Take a ranch, a stage stop, two brothers and a crusty philosopher. Throw in a hip-shooting drifter who may be a high-line rider, plenty of action and there’s the basis for a television series. Running from September 15, 1959 to May 21, 1963 (on Tuesdays) on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) at 7:30 PM (EST), Laramie chronicled the adventures of two men in the Old West.
The major recurring theme of the Laramie series was renewal and rebirth, which may be why every live title sequence included some form of water imagery. Water has often been used as a symbol of passage and transition and was therefore important in establishing the show’s identity. Nature related imagery was used repeatedly throughout the series to establish time (sunsets, sunrises, changes in seasons), harbinger danger (dust storms) and symbolize anger and passion (fire).
Laramie explored a number of social issues. Among them were adoption, aging, class discrimination, community support of law enforcement, criminality, criminal justice reform, cultural diversity, education, equality, feminism, genocide, gun control, honesty in politics, interracial relationships, justice, juvenile delinquency, laws of war, maturation, mental health (with numerous examples of psychopathic and sociopathic behavior), racism, religious tolerance, the Robin Hood effect, substance abuse, unlawful military orders and vigilante justice, all of which were heavily laced with the interaction of the seven deadly sins.
There are a few incongruities in the stories. Of course, history does sometimes change a bit in the telling and the viewpoint of the presenter. The show also rounded up its own versions of And Then There Were None (“Strange Company” Season 2 Episode 32), The Maltese Falcon (“The Lost Dutchman” Season 2 Episode 18) and the perennial favorite television theme of Lancelot escorting Guenivere to King Arthur (“Trial by Fire” Season 3 Episode 27).
Balancing the fist fights and gunfights were moments of comedic interaction such as Jess’ unique method of washing his clothes, the nearly simultaneous dunking in the water trough, and the reaction to a particular bouquet.
The epilogue provided the “sunset” for each episode. Generally, the characters were safely ensconced at home and wrapped up the action on a positive note with hope flying as high as Mike’s kite.
To see information about the individual episodes, click on the links below:
Apacheland Studios, 4369 S. Kings Ranch Road, Gold Canyon, Arizona, USA
Corriganville, Ray Corrigan Ranch, Simi Valley, California, USA
Laramie Street, Warner Brothers Studios, 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA
Old Tucson, 201 S. Kinny Road, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Red Rock Canyon State Park, Highway 14, Cantil, California, USA
Revue Studios, 6121 Sunset Boulevard (at El Centro Avenue), Hollywood, California, USA
Six Points Texas, Backlot, Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA
Stage 36, Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA
Thousand Oaks, California, USA
Western Street, Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA