By the mid-1960s, TV Westerns struggled to put a new spin on increasingly familiar stories and settings. Laredo found its solution with laughter.
In Laredo, Texas in the 1870s, three (later four) Texas Rangers fight crime and seek adventure. Gravel-voiced Reese Bennett (Neville Brand) is the eldest and prickliest. Chad Cooper (Peter Brown) and Joe Riley (William Smith) are the wisecracking, handsome young rogues. Dutch actor Robert Wolders joins the team for season two as snappy dresser Erik Hunter. And Western icon Philip Carey is their quick-tempered, ladies man captain.
Laredo was a spin-off of The Virginian, with the characters introduced in that show’s third season finale in April of 1965. The series debuted five months later. By the end of the second season, top-billed Brand had lost favor with NBC and Laredo producers and did not appear in the final episodes.
Brand’s career didn’t skip a beat, and he was ubiquitous on film and TV for practically the rest of his life. Carey and Brown went on to long careers in soap operas. Smith became a go-to film and television bad guy. But Wolders had perhaps the most interesting post-Laredo life: he was the companion of legendary actress Audrey Hepburn from 1980 until her death in 1993.
Notable guest stars:
Bruce Dern, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Lee Van Cleef, Peter Graves, Jamie Farr, Sid Haig, Ellen Corby, Beverly Garland, George Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Martin Milner, Julie Harris, Michael Conrad, Jack Lord, Fernando Lamas, Barbara Rush, Jack Weston, Dub Taylor, Eve Arden, Jim Davis Noah Beery Jr, John Carradine, Jeanne Cooper, Gerald Mohr, Henry Silva, Arthur Hunnicutt, Alan Napier, Vito Scotti, Len Lesser, Ted Cassidy, Ned Romero, Fritz Feld, Mike Mazurki, Deanna Lund, Seymour Cassel, Foster Brooks, Clint Howard
Produced by Dick Irving.