Tuesday, October 04, 2022

From Marital Prospects to Marine Perils

I haven’t thought twice about the late-1960s comedy-western TV series Here Come the Brides in many years. But this Hollywood Reporter obituary took me back to that show set in 1860s Seattle:
Robert Brown, who starred alongside David Soul and Bobby Sherman by portraying the oldest of the three logging Bolt brothers on the 1968-70 ABC series Here Come the Brides, has died. He was 95. Brown died Sept. 19 at his home in Ojai [California] …

In his most well-known role, Brown portrayed the charismatic lumberjack Jason Bolt on all 52 episodes over two seasons of Screen Gems’
Here Come the Brides. A Western without guns, it was loosely based on the Mercer Girls, who were brought to the boom town of Seattle in the 1860s to work as teachers, and inspired by the Stanley Donen musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

Starsky & Hutch star Soul played the middle brother, Joshua, and teen idol Sherman portrayed the shy, stammering Jeremy. Bridget Hanley and Joan Blondell also starred.
(For those readers too young to have any memory of Brides, here are two versions of its main title sequence.)

Robin Adair MacKenzie Brown was born in New Jersey in November 1926 to an English father, who once worked as a butler for Theodore Roosevelt, and a Scottish mother. Following a stint with the U.S. Navy, he studied under Lee Strasberg at the Dramatic Workshop, and debuted on Broadway in the late 1940s. The Hollywood Reporter recalls that the young Brown “was branded a communist after he was seen marching in a parade,” and thereafter found it hard to drum up work in New York City. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he was cast in both movies and television programs.

Brown’s page on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) page credits him with playing dozens of parts over the years, on programs such as Wagon Train, The Lawless Years, Bonanza, Perry Mason, and even the original Star Trek (on which he portrayed a dilithium-hungry character called Lazarus). Following Here Come the Brides, he guested on Mannix, Columbo, and Fantasy Island. Brown’s only other starring role—and the one for which I probably remember him best—was as oceanographer/troubleshooter Carter Primus, on the 1971-1972 syndicated TV series Primus. That show spun off not only a 1971 novel, but also a short series of comic books (including the one shown above). IMDb records his last appearance as being on a 1994 episode of In the Heat of the Night, which starred his close friend Carol O’Connor.

Bill Koenig, managing editor of The Spy Command, observes that some of the plum roles Robert Brown didn’t get were as interesting as those he won: “The actor was among those considered for the part of Napoleon Solo, according to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book by Jon Heitland. Others included Harry Guardino and Robert Culp. The role went to Robert Vaughn. … Brown was even cast, briefly, as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O. Former CBS executive Perry Lafferty, in an interview for the Archive of American Television, said Five-O creator Leonard Freeman had second thoughts about Brown.”

Imagine how TV history might have been changed had Brown, not Jack Lord, become famous for the command “Book ’em, Danno.”

FOLLOW-UP: Watch the opening title sequence from Primus here.

1 comment:

Marty said...

I remember "Brides" and especially its theme song. Also that Brown and the female lead, Bridget Hanley, had some good chemistry. The old "sexual tension" thing. I was surprised when her character ended up married to one of the younger brothers!