10 tiny little details you never noticed on The Rifleman
Ever notice Chuck Connors' futurist pants and family cameos?
Image: The Everett Collection
Lucas McCain was known as a skilled shot. After all, he was the Rifleman.
Well, it take the eyes of a sharpshooter to pick out all these details from the classic Western. Family cameos, wardrobe anachronisms, MLB stars… see if you ever spotted these nifty bits of trivia on The Rifleman!
1. Lucas McCain wore Wranglers from the future.
Like most cowboys, Lucas McCain preferred wearing denim. However, he was ahead of fashion trends — by half a century. In "End of a Young Gun," the early episode with Michael Landon, Lucas fixes a wagon wheel with his shirt off. You will notice a "W" stitched on the rear pocket of his jeans. Yep, he's wearing Wranglers. One problem — those jeans would not be made until the 1940s. Lucas lives in the 1880s. More evidence that the Rifleman is, indeed, from the future.
2. Connors' real son appeared in an episode.
In "Tension," Lucas and Mark attend the funeral of Sid Halpern, a friend of the McCains. His widow and son, Toby, are there dressed in black. Jeff Connors played young Toby. He would have two other uncredited bit parts on the show, his only screen credits. Connors had four sons with his first wife, Elizabeth Jane Riddell Connors. Jeff passed away in 2014.
3. Johnny Crawford's brother pops up in three episodes.
The Rifleman was a family affair. In addition to young Jeff Connors, another related actor turned up three times on the show — Bobby Crawford, brother of Johnny. Here, you can see him as Freddy in "Second Witness," acting alongside his little bro. Both Johnny and Bobby earned Emmy nominations in 1959. Bobby (Robert Crawford Jr.) would later land a regular role on Laramie.
4. Mark McCain's middle name was Warren.
Middle names don't come up too often on television, outside of jokes. Pay attention to the bank scene at the climax of "The Safe Guard." The teller reads Mark's name as he signs a check. "Mark… Warren…," he says, "You're Lucas' boy." His middle name is Warren!
5. The ballad of Jake Pardee referenced a Western legend.
A song runs throughout the wonderful episode "The Challenger." It's a song about the notorious criminal Jake Pardee. You might recognize the singer, Thurl Ravencroft, the voice behind "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." In a later verse of the song, which plays as Mark lies in bed, Ravencroft bellows about "Peckinpah's Saloon." That's an easter egg referring to Sam Peckinpah, the legendary director of edgy Westerns such as The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah also wrote the pilot episode of The Rifleman, "The Sharpshooter," and directed four early episodes (not this one, however). He left the series after season one.
6. The Madera House had a different name in the first episode.
The Madera Hotel was an oft-frequented location in North Fork on the series. However, in "The Sharpshooter," the establishment went under a different name. It was called California House. Perhaps ownership and management changed between episodes one and two?
7. Buddy Hackett was four years younger than the actor who played his son.
Comedian Buddy Hackett, beloved star of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, showed his dramatic side in "Bloodlines." He played Daniel Malakie, who learns his two boys, Ben and Jud, have ended up behind bars. Christopher Dark played the "boy" Ben. However, Dark, seen here on the right, was born in 1920. Hackett, left, was born in 1924. Now that is some creative casting.
8. A baseball hall-of-famer had a role.
Chuck Connors himself was a pro ballplayer. He manned first base for the Cubs at one point in his career. In fact, he earned his nickname "Chuck" on the baseball diamond. No wonder that another Big Leaguer turned up in North Fork. In "The Retired Gun," former Dodgers star Duke Snider portrayed Wallace. It was his only acting role on television. (He did appear as himself on Father Knows Best, too.)
Image: AP Photo
9. This baby girl was played by a baby boy.
That cute baby girl in "The Baby Sitter"? It was not a baby girl. "Fancy" was a boy. That little tot actor was named Robert Anacher in real life.
10. Robert Culp wrote a two-part episode.
Robert Culp was no stranger to Westerns. Before his two appearances on The Rifleman, he headlined Trackdown, playing Texas lawman Hoby Gilman for two seasons. Later, Culp would star in I Spy and The Greatest American Hero. He also dabbled in writing, too. He wrote a handful of scripts for his own shows — and "Waste," the two-parter that opened season five of The Rifleman. Oddly, he did not appear in "Waste."
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