Here's how Clint Eastwood became trail boss on Rawhide

CBS put Rowdy Yates at the head of the herd.

Sometimes, our idea of a show isn't the same as the actual show itself. We might misremember certain details because of the way the show has grown in the zeitgeist. Certain aspects make their way into the culture, while other parts fall by the wayside. Some of us remember Gilligan's Island as being a show that was broadcast in color. However, its first season was originally broadcast in black and white. 

We might look back on Rawhide and think that Clint Eastwood was the lead the whole time. He's grown to be one of the biggest stars in the world, so it should follow that he was the biggest star of his show. Surely, Eastwood's Rowdy Yates received top billing throughout the entire series, right?

The truth, though, is that for seasons 1 through 7, the star of Rawhide was Eric Fleming, the actor who played Gil Favor. Favor, the trail boss, began most episodes with a monologue. It was Favor who led the drovers, driving the cattle from town to town along each path they encountered. Especially in the earliest episodes, Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Yates was young and impulsive. Gil Favor, as the leader, had to keep Yates under control.

As the show progressed, though, the network began making a few decisions about the direction the series would head in. Specifically, in 1965, CBS began shaking up the cast to better suit their vision. Rawhide wasn't alone. That year, CBS also dramatically changed its show Hazel, switching up the family that Shirley Booth worked for as the title character. The series, to network executives, had grown stale, and the bright and shiny new couple was supposed to breathe fresh life into the show.

Rawhide saw some big changes at the behest of those same network executives. Eric Fleming was out, and newcomers Raymond St. Jacques and David Watson were in. These new faces were meant to punch up the series to hopefully attract new audiences.

Who was there to lead the new herd? Why, naturally, it was Rowdy Yates! Clint Eastwood became the top-billed star on Rawhide thanks to CBS interference. Yates was trail boss for Rawhide's eighth and final season.

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13 Comments

HerbF 2 months ago
Except that RAWHIDE's changes didn't help the show and it was cancelled midseason after only 13 episodes in December of 1965! (There was also a timeslot move from Fridays to Tuesdays)
cperrynaples 2 months ago
Isn't it curious that the wagon was pink? Makes me wonder who was on THAT wagon train...LOL! Seriously, it was possible that a wagon on Rawhide would be pink because in B&W it had a better contrast than pure white, which would be washed out by the set lights!
MsRockford74 2 months ago
I think Eric Fleming wanted out so he could become a movie star. The first time I ever watched Rawhide was when I was in middle school on METV. I unknowingly started when Rowdy was the boss and had never even heard of Mr. Favor. I did not like him at first, but he grew on me.
BrittReid 2 months ago
Did he fire six shots or only five?
cperrynaples BrittReid 2 months ago
Well, you have to ask yourself "Do I feel lucky"? Well, do you Britt...LOL!
Snickers 2 months ago
I read that Eric Fleming had drowned while making a movie in South America. The report stated that Fleming was shooting a scene on a river in a canoe and for some reason jumped out and never resurfaced. I always thought this was the reason he didn't appear in the final season.
MrsPhilHarris Snickers 2 months ago
I think they found him the next day.
Classictv61 Snickers 1 month ago
The rest of the story says it was because his wife was pushing him to ask for more money. So the network let him and other cast members go.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
A few comments on Hazel: [1] CBS picked it up after it was canceled by NBC! [2] Technically, she was still working for the Baxters! Her new boss was George's brother, and even young Harold was still there!
BrittReid cperrynaples 2 months ago
Whitney Blake!
cperrynaples BrittReid 2 months ago
Yep, she was fired along with Don Defore!
Cougar90 BrittReid 2 months ago
She wanted to be more of a lead in the show. She forgot the title of the show was "Hazel".
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