Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One of the best: Fort Laramie

Fort Laramie was a Western in the late 1950's. It was a different kind of Western, in that it did not deal with cowboys but with the calvary in the Wyoming Territory. Fort Laramie was a real place but no one ever said these stories were based on real events.

Generally, men in the cavalry were there to get away from their hen-pecking wives or were there by choice to get away from society.  But cavalry life didn't turn out to be much better - long hours of waiting, lots of terrible sickness and an occasional fight with the Indians.

The show got it's roots from producer Norman MacDonnell, the same man who turned Gunsmoke into a gigantic radio (and television) smash hit.  The star of Fort Laramie was Raymond Burr, who did a great job as Lee Quince. Quince was second in command at Fort Laramie. Harry Bartell and Vic Perrin make up most of the rest of the regular cast as soldiers and they do an excellent job.

Fort Laramie, like all of the 1950's radio Westerns, came with huge bravado and backed it up, but only lasted a year; only 1950's Westerns Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel lasted more than a year due to the rise of television.

There's more psychology at work in the scripts than there is guns a'blazing and makes for some interesting radio. While there are Indians around, the cavalry tried to placate them rather than annoy them; this often meant doing a lot of things most of the soldiers didn't want to do.  But such was (is) Army life.

Don't be surprised to hear women on the show; many show up now and then looking for their husband's body or what-not.

It was  a great show with just 40 something episodes but it's good radio with great sound quality.

If I had a five star rating, I'd rank it higher than Gunsmoke - 4 and 3/4 stars, due to the fact there are under 50 episodes and they are all very good ones.


  1. I like Fort Laramie. Reading your review of the show reminded me of something you said earlier. It was about actors that show up everywhere. Harry Bartell is one of those. I am sure Perrin did as well. Harry Bartell even moved on to CBS Mystery Theater. I would place Gunsmoke above Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie tried to present life on the frontier and the indians in a different light. For the most part, it succeeded. Good show and is in my regular cue.

  2. While I like Gunsmoke more than Fort Laramie, I rate it highere (here) beause of #1> The sound quality is superior to Gunsmoke and #2> Program quality as there are only 40 or so episodes and there isn't a bad one among them.

    Thanks, as always, for your comments, Boston Blackie.


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