The High Chaparral

Cast

The High Chaparral cast was an ensemble of actors from a wide cultural background, spanning several decades in ages, sharing little in common except their love for acting.  It was an excellent cast that developed great chemistry that played well off each other.  Here is some background information provided by the actors themselves, their press agents, and/or their friends and relatives. 

Leif Erickson
John Cannon

Cameron Mitchell
Buck Cannon

Mark Slade
Blue Cannon

Henry Darrow
Manolito Montoya

Linda Cristal
Victoria Montoya Cannon

Don Collier
Sam Butler
Bob Hoy
Joe Butler
Roberto Contreras
Pedro Carr
Ted Markland
Reno
Jerry Summers
Ira Bean
Frank Silvera
Don Sebastian Montoya
Rudolpho Acosta
Vaquero
Anthony Caruso
El Lobo
Rudy Ramos
Wind
Gilbert Roland
Don Domingo Montoya

Leif Erickson
1911 - 1986


Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Big John Cannon

 

     
      Leif Erickson, real name William Wycliffe Anderson, came to The High Chaparral after a long and successful career in films.  He was born October 27, 1911 in Alameda, California, and his mother often took him as a child to the old San Francisco Opera House, where music quickly became his Number 1 passion.  It was always his plan to become the greatest singer who ever lived, but his father, a rugged sea captain, thought real men were carpenters and plumbers.  It did not faze his son.  Harvesting wheat in Texas in 1929, Erickson sang on the combine.  Two years later, he was knocking them dead in the aisles from Santa Monica to San Francisco with his bass-baritone.  It was Ted Fio Rito, the bandleader, who changed his name to Leif Erickson.  

     He got into serious acting almost by accident.  Paramount sent him a telegram in Peoria, where he was part of the cast of a touring version of Olsen & Johnson's Hellzapoppin.  They wanted to screen test him, only they were looking for someone else named Erickson.  By the time they discovered their mistake, Leif, then 23, had already been signed.  By his own account, he has been in more than 100 movies, having signed his first contract with Paramount in 1935.  From there, his career was non-stop, although he fell into the limbo reserved for near-stars who were too good-looking to be believable.  It was only after he acquired that rugged, interesting face, which makes older men so attractive, that he captured the attention of America.  David Dortort, creator of The High Chaparral, first noticed him in a Bonanza episode in 1961, where he played God, and signed him up as ranch patriarch John Cannon. 

     Leif Erickson died on January 29, 1986 in Pensacola, Florida.


Cameron Mitchell
1918 - 1994


Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Buck Cannon

 

     
      Cameron Mitchell, real name Cameron McDowell Mitzell, was born November 4, 1918 in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, one of seven children of a minister.  As a child during the Depression, he wore his sisters' hand-me-down shoes and coats.  While in school, he became interested in acting, and one of his high school teachers lent him the money to go to a New York City dramatic school.  It was while he was struggling at odd jobs in New York that he wrote letters to producers, actors and agents.  None of his hundreds of letters ever got a reply, until he criticized a performance of Alfred Lunt's in the motion picture The Guardsman.  Lunt replied, inviting Cameron to audition.  Afterward, Lynn Fontanne told him, "Acting is your life's work, and you're not only going to be a good actor, you're going to be a great actor."   She changed his name to Mitchell, and the rest is history.  

     With hundreds of film roles behind him, Cameron came to The High Chaparral when he ended up seated next to David Dortort and his wife, Rose on a flight to Tucson.  By the time they reached Tucson, he had become Buck Cannon, younger brother to John Cannon. 

      Cameron Mitchell died of lung cancer on July 6, 1994 in Pacific Palisades, California.


Mark Slade


Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Billy Blue Cannon
 

      Mark Van Blarcom Slade was born May 1, 1939 in Massachusetts, spending most of his time in and around Danvers.  From the moment he laughed his way through his first Charlie Chaplin movie as a child, he was fascinated with movie-making.  In 1956, he enrolled in the Worcester Academy, intending to become a cartoonist, but after he filled in for a sick classmate, playing the role of an English professor in the play, The Male Animal, he knew he wanted to be an actor.  

      He got the part of Billy Blue Cannon, son of ranch patriarch John Cannon on The High Chaparral, through his electric performance in producer David Dortort's office, even after the part had been temporarily assigned to another actor.  Dortort was wanting a young man with just the right generation clash with authority, and Mark provided it by yanking Dortort up out of his chair by the lapel of his suit in the impromptu audition.  Three hours later, Mark was hired.  He is alive and well, living in California and still pursuing his artistic ambitions.  You can visit his studio web site at:

www.marksladestudio.com 

Henry Darrow


Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Manolito Montoya

 


      Henry Darrow, real name Enrique Tomas Delgado, was born September 15, 1933 in New York City, New York, but moved to Puerto Rico with his family when he was 13.  He studied political science at the University of Puerto Rico for two years before winning a government scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Theatre Arts.  For ten years, he acted in 12 feature films and 75 television roles, and he became known as a specialist in Latin roles and dialects.   He is probably the only actor in Hollywood who can provide four different Spanish accents - Northern, Castillian, Basque, and Mexican.  

      Henry almost missed his glory days on The High Chaparral because he chose an inopportune time to change his image.  David Dortort had seen him act two years earlier, as a lighthearted Mexican peasant in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and had written the part of Manolito Montoya - the son of a powerful haciendado who renounces his father's wealth - with Henry in mind, only when it came time to offer the handsome young actor the part, Henry was nowhere to be found.   Dortort had been searching for Henry under his former name, Enrique Delgado, but Henry, tired of being type-cast as a Mexican, had changed his name to Darrow.  The part nearly went to Italian actor, Tony Franciosa, before Henry was located just two weeks before filming was scheduled to begin.  Originally, the part of Manolito was intended to be a skulking villain, but Henry's charm came through so strongly that the character was changed from nasty to nice.  He is alive and well, living in North Carolina, and still acting in theater and film. 

New Henry Darrow Biography
The Official Henry Darrow Website

 

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Linda Cristal


Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played 
Victoria Montoya Cannon

      Linda Cristal, real name Marta Victoria Moya Burges, was born February 25, 1934 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  She had gone into semi-retirement to raise her two sons, when John Wayne coaxed her out to do the part of Flaca in his epic The Alamo in 1960.  After that, she took assignments only as the whim struck.  

     Linda was the last main cast member to be added to The High Chaparral, and she got the part through sheer determination and perseverance.  David Dortort had been auditioning actresses for three weeks, seeking just the right person with stunning good looks and a fiery personality, who could breathe life into the aristocratic Victoria Montoya, and he had just about given up hope of ever finding the right person.  When Linda finally heard about the part, her agent thought the role had already been cast, but she urged him to check, and history was made.  She is alive and well, living in California, and enjoying retirement.


Don Collier


Photo from Don Collier

Played Sam Butler

     
Before he became Sam Butler, ranch foreman on The High Chaparral, Don Collier was already enjoying a successful career in television and the movies.  Born Donald H. Mounger on October 17, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, his early years as a ranch hand for famous actor Francis Lederer taught him everything he needed to know to become a successful cowboy and rancher in real life.  It was also Lederer who convinced him to turn to acting as a profession.  He took his stage name from the cover of Collier's Magazine, which he spied lying on the coffee table in his agent's office.  

      His first movie was the Western, Massacre River, to be followed in short order by Fort Apache and Davy Crockett, Indian Scout.  After a stint in college, Don returned to acting with a starring role in the highly acclaimed Outlaws in 1960, where he played the part of U. S. Marshal Will Foreman during the notorious days of the Dalton Gang and Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch in the Oklahoma Territory of the 1890's.  He came to the difficult and demanding role of Sam Butler because of his looks and exceptional riding ability.  He is alive and well, living in Tucson, Arizona in semi-retirement.  

The Official Don Collier Website
 


Bob Hoy

1927 - 2010

joe1.jpg (35357 bytes)
Photo from Bob Hoy

Played Joe Butler

 

      Born April 3, 1927 in New York, Robert Francis "Bob" Hoy, has been a stuntman - actor - stunt coordinator - director in television and the movies going back to the late 1940's.  He made a number of films with Alan Ladd and Audie Murphy, and among the many people he has doubled are Tony Curtis, Charles Bronson, Robert Forster, Ross Martin, Tyrone Power, Telly Savalas, Jay Silverheels, and David Janssen.  He crossed over from stunt work into acting while guest-starring on Bonanza.  A few of his film credits include Bite the Bullet, The Lone Ranger, Nevada Smith, The Enforcer, Five Card Stud, and The Outlaw Josey Wales.  He guest-starred in numerous television shows, some of which were Wanted Dead or Alive, The Wild Wild West, Streets of San Francisco, and Quincy.   

      When he became Joe Butler, the ranch hand and younger brother of ranch foreman Sam Butler on The High Chaparral, he rode into millions of hearts everywhere.  Many people claimed he was the stunt double for Henry Darrow as Manolito, but that stuntman was Carl Petty.  Bob stepped behind the camera to direct Zorro and The Three Musketeers.  He was a founding member of The Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures, of which he was a lifetime member, and he was one of the most famous stuntmen in Hollywood. 

Bob passed away in February 2010 at the age of 82. 

The Official Bob Hoy Website
 


Roberto Contreras
1928 - 2000

pedro2.jpg (65047 bytes)
Cropped from publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Pedro Carr

      Roberto Contreras was born December 19, 1928 in Missouri and he always knew he would be an actor.  Tall and lean with the rugged good looks of the Latin lover, he appeared in hundreds of television and movie roles, usually cast as a Mexican peasant or lovable villain.  

     He came to The High Chaparral as the jack-of-all-trades ranch hand named Pedro in the first episode and quickly captured hearts everywhere.  Ironically, he first worked with Don Collier in an episode of Outlaws in 1961, which also guest-starred Ted Markland, who became Reno on The High Chaparral. 

      Roberto died July 18, 2000 in Burbank, California, after a short illness.  His son, Luis, who followed him into an acting career, died June 20, 2004.  

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Ted Markland
1933 - 2011

ted_markland.jpg (17728 bytes)
Photo from Ted Markland

Played Reno


      Born January 15, the son of an Army colonel, Ted Markland grew up all over the United States.  When he decided to become an actor, he studied dramatic arts at Los Angeles City College.  He also studied with famed actor Richard Boone, who rode into history as Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel.  Ted had a deep interest in comedy, and his first manager, the legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce, booked him into such famous nightclubs as the Blue Angel in New York City, the Purple Onion in San Francisco, and the Troubadour in Los Angeles.  

      From there, Ted's career was non-stop.  Since he was tall and lanky, he was cast anywhere from the mean galoot to the tame pussycat.  Some of his memorable television appearances were in Father Murphy, Dallas, Hunter, Bonanza, Renegade, and Murder She Wrote.  His films ranged from Disney's Blackbeard's Ghost to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ulzana's Raid, and Waterhole #3.  He won critical acclaim as the bad-ass biker Malcolm Pierce in Another 48 Hours with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, as well as Strap, the Be-Bop Killer, in Wanda Nevada with Peter Fonda and Brooke Shields.  

       It was while he was performing at the Troubadour that director David Dortort spied him and wrote the part of Reno the ranch hand for him in The High Chaparral.  Ironically, he first worked with Don Collier in an episode of Outlaws in 1961, along with another guest star Roberto Contreras, who would become Pedro in The High Chaparral.  When not acting, Ted's hobbies included Navajo Indian culture, mountain climbing, and writing songs and scripts.  He was actively involved in many fan-based events, especially all of The High Chaparral Reunions. 

Ted passed away December 18, 2011 at the age of 78 in Yucca Valley, CA.
 

 

 

Jerry Summers
1931 - 2006


Cropped from a publicity photo from NBC

Played Ira Bean


      Born February 3, 1931, Jerry Summers has been in the picture business most of his life. A top-notch athlete, he began his career as a stuntman and extra, taking acting lessons from the great Richard Boone, where one of his classmates was pal Ted Markland. Jerry is so versatile that he has either done stunts, acted, or directed in more than 400 films, and he has worked with another long-time friend Bob Hoy on many occasions. Jerry was in the first episode of Gunsmoke and 21 years later, he was in the last one.  He worked all the major television westerns, and this included being the stunt double for star Chris Jones in the Legend of Jesse James.  He taught Kirk Douglas how to use a bow and arrow, he doubled Tony Curtis in Spartacus, and Sal Mineo in just about everything Mineo did.  

      He was a stunt driver for the Dukes of Hazzard all seven years, doing crashes, rollovers and high speed gymnastics on a daily routine.  Some of his films where he did stunts were Avalanche, Throw Momma from the Train, Alien Nation, Eddie Macon's Run, and The Gumball Rally.  Some of his television acting credits include Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Night Gallery, Laramie, Virginian, Have Gun Will Travel, Tales of Wells Fargo, and some of his film roles include Coogan's Bluff, Dillinger, and Law of the Lawless.  

      He said he got the part of ranch hand Ira Bean on The High Chaparral through sheer luck, but that is not quite the whole story.  He was already well-acquainted with director Bill Claxton, and he had worked with most of the cast and crew members on one project or another, so with the added ability of being able to do just about anything required on the set, he was a shoo-in as a ranch hand.  Although it was said that he often doubled Henry Darrow as Manolito in The High Chaparral, that stunt double was Carl Petty. Jerry left at the end of the first season to pursue his career in the stunt profession, becoming one of the most famous stuntmen in Hollywood.

Jerry passed away January 1, 2006 at his home in California.
 


Several years ago, Jerry Summers sat down and penned a short synopsis of his life.  He was not exactly soul-searching, but he did look back on a career that demanded a great deal from him as a performer. 

 

"ODE TO A STUNTMAN"
By Jerry Summers

     You only have one time on earth. Your one time in life. And my time was Summers Time. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Anything I ever wanted to do, I was able to accomplish. Anything I ever wanted to do, I did. Somebody once asked me if I had to do it all over again, would I? I didn't have to give it a second thought. It was a great life. It was Summers Time. I wouldn't trade it. I did it all.

     I couldn't count the times I was shot and killed or all of the wars and fights I've been in. I played life over centuries and far into the future. I have been one of the first humans on earth. I fought with Spartacus and I fenced in the days of Sir Arthur. And I have been a crewmember of the Enterprise beamed up to a distant planet by Scotty, only to find myself as an Alien. I was a part of the Mafia and I have been on the side of the law as an Untouchable. I fought side by side with Custer in his fight with the Indians. And I have fought side by side with Geronimo against the cavalry. I have even fought with the Texas Rangers against the Dalton gang. And I robbed trains with Jesse James. A few times in my life I have even been part of the opposite sex. I have voluntarily put myself in a life threatening situation many times in my career. Believe me, I have done it all.

      With jest in his voice but contempt in his heart he said. "You're so old, all you have left are eight by tens and memories of friends." I could have told him he wasn't immune but instead played the game. Sure I have memories. Memories of working with great actors, great directors. And all the great people behind the scenes that make it happen. When I was in my prime I never thought I'd make it to the age of thirty. When I hit forty, I said hey from here on in it's all a gift. Now that I'm retired and I look back at my mortality, it was all a gift.  It was all Summers Time.  

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Frank Silvera
1914 - 1970

franksilvera.jpg (13527 bytes)
Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played 
Don Sebastian Montoya


      Frank Silvera was born July 24, 1914 in Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies.  Before deciding on an acting career, he went to Northeastern Law School, planning to become a teacher of law.  Somewhere along the route, acting got in the way.  One of the few black actors of the 1950's, who was able to avoid being typecast by the color of his skin, he played a wide variety of ethnic types, from Latin to Middle Eastern to Asian.  

     He made his film debut in 1952's Viva Zapata, and shortly thereafter, he was prominently cast in two of Stanley Kubrick's films, Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss.  He was the founder of The Theatre of Being, which was devoted to helping young African American actors get started in show business.  He also turned to directing stage plays in New York and Los Angeles.   

      In 1967, he was chosen for the role of the aristocratic, but prankish, nemesis to the Cannon empire with his portrayal of Don Sebastian Montoya in The High Chaparral

    Frank Silvera was accidentally electrocuted in his home on June 11, 1970.  His death became the basis for the two-hour television movie, "New Lion of Sonora", which portrayed the death of Don Sebastian.
 

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Rudolfo Acosta
1920 - 1974


Publicity photo

Played Vaquero

      Rudolfo Acosta, called Rudy by his friends, was born July 29, 1920 in Chihuahua, Mexico.  It is not known exactly when he first made his way to Hollywood to begin his acting career under John Ford, but he became one of the most successful character actors in the picture business.  With his craggy features and fine bone structure, he was a photographer's dream, and his face became familiar to thousands of people long before they knew his name.  He has played all sorts of characters in almost 100 movie and television appearances.  

      In 1967, Rudolfo became a household name across America with his portrayal of Vaquero in The High Chaparral.  He was somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades, having the capability, knowledge, and expertise to herd cattle, cook, doctor, and understand the Apaches and their language.  As Vaquero, he gave willingly of his skills to the Cannon Ranch of Arizona. 

      Rudolfo Acosta died from cancer on November 7, 1974 in Woodland Hills, California.  


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Anthony Caruso
1916 - 2003

acaruso.jpg (38315 bytes)
Publicity photo

Played the bandido, El Lobo


      Born April 7, 1916 in Frankfort, Indiana (some sources claim 1913, but Caruso said 1916), Anthony Caruso decided early on that he would be in the entertainment industry.   When his family moved to Long Beach, California, when he was ten years old, he began studying to be a singer.  It didn't take him long to realize that opera in America wasn't as lucrative as acting in America, and he quickly enrolled in the famed Pasadena Playhouse, becoming a close, personal friend of Alan Ladd.  

      Caruso made his film debut in Johnny Apollo in 1939, and with his swarthy good looks, gravelly voice, and winning smile, he was soon in high demand, playing all sorts of ethnic types.  Although he was in 11 Ladd films, he missed what could have been the biggest role. Alan Ladd had wanted Caruso to play the gunman in the 1953 classic Shane, but Caruso was in another film, and the part went to Jack Palance, making Palance a big star.  

      By the time Caruso came to The High Chaparral as that loveable bandit El Lobo, he was a well-recognized film villain with more than 200 film and television roles to his credit. 

Anthony Caruso passed away April 4, 2003
in his Los Angeles home at the age of 86.
 


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Rudy Ramos

 
Publicity Photo

Played Wind

      Born September 19, 1950 in Lawton, Oklahoma,, Rudy Ramos has been acting since he was a teenager.  He came to The High Chaparral in Season Four, not to replace the missing Blue Cannon, but to add another aspect of Arizona life to the ranch.  Playing the part of the half-Pawnee, half-white youth Wind, he managed to stir up controversy in the bunkhouse, tax Sam's patience with his hard-headedness, aggravate Buck with his stubbornness, and demonstrate the ethics of his upbringing when sparring with John.  

      He went on in the motion picture business by taking guest roles in movies and television, before he once again took a series role in the highly acclaimed Hunter.  He also took time to cut a record album.  He is alive and well, living in California, and still acting.   Visit his professional website for a peak at some of his recent and current projects:

Rudy Ramos Website


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Gilbert Roland
1905 -1994

gilbertroland.jpg (8585 bytes)
Publicity photo from NBC-TV

Played Don Domingo Montoya
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      Gilbert Roland, real name Luis Antonio D'amasco de Alonso, was born December 11, 1905 in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, where he was trained from an early age to be a bullfighter like his father.  After his family moved to the United States in his early teens, he decided that acting would be a far less risky profession, and at the age of thirteen, he got work in films as an extra.  

     He chose his screen name in homage to his two favorite movie stars, silent screen actors John Gilbert and Ruth Roland.  He had his feature film debut in 1925's The Plastic Age and began to fulfill the demands of the dashing Latin lover, a role he seemed destined to play throughout his career.  He slipped easily into talkies as a debonair leading man, and continued as a character actor into the mid-1980's.  

      Loved and admired by film goers everywhere, he came to The High Chaparral in the role of Don Domingo Montoya, brother to Don Sebastian, after the accidental death of Frank Silvera in 1970. 

Gilbert Roland died of cancer on May 15, 1994 in Beverly Hills, California.
 

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