Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Overlooked TV: JOHNNY RINGO (1959)

The real John Ringo, as you may know, was a cow thief. Films like Tombstone have portrayed him as a particular rival of Doc Holliday, because someone once said he was better educated than the average cowboy. The most interesting thing about him is the mystery of his death. He was found sitting against a tree with his boots missing and a bullet hole in his head. One unlikely theory, attributed to Wyatt Earp, says that Earp and Holliday returned to Arizona in 1882 (despite being wanted by the law) to do the deed.

In the 1959 CBS series Johnny Ringo, our man Johnny was your typical good-guy sheriff, who just happened to have a bad guy past. The series only lasted one season, so it did not foster a boatload of merchandising. There was, however, one comic book (Four Color 1142, 1961), several cap gun sets from the Actoy company, and a Marx playset.

Unfortunately for Marx, the show was cancelled before the set went on sale, so the playset had a very limited run. As a result, it's now an extremely rare set, and Johnny is one of the rarest of Marx figures. If you find him lurking in your toybox, he could bring you several hundred bucks.

Here's a full episode of the show, complete with educational commercials for Kent Cigarettes.

The super-rare Marx Johnny Ringo figure, obviously based on the still above. 
Not even super-collector Cap'n Bob Napier has one of these. 

These cap gun pics are featured on the world's most 
amazing cap gun site, nicholscapguns.com. Check it out!

In the show, Johnny's gun has extra barrel bearing 
a shotgun shell. Too bad the cap guns didn't.


Cap'n Bob said...

I'd say that a Ringo figure would bring at good $1000.00. A mint playset could top $10,000.00. The gun he carried was a LaMat, with a bullet-firing barrel on top and a shotgun barrel under that, as you said. They were favored by Southern officers during the War of Northern Aggression. I never saw the show because it was up against The Real McCoys. Don Durant, the star of Johnny Ringo, went on to have a long and successful career on Broadway.
How many of those cap gun sets did you say you have?

Evan Lewis said...

Sadly, I have a total of zero Johnny Ringo guns.

James Reasoner said...

This series was an early favorite of mine. I had that comic book, too. I don't remember much about the contents, but that cover is imprinted on my brain.

Anonymous said...

Louis L'Amour once said that his research never found any evidence to support (the real) Ringo's fearsome reputation. Some historians say that Ringo is only famous because he was involved in the Earp-Clanton feud. It's also possible that people who mention "Ringo" are thinking of the TV series, or of John Wayne in "Stagecoach," or of Gregory Peck in "The Gunfighter," all of whom resembled the real Ringo in name only.

The real Ringo was not a sheriff, although it's possible he and the other "cowboys" may have been deputized at one time or another by the Cochise County sheriff.

The Marx figure's handgun looks like a LeMat, but the cap guns look like standard Colt Peacemakers. I never heard of Ringo carrying a distinctive handgun IRL, but the TV producers may have wanted a gimmick to compete with Lucas McCain and Josh Randall.

Mark Goddard (Deputy Cully) is probably better known for Lost in Space, although he and the rest of the cast got shoved into the background when that series evolved into "The Will Robinson, Dr. Smith, and Robot Show."

The theory that Earp and Holliday secretly returned to Arizona and killed Ringo seems to be based on Glenn Boyer's book. Ray Hogan's biography of Ringo mentions theories that Michael "Johnny Behind the Deuce" O'Rourke or Buckskin Frank Leslie did it. There is also the possibility that it was suicide.

Fred Blosser said...

Prime nostalgia. I didn't play the video but I think the show was an early Aaron Spelling production.

Other unrelated Ringos: George Montgomery played "Billy Ringo" in the above-average B-Western "Gun Belt," set in Tombstone with the Earps but no mention of Johnny. Tab Hunter sided Montgomery as the younger guy whom I guess producers hoped would draw teen-age girls, maybe the same idea behind including Goddard's younger guy on the TV show.

And then there was Giuliano Gemma's character in the spaghettis "A Pistol for Ringo" and "The Return of Ringo." By that time (1965), the Beatles were already big, so maybe the name had marquee value not just for western fans.

Cap'n Bob said...

BTW, when I smoked I hated Kent cigarettes.

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