Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rifleman - "The Legacy" (1959)

In this episode of the classic Western Series, Franciscus played Phillip Simmons, the estranged son of the town drunk, Matt Simmons (James Barton). Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), the series' hero, agrees to pretend that drunk, destitute, and dying Matt owns the McCain ranch with Lucas, in an attempt to trick Matt's son into coming to visit his father one last time before he dies. The plan goes awry, and when the younger Simmons learns of the hoax perpetrated on him, he takes out his anger on two boys who hazed his dead father. Lucas manages to salvage the situation by once again tricking the younger Simmons into attending his father's funeral, where Simmons learns that perhaps his father's real legacy may have been in helping his son to become less bitter toward his fellow man. (The episode is not as corny as it sounds; while it was the 50s and the message was very much of its time, the writing and acting were both very good.)

It's interesting to see how small Franicscus looks compared to Chuck Connors, until you realize Connors dwarfed every other man in the cast as well. Connors, who played professional basketball as well as the major league baseball for which he was better known, stood almost 6'6" - the same height as other Western big men of the period Clint Walker and James Arness.

A memorable moment occurs at the end when Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford) says to Lucas that he's never seen a man cry before (referring to Phillip at his father's funeral) and the hard-as-nails Lucas replies that a man crying is nothing to be ashamed of.