John Wayne couldn’t patrol the entire Old West. Forts were established to help protect those wild areas. None were as funny, though, as F Troop.
The show revolved around Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Cpl. Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch) working to make their side business profitable while keeping it secret and also keeping their favored Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry) happy and oblivious, while he tries to keep the enamored Wrangler Jane (Melody Patterson) enamored without being TOO enamored. O’Rourke and Agarn worked with the Hekawi tribe, led by Chief Wild Eagle (Frank DeKova) to sell souvenirs, but also to help keep up certain illusions with Captain Permenter at the fort.
Members of F-Troop included lousy bugler Dobbs (James Hampton), blind sentry Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks), and Alamo veteran Duffy (Bob Steele). Chief Wild Eagle was aided by his son Crazy Cat (Don Diamond), who was more than ready to take over, Smokey Bear (Ben Frommer), and Roaring Chicken (Edward Everett Horton).
The show featured many of O’Rourke and Agarn’s get-rich quick schemes, including buying a ghost town, trying to get dancing girls for the saloon, trying to rope a wild horse to sell, and just about anything if the Hekawi could be made to agree to it. And since this was a Calvary post, there were always inspections, transfers, training, and other such military-minded things that Captain Parmenter was always prepared for as he always carried his trusty army manual with him.
Folks that stopped by Fort Courage included: James Gregory; Arch Johnson; Mako: funny men Henry Gibson, Don Rickles, Harvey Korman, Paul Lynde, Milton Berle, and George Furth; my forever favorite guest star J. Pat O’Malley; Catwomen Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar; John Dehner; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Jaques Aubuchon (Boris!); Pooh and Baloo…I mean Sterling Holloway and Phil Harris; cowboys Jack Elam, Victor French (who I didn’t even recognize!), and Don ‘Red’ Barry; Vic Tayback; Jamie Farr (not in a dress but it’s this gig that led him to wear one); Mary Wickes; Jeanette Nolan; Pat Harrington, JR; and two of my favorite people Vincent Price and Joyce Jameson. Ivan Bell, John Mitchum, and Jimmy Horan also had recurring roles as troopers.
Let’s just get this out of the way right here. The show ran for two seasons in the 60’s (’65-’67). Political correctness hadn’t been invented yet. They called the Indians…Indians. In fact, they even use the word “redskin” in the theme song that was used the first season. None of the people playing Indians are Indians. This was commonplace at the time. Don’t let this detract from the show.
This is a show like Gilligan’s Island in the sense that it is quite silly, but it’s incredibly funny and probably wouldn’t have worked without this particular cast. Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch are brilliant together, their delivery and timing spot on. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing the exact same scenes and having them be as funny. Ken Barry is a bit overshadowed because of this, but his Captain Parmenter is just as much fun and the interactions with Melody Patterson’s Wrangler Jane are both sweet and hilarious. Even though Frank DeKova and Don Diamond are basically playing stereotypes with the speech patterns and stuff, they’re still funny without every joke being about them being Indian. There are a lot of jokes that you can see coming a mile away and yet you still laugh.
I’m telling you, it’s all in the delivery.
I remember first seeing this show when I was a little kid (it was on late at night with Laugh-In, The Monkees, and Get Smart), but I never gave it much of a chance. I should have, though. I’ve missed out.
I was kinda dumb for a kid.