Chuck Connors considered his success ''unnatural''

Being in Hollywood was far different from the Old West.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Chuck Connors was The Rifleman. He was the face of the show and the cowboy all other cowboys wanted to be. During The Rifleman's successful five season run, it became one of the highest rated programs on air. 

Connors had a faithful fan base of over 40,000,000 fans who would watch him and other cast members on screen per week.

In a 1959 interview with The Boston Globe, Connors talked about how strange it was for him to have such success, seemingly overnight.

"Sometimes when I get home in the evening, I sit down and look at my wife and she knows what I am thinking about," he said. "It's almost as if I am running scared. It's an unnatural thing to have happen to a man."

At one point in time, The Rifleman was just another new Western on TV, but it quickly turned into something much bigger for both Connors and cast.

"I don't think anything like this was intended. I don't think God meant for any one person to have a lot of acclaim," he said. "Sometimes I wonder to myself if I'm not considered sort of a freak."

A successful TV series meant filming more episodes, and filming more episodes meant being available. There wasn't a day where Connors could take a break without his phone ringing or having to be at an event. A far different pace than the Old West.

"It's an odd feeling. It's as if you become public property all of a sudden," he said. "You feel good, and you sort of enjoy it, but you keep asking yourself how long you can go at this pace. I have a wife and four kids. Sometimes I look at them and and wonder where it's all heading."

Being in the public eye wasn't always easy for Connors. In 1958 he was in San Francisco for a dealers' convention called by a sponsor.

"In a big room with all those people is when I really feel it," he said. "I know I'm supposed to play the Lucas McCain role even off camera, and I'll go into a crowd like that and almost be afraid to smoke, for fear it isn't the right thing to do. Or I'll suddenly worry I am slouching, that maybe this shocks people because Lucas McCain isn't supposed to slouch."

Connors, despite the struggle of being in the public eye, will always be The Rifleman. The fact that he was humbled by his success was the most Lucas McCain thing he could do.

"You know, before Hollywood I thought 'Eggs Benedict' was a baseball player some place."

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5 Comments

Runeshaper 14 months ago
Chuck Connors was a really good person 🙂
JHP 14 months ago
again not a b/w western TV show fan - but the show is very good - conners was perfect in the role - my hats off to him and Crawford
tootsieg 14 months ago
Johnny Crawford should of won an Emmy for The Rifleman. Besides Ron Howard, he was the best child actor.
Andybandit 14 months ago
The Rifleman is my favorite Western. I love how Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford were so good on the show. How a father and son get by without a lady in the house.
LoveMETV22 14 months ago
Excellent story. I think the Rifleman was/is a great series. Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford were a perfect pairing for the series. From the comments by Connor's in his interview it sounds like he hadn't anticipated how successful and popular the show had become. However challenging it became it seems he handled it in style.
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