While James Arness was on Gunsmoke, his brother Peter Graves starred in a British Western series
Yes, the British had Westerns, too. They're in Australia.
Yes, British television had its own Westerns, too. And, no, they are not shows about livestock ranchers in Cornwall. During the peak of Westerns' popularity on television, specifically the late-'50s and early-'60s, the United Kingdom looked to another corner of the Commonwealth for its cowboys. British television went Down Under.
The credits sequence to Whiplash, which originally aired in 1960–61, opens on a pack of kangaroos hopping across the Outback. It looks and sounds like a bizarro version of Rawhide, but with marsupials instead of cattle. Whiplash was a joint production of Australia's Seven Network and the British endeavors ATV and ITC Entertainment. But the star was a strapping young man from Minnesota.
Peter Aurness grew up with his older brother James in Minneapolis. The two boys both joined the Army in World War II and later fell into acting. James altered the family surname to Arness. Peter opted for a stage name from his maternal side, Graves.
James Arness and Peter Graves might have chosen different names, but their early careers were rather similar. As James Arness was keeping the peace in Dodge City as Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, Peter Graves portrayed a California rancher on the horse-centric Western called Fury. Following the end of Fury in 1960, Graves headed to Australia to headline Whiplash.
Graves' character, Chris Cobb, was an American living in Australia in the 1850s to help establish a stagecoach line. Like Indiana Jones, his weapon of choice was a bullwhip.
Surrounding Graves was a cast of local Australian actors. But Graves was not the only American involved. The first episode of the series — and four out of the first eight episodes overall — were written by none other than Gene Roddenberry. The first episode featured a muscular Graves emerging topless from the ocean in a scene reminiscent of a James Bond film.
Roddenberry and the other writers pulled from history, as they lightly based the adventures on the real-life figure of Freeman Cobb. Of course, Roddenberry would go on to much bigger things later in the decade as the creator of Star Trek, while Graves headlined Mission: Impossible. Both series were a Desilu Production.
Whiplash would air on Seven in Australia and ITV in the U.K.
After a few months of filming in and around Sydney, Graves returned to the U.S. The show was using up loads of money and, surprisingly, the available acting stock.
"[The actors] we got were very good," Graves told a reporter in 1960. "But there just wasn't enough of them."