Buddy Hackett was four years younger than his “son” on The Rifleman
What a difference a beard makes!
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Comedian Buddy Hackett, hilarious star of favorites like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Music Man, never shied away from the occasional dramatic role.
One such part was in a 1959 episode of The Rifleman, his first of two appearances on the classic western. In “Bloodlines,” Hackett played the father of three rowdy young men who trash the North Fork saloon. When Marshal Torrance and Lucas McCain arrive to restore order, one of the cowboys accidentally shoots his brother and blames it on Lucas.
Hackett’s character, Daniel Malakie, breaks his two surviving sons out of jail and vows to get revenge against Lucas.
Hackett goes against type as the seemingly nice but ultimately ruthless Malakie, sporting a beard and an attitude about as different from his usual goofball characters as could be.
Perhaps the facial hair is what inspired Hackett’s somewhat unusual casting. The “boys” he was supposed to be the father of were actually around his same age. In fact, one was even four years older!
Character actor Christopher Dark, who was in everything from My Three Sons to Cannon, played oldest son Ben Malakie. He was born in 1920, making him 39 when the episode aired. Hackett was only 35! Warren Oates, who played second son Jud Malakie, was 31.
Though a little unorthodox, the casting works thanks to the acting of all three. While Hackett is certainly not an old man in the episode, without knowing everyone’s true ages, it’s easy to think he could be the patriarch of this raucous western clan.