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Custer
Wayne Maunder as Custer.
StarringWayne Maunder
Slim Pickens
Robert F. Simon
Michael Dante
Peter Palmer
Grant Woods
ComposersRichard Markowitz (1.1)
Leith Stevens (1.1, 1.5, 1.7, 1.13; and theme music)
Robert Drasnin (1.12)
Harry Geller (1.14)
Irving Gertz (1.15)
Joseph Mullendore (1.17, as "MULLENDORE")
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes17
Production
Running time60 minutes
Release
Original networkABC
Picture formatColor
Original releaseSeptember 6 (1967-09-06) –
December 27, 1967 (1967-12-27)

Custer, also known as The Legend of Custer, is a 17-episode military-western television series which ran on ABC from September 6 to December 27, 1967, with Wayne Maunder in the starring role of then Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Criticizing the series as "glamorizing custer," a concerted protest headed by the Tribal Indians Land Rights Association successfully halted broadcast of the series under the FCC fairness doctrine.[1]

Set after the American Civil War, during which Custer had risen to the rank of major general, the youngest in the Union Army. He was demoted after the war during force reductions to the rank of captain, but was reinstated in 1866 as a lieutenant colonel in command of the 7th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.[2] Many of the soldiers in the regiment were derelicts, former Confederates, or even criminals. The series was cancelled before the script timeline would have reached the Little Big Horn River of southeastern Montana, where all perished on June 25, 1876, in a Sioux Indian ambush.[2]

Robert F. Simon played Custer's commanding officer, U.S. General Alfred H. Terry, who disapproved of Custer's long hair and much of his methodology of fighting Indians.[3] Slim Pickens starred as a scout named California Joe Milner. Michael Dante appeared as Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. Peter Palmer played Sergeant James Bustard, a former Confederate soldier.[2] Grant Woods appeared as Captain Myles Keogh. Read Morgan, formerly a cavalry officer on NBC's The Deputy, appeared in the episode "Spirit Woman" in the role of a medicine man.

A 20th Century Fox Television Production, Custer was created by Samuel A. Peeples and David Weisbart, and is unique in carrying the credit "Series Suggested By Larry Cohen." Leo Penn, the father of Sean Penn, directed some episodes.[2]

Guest stars included Lloyd Bochner (as James Stanhope), Rory Calhoun (as Zebediah Jackson), Philip Carey (as Benton Conant), James Daly (as John Rudford), Alexander Davion (as Capt. Marcus A. Reno), Burr DeBenning (as Uvalde), Yvonne De Carlo (as Vanessa Ravenhill), Gene Evans (as Deedricks), Arthur Franz (as Grey Fox and Bledsoe), Billy Gray (as Billy Nixon), Barbara Hale (as Melinda Terry), Stacy Harris (as John Glixton), Earl Holliman (as Dan Samuels), Robert Loggia (as Lt. Carlos Moreno), Darren McGavin (as Jeb Powell), Ralph Meeker (as Kermit Teller), Mary Ann Mobley (as Ann L'Andry), Agnes Moorehead (as Watoma), Edward Mulhare (as Col. Sean Redmond), Kathleen Nolan (as Nora Moffett), Larry Pennell (as Chief Yellow Hawk), Paul Petersen (as Lieutenant Cox), Donnelly Rhodes (as War Cloud), Chris Robinson (as Lt. Tim Rudford), Ned Romero (as Running Feet), Barbara Rush (as Brigid O'Rourke), Albert Salmi (as Capt. John Mark Charrington), William Smith (as Chief Tall Knife), Dub Taylor (as Trader), Ray Walston (as Ned Quimbo), James Whitmore (as Eldo), Terry Wilson (as Brownsmith), and William Windom (as Clark Samson).[4] In the last episode entitled "The Raiders", Custer enlists the aid of Kiowa Indians to help him to locate the parties responsible for a series of wagon train raids.[5]

Custer faced competition from NBC's long-running 90-minute western The Virginian starring James Drury and Doug McClure and CBS's Lost in Space starring Guy Williams, June Lockhart, and Mark Goddard.[6] Custer had been preceded by the much more successful Sci-Fi series, The Time Tunnel, which was one of the few bright spots on ABCs schedule. Unfortunately, it was a bad decision, as Custer wasn't a ratings winner.

Maunder was twenty-eight when he was cast as the 28-year-old Custer. The show was canceled due to poor reviews[7] and protests by Native American tribes throughout the United States.[8][9]

Episodes

Title Directed by Written by Air date
1"Sabers in the Sun"Sam WanamakerSamuel A. PeeplesSeptember 6, 1967 (1967-09-06)
2"Accused"Lawrence DobkinAl C. WardSeptember 13, 1967 (1967-09-13)
3"Glory Rider"Lawrence DobkinJack TurleySeptember 20, 1967 (1967-09-20)
4"To the Death"Herschel DaughertySamuel A. PeeplesSeptember 27, 1967 (1967-09-27)
5"Massacre"Herschel DaughertyDaniel MainwaringOctober 4, 1967 (1967-10-04)
6"War Lance and Saber"Norman FosterShimon WincelbergOctober 11, 1967 (1967-10-11)
7"Suspicion"Alex MarchJohn DunkelOctober 18, 1967 (1967-10-18)
8"Breakout"László BenedekShimon WincelbergNovember 1, 1967 (1967-11-01)
9"Desperate Mission"László BenedekWarren DouglasNovember 8, 1967 (1967-11-08)
10"Under Fire"Lawrence DobkinArthur Browne Jr.November 15, 1967 (1967-11-15)
11"Death Hunt"Leo PennSteve McNeil & Richard BartlettNovember 22, 1967 (1967-11-22)
12"Blazing Arrows"Christian NybyBob and Wanda DuncanNovember 29, 1967 (1967-11-29)
13"Dangerous Prey"Leo PennRichard SaleDecember 6, 1967 (1967-12-06)
14"Spirit Woman"László BenedekWilliam BlinnDecember 13, 1967 (1967-12-13)
15"The Gauntlet"Don RichardsonShimon WincelbergDecember 20, 1967 (1967-12-20)
16"The Raiders"Norman FosterShimon WincelbergDecember 27, 1967 (1967-12-27)
17"Pursued"Leo PennJohn DunkelJanuary 3, 1968 (1968-01-03)

References

  1. ^ Tahmahkera, Dustin. Tribal Television: Viewing Native People in Sitcoms. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014, p. 11
  2. ^ a b c d Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, 4th ed., p. 190
  3. ^ "Plot summary for Custer". Internet Movie Data Base.
  4. ^ "Episode List for Custer". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  5. ^ "Custer". TV.com. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  6. ^ 1967-1968 American network television schedule, appendix of Total Television
  7. ^ "Time Tunnel".
  8. ^ Vine., Deloria (1988). Custer died for your sins : an Indian manifesto. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 24. ISBN 0806121297. OCLC 17234301.
  9. ^ "...the ABC network in the fall of 1967 launched a new series called simply Custer. The show created a minor furor at the outset when certain Indian rights groups objected to the glorification of their favorite enemy". Brian W. Dippie, Custer's Last Stand: The Anatomy of an American Myth. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1994 ISBN 0803265921, (p.120)