Death Valley Days is an American radio and television anthology series featuring true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. Created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman, the program was broadcast on radio until 1945 and continued from 1952 to 1970 as a syndicated television series, with reruns (updated with new narrations) continuing through August 1, 1975. The radio and TV versions combined to make the show "one of the longest-running western programs in broadcast history."
The series was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company (20 Mule Team Borax, Boraxo) and hosted by Stanley Andrews, alias "the Old Ranger" (1952–1963), Ronald Reagan (1964–1965), Rosemary DeCamp (1965), Robert Taylor (1966–1969), and Dale Robertson (1969–1970). With the passing of Dale Robertson in 2013, all the former Death Valley Days hosts are now deceased. Hosting the series was Reagan's final work as an actor; he was cast in eight episodes of the series.
The TV series was conceived by Pacific Coast Borax Company's advertising agency McCann-Erickson through that company's executive Dorothy McCann and Mitchell J. Hamilburg representing Gene Autry's production company Flying A Productions.
Each of the 452 television episodes was introduced by a host. The longest-running was "The Old Ranger", a character played by veteran actor Stanley Andrews from 1952 to 1963.
Following the departure of Andrews, all subsequent hosts appeared under their own names. The first was film actor Ronald Reagan, former host of General Electric Theater and future President of the United States. Reagan also acted in 21 episodes of "Death Valley Days", including the 1965 episode "A City Is Born". In that one, he played mining developer Charles Poston, the founder of Arizona. When Reagan entered the race for governor of California, actress Rosemary DeCamp filled in as the host for a short time. Then the Death Valley Day hosting position went to Reagan's friend and fellow Hollywood actor Robert Taylor. Like Reagan, Taylor appeared in some of the shows, including "The Day All Marriages Were Cancelled" (1966), also based on the career of Charles Poston.
Taylor was cast in the 1967 episode "Halo for a Badman" as Porter Stockman, an ex-convict hired by the mayor (Roy Barcroft) of Las Animas, Colorado, to be the town marshal. Stockman must stand up to an outlaw gang which has robbed every gold shipment coming into town. He played Horace Bell in another 1967 episode, "Major Horace Bell." In the story line, Major Bell, an early settler of Los Angeles, defends a man whom he believes has been framed for murder. That same year in the episode "Shanghai Kelly's Birthday Party", Taylor played James Kelly of San Francisco, who shanghaiied sailors onto ships bound to the Far East, with the expectation that none would return to accuse Kelly of a crime.
When Taylor became gravely ill in 1969, he was succeeded by Dale Robertson, former star of two other western series, Tales of Wells Fargo and The Iron Horse. Production of new episodes ceased in 1970, but singer Merle Haggard provided narration in 1975 for some previously made episodes.
During the latter years of the series, some new episodes were still being made while older episodes were already in syndication. In some markets, new episodes could even be running in competition with older ones. To make it easier for viewers to distinguish between old and new, some blocks of syndicated "Death Valley Days" episodes were shown under other series names, and with different hosts. This was common practice at the time among syndicated series, because it was easy to re-shoot the hosting portions of an episode without affecting the main content. Alternate series titles and their respective hosts included Frontier Adventure (Dale Robertson), The Pioneers (Will Rogers, Jr.), Trails West (Ray Milland), Western Star Theater (Rory Calhoun), and Call of the West (John Payne). The last title was also often applied to the series' memorable, haunting theme music.
For its first two years, the series was produced by Flying A Productions; then from 1954 to 1956, it was handled by McGowan Productions, also known for the Sky King series. Filmaster Productions Inc., which produced the first several seasons of Gunsmoke for CBS Television, took over production of the series after 1956. Madison Productions took over producing the series in 1965.
Although Rio Tinto, successor-in-interest to the series' original sponsor, U.S. Borax, still has a financial stake in this show as the copyrights are still held by the United States Borax and Chemical Corporation, the major rights are now held by SFM Entertainment for the broadcast rights and Shout! Factory for the home video rights.
Under the Death Valley Days title, the program was sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company, which during the program's run changed its name to U.S. Borax Company following a merger. Advertisements for the company's best-known products, 20 Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive, Borateem, a laundry detergent, and Boraxo, a powdered hand soap, were often done by the program's host. Death Valley was the scene of much of the company's borax mining operations. The "20-Mule Team Borax" consumer products division of U.S. Borax was eventually bought out by the Dial Corporation, which as of 2014, as a division of the German consumer products concern Henkel, still manufactures and markets them.
Death Valley Days is by far the most successful syndicated television western series, the most successful television western ever in the half-hour format, and one of the longest-running and most successful of all scripted syndicated series. The end of the series, coupled with the concurrent end of Gunsmoke, marked the demise of the traditional Western era in American television; by the middle 1970s, although western elements were still fairly common in modern series, such as Little House on the Prairie, pure western series were a thing of the past.
The stories used in the series were based on actual events. The episode titled "Death Valley Scotty" was based on the record-breaking run of the 1905 Scott Special, chartered by Walter E. Scott, a.k.a. "Death Valley Scotty".John Alderson was cast as the rugged trail guide Hugh Glass in the 1966 episode "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear", the story of the trapper who was mauled by a bear, left for dead, but survived by crawling two hundred miles to civilization. Others in the episode were Morgan Woodward as trapper Thomas Fitzpatrick, Victor French as Louis Baptiste, and Tris Coffin.Robert Anderson (1920-1996) was cast as General Philip Kearny, with Gregg Barton as Robert F. Stockton in the 1966 episode "The Firebrand". Gerald Mohr and Will Kuluva played the brothers Andrés Pico and Pío Pico, respectively. The episode is set in 1848 with the establishment of California Territory and the tensions between the outgoing Mexican government and the incoming American governor.Anna-Lisa played Huldah Swanson in the 1966 episode "The Hat That Huldah Wore". In the story line, she played a young Swedish immigrant coming west to meet her intended husband for the first time. The episode centers upon her flowery hat in which she had stored more than $1,300 to help get a start in her new life. Tris Coffin, Carl Reindel, and Dub Taylor also appear in this episode.R. G. Armstrong and Jason Evers appear as Bundage and Dan Hardy, respectively, in the 1965 episode "Birthright". In the story line, U.S. President Zachary Taylor pushed for a tax on mines in California. Opponents led by Bundage declare "taxation without representation" and secede temporarily from the United States as the independent town of Rough and Ready, California.Tol Avery appeared three times, as Frank Brenner in "The Resurrection of Deadwood Dick", as Walter Benson in "Doc Holliday's Gold Bars" (both 1966), and as a judge in "Lucia Darling and the Ostrich". (1969)Parley Baer, popular character actor, was cast as Horace Greeley in the 1965 episode "The Great Turkey War". In the story line, Greeley, namesake of Greeley, Colorado, is panning for gold in the Pike's Peak Gold Rush of 1859 and reports as a journalist on the difficult origin of the settlement of Denver, with rampant vandalism and the theft of turkeys. Michael Constantine was cast as Pollock, who works with Greeley to clean up the community.Joby Baker was cast as a traveling magician, Dr. William Davis, in the 1967 episode "The Saga of Dr. Davis". In the story line, Davis's wife, Jenny (Judi Meredith), dies after she encourages him to take a young boy, Tad, on his remaining travels across the West.Charles Bateman plays a deputy sheriff, Jim Brand, in Washoe County, Nevada, in the 1965 episode "The Wild West's Biggest Train Holdup". In the story line, Brand places a locked chain on a Central Pacific Railroad engine until the company agrees to pay its tax assessment. Roy Barcroft was cast as the aging Sheriff Jackson with Pat Priest as his daughter, Nora, who is romantically interested in Brand.John Beck played a young newspaperman, Sandy Peters, in the 1969 episode "Solomon's Glory", the story of a formerly successfully journalist named Solomon (Willard Sage) who has turned to liquor but is being sobered up by his former boss (Tyler McVey), as Solomon's sister arrives in town.Robert Blake, at thirty-three, played Billy the Kid in the 1966 episode "The Kid from Hell's Kitchen". In the story line, The Kid sets out to avenge the death of his friend John Tunstall (John Anderson).Lloyd Bochner played the author Robert Louis Stevenson in the episode "Jolly Roger and Wells Fargo", directed by Denver Pyle.Carol Booth (born 1941), in the 1969 episode "Lucia Darling and the Ostrich", played a teacher trying to establish a school in 1863 in the since ghost town of Bannack, Montana. In the story line, a masked sheriff (William Bryant) and his deputy (Jeff Morris) rob the stagecoach bringing Lucia to Montana and steal both gold and her textbooks. She sets out to prove the officers' guilt despite the reservations of both the town itself - hence the reference to "The Ostrich" in the sand in the title of the episode - and her uncle, Judge Sidney Edgerton (Tol Avery), who shortly thereafter became the first governor of the Montana Territory.Ray Boyle in "Yaller" and "Twelve Pound Nugget" (both 1954)Lane Bradbury played a young Eliza Stewart Udall at Pipe Spring in southern Utah in the 1969 episode "A Key for the Fort". In the story line, Miss Stewart, a Mormon pioneer, sends the first telegraph message from Arizona Territory and works with her Aunt Cora (Ivalou Redd) to find an innovative way to nurse an ill Ute chief, Black Wing (George Keymas), back to health. The episode also stars Gregg Palmer as Jacob. The episode was filmed at Pipe Spring National Monument.David Brian played the Mormon figure Jacob Hamblin in the 1963 episode "The Peacemaker". In the story line, Hamblin works feverishly to hold the peace treaty with the Navajo after a white man kills some Indians who come onto his property. Bing Russell, Michael Pate, and Richard Webb also appear in this episode.Paul Brinegar played a prospector, Sawbuck, in the episode "Solid Gold Cavity", filmed in Sedona, Arizona. In the story line based on a true incident, Sawbuck saves the life of Dr. John Beers, a young dentist, who on the trail to San Francisco is attacked and left for dead by two bandits. Dr. Beers (played by Thomas Peters) repays Sawbuck by taking some of the prospector's gold and making him a set of gold teeth, for which Beers subsequently obtained a patent. In "The Lady and the Sourdough", Brinegar plays a cantankerous cook who teams up with a gold miner, Tom Despo (Stanley Adams), until he meets a neighboring widow (Amzie Strickland). In 1969, Brinegar played the Death Valley pioneer Jimmy Dayton (died 1899) in the episode "Jimmy Dayton's Bonanza". In the story line, the aging rancher Dayton takes a saloon girl, played by Marilyn O'Connor, as his wife, but she has second thoughts after she learns that he has exaggerated his wealth. James Wainwright (1938-1999) co-stars as a cowboy who feigns an interest in Mrs. Dayton. The episode was released three days after the death of series host Robert Taylor.Rory Calhoun played the legendary Arizona Ranger Burt Mossman in the 1963 episode "The Measure of a Man". In the story line, Mossman convinces a reluctant Burt Alvord (Bing Russell) to set a trap to catch the elusive bandit Augustine Chacon (Michael Pate). Mossman has Chacon handcuffed and orders Alvord to toss away the key. Chacon is hanged thereafter for a past conviction for which he had escaped. In the 1966 episode "Water Bringer" Calhoun played early California entrepreneur William A. Richardson, who arrives in the future San Francisco off the ship, the Orion. Lita Baron, Calhoun's then wife, was cast as Maria Martinez, the future Mrs. Richardson. Will Kuluva played the part of Maria's father, Commandante Ygnacio Martinez. Don Haggerty played the embittered Captain Hayworth, commander of the Orion.Conlan Carter portrayed L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wizard of Oz, in a 1970 episode.Don Collier and Jan Clayton were cast as Josiah Wilbarger and his sister, Margaret, in the 1967 episode, "The Man Who Wouldn't Die". Wilbarger, a native of Virginia, lived for eleven years after being scalped by the Comanche. Wilbarger County, Texas, is named in his honor.Ben Cooper appeared as Jason Tugwell in the 1969 episode "Biscuits and Billy the Kid".Jeanne Cooper was cast as pioneer woman Rachel Barrett in the 1969 episode "A Gift". In the story line, Rachel pleads with an Indian chief (Valentin de Vargas) to spare the lives of her husband and son, played by Harry Lauter and Michael Courtney, respectively, as the family waits on an approaching wagon train.Dennis Cross appeared three times in episodes "Treasure of Elk Canyon" (1961), and as the Indian Captain Dick in "Captain Dick Mine" and "The Rider" (both 1965).Ken Curtis appeared as a muleskinner in the 1964 episode "Graydon's Charge", a dramatization of one of the last clashes of the American Civil War in New Mexico Territory. In the story line, the Union Army plans an attack against a renegade Confederate camp. Denver Pyle played Graydon's partner, Ortho Williams. They two eye the attention of a widow (Cathy Lewis) and seek to show their courage to win her hand. Graydon agrees with reluctance to send his mules, laden with dynamite into the rival camp. The episode is semi-comedic.Michael Dante was cast as the ill-fated half-breed Clay Squires, with Robert Taylor as Ben Cotterman and June Dayton as Cotterman's wife, Rachel, in "Long Night at Fort Lonely" (1969).James Davidson played boxer James J. Corbett in the 1966 episode "The Fight San Francisco Never Forgot". John McLiam played Corbett's Olympic Club trainer and promotional rival Walter Watson.Gail Davis appeared in two episodes of Death Valley Days, the 1952 episode "Bulldog Nugget" in which she played the only single woman in Bulldog, Nevada where she had to contend with several suitors; and the 1953 episode "Land of the Free" playing Jerrie Cabell. Davis would go on to star in her own western series Annie Oakley.Jim Davis, later Jock Ewing on CBS's Dallas, portrayed Mark Tabor, a U.S. representative for Nevada in the 1953 episode "Little Washington", set in 1878 in Carson City. This was the first of Davis's thirteen appearances on Death Valley Days. He portrayed Grat Dalton in the 1963 episode "Three Minutes to Eternity", about the simultaneous and last bank robberies in Coffeyville by the Dalton Gang. Davis played a wagon master, Ezra Meeker, abandoned by members of his wagon train who decided to stop the trip to Oregon instead to prospect for gold in the 1965 episode "Devil's Gate". In 1967, he played freighter Luke Campbell of Deadwood, South Dakota, in the episode "The Day They Stole the Salamander", a reference to a Salamander Safe. In 1969, Davis played Colonel William G. Butler (1831-1912), who takes revenge on the later ghost town of Helena, Texas, after its citizens refuse to disclose the killer of Butler's son, Emmett. Butler arranges for the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway to bypass Helena; instead Karnes City, south of San Antonio, became the seat of government of Karnes County.Rosemary DeCamp played newspaper editor Caroline Romney of Durango, Colorado, in the 1965 episode, "Mrs. Romney and the Outlaws". In the story line, the woman editor sounds the alarm for citizens to fight the Kimball/Sykes gang. Willard Sage played Marshal Christy. In the 1965 episode "Canary Harris v. the Almighty", DeCamp played Canary Harris, a widow who sues her church after a meteorite destroys her front porch. She bases her claim on the premise that God unjustly caused or allowed her calamity to occur. Robert O. Cornthwaite played the Reverend Medford Farr.Yvonne DeCarlo played the title role of Clare Reed in the 1962 episode "The Lady Was an M.D.", with John Vivyan as Ed Taylor.Angie Dickinson, Lane Bradford and Carol Thurston appeared in "Sequoia" (1954).John Doucette portrayed Apache Chief Geronimo in the 1961 episode "Gamble with Death". His co-stars included Dick Sargent and Tom Greenway.Ross Elliott played lawyer Temple Houston in "The Reluctant Gun" (1959), some four years before Jeffrey Hunter played the part in the NBC western series, Temple Houston (TV series).Paul Fix played the hardy, cantankerous pioneer James Briton "Brit" Bailey, with Rosemary DeCamp as his equally defiant wife, Hannah, in the 1969 episode "Here Stands Bailey". In the story line, the Baileys are ordered off their land at what is now Bailey's Prairie, Texas, by Stephen F. Austin (John Carter), who is bringing the Old Three Hundred original settlers to the area. Austin has a change of heart and asks the Baileys to stay. Bailey dies with his final wish of interment standing upright facing west, hence his grave marker, "Here Stands Bailey Facing West."Ron Foster appeared as Silas Begg in "Rough and Ready" (1957).Lisa Gaye plays the widowed Faith Turner who places a sign seeking a husband and a father for her young son in the episode "The Rider". Jesse Pearson is cast as mail express rider Jim Barnes, who tries to help her find a suitable mate.George Gobel appeared as Baylor Thomas, a visionary who tries to develop the use of wind power for moving wagons west, in the 1963 episode "Thar She Blows".Ron Hagerthy, formerly of Sky King, appeared as Felix in the 1958 episode "Old Gabe".Don Haggerty played Horace Tabor in the 1967 episode "Chicken Bill", with Dub Taylor in the title role of the Colorado silver miner "Chicken Bill" Lovell. In the story line, Lovell salts his mine to get Tabor to pay off Lovell's lingering debt and to fund his continued operation.Luke Halpin (star of films Flipper (1963) and Flipper's New Adventure (1964), and Flipper (1964 TV series), as Sandy Ricks) appeared as Sandy King—the youngest member of an outlaw gang—in the episode "A Mule... Like the Army's Mule" (season 17, episode 6; 5 Oct 1968).James Hampton, later of F Troop and The Doris Day Show, played publisher William Randolph Hearst in the 1964 episode, "The Paper Dynasty". James Lanphier (1920-1969) was cast as Ambrose Bierce. In the story line, Hearst struggles to turn a profit despite increased circulation of The San Francisco Examiner. Robert O. Cornthwaite appears as Sam Chamberlain; Barry Kelley as George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst.Ron Hayes appeared as Dan Bartlett in the 1960 episode "Devil's Bar".Michael Hinn (1913-1988) of the former Boots and Saddles western series played Brigham Young in the episode "Biscuits and Billy, the Kid". In the story line, the Tugwell family, Jason (Ben Cooper), Ellie (Emily Banks), and Mary (Erin Moran), are abandoned by their guide while on a wagon train from Utah to California.Skip Homeier played a pastor, Ben Darniell, in Carson City, Nevada, in the 1965 oddly-titled episode, "Fighting Sky Pilot." In the story line, the minister Darniell attempts to rescue a saloon girl, Claire Vernon (Carol Brewster), from her oppressive employer.Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., was cast as Governor Manuel Armijo in "La Tules" (1962).Sherry Jackson played Katherine "Kate" Turner, a young woman from Boston who takes over a wagon train after the death of the trailmaster, in the 1966 episode "Lady of the Plains". DeForest Kelley plays a gambler, Elliott Webster, who falls in love with her despite their age difference and the fact that she is engaged to marry once the wagon train reaches Salt Lake City.Vivi Janiss appeared as Deliah Murtaugh in the 1953 episode, "Dear Teacher", with Donna Corcoran, as her daughter, Gladys.Brad Johnson appeared five times on Death Valley Days, including the role of Bill Tilghman in the 1960 episode "The Wedding Dress".Chubby Johnson, as Jake in "The Tenderfoot" (1968) and as Davis in "The Other Side of the Mountain" (1969)I. Stanford Jolley, five appearances, as J. V. Langley in "The Kickapoo Run" (1954), as Colby in "California's First Ice Man" (1955), as a guide in "California Gold Rush in Reverse" (1957), and in the final role of Bart Taylor in "Eruption at Volcano" (1959)DeForest Kelley played the convict Martin in the episode "Devil's Gate" (1965) with Jim Davis and as the gambler Elliott Webster in "The Lady of the Plains", with Sherry Jackson (1966)Katy Jurado appeared as "La Tules" in "La Tules" (1962).Brett King as Cassidy and Robert Knapp as Tom Dixon in "The Devil's Due" (1960)Harry Lauter, a character actor, appeared seven times, twice as Mel Hardin in "Gold Lake" and "Wheelbarrow Johnny" (both 1959).Nan Leslie, in "Whirlwind Courtship" (1953)June Lockhart played librarian Ina Coolbrith, first poet laureate of California, in the 1965 episode "Magic Locket". In the story line, Coolbrith develops a tenuous friendship with the teen-aged "Dorita Duncan" (Kathy Garver), who becomes the dancer Isadora Duncan. Sean McClory played the poet Joaquin Miller, author of Songs of the Sierras.Dayton Lummis portrayed New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace in "Shadows on the Window" (1960), with Martin Braddock as Billy the Kid. He also played John De La Mar in "City of Widows" the same year.Tyler MacDuff played Norman Berry in "The Hoodoo Mine" (1956).Murray MacLeod and Dennis Whitcomb were cast as two young men, Cliff and Frank, respectively, released from the United States Army still living on a temporarily deserted western fort in the 1969 episode "A Full House". The two engage in a poker game in which the loser agrees to get married; soon both are in love and things fall into place like a storybook romance. Heidi Vaughn and June Zachary play the female leads.Michael Margotta played a youthful Butch Cassidy in the 1969 episode "Drop Out" set in Utah of the 1880s. In the story line, 16-year-old George Leroy Parker is rebellious against his father, Maxy Parker (Russ Conway), and his church bishop, played by William Zucker. He takes the name of a much older rustler acquaintance, Mike Cassidy (Tony Russel) and sets forth to Salt Lake City. The episode aired the same year as the film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Strother Martin plays a country chicken farmer, Alfred Hall, who sues an insurance company for underpayment in the 1966 comedy segment "The Four Dollar Law Suit". In the story line, Hall seeks the additional $4 he believed owed him after his chicken coop burns to the ground. J. Pat O'Malley plays his attorney; Anthony Costello, the school teacher, and Amzie Strickland his wife. In the 1967 episode "Silver Tombstone", Martin played the Arizona miner Ed Schieffelin who after years of failure is convinced he is on the verge of a bonanza. He invites his brother to join him in the pending strike. Jamie Farr appears as Dick Gird.Carole Mathews played Belle Starr in "A Bullet for the D.A" (1961).Ann McCrea was cast in three episodes, including Melinda Pratt in "Mr. Bigfoot" (1956).Tim McIntire in the 1965 episode "The Lawless Have Laws" played Lorenz Oatman, a young man who obtains the help of an Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Burke (Ronald Reagan), in the search for his long lost sister, Olive Oatman (Shary Marshall) from whom he was separated five years earlier when the Apache killed their parents in a raid.Tyler McVey appeared four times, including as a priest in the 1962 episode "Abel Duncan's Dying Wish" and in the 1969 segment "The Oldest Outlaw".Alvy Moore, prior to his role as county agent Hank Kimball on CBS's Green Acres situation comedy, played the Swiss-American botanist David Douglas, for whom the Douglas fir tree is named. Keenan Wynn co-starred as Douglas' friend, Josh Tavers. Iron Eyes Cody played an Indian chief who threatens to kill Douglas and Tavers.Byron Morrow made a cameo appearance as Mormon figure Brigham Young in the 1966 episode "An Organ for Brother Brigham". In the story line, the organ crafted and guided to Salt Lake City by Joseph Harris Ridges (1827-1914) of Australia, played by Hedley Mattingly, becomes mired in sand. Morgan Woodward, as wagon master Luke Winner, feels compelled to jettison the instrument until Ridges finds solid rock under the sand.Ken Murray was cast as Whipsaw, the operator of a Utah Territory stagecoach depot, in the 1964 episode "Little Cayuse". In the story line, Whipsaw and his partner in 1862 take in a Cayuse orphan (Larry Domasin), who demonstrates his loyalty to the men during an Indian attack.Leonard Nimoy played Yellow Bear in "The Journey" (1965), with Wayne Rogers as Richard Henry Pratt and Robert J. Wilke as Sergeant Wilks, two cavalry officers who disagree on how to handle Indian prisoners.Julie Parrish appeared as Mariana Jaramilio in the 1967 episode "Along Came Mariana", the story of the unraveling of the peonage labor system in New Mexico Territory. Carlos Romero played Jose de la Cruz Romero.Jesse Pearson appeared as Jess Ivy in the 1970 episode "The Mezcla Man". In the story line, Jess wants to propose marriage to a young woman, Sarah Ewing (Karen Carlson), but hesitates because of his lack of financial footing. He then decides to look for hidden gold. In another romantic episode, "The Courtship of Carrie Huntington" (1966), set in the future Washington State, Pearson plays Henry Windsor, who is hired to take Carrie (Sue Randall) to her sister's wedding after she misses the stagecoach. Henry and Carrie engage in a mock wedding, but on the return trip, Henry wins her over after they are held by Indians, and Carrie nurses a sick child to health. Helen Kleeb plays Carrie's mother, and Dub Taylor was cast in a cameo role as a station agent.Larry Pennell appeared as Roner Maxwell in the 1960 episode "Queen of the High-Graders".Gil Peterson and Susan Seaforth Hayes appeared as Jim Otis and his wife, Martha, in the 1967 episode "Solid Foundation". In the story line, Otis has virtually abandoned his dream of finding a gold strike but instead encounters an unexpected bonanza in silver.John M. Pickard appeared ten times, including the role of Sheriff McKittrick in "The Resurrection of Deadwood Dick" (1966) and as Lafe Ellsworth in "The Other Creek" (1968).Phillip Pine played Kit Carson, with Michael Pate as scout Frenchy Godey in the John C. Fremont (Dick Simmons) expedition in the episode "Samaritans, Mountain Style". In the story line, Carson and Gody stop to help a settler in dire straits. Pine, Pate, and Simmons appeared shortly thereafter with Charles Bateman and Don Keefer in another Death Valley Days episode, "The Hero of Apache Pass".Judson Pratt appeared twice: "The Left Hand is Damned" (1964) and as a general in "Raid on the San Francisco Mint" (1965)Denver Pyle was cast seven times, the last of which was in the title role, "The Resurrection of Deadwood Dick" (1966), based on the legendary frontiersman Deadwood Dick.Stuart Randall appeared as Judge Reed in "The Pieces of the Puzzle" (1968).Paula Raymond was cast as the Union Army spy Pauline Cushman in the 1964 episode "The Wooing of Perilous Pauline". In the story line, set in Casa Grande, Arizona Territory, where the feisty Miss Cushman was operating a saloon, she is wooed by her future husband, Jere Fryer (Ray Danton), who makes a bet with a friend that he can convince her to marry him within a week.Ronald Reagan, among his last acting roles in 1965, played the shrewd banker William Chapman Ralston, with Vaughn Taylor as financier Asbury Harpending, in "Raid on the San Francisco Mint" and Admiral David Farragut, with June Dayton as Mrs. Virginia Farragut, in "The Battle of San Francisco Bay", the story of the 1856 seizure of power by the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance. Reagan was cast too in "No Gun Behind His Badge" as the historical Thomas J. Smith, the marshal of Abilene, Kansas, in 1869 and 1870, in which capacity he tried with fatal results to avoid the use of firearms in the line of duty. On September 30, 1965, Reagan played James B. Hume in "Temporary Warden", the story of a warden at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City.Tommy Rettig was cast in the 1962 episode "Davy's Friends" as Joel Walter Robison, a fighter for Texas independence. In the story line, Robison, called a "friend" of Davy Crockett, is sent on a diversion but quickly shows his military ability and is made a first lieutenant by Sam Houston. Stephen Chase (1902-1982) played Sam Houston, and Russell Johnson was cast as Sergeant Tate.Gilbert Roland played Dom Pedro II, the emperor of Brazil, who in 1876 gets off his train to stretch his legs and is stranded near San Francisco. He comes across a widow (Patricia Huston) with a son (Butch Patrick) and a daughter (Andrea Darvi). The woman doubts his story, but her daughter is charmed by his wit and wisdom.Karen Sharpe played Linda in "Claim Jumpin' Jennie", opposite Irene Burton as Jennie and Wallace Ford as Buck Hansen (1953).Dick Simmons plays W. Frank Stewart, a silver mining operator who served from 1876 to 1880 as a Nevada state senator for Virginia City (Storey County), in the 1969 episode entitled "How to Beat a Badman". In the story line, Stewart is determined to gain at a bargain price a silver claim being worked by two young former outlaws (Tom Heaton and Scott Graham).Tom Skeritt was cast in five episodes, as a youthful Emmett Dalton in "Three Minutes to Eternity" (1963), the story of the double 1892 bank robberies in Coffeyville, Kansas, with Forrest Tucker as Bob Dalton and Jim Davis as Grat Dalton; as Dennis Driscoll in "Honor the Name Dennis Driscoll" (1964); as Patrick Hogan in "The Book" (1965), the story of a young gambler who wins a small fortune at the roulette wheel at a saloon in Calico in San Bernardino, California, with the help of a Chinese friend, Wong Lee (George Takei). The two soon meet a speedy demise; as a young Roy Bean in "A Sense of Justice" (1966), with Tris Coffin as his older brother Joshua Bean, set in San Diego, where Joshua was the founding mayor, and as Mark Twain in "Ten Day Millionaires" (1968).Hal Smith played the character John Wilson in the 1967 episode "The Man Who Didn't Want Gold".William Smith was cast as John Richard Parker, brother of Cynthia Ann Parker, both taken hostage in Texas by the Comanche, in the 1969 episode "The Understanding". In the story line, Parker contracts the plague, is left for dead by his fellow Comanche warriors, and is rescued by his future wife, Yolanda (Emily Banks), with whom he moves to her native Mexico. Smith also played the role of the outlaw turned temporary sheriff, Hendry Brown, a former associate of Billy the Kid, in the 1969 episode "A Restless Man".Julie Sommars played Roman Catholic Sister Blandina Segale in the 1966 episode "The Fastest Nun in the West". In the story line, Blandina seeks justice for a killer, despite heavy sentiment for his hanging. Michael Constantine and Don Haggerty were cast as George Burnet and Sheriff Wheeler, respectively.Fay Spain played Calamity Jane, with Rhodes Reason as Wild Bill Hickok, in the 1966 episode "A Calamity Called Jane".Warren Stevens was cast as Doc Holliday in the 1966 episode "Doc Holliday's Gold Bars".Gloria Talbott played Kate Melville, a temporary woman sheriff and the daughter of Sheriff Will Melville (Dick Foran), who clashes with a Judge Lander (Richard Anderson) over courtroom fairness and frontier justice in the 1965 episode "Kate Melville and the Law."William Tannen played the historical figure Ike Clanton in the 1964 episode "After the OK Corral", with Jim Davis as Wyatt Earp. Tannen previously played deputy Hal Norton on the ABC/Desilu series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian in the title role of Wyatt Earp.Victoria Vetri played Sacajawea, with Victor French and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, Dick Simmons as Meriwether Lewis, and Don Matheson as William Clark in "The Girl Who Walked the West" (1967).John Vivyan, earlier cast in the role of the gambler Mr. Lucky, guest starred in two Death Valley Days episodes in 1962.Grace Lee Whitney played Nellie Cashman in the 1969 episode, "The Angel of Tombstone". In the story line, Cashman and several men from Tombstone, Arizona, travel to Baja California in search of gold found by a Mexican prospector. On reaching the site, Cashman learns how a Catholic mission has been quietly financing its charitable work. Gregg Barton, Tris Coffin, and Joaquin Martinez also guest starred in this episode.Peter Whitney was cast as Judge Roy Bean in the 1965 episode "A Picture of a Lady", with Francine York as Lily Langtry and Paul Fix as Bean's friend, Doc Lathrop.Robert J. Wilke was cast as the courageous but aging Sheriff McBain in the episode "Brute Angel". In the story line McBain must arrest the young cut-throat Sam Bolt (Sherwood Price) and transport him for trial for murder in Denver. McBain prays for divine intervention; his friend Pony Cragin (Jim Davis) hears the prayer and removes bullets from Bolt's gun prior to the arrest attempt. Jean Engstrom is cast as McBain's wife, Esther.Alan Young played John Batterson Stetson in "The Hat That Won the West" (1962).Tony Young played Corbin in "Phanton Procession" (1963).Robert Yuro played the outlaw Curly Bill Brocius in the episode "A Mule ... Like the Army's Mule" (October 5, 1968). Also appearing in this episode are Sam Melville as Army Lt. Jason Beal and Luke Halpin as the young outlaw Sandy King, who was befriended by Beal. John Pickard played Baldy Johnson. Yuro played the Texas gunfighter King Fisher in the 1970 episode "King of the Uvalde Road", with Dale Robertson as host and actor in the role of "Harry". In the story line, Fisher tries to keep the mail from being delivered to Uvalde from San Antonio.
Shout! Factory (on behalf of SFM Entertainment and Rio Tinto), has released the first two seasons on DVD in Region 1. Both seasons were released as Walmart exclusives. The third season is scheduled for release on March 21, 2017
Paul Korver's company Cinelicious in Hollywood was part of the restoration of the TV series Death Valley Days, restoring 458 half-hour film episodes. Cinelicious worked with US Borax Film Archives and Rio Tinto Group, in preserving the TV series. The 16mm, and 35 mm film of Death Valley Days was scanned at 4K resolution for film preservation on a Scanity starting in 2013.
Some episodes of the series were re-run with different sponsorship under the title The Pioneers.
The restored TV series is currently broadcast on the Grit network in the United States.
Two episodes of Death Valley Days are shown weekdays beginning at 6:35 p.m. Eastern on the Encore Westerns Channel.
Awards and nominations
In the 1955–1956 season, NBC offered Frontier, an anthology Western series similar to Death Valley Days hosted by Walter Coy. Though Frontier, a springboard for the Western actor Jack Elam, was nominated for an Emmy Award, it was cancelled after a single season.