1 9 6 7 – 1 9 7 1 (USA)
98 x 50 minute episodes
Set in the early 1870s, The High Chaparral was the story of Big John Cannon (Leif Erickson) who moved to Tuscon, Arizona with his wife, Anna Lee (Joan Caulfield), his twenty-year-old intellectually-challenged son, Billy Blue (Mark Slade), his brother, Buck (Cameron Mitchell), and a dream of establishing a cattle empire in this rugged, untamed land, beset by drought, Cochise Indians and avaricious Mexican cattle barons.
He had his work cut out for him, for his brother was a drunk, his relationship with his son was fraught with all the difficulties common between fathers and sons, and his wife, though loving and supportive, was terrified by the savagery she saw around her.
Within days of arriving in their new home, the army warned them off, Indians attacked, and John found he had a hostile neighbour to the south, in Mexico, by the name of Don Sebastian de Montoya (Frank Silvera) – who claimed the High Chaparral land as his own.
Anna Lee was killed in a raid, and John was forced into an arranged marriage with Don Sebastian’s daughter, Victoria de Montoya (Linda Cristal), as the price of peace with that enemy. He acquired a new brother-in-law, as well, Manolito (Henry Darrow), who came to help him establish the High Chaparral ranch.
Billy Blue, still grief-stricken over the death of his mother, was shocked by his father’s actions and rebelled, deserting the ranch.
From the same creative stable as Bonanza, The High Chaparral was heavily influenced by the spaghetti Westerns of the cinema (see the opening credits and stylish use of colour photography), and also the political liberalism of the 1960s.
No other major TV Western maintained such a balanced attitude towards White/Indian relations.
It was only fitting, then, that when Blue was written out of the series towards its close, his place at the High Chaparral table was taken by a half-breed, Wind (Rudy Ramos).
Big John Cannon
Billy Blue Cannon
Manolito de Montoya
Victoria Cannon (de Montoya)
Don Sebastian de Montoya
Anna Lee Cannon