The High Chaparral
Backstage Trivia

The following information comes from various sources, and relates to the shenanigans and goings-on of the cast and crew behind the scenes.  You will find short one-liners, as well as windy paragraphs.  Some things are funny, and some serious.  New contributions are welcome. 


Recollections from the 2005 Reunion

Don started off with a hysterical story about how, back in those days, his and Bob's drink of choice was "BOOZE".  He told how once they were drinking in the bar in Tucson after work and David Dortort walked in, so Bob told the waitress in a loud voice, "I'll have ANOTHER Coke, please!", and Don hollered out, "Me, too!", and then they both yawned and exclaimed how tired they were and that they should get to bed because they had a long day of filming ahead of them the next day. 

     So they went off in opposite directions, then Don peaked around a corner, to see Bob giving him the thumbs up/all clear sign, meaning Mr. Dortort had left the bar and that they could get back to drinking again!  What made him tell this story was the beautiful cut glass bowl that was presented to the Dortorts for their 65th wedding anniversary present from their HC fans.  Don said that bowl would've made a good "shot glass" for Bob back in those days!         Contributed by Carol Anne Gordon


     Here's a story from Don.  Bob made some joke about being Don/Sam's younger brother (you know that Bob is really older than Don) and Don said, "You know, Joe ended up being my younger brother because of a mistake I made."  In the first episode, when Buck goes into Tucson looking for ranch hands, the first glimpse we have of our boys is Buck and Joe having a glorious fist fight in the saloon. 

     It is only after Joe ends up in a heap on the floor that Buck and Sam introduce themselves.  "And this", says Sam, pouring a beer over the form we can't see, "is what's left of my kid brother, Joe."  There was no "kid" in the script and Don said it just kind of came out.  When the scene was done he told the director he had made a mistake and asked if they could do it again but the director declined.  And the rest is history.  From the look on Bob's face, I think he didn't mind being the younger brother one bit.
           Contributed by Ginny Shook

Bob Hoy's recollections transcribed by Ginny Shook:

     "I'm Bob Hoy.  You know, we haven't talked of the women on the show.  Linda Cristal would be ready - she'd get up, she'd suit up, she'd put on those damn hot dresses, she'd be out there, 110 degrees with her make-up on, every day.  She never complained for four years.  And she did the job.  We never saw her blow lines.  There was a thought process at work.  She really was the darling of our show - just a great gal."

     "And our crew was the best.  The reason our crew was the best was because of Kent McCray.  McCray knew the guys, he'd been there, he'd hire them.  And if anyone screwed around, screwed up - he was looking for a guy once; a grip.  And he said, "Bobby have you seen - I can't think of the guy's name - well, he was hung over and he was in my dressing room getting cool - anyway, Kent gave everyone a second shot and if they screwed up again then they just kind of went home."

     "And David gave me the break on Chaparral.  Called me in his office - I'll never forget - I got there on a Friday.  He said, " I'd like you to meet Mr. such and such, NBC Chicago, NBC New York, NBC Miami and I'm shaking hands and I'm going to myself, "what the hell has he got me in here for?  I'm a stuntman."  But he saw some work I did from what they told me and everything was great.  And David said, "Well, what do you think, Bob?  I want to put you in the cast."  And I said "What time Monday?"  And he said, "No, no, no, it will be six or seven weeks from now."  Anyway, he is a hell of a man, a hell of a skipper, and I was glad to be aboard."

Bob:  The High Chaparral audience knew Cameron as Uncle Buck.  We on the inside knew him as Uncle Boots.  Because in 1966 he was five foot . . ."

     here Don interjects:  . . .three.

Bob: . . . and in 1970 he was almost six foot tall.  So he used what was known as lifts.  And we called him Uncle Boots.  He was a hell of an actor.

David Dortort's recollections transcribed by Ginny Shook:

     "We were going to shoot The High Chaparral in Tucson, Arizona.  I chose that location because it was really high desert rather than a studio back lot, which wouldn't look like the real thing.  I thought, let's get out into the big sky country of Arizona and shoot it with all the grandeur and majesty of that landscape.  So my dear wife, Rose, and I fly out of Los Angeles for Tucson, Arizona.  And it's one of these planes with three seats together on either side of the aisle and plopping down in the third seat was an actor named Cameron Mitchell."

     "Cameron had heard we were casting the show.  So he bought a ticket to fly to Tucson, made sure it was open seating so he could sit next to us and he could pitch me from Los Angeles to Arizona on why I needed him in the show.  And you know something - it worked.  He got the part and I was forever indebted to him for his wonderful performance as Uncle Buck."


Recollections from Previous Years

Here's one from David Dortort at the 2003 reunion in Los Angeles.  He was talking about the 100+ degree heat and how difficult it was for everyone.  Many fans have sympathized about that as well, especially regarding Cameron Mitchell in his all black outfit in the sun.  According to Mr. Dortort, however, Cameron took every opportunity to climb into the nearest water trough.  He could get away with it because his dark outfit didn't look obviously wet.  So those in the tan layers of leather who had to stay dry were dying of the heat while Cameron was the only one staying cool!   


For all the skeptics who thought The High Chaparral was supposed to be kaput after the Fourth Season, read this and eat crow.  Jim Schmerer, producer during the last season, visited the Chat Room, where he told the group that there existed five scripts for a Fifth Season, which he still had.  The titles are:

Reap the Whirlwind by Amesbury
The Scalp Hunter by Dunkel
San Juan Day by Mitchells
The Calling Card by Stark
Judgment Day by Ware

The High Chaparral was, in fact, cancelled due to monetary constraints, not because of anything the actors and/or executives did or did not do.  Don Collier further said that the Fifth Season was going to provide some background on some of the Bunkhouse, and the first was to be on Pedro.  Wish we could have seen this!


The following "Plus Points" from Granada Sky were contributed from Pauline Clapperton in Great Britain. 

  1. High Chaparral employed more Hispanic actors in more roles than any TV series of its time.

  2. Henry Darrow never passed up a chance to open a supermarket or ride in an open parade on his days off from the series, appearing in costume.

  3. Linda Cristal was treated as "one of the boys" by her all-male co-stars.  She carried her own luggage and received no special treatment.

  4. Frank Silvera insisted on nudity if the script called for it, refusing the traditional flesh-colored swim pants.

  5. Cameron Mitchell would drive producers of the show crazy with his elaborate practical jokes on set!

  6. Leif Erickson would often pull practical jokes on Cameron Mitchell on the set in retaliation for Mitchell's pranks.

  7. Cameron Mitchell created a stir on the set when he wore "Frankenstein" boots which made him taller than Leif Erickson.

  8. Cameron Mitchell was the only cast member who drove his own car to the set.  Limos picked up the others.   


During the Westerns Channel showing of the Randolph Scott movie, Ten Wanted Men, which was filmed in Old Tucson in 1955, it was brought up on The High Chaparral Discussion Group list that the ranch house used in the television series bore a remarkable resemblance to the house used in the Randolph Scott movie.  Now, this was most confusing because most HC fans believe the ranch house was built specifically for the television show in 1967...that there was no existing structure on the site.


From Ronnie Rubino of Yuma, Arizona comes the following:  "I talked with David Dortort the other day, and I asked him about the Chaparral house.  He said there was an existing structure on the same site.  They modified it to suit their needs and later gave it a good face life.  In the very first Chaparral episode, you can see the wooden boardwalk on the front porch, which was later changed to flagstone.  Mr. Dortort said that about twenty percent of the original structure was intact before it was fixed up for The High Chaparral.  This comes straight from Mr. Dortort this past Sunday when I called him.  Also, retired stuntman and neighbor Bill Catching confirmed it because he did a movie there long before The High Chaparral went on the air.  The structure was once used as a saloon in that movie."


It was intimated at a Bonanza reunion in 1999 that Mitch Vogel was under consideration for the role of Blue Cannon in The High Chaparral, which was eventually played by Mark Slade.  According to producer David Dortort, there was another actor being considered, but he was not Mitch Vogel.  When Mark Slade did the audition, Mark Slade got the part.  It has long been rumored by fans of James MacArthur, who played Danny Williams on Hawaii Five-0, that he was the other actor under consideration for the role.  This has neither been confirmed nor denied by either David Dortort or James MacArthur. 


During filming of The High Chaparral, cast members would try to sneak a peek at the next script to see how large or small their parts were going to be.  Naturally, the production department frowned on actors coming in asking to see scripts all the time, so it was necessary for a little subterfuge.  On one such occasion Don Collier and Bob Hoy sneaked a peek when no one was looking, and they were elated to discover scene after scene with Joe and Sam stuff.  Don quickly closed the covers, tossed the script back into the compartment, turned to Bob, and said, "Hey, this one is written for us!"  Bob jerked it back out and took a closer look.  "I don't think so," he said.  It was a Bonanza script.


After 30 years of silence, it was revealed  in late 2000 that the reason Mark Slade disappeared in the Fourth Season was due to contract disputes.  Mark was enjoying a great deal of popularity at the time, and in the process of renegotiating his contract, it was thought that he was given bad advice because he held out for a salary increase at a time when the studio was undergoing cutbacks.  By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late, and his contract was not renewed.  David Dortort is said to have been working on getting Mark back for the Fifth Season, but it was cost prohibitive to keep both Bonanza and The High Chaparral on the air at the same time, and since Bonanza had been on longer and had a larger fan following, NBC executives made the decision to cut The High Chaparral.  


Cameron Mitchell was very fond of kids and animals.  He used to call the youngsters by fond nicknames, like Buttons, and you can actually hear this in some of the episodes when he's interacting with the kids.  He was also very fond of the set animals, and he would take every opportunity to spoil them with all sorts of tasty tidbits.  It was rumored that some of the horses actually had to be replaced because they'd spy Cameron on the set and mosey up to him right in the middle of a "take."  


Don Collier has also told this funny story on Bob Hoy.  It was customary for studio executives to use Bob on an emergency basis, since he was very well-known in the film industry, lived right next to the studio, and could be counted upon to show up in a moment's notice, memorize his line, and fit right in, thus saving hundreds of dollars in downtime.  During the shooting of a western involving a huge massacre on the prairie, one of the actors with a speaking part turned up ill on the set.  Not wanting to shut production down, it was suggested that Bob be called to fill in the part.  Bob got the call, rushed over to the studio, donned his duds and was ready to shoot.  The scene called for a wagon massacre on the plains, and Bob's only speaking line was to be, "It's the Cheyenne."

The director got the scene staged, and the action commenced, and when it was Bob's turn to make his entrance, he leaned over to his comrade and asked, "What's my line again?"  The guy dutifully responded, "It's the Chinese."  So, Bob tore across the ground, pulled his horse up short in front of the Army officer, and when asked, "Who were they?" he answered, "It's the Chinese."  The minute he said it, he knew it was wrong.

The director yelled, "Cut! Cut!" and called Bob over.  "You're supposed to say 'It's the Cheyenne.'"  Bob nodded, totally agreeing, and said he'd get it right on the next shot.  The director then had everyone retake their places...took something like an hour to restage all the wagons and horses...and everything was shot over.  This time, when Bob raced up to the officer, he shouted, "It's the Chey.....ese??"  It came out a question, and it broke everyone up.  The director called Bob over again, and they had a quiet discussion while the scene was restaged.  Bob said he had it down right, that there would be no more flubbed lines, but when it came time, he lamely muttered, "It's the Chine...Chey...ese."

After getting it wrong twice, this time the director told Bob to say, "It's the Indians," and that is the way the film was shot.  Now that you know the background, we'll try to determine the title of this movie, and everyone can enjoy this scene.


Here's some great stuff from Bob Hoy (Joe Butler)!

From "To Stand for Something More"

Q.   Probably over a year ago now, someone said that they'd read that The High Chaparral cast filmed ALL the exterior scenes for an entire season in Old Tucson during one two-week period per year. During lunch with the Bunkhouse Boys in Tucson, Ted Markland was talking about how hard it was to remember what scene of what episode you were supposed to be doing the interior of in L.A. when you'd done the matching exterior shot in Tucson 3 weeks before that. He said it was a miracle they didn't screw up. I asked Bob Hoy to set us all straight, and here is his reply....

A.  To answer your questions :  No, we didn't shoot all the exteriors for the season in just two weeks....Remember, we shot about 22 segments a season and to cram that into 2 weeks was impossible. What we did was start the season in Tucson, working two-and-a-half weeks, doing two-and-a-half shows worth of exterior shooting. Then, we returned to the studio to finish the interiors of the first two shows, then start the third show, then return to Tucson and continue that process. So, you see, you were correct in how you thought we did it.

Also you must cut up a scene with the camera, establishing set up, medium, medium close, and close. Plus, over the shoulders and point of view..... You were also right about the weather and the light and the horses spooking.


Q.  I got to visit for a long time with Bill Catching over the Thanksgiving holidays, and we had a nice talk about stuntmen, including your friend Richard Farnsworth, who is starring in a David Lynch film, The Straight Story.   Bill also told me that you doubled for Tony Curtis in the saloon fight scene of The Great Race. I have always loved that part of the movie because of the song Dorothy Provine sang...the part where she sings "He shouldn't-a, hadn't-a, oughtn't-a blacked my eye..." Right after that, everyone gets into the wildest fist fight the Old West has ever seen, and just about everyone has black eyes...except The Great Leslie, of course. It is just so funny! It's the best part of the whole movie.

Bill showed me the photo taken during that filming of all the stuntmen together. He pointed out Richard Farnsworth. You are in the front row on the right. You really do look sort of like Tony Curtis, ha ha!

A.  Farnsworth and I were stuntmen together until Dick got his break on a film "Comes a Horsemen" in 1976. He came up through the ranks, which I believe makes one appreciate the film industry. Dick did a few High Chaparral acting along with a stunt or two. Wonderful guy. Ask Lynch......

Catching was correct about The Great Race.  It was a fun show and one with the "Graduation Picture" of all the stunt-men, unusual to see so many of the guys together. Farnsworth & I had the upper left balcony cut out from under us. Farnsworth is in the upper left background in the photo.

And Curtis looks like me. I told him to make me look good in the "Close-ups" Ha Ha.


Q.  What about your Man From U.N.C.L.E. appearance where you played Claude? It was on TV during the Thanksgiving week if I remember right. Anyway, did you like doing Westerns or action shows?

A.  Thanks for inquiring about my work! I like all film work…modern / Western / etc. What I prefer is a part where the character has depth & feeling and not a stereotype, like we have on so many TV shows today.

I did a few "Uncles" as an actor and also doubled Robert Vaughn. His double on the show received serious burns to his body, and while he was healing, I doubled Vaughn until he could return to work.

Cops & robbers / white hats / blacks hats /good guys / bad guys…. they are all great to play.....


Q.  One of your fans says you were in the movie Desperado, but it is not on your resume at the Internet Movie Database.    

A.  Checking on Desperado.....I remember the sequence at the bar & I believe I got blown out through the window.  Slow on the draw.  I'll be in touch.

Update:  Bob played "Breed" in the 1987 movie Desperado.   He got shot out the window in the opening ten minutes of the movie.  


Q.  What is your middle name?  Where were you born?  Do you have any brothers and sisters?

A.  My middle name is Francis, born in NY.  I had one sister who died in 1962.


Q.  Can you give us any clue of the episode titles to JAG, Walker Texas Ranger and the others listed in your bio? These are currently in rerun on television and it is very hard to know which ones to tape without knowing in advance the name of the episode. 

A. Texas Ranger title is Blue Movie......That's about all the titles I remember, because I did 5 Magnum / 5 Jags /3 Quincys /4 Simon & Simons.


Q.  I saw that wonderful photo of you on the web page from Pillars of Fire, and I was wondering what other stunts you did in that film.  It is on the Western Channel right now.

A.   We don't get the Western Channel and it would be hard to explain just where else I performed unless I was sitting next to you. However there is one other fall I did off a grey horse going away from camera. I'll try to explain it. Lee Marvin plays a sergeant and in a battle sequence, as the troops are hell bent to get away from the Indians, my cue was, when Lee pulls his horse up and goes back to a wagon to give some orders, I fall from the grey as if I took a bullet. (I'm going up-frame, Lee crosses Left to Right.)  On a film, a stunt man is a "utility" stuntman...he "fills-in" where and whenever the Director needs a "piece of action."   So, if a director says, "I need someone to jump on a horse and do a transfer to the wagon", you or (whomever) says, "O.K., I'll do it." That's what being a "utility" stuntman means as opposed to just doubling the star or a specific actor.  So, with this bit of information, I will leave you.

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