Lawman Theme Song
Country of origin
First episode date
5 October 1958
John RussellPeter BrownPeggie Castle
American Broadcasting Company
Lawman tv series
Lawman is an American western television series originally telecast on ABC from 1958 to 1962 starring John Russell as Marshal Dan Troop and featuring Peter Brown as Deputy Marshal Johnny McKay. The series was set in Laramie, Wyoming during 1879 and the 1880s. Warner Bros. already had several western series on the air at the time, having launched Cheyenne with Clint Walker as early as 1955. The studio continued the trend in 1957 with the additions of Maverick with James Garner and Jack Kelly, Colt .45 with Wayde Preston, and Sugarfoot with Will Hutchins. One year later, Warner Bros. added Lawman and Bronco with Ty Hardin.
- Lawman tv series
- Main Characters
- Recurring Characters
- Guest stars
- DVD releases
Prior to the beginning of production, Russell and Brown and producer Jules Schermer made a pact to maintain the quality of the series so that it would not be seen as "just another western." At the start of season two, Russell and Brown were joined by Peggie Castle as Lily Merrill, the owner of the Birdcage Saloon, and a love interest for Dan.
The main sponsor of the series was the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company through their Camel Cigarettes brand. The alternate sponsor was General Mills. The two main stars did spots endorsing Camel Cigarettes and Cheerios Breakfast Cereal.
Dan Troop leaves Abilene, Kansas for the town of Laramie, Wyoming. He is offered the town marshal's job after the previous marshal, David Lemp, is murdered. On the way into town, he meets Johnny McKay, who is placing a tombstone on Lemp's grave. Johnny mistakes Dan for a crook, but they meet up later again at the cafe owned by Lemp's widow Dru, played by Bek Nelson, where Johnny works as a dishwasher. Dan puts a sign in the window of the marshal's office that reads, "Deputy Wanted." Johnny applies for the job, but Dan turns him down, because he believes that, at the age of nineteen, Johnny is too young. Dan later comes across Lacey Hawks, played by Edd Byrnes, in the Bluebonnet Saloon. Lacey tries to coax Dan into a gunfight, but Dan arrests him instead. Lacey promises Dan that his two brothers Flynn, played by Jack Elam, and Walt, played by Lee Van Cleef, will come after him. Johnny tells Dan that Flynn is the one who killed Marshal Lemp, and that the whole town saw him do it, but were too afraid to stand up to him. He again volunteers to help Dan take them down, but Troop refuses. Johnny tells him that he cannot take both remaining Hawks Brothers alone. Dan goes out to face them, anyway. Dan shoots Flynn, but then hears another shot from behind him. Dan sees Walt fall dead, and then turns around to see Johnny standing there with a rifle in his hand. Dan motions for Johnny to follow him back into the office and then takes down the "Deputy Wanted" sign.
During the course of the first season, Dan teaches Johnny the fundamentals of law enforcement. Frequently, while Dan is pursuing outlaws, Johnny remains behind to guard the town. However, in seasons two through four, Johnny becomes more involved in the action and carries some entire episodes by himself. During the first season, the episodes maintain a serious tone. However, when Lily arrives at the start of season two, the scripts include more comedy and some romance. Johnny called Dan "Mr. Troop" or "Sir" and Dan usually called Johnny "Boy".
Dan Troop, played by John Russell, is the town marshal of Laramie. Russell based the character on an officer that he knew in the United States Marine Corps. Dan is a hardnosed, by-the-book, seasoned lawman, who is quick with a gun, and also good with his fists. Russell, who was 37 years old when he got the part, theorized that Dan would have to be older to have this much experience as a lawman. After the third episode, Russell had white streaks added to his hair to make him appear older. In addition to being marshal, Dan was both a mentor and friend to his deputy, Johnny McKay. According to Peter Brown on his website, Dan and Johnny's relationship mirrored the relationship that he had with Russell. While Dan was teaching Johnny how to be a lawman, Russell was teaching Brown how to be an actor. Dan also had a romantic relationship with saloon owner Lily Merrill. Dan cared for Lily very deeply, but his job often thwarted their happiness. He had one brother, Clay Troop, played by James Drury, four years before the premiere of The Virginian. Clay Troop was killed in the season one episode, "The Gang". It was revealed that the woman Dan loved and wanted to marry, before her death, had instead wed Clay, a gunfighter and an outlaw. Clay said that his wife "couldn't resist trying to reform" him though she had loved Dan a little more. There were times when the townspeople would second guess Troop, but he always stuck to his guns and was determined to do the right thing.
Johnny McKay, played by Peter Brown, is the deputy marshal of Laramie. Dan had been hesitant to hire Johnny as his deputy, because of his young age, but he later proved his worth. Johnny was orphaned at age ten in Kansas. His father was killed by raiders, and his mother died on a wagon train. The season one episode, "The Joker," dealt with Johnny's origin when an outlaw named Barney Tremain, played by Jeff York in the first of two appearances on the series, rides into Laramie and claims to be Johnny's real father. It was never revealed whether or not he was telling the truth. Johnny was more easy going, but he was also brave, extremely fast with a gun, and loyal to Dan, whom he always referred to as "Mr. Troop." He was like a younger brother to Lily. In the first season, Dan many times left Johnny behind while he left Laramie to pursue criminals. In the later years, Johnny got more involved in the action as Dan began to see him as a partner in the fight against crime than as his humble apprentice. Johnny actually quit three times. Once because if Tremain was his father, he thought that meant he had outlaw blood in him. The second time, he thought Dan was taking credit for a kill he made, but he later found out Dan was trying to protect him. The third time, Johnny had to shoot a friend of his, and lost his nerve to be a lawman. Somehow though, he would eventually come back.
In an attempt to attract female viewers, the producers tried to find the right love interest for Dan. They started off with Dru Lemp, widow of the previous town marshal. Dan admitted in the first episode he had a previous relationship with a woman who was killed by a stray bullet. Midway through the first season, the character was dropped due to Russell and Nelson having a lack of chemistry.
Later in the first season, Barbara Lang was brought in as Julie Tate, the daughter of Harry Tate, played by Jon Lormer, who was the editor of the town newspaper. She and Dan did not hit it off right away, because she felt he was not doing enough to find her father's killer. After four episodes, she was never seen again.
Lily Merrill (Peggie Castle) then came to town as the owner of the Birdcage Saloon. Lily had been run out of Billings, Montana, by a crooked sheriff. At first she and Dan thought each other were crooked. After finding out that they were both wrong, Dan and Lily became very close during the remainder of the run of the series. As their relationship grew, Lily often dropped hints about wanting to marry Dan, and he would pretend that he did not hear. Lily was formerly married to outlaw Frank Quinlaven, played by Mike Road in the season two episode, "The Exchange." They had a son named Tommy, played by Bryan Russell, who lived with her sister. Frank tried to use Tommy as a bargaining chip to get Lily to help him rob the Laramie bank, but Dan stopped him at the last minute. Dan and Johnny often used Lily as a sounding board whenever they had a problem. Lily is beautiful, feisty, courageous, extremely loyal, and occasionally even uses a gun herself to help Dan and Johnny when no one else will. In addition to running her saloon, Lily was also elected the town fire chief, and briefly filled in as schoolmarm.
In the next-to-the last episode entitled "The Unmasked" (June 17, 1962), Lawman presents an entirely fictitious portrayal of Boston Corbett, the man who shot and mortally wounded John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Played by character actor Dabbs Greer, Corbett is given the name "Joe Brockway" and depicted as a hotel owner in Laramie. In the story line, two former Confederates from Georgia, played by Barry Atwater and Charles Maxwell, arrive in Laramie in search of Brockway, the key, they claim, to the settlement of an estate to which they are all a party. Jack Albertson is cast in the episode as a somewhat comical traveling elixir salesman named "Doc" Peters.
Other guest stars:
Lawman also spawned a variety of merchandise during the run of the series, including lunchboxes, puzzles, boots, arcade cards, sheet music, action figures, toy rifles, and cap pistols. There was also a Lawman comic, drawn by Dan Spiegle, which ran for eleven issues (1958–1962).
Warner Archive has released all three seasons on DVD in Region 1. These are manufacture-on-demand (MOD) releases, available through Warner's online store and Amazon.com.
Lawman can currently be seen in re-runs of two episodes on Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. ET on the Encore Westerns Channel. The 156th and final episode of the series aired on June 18, 2013. Lawman was replaced on Encore by rebroadcasts of Laredo, which aired on NBC from 1965 to 1967 which also co-starred Peter Brown.