(left to right: Reese Bennet, Chad Cooper,
Joe Riley and Capt. Edward Parmalee
Bennett: Neville Brand
Chad Cooper: Peter Brown
Joe Riley: William Smith
Capt. Edward Parmalee: Philip Carey
Erik Hunter: Robert Wolders (1966-1967)
Text and photo courtesy of Sierra
Stories of the
Texas Rangers have always drawn huge followings, and those told in this series
incorporated humor as well as feats of daring-do. This series centered around three Rangers of Company B and their senior
officer, stationed in Laredo at the end of the Civil War. It actually premiered as an episode of The
Virginian in a story called “We’ve Lost a Train” on April 21, 1965. In this episode, Trampas goes to Mexico on an errand, and in the border
town of Laredo, he gets into brawls with three Texas Rangers. This episode was later released as the feature film
Backtrack. In point of fact, this is probably the only western television show that
had two major movies come from it: Backtrack
and Three Guns for Texas.
The first actual
episode under the series title of Laredo was
“Lazyfoot, Where Are You?” It
was telecast on September 16, 1965, and it more thoroughly introduces Reese,
Chad, and Joe as the rowdy Rangers the audience soon came to love.
Since Reese Bennett was a former Union Army officer and already in his
40’s when he joined the Rangers, his age was quite a source of amusement to
the two much younger Rangers, who were his partners. He was soft-hearted and none-too-bright, but totally capable of his
duties as a Ranger. Joe Riley was a
former gunfighter, and since his activities were not always legal, he joined the
Rangers because he liked action but wanted sanctuary from the law. Chad Cooper was a Boston native and wartime member of the Border Patrol. He joined the Rangers to continue his hunt for the varmints who had sold
guns to the Mexicans responsible for wiping out most of his comrades. All three retained a sense of humor about everything, and exasperated
Capt. Parmalee, a stern taskmaster, was hard-pressed to keep them under control.
In the second year, Erik Hunter joined the Rangers, and his snazzy dress
code provided more fuel for the three original lawmen.
The show only
ran for two years, from September 16, 1965 to April 7, 1967, but it was two
years filled with outrageous humor and adventure. It was 60 minutes in length and shot in color. Top guest stars making appearances included Burgess Meredith, Martin
Milner, Doug McClure, Fernando Lamas, James Drury, and Michael Ansara. For the trivia collector, there was only one issue of Laredo
comics published by Gold Key
died April 16, 1992. Most people
don’t know that he was the 4th most decorated soldier in America. He won the Silver Star, America’s third highest combat decoration, when
the armored division he was with suddenly found itself held up by German
50-calibre machine gun nests. With
no thought to his own safety, he maneuvered through enemy fire, entered the rear
of the lodge housing the machine guns, and sprayed the place with his machine
gun, allowing his division to move again. He
came to Laredo after a successful
stint as Al Capone on the hit series The
Untouchables starring Robert Stack.
Philip Carey went on to star in soap operas. Peter Brown came to Laredo after a winning streak as Deputy Johnny McKay on the television western Lawman for four years. William Smith had been an actor since 1942, starring in several television series before Laredo. He went on to many other roles, most notably as James “Kimo” Carew in Hawaii Five-0. Robert Wolders is best remembered as long-time companion and friend of screen legend Audrey Hepburn.
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