I was a little girl when John Russell appeared on Lawman, and I don't think my Dad watched it very much, but his appearance and voice made such an impression on me, that in l985, when I saw "Pale Rider" on the big screen, I recognized him.
John Russell, while not a major leading man, had the richest voice and his handsome looks, even as an older man, riveted one's eyes to the screen. He was an imposing presence, and I wish he had had more big acting parts on TV. I watch "Pale Rider" over and over just to see the scenes near the end when he speaks with LaHood about Clint Eastwood's character, and when he and his "deputies", all looking sexy in their dusters, start their violence. What is it about dusters that is so appealing? I always thought cowboys were sexy, from the time I was very young, and I never tire of the western. John Russell is such a perfect cowboy, good man or villain. I prefer him as a villain. I have to again mention his voice, to me it is even richer than Gregory Peck's or Richard Kiley's. It is an amazing voice. My cable company has never played reruns of the "Lawman", but I will be watching if they ever do.
John Russell, born in California in 1921, drifted into movies following his World War II military service, but Hollywood never quite seemed to know what to do with him and his parts were mostly minor ones in quickly-forgotten productions. Finally, in 1958, he won the role that has come to define him: Marshal Dan Troop in the TV series, "Lawman." This half-hour series ran for four seasons on ABC's Sunday night schedule and during the course of its 156 episodes, Russell strove to bring law and justice to the frontier town of Laramie, Wyoming. The young deputy who served under him was played by Peter Brown and toegther these two good-looking actors cornered both ends of the "beefcake" market. Brown, 22 years old at the start of the series, provided steady helpings of "eye-candy" to teenage girls whereas 37-year-old Russell appealed to older women. He didn't take his shirt off with the regularity of, say, Clint Walker on the "Cheyenne" series, but in the 11-20-60 episode of "Lawman" titled "Samson the Great," Russell climbed in the ring with a traveling prizefighter and fought a bare-knuckle bout while stripped to the waist, thus showing off his muscular, sweat-coated physique and thereby quickening feminine hearts all over America. (Curiously, he and co-star Brown never appeared bare-chested in the same scene, perhaps to avoid the undercurrent of sexual rivalry this occurrence might have prompted.) Following "Lawman," Russell's parts again resumed their minor status but, in the twilight of his career, he was briefly shown to great effect as the villain in Clint Eastwood's 1985 western, "Pale Rider."
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