Critics weren't kind to this short-lived half-hour western, spun off from a two-part Gunsmoke episode entitled Pike. TV Guide columnist Cleveland Amory wrote "...the Gunsmoke office told Miss Nolan that it 'received more mail on that episode than on any other segment in the series' 19 years.' Our theory is that they received the mail, but did not open it..." I respectfully disagree with Mr. Amory. It's been over 30 years since I've seen Dirty Sally but I remember how much I enjoyed the show.
That may have been because I was a teenager with a crush on handsome Dack Rambo, or it may have been because I loved westerns, and after the networks purged their schedules of almost all of the westerns and rural comedies in 1972 it was slim pickings in the "horse opera" department.
It may have been because both Jeannette Nolan and Dack Rambo had impressive acting creditials and knew what they were doing. Before starring in Dirty Sally Miss Nolan appeared in numerous motion pictures including MacBeth and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, plus she had recurring roles in the television shows Hotel De Paree (1959) and the 1967 season of The Virginian. (MIss Nolan would go on to make 300 television appearances, often with her husband John McIntire of Wagon Train and The Virginian fame. She would receive four Emmy nominations, one in 1974 for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work in Dirty Sally.)
Dack Rambo was only 33 when this show was filmed, but it was his third series. He and his identical twin brother Dirk began their acting careers in 1962 with The New Loretta Young Show; in 1967 he costarred in The Guns of Will Sonnett. (At least four other series would follow Dirty Sally.)
This wasn't a great television show, but it was a lot of fun, and it was heartwarming. Here were two likable characters who bickered and complained at times, but always ended up doing the right thing and helping those in need. So just what was the show about? It was summed up in the theme song, which I believe went as follows:
There was an old woman known as Dirty Sally
She found a young outlaw wounded in the valley
She nursed him and she cursed him and she taught him right from wrong
She was quite a feisty old gal that Dirty Sally
Dirty Sally, Dirty Sally
She was a grandma to this lad
He was the son she never had
And together they hit the trail for Californy
Oh together they hit the trail for Californy