General Plot of The High Chaparral

The Cannon family runs the High Chaparral Ranch in the Arizona Territory in the 1870s. Check out another western by David Dortort.
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General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:17 pm

Image
(The High Chaparral Ranch)

One of the most successful and highly acclaimed westerns on television was The High Chaparral, which aired from 1967 - 1971.

Chaparral is defined as dense, impenetrable thickets of shrubs or dwarf trees,


Image

and it was the name given to the ranch owned and operated by the Cannon family in the Arizona Territory during the 1870's. Stubborn, determined 50-year old Big John Cannon (Leif Erickson) was the patriarch of the family, and his driving ambition to establish a cattle empire in the rugged, Apache-infested land while finding a way to co-exist with the Apaches and the Mexicans just across the border was the thrust of the entire show. To help him, he had his firebrand younger brother Buck (Cameron Mitchell), who could out-drink, outshoot, outfight, and when motivated, outwork any man alive. Big John's sensitive son Billy Blue (Mark Slade) was a young man in his early 20's, whose mother was killed in the very first episode. After his first wife's death, John married an aristocratic Mexican beauty, Victoria Montoya (Linda Cristal), daughter of wealthy Mexican Don Sebastian Montoya (Frank Silvera), and heiress, along with her brother Manolito (Henry Darrow), to the Don's extensive cattle holdings south of the border. The marriage was seen by John as merely a political alliance, but Victoria was truly in love with John. Roguish Manolito comes to the Cannon ranch as Victoria's guardian, and becomes a permanent part of the household after the arranged marriage turns to one of true love for both involved.

In the very first episode, Buck and Blue ride into Tucson and hire the ranch hands, led by Sam Butler (Don Collier), who becomes the ranch foreman. Sam's brother Joe (Bob Hoy), along with Reno (Ted Markland), Pedro (Roberto Contreras) and Ira (Jerry Summers) are the hard-working, fun-loving ranch hands. Vaquero (Rudolfo Acosta) is also acquired in the first episode as household help.

There were cast changes, most notably in the fourth season with the departure of Blue Cannon and Don Sebastian Montoya (who died both on the show and in real life) and the addition of Wind (Rudy Ramos) and Don Domingo Montoya (Gilbert Roland). Ira Bean left at the end of the first season, and both Reno and Vaquero left at the end of the second season. All the rest of the cast, including bunkhouse boys Sam and Joe Butler and Pedro Carr, remained for all four seasons.

Family differences, the conflicts between the Indians and the Americans, and the ever-present threats from rustlers and renegades all provided materials for the stories in the series.

The series was created and produced by David Dortort, who was also the creator and producer of Bonanza. Dortort prepared for the series with much historical research of the time and the area that the story took place in, and it was filmed almost entirely on location in the desert near Old Tucson, Arizona, which gave it a true feel of realism. The sweat, the dirt, the heat, the desert...even the Apaches and Mexicans who worked on the set as extras - were real. And it explored culture and class conflicts among white Americans, Mexicans, and various Indian tribes more than any television Western has ever attempted before or since.

While it aired, The High Chaparral remained in the Top 20 of the AC Nielsen ratings, and was Number 1 in Europe. It's cancellation was due, unfortunately, to high production costs.



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Image
(Photos of The High Chaparral Ranch)



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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:18 pm

How do you think the overall series of The High Chaparral compared with Bonanza? :cactussmilie

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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by January » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:32 pm

Oh my God. I think I would have LOVED this show. I can't believe how blue the sky is in all these pictures. :yes

I'd love to see a clean, crisp DVD of the High Chaparral. How many Bonanza Fans watched both shows? I'd say a good many.

It's too bad that a show that was in the top 20 was cancelled due to high production costs. If I were working at the networks back then, I'd say "Hey, why don't we move this series to the studios and give it a go"? (It's not rocket science.) :no
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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by patina » Tue Mar 11, 2008 7:50 pm

Don't forget there was nearly always a saloon brawl in Tucson. And somehow Buck and Mano would drag Blue into it and when they got home John would lecture Buck about being a bad influence on "the boy" (Blue).

I loved Don Montoya's constant scheming that absolutely aggravated Victoria. One of his funniest ones (to me) was when he thought he was dying, realized he wasn't, but led everyone to believe that he really was. It seems like he was calling Blue grandson in that one.

Seems like most ladies had a crush on Henry Darrow's Mano. Not me---I had crushes on Cameron Mitchell's Buck (even with his badly peroxided orange hair and horrible "southern" accent), Don Collier's Sam, and Mark Slade's Blue. Ironically, I don't consider blonds my "type." I remember being so blah after Blue left (his disappearance was kind of like Adam's only Blue was mentioned a little more often).

At least Blue and Victoria came to a sort of understanding--she wanted to be his mother yet she was probably his age. The early episodes where he's in a snit and telling her "you're not my mother" got old quick, so the writers at least dropped that.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Old Tucson Studios. I was getting antsy on the tour and the guide thought I needed the facilities or some shade. He looked at me and said we could take a break and I blurted out "Where's the High Chaparral house?" He looked surprised for a couple of seconds, smiled big, and told the crowd "if you aren't familiar what she's referring to, High Chaparral was a TV western filmed here in Tucson." Turns out only the exterior shots were filmed there. I've got pics of the outside house that I'll have to post here (filming was being done in that area of the studio so we couldn't get too awful close).
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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Tue Mar 11, 2008 10:32 pm

patina wrote:Seems like most ladies had a crush on Henry Darrow's Mano. Not me---I had crushes on Cameron Mitchell's Buck (even with his badly peroxided orange hair and horrible "southern" accent), Don Collier's Sam, and Mark Slade's Blue. Ironically, I don't consider blonds my "type."
I had crushes on both Manolito and Buck!! Sigh!

I remember being so blah after Blue left (his disappearance was kind of like Adam's only Blue was mentioned a little more often).
That was certainly an unplanned similarity between BZ and HC! :yes

Turns out only the exterior shots were filmed there. I've got pics of the outside house that I'll have to post here (filming was being done in that area of the studio so we couldn't get too awful close).
I would definitely love to have your pics in this forum!


Good points about Don Montoya and the relationship between Blue and Victoria. We'll talk more about all that in other threads, such as character threads, family relationships and script plots. I have a lot planned about this show!!

I think that when you compare the first seasons of both shows, you will see that HC was plotted out much better than BZ. BZ stories and characters were all over the place at first, especially until the actors got the characters better defined.

The characters of HC had to be pretty much right on the mark at the very beginning to make the plot work, and I think they were!

BZ was incorrect historically right in the first episode, because Lotta Crabtree was really only 12 years old in 1859! They did better on some of their other historical plots, like the fact that Mark Twain really did work in Virginia City, but I think David Dortort worked hard to make sure HC was as accurate as possible from the very beginning, especially about the wars between the whites and the Indians.

Another difference was the fact that HC filmed more on location, and used real Indians to play Indians (and they talked in their native language, either with a interpreter or with the English words displayed at the bottom of the screen), and Mexicans playing Mexicans.

But both shows were very involved with family dynamics, although the HC family was usually a dysfunctional one (but the love still came through)!!

Okay, these are just some of my thoughts about general things regarding the two shows. What are your thoughts? :cactussmilie

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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by barb » Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:44 pm

One thing I seem to remember about High Chaparral, is that the father/son relationship was portrayed differently than on Bonanza. John Cannon loved his son Blue, but he seemed more critical, demanding, and had a tendency to be somewhat demeaning at times. He didn't openly show his love and pride the way Ben did. He appeared more harsh and at times even gave the impression of being a little disappointed in Blue. I think he wanted Blue to be more tough and rugged, not as sensitive. Buck pointed that out to John a couple times, if I remember correctly. I do think the relationship improved as the series progressed.

Thanks for doing this Pine. It's been a long time since I've seen this show, so I need to refresh my memory.


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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Wed Mar 12, 2008 3:27 pm

You definitely remember right about the relationship between John and Blue, and I think Buck pointed it out to Big John more than a couple of times, LOL!! ;-)

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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by patina » Wed Mar 12, 2008 7:03 pm

When Blue needed advice, he usually went to Uncle Buck rather than his father. I remember Buck and Blue having several heart-to-heart chats. Big John was constantly chewing his son out and calling him "Boy." No wonder Blue went to Buck so often.

I can't wait to see more threads developed for this great show!!
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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:24 pm

Two other differences between BZ and HC was the fact that Ben Cartwright had already built his empire; he just had to maintain it and protect it. John Cannon was just starting to build his.

And Ben seemed to have built it pretty much alone, except for his family. John had his brother and son, but could not have accomplished what he did without the help of his second wife and her brother and the ranchhands, who risked their lives by just living on that ranch!

One thing that was similar was that the characters on both shows all had both good and bad traits (although there were a few more bad traits shown on HC, LOL), but this made them human enough for the audience to relate to them, IMO!

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Re: The General Plot of The High Chaparral

Post by barb » Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:43 pm

It would be interesting to know what experience and insight David Dortort learned from Bonanza, that he later applied to the creation and production of High Chaparral. Perhaps the realism and exploration of social issues were a direct result of his Bonanza experience.

Thanks Pine, I'm enjoying this thread.


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