1 9 6 5 – 1 9 6 7 (USA)
65 x 30 minute episodes
This military farce about the gallant incompetents of F Troop at Fort Courage was set in Kansas in 1866.
The CO was the wide-eyed, bumbling Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry), who had been promoted during the last days of the Civil War (from a private in the Quartermaster Corps in charge of officers’ laundry) when he accidentally led a charge toward the enemy with a sneeze that sounded like “Charge!” and brought about a victory over the Confederates.
Assigned to Fort Courage to replace the retiring commander “Cannonball” Bill McCormick (Willard Waterman), Parmenter finds that Reveille is played at 10 am “because of the three-hour time difference” and that even though rations and pay allotments are drawn for 30 men, only 17 are stationed at the fort (the other 13 are allegedly “Indian scouts out on patrol”).
Unbeknownst to the captain, Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke (Forrest Tucker) had already negotiated a secret – and highly profitable – treaty with the Hekawi (pronounced “Ha-cow-we”) Indians, led by the money-hungry Chief Wild Eagle (Frank De Kova), from whom he also had an exclusive franchise to sell their souvenirs to tourists via O’Rourke Enterprises.
The treaty benefited both sides because it permitted the Indians to trade and upgrade their living conditions and the troops to maintain the illusion that they were involved in a deadly land war while actually being in no danger.
The only flaw in this otherwise happy arrangement was the troublesome Shugs, a genuine war-mongering tribe (with whom there was no peace treaty) who occasionally went into action.
Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch) was O’Rourke’s chief aide and assistant schemer (and Vice President of O’Rourke Enterprises) and “Wrangler Jane” (Melody Patterson), the hard-ridin’, fast-shootin’ – and very scrumptious – cowgirl who ran the post office and general store, and was out to marry Parmenter.
Other soldiers in the troop included Hannibal Shirley Dobbs (James Hampton), the troop’s bugler (who couldn’t play the bugle); Alamo survivor Trooper Duffy (Bob Steele), who rambled endlessly about his exploits alongside Davy Crockett, Trooper Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks), the almost blind look-out, and Trooper Hoffenmuller (John Mitchum), a German recruit who was unable to speak any English.
A lot of colourful Indians passed through the Fort in one-time special appearances. Some of those included Wise Owl (Milton Berle); Roaring Chicken (Edward Everett Horton); 147-year-old Flaming Arrow (Phil Harris), and Bald Eagle (Don Rickles).
Other special appearances included singing Mountie Sgt. Ramsden (Paul Lynde) and jinxed cavalry trooper Wrongo Starr (Henry Gibson).
F Troop was an entertaining enough production which, in similar dubious taste to Hogan’s Heroes, made light of a deadly serious period of history.
The theme of conniving military men pulling the wool over the eyes of their superiors recalled the antics of Sgt Bilko and his platoon, but F Troop failed to hit the dizzy heights achieved by The Phil Silvers Show.
Melody Patterson lied about her age when she auditioned and was, in fact, 15 years old and still in high school when she began filming F Troop as Wrangler Jane (whose full name was Jane Angelica Thrift).
The producers eventually found out but didn’t fire her because of her maturity and professionalism.
When the series ended in August 1967, she was only 17 years of age – and actually graduated from high school after the show left the air.
Captain Wilton Parmenter
Sergeant Morgan O’Rourke
Corporal Randolph Agarn
Wrangler Jane (Jane Angelica Thrift)
Chief Wild Eagle
Frank De Kova
Assistant Chief Crazy Cat
Bugler Hannibal Shirley Dobbs
Edward Everett Horton
Major Bentley Royce
“Cannonball” Bill McCormick