Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater

Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater
Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre
Marlo Thomas Danny Thomas 1961.JPG
Danny and Marlo Thomas, 1961.
Also known as Zane Grey Theatre
Genre Anthology
Created by Luke Short
Charles A. Wallace
Presented by Dick Powell
Theme music composer Joseph Mullendore
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 149
Producer(s) Helen Ainsworth
Hal Hudson
Aaron Spelling
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Four Star Productions
Pamric Productions
Zane Grey Enterprises
Original channel CBS
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run October 5, 1956 (1956-10-05) – May 18, 1961 (1961-05-18)

Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, sometimes simply called Zane Grey Theatre, is an American Western anthology series which ran on CBS from 1956 to 1961.



Zane Grey Theatre was created by Luke Short and Charles A. Wallace. The series was originally based on the short stories and novels of Western author Zane Grey, but as the episodes continued, new material was included. Aaron Spelling, who later became a legend in Hollywood, wrote twenty Zane Grey episodes. The program opened with a prelude of the episode followed by the introduction, the firing of a gun, with the proclamation: "From out of the West, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater." Much of the musical score was handled by Four Star's Herschel Burke Gilbert.

Powell appeared as various characters in 15 of the 149 episodes of the program and hosted the entire run. Zane Grey, a half-hour program, debuted at 8:30 Eastern on Friday, October 5, 1956, and ran until the end of the 1960-1961 season, when Powell switched to NBC for a new hour-long anthology of drama and comedy called The Dick Powell Show, which continued until shortly after Powell's death from cancer.


Zane Grey Theatre was ground-breaking in that six episodes were developed into subsequent series: Trackdown (from "Badge of Honor") starring Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, Johnny Ringo (from "Man Alone"), starring Don Durant, both on CBS, The Rifleman (from "The Sharpshooter") with Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, and Stagecoach West starring Wayne Rogers and Robert Bray[episode needed], both on ABC, and The Westerner (from "Trouble at Tres Cruces"), starring Brian Keith as Dave Blassingame, and Black Saddle (from "Threat of Violence" with Chris Alcaide instead of series star Peter Breck as Clay Culhane), both on NBC.

In addition, Wanted: Dead or Alive, with Steve McQueen playing the bounty hunter Josh Randall, was a CBS spinoff of Trackdown, and Law of the Plainsman, starring Michael Ansara as a Harvard-educated, Native American U.S. Marshal was an NBC spin-off of The Rifleman.

Guest stars

Actor Denver Pyle became well-known for his appearances as a sheriff on Zane Grey as well as in numerous other Western and comedy series. Stars who were frequently featured on Zane Grey included Chris Alcaide (five times) David Niven, Ben Cooper (five times), Russ Conway, Walter Coy (three times), Joan Crawford, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Sammy Davis, Jr., Robert Harland, Hedy Lamarr, Patrick McVey, Tyler McVey, John M. Pickard (four times), Paul Stader (twice), Danny Thomas, Esther Williams, Jack Lemmon, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Scott Marlowe, Robert F. Simon, and in one episode, Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Lesser-known actors also appeared, including Brad Johnson, Harry Lauter, Adam Kennedy, Read Morgan, Richard Eastham, Quintin Sondergaard, Conlan Carter, Dennis Cross (in episodes "Sundown at Bitter Creek" and "Trail Incident"), Ron Hagerthy (as Jack Wilson in the 1960 episode "The Sunday Man"), Robert Karnes, and Judson Pratt. Phyllis Avery and Lew Ayres appeared as Peg and Clint Howard in the 1956 episode "The Unrelenting Sky", later carried on Frontier Justice in a segment narrated by Ayres.

The Rifleman pilot appeared in 1958. Just a few months later, The Rifleman was on the ABC fall schedule for the beginning of its popular five-year run. That episode is part of the other series' rerun package, instead of Grey's. This one was retitled The Westerners, utilizing the Black Saddle theme music, with Powell's hosting segments replaced with new ones featuring Keenan Wynn. That format was also used for a separate but connected rerun repackaging of four short-lived Western series from Four Star, Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo, The Westerner and Law of the Plainsman. An earlier rerun package was Frontier Justice, which CBS used as a summer replacement in 1958, 1959 and 1961, hosted by Lew Ayres, Melvyn Douglas and Ralph Bellamy, one each summer.


In 1958-1959, Zane Grey Theater ranked 13th of the top 25 programs. It dropped to 23rd place in 1959-1960 and disappeared from the ranking in its final season.[1]

DVD release

In June 2009, VCI Entertainment released the complete first season of the series on Region 1 DVD in the United States.[2]


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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