Patricia Blair nearly settled down with The Rifleman in a sixth color season — until Chuck Connors killed it
"I've got to tell you, in those tight blue jeans, that tight shirt, with the muscles bulging, there was no one sexier, anywhere."
Images: The Everett Collection
The Rifleman centers around a single father raising his son in the New Mexico Territory of the late-19th century. As it is an action-packed, black-and-white Western, the stories feature dust-ups, show-downs and frontier justice. But widowed cowboy Lucas McCain found time for love. And he nearly settled down in a much different, full-color version of the series.
First, let's catch up on the love life of Lucas McCain. In season three, Millie Scott (Joan Taylor) blew into North Fork and bought Hattie's general store. It happened in "Miss Millie." Taylor would appear sporadically throughout seasons three and four, showing a softer side of Lucas. Producers wanted to see the Rifleman settle down. The jeans-wearing businesswoman was just the match for rugged McCain.
Alas, Millie bolted following season four. Enter Lou Mallory.
Patricia Blair was no stranger to playing the leading lady in Westerns. Most know her as Rebecca Boone, the wife of Daniel (Fess Parker) in Daniel Boone. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. That series kicked off in 1964, a year after The Rifleman ended.
The thing is — The Rifleman nearly didn't end. At least, it wasn't supposed to finish after its fifth and final season. A sixth season was scheduled with a bold new direction.
Paul Fix, Johnny Crawford and Patricia Blair all signed contracts for season six. The network envisioned a prestigious leap for the program — The Rifleman would expand from 30-minute episodes to full one-hour epics, and it would be presented in glorious color.
"It would have been like Bonanza," Blair explained in the book Westerns Women: Interviews With 50 Leading Ladies Of Movie And Television Westerns From The 1930s To The 1960s. Lucas and Lou would settle down together. It was all planned.
So what happened? In short, Chuck Connors said no. Blair had her theories as to why.
"Chuck walked away. He didn't want to be a cowboy anymore. He went into [1963 ABC legal drama] Arrest and Trial which was not greatly successful," Blair said. "He married Kamala Devi, an actress from India, and she somehow didn't want him to be a cowboy anymore. I think somewhere it came from that."
Blair had thoughts on why Arrest and Trial flopped, too. "I've got to tell you, in those tight blue jeans, that tight shirt, with the muscles bulging, there was no one sexier [than Chuck Connors], anywhere," she gushed. "But when he got into the suit on Arrest and Trial, a lot of it got lost in the suit. He was the Rifleman. He just was. He was the part."
Decades later (Westerns Women was published in the late Nineties), the loss of The Rifleman still stung. "It was a dreadful blow," Blair admitted. "You're looking at the house payments, and you think you've got it made."
Don't worry, we are pretty sure Daniel Boone took care of her nicely enough. In fact, for a time, Blair was living in a 60-foot boat berthed in Playa Del Rey.