I've been watching the four seasons of Wild, Wild West on video over the last month or so, catching the adventures of secret service agent James West (and fellow agent Artemis Gordon) fighting bad guys in an era just after Lincoln's assassination. Because I've looked up some information about the series on the internet, I wasn't that surprised to find a picture of James West as I was scrolling down Facebook on my computer. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't an ad generated by my past research, but was instead an obituary. Robert Conrad, the man who played the title character, had died at the age of 84.
Robert Conrad had a long career in successful television programs beginning with Hawaiian Eye in the fifties and Black Sheep Squadron in the seventies, but his stint on the Wild, Wild West was the most memorable. The show itself was an interesting blend of two of the top film/TV genres of the time that seemed mutually distinct from each other. The Cold War-inspired success of James Bond films and TV shows like The Man from Uncle and Secret Agent, showed that secret service agents were in vogue, while 'westerns' were still in their golden age in theaters and on television.
Putting James Bond back 100 years into the Old West was an interesting synthesis and one that seems to have worked well. The show garnered good ratings and reviews, however, was cancelled after the fourth season due to the government and networks wanting to limit the amount of violence on TV after the assassinations of RFK and MLK and a growing pacifist movement growing in regards to the Vietnam War.
Ironically, through the 1970s it was replayed in syndication in many markets just after school, and that's when I first enjoyed the show. The introduction featured in order: West slugging a man walking out of a saloon, pulling a pistol on somebody trying to cheat at cards, shooting another man who had the drop on him, and lastly punching out a lady that tries to knife him in the back. OK, so maybe it did have some violence, but it was more like the cartoon violence of that era.
Conrad played the role as a cross between Sean Connery's 007, Richard Boone's Paladin, and Adam West's Batman: part secret agent, part cultured cowboy, part comic book camp superhero. During almost every episode he would explode into two or three brawls with the minions of the bad guy, woo or convert one or more of the guest starlets, and ultimately win the day for the good guys using gadgets that seem futuristic for the time. It would almost always end with agents West and Gordon paired with the episode's women on their 1870s love train.
It wasn't as if the villains were that far behind as far as gimmicks and gadgets. West's archenemy was a Spanish dwarf by the name of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, and what he lacked in height, he made up for with inventiveness, often moving the series into the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Special paintings that one could enter when the proper tuning fork was struck. A powder that shrunk people to a twelfth of their size. These weren't the only fantastic creations that shouldn't have been around 140 years ago that were introduced into the series making it more than just a western with secret service agents.
But perhaps the most enduring aspect of the show other than the superb storylines is that the frequent brawling and other stunts that James West found himself a part of were actually performed by Conrad himself, rather than stunt doubles, in superbly choreographed melees. Conrad would actually be honored later in his career as an accomplished stuntman, an honor rarely given to one outside of the profession of stuntman.
The episode Conrad slipped from the chandelier and was seriously hurt actually was slated for the third season, but they eventually finished the episode a few months later and put it into the fourth season, with the healed Conrad getting up off of the floor and finishing the skirmish. Studio execs would want the franchise star not doing his own stunts after that scare, but Conrad would continue to do his own stunts to the last, only allowing a double in (for sake of the execs) when there was a fall of 5' or more involved.
Robert Conrad as James West was an inspiration to me due to his ability to fight his own battles, his ability to endure when faced with legions of bad guys, and his ability to do so in defense of his country and his friends. If you haven't ever seen the show, or haven't seen it in ages, you should. If not out of respect for Robert Conrad's death, then out of respect for being entertained for 50 minutes.
I use to watch the show as well, I found it quite entertaining which considering it took place during the old west was a little different for me as I've never been a big fan of westerns. Its sad to hear that Conrad has passed though, he was good at what he did and will always be remembered for bringing us some smiles as we watched
As a kid I wasn't a big fan of the traditional western, a genre that dominated the TV line-up during the 1960s, but WWW was anything but a traditional oater, and that had a lot to do not only with the production and script-writing but with the pick of Conrad as the lead character and his chemistry with his co-star Ross Martin in making this a western that could transcend its setting.
WWW was always my fav TV western, I bought the entire 4 season DVD set about 5 years ago and still watch it from time to time, never boring. James West was the hero for sure, and he could carry himself in a fist fight with 4-6 guys against him with no problem. Plus, all those fancy gadgets that could unlock doors and get them out of any jam to freedom. Sad loss, Robert Conrad was a hero for many in his time.
'The African Queen was a great movie. By todays standards it wouldn't be considered a short film.
Bogart was a National Treasure as an actor. Not sure he could find work in Hollywood these days.
Cant say he was a conservative at the time but by todays standards he would be judged as such.
His quote during the McCarthy anti American hearings '' They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem.'' says a lot about who he was and the times.
Casablanca might be is the best film ever made.
''Knock it off.I dare you.''
For his age he was in very good shape until his car accident, which he caused, in 2003 in which he was partially paralyzed. He lived out his final years in a wheel chair.
Willy, like a drama theater director, you present a tragedy and follow it up with comedy. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones.
I truly feel sorry for her. She is being used by the globalists and worst of all by her parents. When she wakes up from this she may find herself in a rubber room.
Wow Willy, had no idea about the car accident and wheelchair scenario at all, sad. That Ross Martin that played Artemus Gordon too was quite a great actor and co-star. He had all kinds of inventions in the works and also wore great disguises to fool the opponents.