Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Overlooked TV: The Adventures of Jim Bowie

In the wake of Disney's pop-culture phenomenon, "The Adventures of Davy Crockett" (which lasted a measly  five episodes), TV production companies were rushing to capture some of the magic. While most subsequent shows mined the more familiar territory of the Old West, one program featured a contemporary - and an acquaintance - of Davy, and roamed the same territory, the Southeastern U.S. and the chunk of Mexico colonists called Texas.

The Adventures of Jim Bowie premiered in 1956 and ran two full seasons, churning out an amazing 76 half-hour episodes. Aside from the setting, the show's most distinguishing feature was the music, supplied in strictly acapella fashion by Ken Darby and the King's Men. I don't remember what I thought of it then, but today it sounds strange, and even a bit creepy. Desilu Studios used the same technique on its other major western show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.

Scott Forbes, the guy chosen to play Bowie, was born in England and began his film career there as "Julian Dallas" before making his way to the U.S. His early roles here were as a Brit, but he managed to adopt a pseudo-Southern accent for his role in the Bowie show. After Jim Bowie, he kept busy with film and TV roles for another twenty years, and was also credited with at least ten screenplays.

The whole series is now available in a 10-disc set of DVDs, packed with plenty of action and imaginative history. Among the folk Jim encounters in his travels are Sam Houston, Andy Jackson, Jean Lafitte, John James Adubon, and even the immortal Davy Crockett. In addition to the guest stars noted on the box below, the show played host to DeForest Kelly, Glenn Strange, Denver Pyle, William Schallert, Lurene Tuttle, Edgar Buchanan, Strother Martin, Hans Conried and Chuck Connors.

Thanks to YouTube, here's the entire first episode. This version of the Bowie Knife's origin more or less follows that told in Paul H. Wellman's novel The Iron Mistress, and the Monte Barrett novel the series is supposedly based on, The Tempered Blade. The truth is, there are many theories about the knife's invention, and many possible inventors. Most likely, Bowie had several knives, and several people contributed to what eventually became known as the "Bowie" knife.

THE BIRTH OF THE BLADE Part 1


THE BIRTH OF THE BLADE Part 2


THE BIRTH OF THE BLADE Part 3



For my review of the Jim Bowie Big Little Book by Lewis B. Patten, click HERE.

For links to more of today's Overlooked Films & Such, click HERE.

11 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm gonna go buy me a bowie knife

Deka Black said...

Ah, DVD disc sets. I remember my first... VHS set. The original Star wars Trilogy. And i mean the original, wthout all what Lucas added in the 20th anniversary. The movies as it were projected by the very first time!

David Cranmer said...

The opening scene with the bear was a bit hokey but I will give the show a proper look-see at some point. Mr. Forbes as Jim is a likable hero.

Todd Mason said...

Interesting that DesiLu was "me, too!" thus with both the Adult western and the new wave of kid-friendly westerns in the mid '50s...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember it and can sing the song. (Should anyone ask)

Jerry House said...

Had a Bowie knife when I was a kid. It was rubber. Couldn't cut sh*t.

Evan Lewis said...

Please, Patti. Sing!

Fred Blosser said...

"By Heaven, the man was greater than Caesar or Cromwell! Nay, he was nearly equal to Thor and Odin! The Texans ought to build him a shrine!" I watched the Jim Bowie series faithfully as a kid, but the real-life adventures of Bowie, Crockett, Houston, and Jackson were wilder and bloodier than any Hollywood script.

Evan Lewis said...

By gum, Fred, those are nearly the exact words someone impersonating Ed Gorman once used to describe Bill Crider.

It's here:
http://davycrockettsalmanack.blogspot.com/2010/08/bill-crider-blog-o-books-strike-back.html

Anonymous said...

Lewis Foster, who worked on the Bowie series, also worked on Davy Crockett and Zorro for Disney.
Maybe that's why they all seem so very good.

Richard R. said...

I agree with you about the music, or voices instead of it. Maybe it was a budget move. I hadn't seen that episode, maybe none of them, and enjoyed it. Thanks.