1 9 7 2 – 1 9 7 4 (USA)
10 x 90/120 minute episodes
Set in 1901, Hec Ramsey starred the irascible Richard Boone as the irascible Hector ‘Hec’ Ramsey, a former gunfighter solving crimes alongside the (very youthful) Sheriff Oliver B. Stamp (Rick Lenz) with then-new sleuthing technologies in the town of New Prospect, Oklahoma.
Boone was a legend, having starred as the hero in Have Gun Will Travel. But he was also a legend in Hollywood for high standards, his insistence on having some say in the direction of his shows, a straight-shootin’ mouth and his deliverance of solid performances despite his hard-partying ways.
“Dick can do it, morning after morning, no matter how enormous has been his carousing of the night before,” Ramsey co-star Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H) said in 1974. And he was talking about some carousing. Boone loved nothing more than chartering a plane, loading it up with friends and vodka and going off on an adventure – on a school night.
One adventure took him, musician Duane Eddy and a group of pals on an alcohol-fuelled flight from L.A. to Phoenix to jam with Charley Pride in Pride’s motel room before getting back on the plane, flying home and heading to the set with about a half-hour of sleep. And, of course, he turned in top-notch work the following day.
Boone could pretty much do as he pleased, having earned what he termed his “the-hell-with-you” money doing Have Gun Will Travel. But with some hefty paychecks at stake with Hec Ramsey even he knew to listen when the powers-that-be made changes.
He just let off a little steam griping about it. “Do you know what those bleeps have done?” he asked in one memorable phone call to a reporter, referring to Jack Webb (Dragnet) and his production company, which backed the series.
“They’ve taken all creative control away from me. They want me to be just a bleeping actor reading my lines. They’ve had Dragnet and ‘Son of Dragnet’ and ‘Fire-Engine Dragnet’ and ‘Mod Squad Dragnet’, and now they want to make this ‘Turn-of-the-Century Dragnet’. They worked their will on me . . . Am I going to quit? Of course not. With all that money I get for playing Hec, that would be a bleeping Pyrrhic victory.”
Producers prompted that rant when they decided the show had wandered from its original intent, becoming too much of a traditional Western when it was supposed to be a whodunit. But Boone wasn’t wrong about Webb and company spinning out another version of the same general concept.
Sheriff Oliver B. Stamp
Doc Amos B. Coogan