8 fast, fascinating facts about The Fugitive

Run, Richard, run!

Image: The Everett Collection

"The name: Dr. Richard Kimble. The destination: Death Row, state prison. The irony: Richard Kimble is innocent."

So began the early episodes of The Fugitive. Networks had never aired anything like this television. As soon as the show premiered in 1963, audiences were hooked. Here was a hero who was not a lawman, rather on the run from the law. And not for a white-collar crime like tax evasion. He was pegged for murder!

The week-to-week action, as Kimble hopped around the country on the lam, wowed viewers, but it was the ongoing mystery that kept them coming back. 

If Kimble did not kill his wife, who did? 

Americans had to wait four years for the thrilling climax. Other dramas wrapped up their plots neatly in one hour. This tale took 120 episodes. The shocking finale was worth the wait. It's no wonder that The Fugitive has stuck in the mind of the public. Harrison Ford revitalized the Kimble character on the big screen in 1993, turning on a whole new generation. 

Let's run through some fascinating facts about The Fugitive.

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1. The train crash footage was from a 1938 comedy.


Kimble manages to escape when his train derails en route to Death Row. Locomotive crashes do not come cheap in Hollywood, so the producers lifted footage from an old flick, The Young in Heart, a Douglas Fairbanks Jr. romcom from 1938. Not only did the movie feature some nifty, futuristic cars, the characters survived a train derailment on a bridge. Here you can see the train in the TV show credits in color, and the original scene in black and white.

2. The series was somewhat inspired by Les Miserable.


Series creator Roy Huggins (Maverick, The Rockford Files) repeatedly denied that his series had been inspired by the real-life case of Sam Sheppard, a doctor accused of murdering his wife in 1954. (After ten years in prison, he was acquitted.) Make of that what you will. The over plot also has echoes of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, which featured a fugitive protagonist, Jean Valjean, eluding an inspector named Javert, who is not too far off from the "Lt. Gerard" of the TV show.

3. It pioneered narrative television.


Ongoing narratives are the norm for modern television. In fact, it's a rarity to find a drama in episodic form, like The Twilight Zone or Star Trek. Back in the day, if you missed an episode, you could easily tune in the following week and not miss a beat. It had to be that way without recording devices. The Fugitive boldly asked — demanded, really — audiences to tune in every single week. Yes, it told a different contained tale each episode, but the ongoing plot with the One-Armed Man and Lt. Gerard keep viewers on their toes. The network was initially skeptical to even try such a concept. It blazed a trail for similarly structured shows like The X-Files.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Nearly half of America watched the finale.


After four years, Kimble finally confronts the One-Armed Man, high atop a carnival tower. A whopping 45.9% of households tuned in to see the climax, which amounted to a 72% (meaning, of all the people watching TV at that time, about two-thirds of them were tuned in to The Fugitive). It would remain the most-watched episode until the 1980s, when it was surpassed by the "Who Shot J.R.?" reveal on Dallas and, eventually, the tearful M*A*S*H finale.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. The final narration had to be changed for Canada.


The stentorian voice of William Conrad made him the perfect narrator for The Fugitive. (Likewise, the Cannon star was the narrator for both Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Rocky and Bullwinkle.) At the end of the final episode, "The Judgement," Conrad declared, "Tuesday, August 29. The day the running stopped." That coincided with the original airdate on ABC, August 29, 1967. Only, the episode did not air until September 5 in Canada. Those perfectionists changed the narration to say "September 5." At least it was still a Tuesday.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. A lot of the music was recycled from other shows.


As brilliant, gripping and groundbreaking as the show was, it did recycle a good deal. We mention the train wreck, but there was a far for subtle reuse. Perhaps keen listeners picked up on it. Musical cues from The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone were pulled out of the library to accompany Kimble on his run. Music from 12 O'Clock High and Branded was also used.

7. Kimble's background was changed because of state laws.


At the show's conception, Kimble began his journey from his home state of Wisconsin. However, writers and producers soon realized that Wisconsin did not execute murderers. So, Kimble's backstory was shifted a couple states over to Indiana. His hometown, as seen on this wanted poster, was Stafford, IN. However, in the first-season episode "Glass Tightrope," Kimble's hometown is listed on a poster as Beloit, Wisconsin. They didn't entirely clean up the mistake.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. You can find a lot of famous faces in the show.


Star Trek fans can find beloved Enterprise crew like DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and William Shatner (pictured) on The Fugitive. Charles Bronson, Ron Howard, Kurt Russell, Leslie Nielsen, Suzanne Pleshette, Ted Knight, Carroll O'Connor, Mickey Rooney and dozens of other celebs turn up in Kimble's path, too.

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kenbland8 27 months ago
So glad I read this because I have put through self induced torture today. Long story short, I watched the Fugitive when it was on originally, and all this time, the line Tuesday August 29th, the day the running stopped implanted in my mind. I watched Judgement Part 1 the other night and could not wait until Sun nite/Min AM for Part 2, so I watched it last night on You Tube, totally thrown for a loop with Conrad voicing Tuesday, September 5th, the day the running stopped. Thought I was nuts, but after reading this, now I know why. My confidence is restored.
richardhoover7 36 months ago
i was recently watching the 2 part show that i copyed on my dvr which was on decades at the time i still like it.
LegendaryArcher859 40 months ago
I havent seen the show because I wasn't alive when it fist aired an I never stay up that late, but to whoever likes the show, you'll probably like the 1993 movie based off of it starring harrison ford and tommy lee jones. I want to try and find a way to watch it though, because I think its going to be good.
robert52 42 months ago
I remember this show airing on Thursdays when I attended elementary school. However it came after my bedtime. I had to turn in at 8:00 pm. Later in 1967, my bedtime got extended. Gosh darn! Cheated out of watching the finale because our television conked out. MeTV has enabled me to make up for lost time by catching all those missed episodes.
BustaNutter1 45 months ago
TV actors from the 60's and 70's look like real men. When did TV switch to the plastic fantastics? And why?
myrtletaylor 45 months ago
Do the Land Of The Giants come on and what time
BenSobeleone myrtletaylor 19 months ago
Well, as of December 2022, Land of the Giants is on MeTV on late Saturday nights (early Sunday mornings) at 3:00am central time.
dujon55 47 months ago
One of my all time favorites. My mom kind of let me break curfew so I could watch it when I was a kid
BenSobeleone dujon55 19 months ago
Cool! Way to go Mom!
JoeGuenther 49 months ago
The music for the Fugitive was changed when the series came out on dvd. There was such an uproar from Fugitive fans the music was restored on future dvd releases.
Mikey1 53 months ago
What irony. The only 2 series that I was undyingly loyal to were The Fugitive and The Untouchables. Other than Alfred Hitchcock that preceded them, they were the only reason I watched MeTV and stayed up Sunday night until 4 AM. Then to see them both suddenly cancelled without warning. The Untouchables was one thing, but The Fugitive was progressing logically in chronological order in such a way that I calculated what night the final episode would air. I only had seen it once (8/29/67) and was looking forward to some graet nostalgia. I remember 8/29/67 very well--where I was (college dorm--standing room only) and remember Bill Cannon's final narrative lines. Well, I just found out that it's on once again, so there must have been a lot of complaints or heads must have rolled. Hopefully THIS time the remaining episodes will be aired, including the two-part finale. Right???
lmorris1024 Mikey1 43 months ago
I watch “The Fugitive “ on Airy.Tv and it’s free with no commercials.
martha_howk 62 months ago
Bring it back! We were all cheated. We didn't get to see the end of The Fugitive. I had always heard about this famous show and finally got to see it just to be but cut off before it's famous conclusion. What a bummer!
Fugitive_Fan 63 months ago
I really, really hope The Fugitive will be put back on the air. Please, please do so. Such an unbelievably wonderful show and to be sure, removing it prior to its final season and final episode was a grave mistake. Thank you for your consideration.
JoeGuenther Fugitive_Fan 49 months ago
Idiots. It started airing months ago on monday mornings.
BruceW 63 months ago
The Fugitive was one of the better shows. Why was it abruptly removed from the lineup? And The Untouchables was also eliminated. Who made the decisions? A supervisor needs to get involved immediately and reverse those decisions.
BruceW 63 months ago
Why has The Fugitive been taken of forever the air?

Anthony 63 months ago
Why Why could u have please let it play out to the Final Episode it was a classic was a classic and the final episode held the record really if this is the kinda of stuff u r going to pull and replace it with Thriller u pulled a great classic really...It should have a weekly slot if u wish to know the Truth love METV for the classics but when u make an unwise move like this...plus I don't normally make comments but this was so out of the blue...
apparently judging by the comments I am not alone-Like the Episode Ill wind
gregory_clay 63 months ago
WHAT happened to "The Fugitive" series? JUST abruptly ended after last week's episode. IT was one of the best shows on the ME TV network. AGAIN, WHAT happened?

Anthony gregory_clay 63 months ago
I so agree and just think somebody was paid to make this unwise and rude decision
TomDiCicco 63 months ago
I agree with others regarding "The Fugitive"... I see it abruptly ended after episode "White Knight" I think, season 3.... could you bring this back to finish the series through season 4? I have been watching this for at least a year.
Anthony TomDiCicco 63 months ago
I agree
I am really irritated about it
Billbell 63 months ago
Why pull the plug on The Fugitive with 36 episodes to go?? I’m heartbroken. please bring it back. it’s the greatest show of all time. Thank you!
Anthony Billbell 63 months ago
I agree
sooooo right so unwise and rude not even a warning and they pulled the "untouchables" too
Gyle 63 months ago
I didn't miss an episode, but now I find out the Fugitive is gone. It would have made more sense to end it after the FINAL episode. Tell me why I should invest my time in a series when you pull the plug with no notice. Other shows you keep running over and over again. Better to have ended Alfred Hitchcock, which has run over and over again, multiple times!
Anthony Gyle 63 months ago
I agree
what were they thinking
TC 63 months ago
The Fugitive and The Untouchables were the two shows I looked forward to watching on MeTV, and I usually stayed to watch the two episodes of Peter Gunn that followed. Now that The Fugitive and The Untouchables are gone (removed in midseason??), I likely won't be watching MeTV until they return. Why on earth were they chopped off like that? What a disappointment.
Anthony TC 63 months ago
Yeah I agree two great shows pulled and replaced with Thriller
SMH like Thriller but not at this expense
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