV

Long Gun from Tucson: Episode Synopsis

Two miles out of North Fork professional gunslinger John Holliver is engaging in target practice, shooting up a road sign with his long gun. Holliver and his gang know that most of the townspeople in North Fork are away attending a centennial celebration. Holliver now decides to make his move, leading his three gang members into North Fork to avenge an earlier incident.

Holliver and his boys arrive in the nearly deserted town. North Fork gunsmith Henry Waller tells acting marshal Lucas McCain what transpired five years ago. Holliver had goaded a 19-year-old boy into a gunfight, shooting him dead. Haller, Nils Swenson, Eddie Halstead and others had then rode out Holliver on a rail. Holliver has now come to avenge that humiliation.

Nils Swenson calls a meeting, telling everyone that they should stick together. Henry Waller is literally scared to death, openly branding himself a coward.

Lucas heads over to the restaurant where he has a talk with Holliver. The gunfighter declares that he's back to collect his self-respect and a little satisfaction to boot. Come sunrise, Holliver announces, he will face a North Fork citizen on the street. Unafraid, Lucas says he may well be that person.

Lucas reports back to Waller and the others, all of whom now view the matter as "personal" between Lucas and Holliver. That means that Lucas may well have to face Holliver and his three other gun hands alone. Holliver observes a fidgety Lucas in the marshal's office, wryly commenting on what goes through a man's mind on what could very well be his last night on earth. 

Long Gun from Tucson: Air Date & Network Competition

"Long Gun from Tucson" was telecast over ABC on Monday night, December 11, 1961, in the 8:30-9 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening when JFK occupied the White House was Window on Main Street (CBS) and The Price Is Right (NBC).

Long Gun from Tucson: Analysis & Review

"Long Gun from Tucson" undoubtedly takes its inspiration from the 1952 western film classic High Noon. In that immortal motion picture Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane stands alone against the notorious Miller gang, who have come to town to kill the big lawman. Cooper's performance as the stoic Kane earned him a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar.

In "Long Gun from Tucson," it appears that Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain will fill the role of Will Kane. John Holliver and his three gunmen have come to North Fork with murder in their eyes. "Let's go kill us a man..." Holliver announces outside of town. Holliver is here for revenge, having been booted out of town five years earlier following a so-called "fair fight" with a 19-year-old kid that resulted in the latter's death. 

Lucas McCain initially believes that he will have help in his showdown with Holliver and his gang. But the three men who had participated in the humiliation of Holliver have now gotten cold feet. Henry Waller wants to help, but he calls himself "a sick man"  who's incapable of strapping on a gun. Mark McCain, who idolizes his father, volunteers his help, but Lucas says he's simply too young to handle a gun and sends him away to spend the night with Henry's son, Jeffrey.

Sunup comes and Holliver and his men walk in unison on the street, settling in front of the North Fork Saloon. Lucas comes out to meet them alone. But unlike High Noon, where the cowered citizenry remained behind closed doors, Henry Waller emerges with a gun strapped to his thigh. He is soon joined by Eddie Halstead and Lars Swenson, both of whom are armed.

"Well, looks like we might as well call the whole thing off," Holliver exclaims, seeing that it's now four against four. Holliver then makes a feint and he and his gang members go for their guns. But the men from North Fork prove quicker, gunning down their four adversaries in the street. 

Henry Waller, who has been nervous all his life, is now seen in a different light by his son Jeffrey. A new sign is erected in town: Henry Waller & Son, Gunsmith. Mark opines that maybe they could put up a similar sign on their barn back at the McCain ranch.

Peter Whitney (1916-1972) shines in this segment, playing one of the meanest heavies ever to show his ugly face in North Fork, New Mexico Territory. Whitney's John Holliver is a vengeful cuss, one of these grubby, philosophical gunfighters who really doesn't care if he lives or dies. When Lucas informs him that his time may be up, Holliver replies, "Well I guess either way the town will be remembering me. That's kinda important to me, Mr. McCain."

Credit Whit Bissell (1909-1996) for his performance as the frightened gunsmith Henry Waller, who finally finds his backbone when confronted with the evil John Holliver. "Looks like the sheep have grown horns," Holliver observes after seeing Waller and his friends packing heat. Also note the appearance of Brian G. Hutton (1935-) as the gunman Deecie, who went on to direct the Clint Eastwood films Where Eagles Dare (1969) and Kelly's Heroes (1970). 

"Long Gun from Tucson" hails from The Rifleman's fourth season and is episode #121 of 168 in the series. Body count: 4. 

Top Image 

  • L-r: Chuck Conners, Joe Higgins and John Harmon in "Long Gun from Tucson" - ABC-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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