Chuck Connors turned down $10,000 because he refused to make fun of Westerns

"I proved I wasn't money hungry," the Rifleman star said.

The Everett Collection

The Big Party was a kind of TV show they just don't make anymore. Premiering in 1959, the program was just what the title suggested — a posh soirée where celebrities mingled in their best evening wear. Sponsored by Revlon, The Big Party invited the likes of Rock Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Channing and Eva Gabor to sip cocktails, sing at the piano and chit-chat. The CBS series ran for a very brief time but remains a fantastic snapshot of late-'50s Hollywood.

Chuck Connors, who was starring in The Rifleman at the time, popped up once. But he did also turn them down.

"He nixed $10,000 for a guest appearance on The Big Party," gossip columnist Erskine Johnson dished in 1960. "They wanted him to kid TV Westerns, which he refused to do." That's about $100,000 in today's cash.

"They got a big surprise," Connors said. "I proved I wasn't money hungry."

But he could easily recall a time of being broke. "I can remember when I had to settle on Saturday nights for hamburger left over from Thursday night."

Here's the thing — Connors had principles. A "code," if you wiull, when it came to Westerns: treat them seriously.

"I know we have an upbeat Western instead of a downbeat Western," Connors reflected.

For extra cash, Connors would tour rodeos with his young costar, Johnny Crawford. They would sing country duets, despite the fact that Connors couldn't sing a lick.

"I can't sing. I'm tone-deaf," Connors laughed.

Crawford would sing the bulk of the tune "Hey, Pa." Connors would only interject a single line: "Yes, son."

See? He could say "Yes" to some things for money. But only if they treated cowboys with respect.

Watch The Rifleman on MeTV!

Weekdays at 3 PM & 3:30 PM
Saturdays at 5 PM & 5:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

45 Comments

Post a comment
Trafalgar1984 1 month ago
I liked the show & he was an ok actor & very good athlete. I do have to wonder about all the comments about his great morals & upstanding dignity when he made a short x-rated gay movie (Sailors Delight). So...o.k. actor, very good athlete, but not MY idea of a man with high morals & outstanding dignity.
Purple0456 11 months ago
Sure love watching the Rifleman
Chuck Conners without his shirt
Chopping wood and I might have had kids if they were like Johnny Crawford
Runeshaper 12 months ago
Chuck Connors was a good man, a man of principles. Right on, Chuck!
KingDinosaur 12 months ago
This article needs to address the 1971 James Garner film "Support Your Local Gunfighter" in which Chuck Connors portrayed the character of Swifty Morgan. Connors plays the role similar to most of the actors in the movie "Airplane". With a straight face, but clearly mocking the genre.
WandaBaker KingDinosaur 12 months ago
I don't think he was mocking the genre in Support Your Local Gunfighter.
KingDinosaur WandaBaker 12 months ago
It's been over a decade since I last saw the movie (I'll avoid being specific so I don't spoil the movie for anyone who wants to see if), but during the chaotic climax Chuck Connors skewered an old western trope with great comic effect. Connors' has very little screen time (andis uncredited), but the goofiness during the finale is quite memorable especially since it's out of character for him.
MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
I am going to look for The Big Party. I would love to see it. I mean Sammy Davis Jr. and Eva Gabor sipping cocktails in a studio that was probably filled with blue smoke. Such fun! 🥃
MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
This comment has been removed.
I’m gonna tune in for sure. It sounds so interesting!
Zip 12 months ago
A small-time mechanic who I used to go to when I lived in a little town about 40 minutes away from where I live now in Wisconsin had a big picture of him with Chuck Conners in his shop. This was well before I started watching The Rifleman, but I still thought it was pretty cool. Makes me wish I would have asked him how he ever got to meet Chuck.
That mechanic's story kinda reminds me of a Rifleman episode in a way, because I learned later on that he had to close up shop, due to him being beat to a pulp by someone and not being able to work after that. It was rumored that a bigger company wanted the plot he had in town to expand THEIR automotive business and he had a pretty prime spot, so what better way to get it than to put him out of commission(he was an older gentleman, and a very good, honest guy).
That seems like someone that Chuck/Lucas would have stood up for against the big company and defended.
MrsPhilHarris Zip 12 months ago
Good grief. That is just sad.
OldTVfanatic 12 months ago
Chuck had a special kind of dignity, willing to uphold moral code and not cave in to fast dollars. That’s very rare in today’s amoral and immoral culture.
Zip OldTVfanatic 12 months ago
If we had more people like that, we as a nation would be far better off and stronger.
Mannixishot 12 months ago
I bet my comment won't go through. I get a channel having commercials. But seeing how Chuck had such high standards, I wonder what he would think of these actors and sports stars in all these Medicare commercials that so many of these oldie channels play to death. People worth who knows how many millions basically talking to people on fixed incomes. Does Namath, Shatner, Walker and all these other people even have accounts with the companies they're shilling for? So yeah, I truly wonder if Chuck would be one of these people doing these ads or would he still have standards and refuse to go near the companies? He could shoot off his rifle instead of waving his hands around like crazy....My gut feeling says he'd still have his standards instead of picking up an easy paycheck.
Load previous comments
Snickers stephaniestavr5 12 months ago
I keep getting phone calls about my car warranty has expired. All I have to say is that's funny since I don't own a car and don't drive what car are you talking about. Get a dial tone real quick.
Snickers 12 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Snickers stephaniestavr5 12 months ago
No, not for the candy bar ( which I really like ) but for my beloved cat Snickers who for 18 years was always there to cheer me up when I came home. She became so ill I had to make the choice to end her suffering which was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. On the other note, yes I really hate the CS commercials to. Then again I really don't care for any commercial.
Susan00100 Mannixishot 12 months ago
The one I really hate stars that obnoxious bitch named "Martha", along with that patronizing off-screen narrator.
Thank God, it'll be over this Tuesday.
CinziaV 12 months ago
Chuck Connors was very much like his Rifleman character. A class act.
Arnold_Ziffel4_life 12 months ago
There is something about this show that I just love, I am completely hooked on it. Thank you MeTV for showing it!
Pacificsun 12 months ago
I catch this show accidentally because of the convenient timeslot. And am never disappointed by the storyline and characters. I'm always stopping to watch a plot play all the way through.
cperrynaples 12 months ago
Big Party is very obscure! It actually alternated with Playhouse 90, the most acclaimed anthology series of the '50's! It was too expensive to maintain and didn't even make it into 1960! I'm surprized he didn't do it because I know he did other variety shows at that time!
Load previous comments
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 12 months ago
Excellent point.I've seen shows here and there that don't have either a Wikipedia or IMDb page. Doesn't make them obscure, just more fun to research. Even Wikipedia and IMDb's information don't always align. So it's not the show that's obscure just some of the information.
lynngdance cperrynaples 12 months ago
James Corden is also in the movie version of “Into The Woods”, and he makes an appearance as himself in the movie “Yesterday”, which is about a man who wakes up only to discover that he is only the person who remembers the Beatles.
MarkSpeck cperrynaples 11 months ago
And I believe the stage where Jeopardy is filmed is now the Alex Trebek studio.
cperrynaples MarkSpeck 11 months ago
Yep, and that's at Sony Studios!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?