My Heroes Have Always Been Lawmen
The world has experienced the loss of three (or four) dedicated lawmen recently. They will be missed by all law-abiding citizens of the U.S. of A.
First, the wise-cracking Detective Lenny Brisco of "Law & Order", my all-time favorite TV series, died, just as he was starting his new role on one of the many "Law & Order" spin-offs. Skillfully played by the venerable Jerry Orbach, he is a character I will always remember. It is really hard for me to forget him since I watch reruns of "Law & Order" almost every night on TNT, TNT, TNT. While I do sometimes watch the spin-offs, Such as CI, and SVU, none holds a candle to the original series, with its changing but always excellent cast (with the exception of the blond assistant D.A., Rohm, I think her name was, who was canned).
Next to die was the unforgettable Deputy Barney Fife of "The Andy Griffith Show" fame. Many a night I watched, in glorious black-and-white, Don Knotts, Andy Griffith, Ron Howard and the rest of the Mayberry ensemble of wierd characters that would do Austin, Texas proud. I still catch some reruns on TV-Land. While Don Knotts played other roles in the movies and other TV series, he will always be Barney Fife to me. So why not let us finally load that single bullet into his pistol and give him a one-pistol salute.
Then today comes word of the death of Chester, Marshall Matt Dillon's trusty gimpy sidekick on "Gunsmoke", another favorite TV show of my youth. Dennis Weaver played the role to perfection. Come Saturday night at 10:00 P.M., I and millions of others tuned into "Gunsmoke" on Network TV. It was on CBS, as I recall. There were only three networks at the time, CBS, NBC, and ABC, but we only got CBS on WBTV out of Charlotte, 100 miles away. The other networks would come later. Via the TV antennas on our houses we really saw more "snow" than clear pictures at times. But, it was wonderful entertainment. It was a more simple, innocent time. We all loved Marshall Dillon and the saloon owning Miss Kitty. It never occured to us that they were shacking up, and that Miss Kitty was the Madam/Whore with a heart of gold. Another wonderful cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Dennis Weaver (Chester), Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty) & Milburn Stone (Doc, but not "the Doc") . Burt Reynolds was also in the cast at a later time, playing a blacksmith, but I do not remember his character's name, and if I saw him, it was forgettable, unlike his "Bandit" character in the Smokey and the Bandit movies. I know there are "Gunsmoke" reruns out there on cable, but I could not watch them and enjoy them with my adult's more jaded eye.
Later, Dennis Weaver played Deputy Marshall Sam McCloud on the series "McLeod", hence the above reference to the loss of four lawmen. But, Dennis Weaver will always remain Chester in my memories. I do not recall "McLeod", except for a single episode with him riding a horse in New York City. As I recall, this series alternated with two other mysteries, one of which was "McMillan and Wife", starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James. I don't recall the other series. None of them were favorites of mine...Give me "Law & Order" !
Although he died years ago, I remember Jack Lord ("book'em Danno) of "Hawaii 5-O". Another favorite of mine, still living, as far as I know, was Peter Falks's Detective ("Just one more thing") Columbo on the series of the same name.
I have loved TV and movie and novel detectives all my life. I will probably remember more right after I complete this posting. I am saddened by the death, in such a short period of time, of three wonderful actors who gave me hours of pleasure. I'll have to catch them on cable TV reruns, where they will live forever.