See the cast of The Rifleman in their earliest screen roles

How did Chuck, Johnny, Patricia and Paul kick off their careers?

Images: Disney / MGM / Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

The Rifleman remains one of the most beloved Westerns in television history, largely because it is far more than some mere oater about bandits and cowboys. At its heart, The Rifleman is a father-and-son tale, relevant to any parent or any child.

Though Lucas and Mark McCain were the big stars, appearing in every episode, they were not the only recurring characters. There was local law enforcement… and love.

Let's take a look at how some of the cast got their start!

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1. Chuck Connors

After showing his rare two-sport talent in the MLB and NBA and a member of the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Celtics, Connors transitioned to acting in the 1950s. The former athlete likely felt right at home in his first picture. He was surrounded by jocks. The Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn rom-com Pat and Mike reunited the Hollywood icons. Hepburn portrayed a tennis and golf player. For realism (and box-office appeal), the movie cast real pros like Don Budge, the first tennis ace to win the Grand Slam in a single year. However, Chuck — who earned his nickname "Chuck" from tossing baseballs — played a cop, not a ballplayer! His scene pit him against Hepburn, Tracy and Charles Bronson!

Image: MGM

2. Johnny Crawford

Crawford, of course, got his start as one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1955. Mark McCain's first crush on The Rifleman was a Mouseketeer reunion, of sorts. On the big screen, Crawford has the distinction here of making his debut in full color. He had a blink-and-you'll-miss-him part in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, the 1956 Gregory Peck movie adapted from one of the great novels of 1950s American life. Johnny carries groceries as small Italian boy in one of the flashback scenes with Marisa Pavan.

Images: Disney / 20th Century Fox

3. Patricia Blair

As Lou Mallory, she won the heart of single dad Lucas McCain. As "Pat Blake" (her birth surname) Blair made her movie debut in Jump Into Hell (1955), the first Hollywood film to deal with the war in French Indochina, a.k.a. Vietnam. The war picture is riddled with questionable French accents. Texas native Blair plays a French woman, Gisele. 

Image: Warner Bros.

4. Paul Fix

Who is that handsome man?! The one on the left is screen icon Gary Cooper. The fellow on the right is none other than Paul Fix. Yep, that is Marshal Micah Torrance back as a 27-year-old. His first major movie role came in 1928's The First Kiss.

5. Joan Taylor

She was feisty Milly Scott, love interest to Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, but 11 years earlier she was making her debut in another Western, Fighting Man of the Plains. The Kansas-set story featured Jesse James — and Paul Fix as "Yancy"! Yep, Taylor was no stranger to working with Fix.

Image: 20th Century Fox

6. Hope Summers

Milly Scott took over the general store in North Fork from the elder Hattie Denton. Mayberry favorite Hope Summers (prize-winning pickle-maker of The Andy Griffith Show) played Hattie. Surprisingly, her acting career began not too long before The Rifleman, in the early 1950s. She appears as a preachy vision in the educational short "Better Use of Leisure Time," one of those charmingly dated didactic films you'd have to watch in school. "My, that's hard work," she complained while cranking a old-fashioned laundry wringer. "But that's women's lot in life."

 
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EricFuller 1 month ago
Wasn't Chuck Connors in "Adam's Rib" with Tracy and Hepburn?
logicgrrl EricFuller 1 month ago
No he wasn't. Adam's Rib was made in 1949, and he was playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.
stephaniestavropoulos 1 month ago
Are any of you aware that Johnny Crawford is in a nursing home? I think it's the same one his wife {daughter?} Charlotte works in. Last year, he unfortunately was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I sure hope he is able to remember all the good times he had growing up, {which I feel he had.} He sure has a lot of fans, friends and family supporting him, helping him to keep his memories alive and keeping his spirits up. He brought a lot of happiness and enjoyment to a lot of people.
texasluva 1 month ago
Very interesting how all these actors started their careers. Some far back as the 20's. Many we do not have access to their actual audition for said show or movie. I wonder what they have been like. Here is one audition that you'll never forgot on one of the most sensational movies of its time. The Henry Thomas audition for the blockbuster movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Is there a wonder he got the part. I almost cried myself near the end of it. A 10 year old knocks it down and the rest is history.
Ceejai5912 texasluva 1 month ago
WOW!! NEVER would have guessed THAT’S Paul FIx!!
texasluva Ceejai5912 1 month ago
Especially in 1982, go figure .
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 1 month ago
What a great little actor!
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
Henry many years later stated how he was able to cry and act sad. He had a dog that passed away and he thought of that.

I got behind the video camera, turned it on and that's how Henry convinced me he was Elliot. Everybody in the room was in tears. I just remembered turning to Henry and saying "Okay kid, you've got the part"

Steven Spielberg------
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 1 month ago
That's a great story.

I have to say the Christmas ad from last year where Elliot is a parent, made me misty eyed.

texasluva MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
I had heard but just looked at it now. Awwwe "You came back".
There is more to the audition for the "Elliot" part. They had actually picked another kid but through watching him with others after the kid was actually a bully type and they finally decided not to cast him as Drew Barrymore's older brother. So they heard about this kid in Texas (Henry Thomas). Started over and had him come down and audition. He is actually 9 in this audition. Further reading on how this actually came can be found here. The short video comes with it and explains in more detail. https://www.oscars.org/news/how-steven-spielberg-chose-henry-thomas-play-elliott-et
TheDavBow3 1 month ago
That's Paul Fix!!!
birddog TheDavBow3 1 month ago
Holly Smokes got me to!! never would of picked out Micah from his early picture.
Robin birddog 1 month ago
He looks really funny in an old western with John Wayne. Think it is called The Tall Saddle. I watch all the old westerns on Grit (sorry, MeTV).
birddog Robin 1 month ago
Never saw it but will look for it on some of the old western streaming channels. I don't get Grit. Tks Robin:)
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