For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
One of the great things about revisiting classic television programs is rediscovering people now primarily known for “other” roles.
Take, for example, Dick Jones–co-star of The Range Rider–one of the nostalgic shows which debuted on the Astound TV Network as part of our new summer programming schedule. You may not remember the name, but we can pretty much guarantee that you have seen or heard his work.
Born Richard Percy Jones on February 27, 1927 in a small Texas town, “Dickie” (as he was called through his early years) literally grew up performing in rodeos and western shows, which helped prepare him for some of his biggest career performances as an actor. His mother also encouraged him to take speech lessons and utilize his unique voice.
His family moved to Hollywood to allow him an opportunity to get a career in films.
Fans of 1930s and early 1940 films will remember him for his roles as Jimmy Stewart’s page in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as “Killer” Parkins in the late 1930s Nancy Drew films, and as a frequent guest star on the popular Our Gang (The Little Rascals) shorts. He was also a regular performer as Artimer “Artie” Peters in the popular B-western films starring Hopalong Cassidy.
Jones scored his most famous and well-known role at the age of 11 as the voice of the titular character in the original version of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. At the time of its release, it was initially considered a box-office bomb. Filmed on a budget of $2.6 million, it has since gone on to become a classic–earning well over $160 million – and has since become one of the most beloved cartoon films of all-time.
“Dickie” then put his career on hold to fight for the Allies in World War II.
Upon his return to the states, he shortened his first name to “Dick” and once again became a familiar face to 1950’s audiences in a variety of western-themed programs, including classics like The Gene Autry Show, Annie Oakley, The Lone Ranger, The Blue Angels, Buffalo Bill Jr., Wagon Train, The Gray Ghost, The Night Rider and Pony Express. He also starred in the full-length film, Requiem Of A Gunfighter.
But his longest and most visible on-camera starring role was on The Range Rider, in which he co-starred with Jock Mahoney. Although both actors were roughly the same age, Mahoney’s 6-foot-5 frame made it look like Jones’ character, Dick West, was that of a much younger, smaller sidekick. (Jones’ height was estimated to be about 5’4″ at this time).
The show attempted to feature leading characters who had a reputation for honesty and emphasizing fairness for ALL peoples, including Native Americans–which wasn’t often the case for westerns filmed in early 1950s’ television.
In a crowded field of similar genre-driven shows, “Rider” was a standout performer in the ratings and earned a full three-year first release run before going into syndication.
The quality of the episodes never waned. Even today, the episodes during the program’s final season are among the highest rated shows by viewers on the IMDB website. In fact, its third-last show ever produced, titled, “Two-Fisted Justice”, is rated one of the program’s all-time best episodes.
The Range Rider show itself also provided a number of early television appearances for stars who went on to have success in the entertainment field, including Bob Woodward, Denver Pyle, William Fawcett and others.
Be sure to watch and set your DVRs for The Range Rider, airing for the first time ever on ATVN this summer, every Friday morning at 9:30am.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.