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, during the final days of the Civil War.
The CO was the wide-eyed, bumbling Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry, pictured below right), who had been promoted from Private during the last days of the war when he accidentally led a charge towards the enemy with a sneeze that sounded like “Charge!”
Arriving at Fort Courage, 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 Indians, led by 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, pictured below left) was O’Rourke’s chief aide and assistant schemer and Wrangler Jane (Melody Patterson) the hard-ridin’, fast-shootin’ (and very scrumptious) cowgirl who ran the post office and was out to marry Parmenter.
Other soldiers in the troop included Hannibal Dobbs (James Hampton), the troop’s bugler – who couldn’t play the bugle – and Troopers Duffy (Bob Steele) and Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks).
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 Sgt. Ramsden (Paul Lynde) and 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 Dobbs
Edward Everett Horton
Major Bentley Royce