Neville Brand, Peter Brown, William Smith, Philip Carey

Reese Bennett:  Neville Brand  
Chad Cooper:  Peter Brown  
Joe Riley:  William Smith  
Capt. Edward Parmalee:  Philip Carey  
Erik Hunter:  Robert Wolders 


Stories of the Texas Rangers have always drawn huge followings, and those told in this series incorporated humor as well as feats of daring-do.  This series centered around three Rangers of Company B and their senior officer, stationed in Laredo at the end of the Civil War.  It actually premiered as an episode of The Virginian in a story called “We’ve Lost a Train” on April 21, 1965.  In this episode, Trampas goes to Mexico on an errand, and in the border town of Laredo, he gets into brawls with three Texas Rangers.  This episode was later released as the feature film Backtrack.  In point of fact, this is probably the only western television show that had two major movies come from it:  Backtrack and Three Guns for Texas.

The first actual episode under the series title of Laredo was “Lazyfoot, Where Are You?”  It was telecast on September 16, 1965, and it more thoroughly introduces Reese, Chad, and Joe as the rowdy Rangers the audience soon came to love.  Since Reese Bennett was a former Union Army officer and already in his 40’s when he joined the Rangers, his age was quite a source of amusement to the two much younger Rangers, who were his partners.  He was soft-hearted and none-too-bright, but totally capable of his duties as a Ranger.  Joe Riley was a former gunfighter, and since his activities were not always legal, he joined the Rangers because he liked action but wanted sanctuary from the law.  Chad Cooper was a Boston native and wartime member of the Border Patrol.  He joined the Rangers to continue his hunt for the varmints who had sold guns to the Mexicans responsible for wiping out most of his comrades.  All three retained a sense of humor about everything, and exasperated Capt. Parmalee, a stern taskmaster, was hard-pressed to keep them under control.  In the second year, Erik Hunter joined the Rangers, and his snazzy dress code provided more fuel for the three original lawmen.

The show only ran for two years, from September 16, 1965 to April 7, 1967, but it was two years filled with outrageous humor and adventure.  It was 60 minutes in length and shot in color.  Top guest stars making appearances included Burgess Meredith, Martin Milner, Doug McClure, Fernando Lamas, James Drury, and Michael Ansara.  For the trivia collector, there was only one issue of Laredo comics published by Gold Key

Neville Brand died April 16, 1992.  Most people don’t know that he was the 4th most decorated soldier in America.  He won the Silver Star, America’s third highest combat decoration, when the armored division he was with suddenly found itself held up by German 50-calibre machine gun nests.  With no thought to his own safety, he maneuvered through enemy fire, entered the rear of the lodge housing the machine guns, and sprayed the place with his machine gun, allowing his division to move again.  He came to Laredo after a successful stint as Al Capone on the hit series The Untouchables starring Robert Stack.

Philip Carey went on to star in soap operas.  Peter Brown came to Laredo after a winning streak as Deputy Johnny McKay on the television western Lawman for four years.  William Smith had been an actor since 1942, starring in several television series before Laredo.  He went on to many other roles, most notably as James “Kimo” Carew in Hawaii Five-0.  Robert Wolders is best remembered as long-time companion and friend of screen legend Audrey Hepburn.

(Text and photo courtesy of Sandy Sturdivant)

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