L-r: Ken Berry, Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Melody Patterson in F Troop
Richard M. Bluel Creates F Troop
Richard M. Bluel (1925-1992) created F Troop for Warner Bros. Television. Bluel got his start in Hollywood as a writer, scripting episodes for such television drama as Wire Service, Man with a Camera and Bourbon Street Beat. He went on to serve as producer for TV’s The Gallant Men (1962-63), Temple Houston (1963-64), The Green Hornet (1966-67), The Second Hundred Years (1967-68) and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979-81).
Ken Berry Heads F Troop Cast
Ken Berry heads the cast as the bumbling Captain Wilton Parmenter. Known as the “Scourge of Appomattox,” Parmenter’s fortuitous sneeze led to a decisive Union victory over Confederate forces in the waning days of the Civil War, earning him the Medal of Honor for his accidental cavalry charge.
Other principals are Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O’Rourke, the shrewd, scheming head of O’Rourke Enterprises; Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, O’Rourke’s excitable business partner; and Melody Patterson as Jane Angelica “Wrangler Jane” Thrift, owner of the general store and Captain Parmentier’s passionate girlfriend.
Other F Troop regulars include Frank DeKova as Chief Wild Eagle, James Hampton as inept bugler Hannibal Dobbs, Bob Steele as the ancient Trooper Duffy, Don Diamond as hip Indian brave Crazy Cat, Joe Brooks as the half-blind lookout Trooper Vanderbilt, Ivan Bell as Trooper Duddleson, John Mitchum as the non-English speaking Prussian Trooper Hoffenmueller, Ben Frommer as Smokey Bear and Edward Everett Horton as Hekawi medicine man Roaring Chicken.
James Hampton as F Troop’s bugler Hannibal Dobbs
F Troop’s First Season
F Troop made its ABC television debut on Tuesday night, September 14, 1965, in the 9-9:30 (ET) slot. Network competition was The Red Skelton Hour (CBS) and the NBC Tuesday Night Movie.
The first episode, “Scourge of the West,” introduced Captain Wilton Parmenter, whose Civil War heroics lead to his assignment as commander of Fort Courage in 1866 Kansas. Parmenter has his hands full, trying to pacify the “fierce” local Hekawi tribe, rein in his enterprising first sergeant and ward off the advances of the blond, overly eager Wrangler Jane.
A total of 33 additional half-hour episodes followed. Among the offerings were:
- “The Phantom Major” – A British officer instructs the troopers in the art of camouflage.
- “The Girl from Philadelphia” – Wilton is visited by his old flame from back east.
- “The 86 Proof Spring” – Parmenter goes undercover in order to shut down an illegal still that is supplying whiskey to the Indians.
- “Johnny Eagle Eye” – A Hekawi brave is drafted into F Troop in order to win them the $1,000 prize in a sharpshooting contest.
F Troop’s Second and Final Season
F Troop kicked off its second season on Thursday night, September 8, 1966, in the 8-8:30 (ET) slot. The network competition was Jericho (CBS) and Daniel Boone (NBC).
A total of 31 second season episodes were telecast, beginning with “The Singing Mountie” in which Larry Storch appeared in a dual role, playing both Corporal Agarn and his fugitive French-Canadian cousin Lucky Pierre Agarniere.
Other memorable second season segments include the following:
- “Yellow Bird” – A woman raised by Indians takes a shine to Captain Parmenter.
- “Miss Parmenter” – Wilton’s husband-hunting sister trains her sights on Trooper Dobbs.
- “What Are You Doing After the Massacre?” – The 147-year-old Chief Flaming Arrow tries to reclaim the Hekawis’ land.
- “Our Brave in F Troop” – Wild Eagle masquerades as a trooper in order to visit the camp dentist for his throbbing toothache.
F Troop Guest Stars and TV Guide Review
A number of prominent performers graced F Troop’s dusty trail. Among the notables: Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Don “Red” Barry, Paul Petersen, Henry Gibson, Harvey Korman, Mary Wickes, Lee Meriwether, Paul Lynde, Mae Clarke, Pat Harrington Jr., Zsa Zsa Gabor, Phil Harris and Julie Newmar.
“If you don’t mind your humor stretched far, wide and then some, you could do far worse this season than make a late TV-dinner date with F Troop – which is not only the spoof to end all spoofs on Indian warfare but also tells you, in no uncertain terms, how the West was lost,” reported Cleveland Amory of TV Guide (11/20/65).
F Troop cast graces the cover of TV Guide, December 11, 1965
F Troop’s Best Episode, Trivia, DVD
- Best Episode: “V Is for Vampire” (2/2/67) – Horror film legend Vincent Price guest stars as the mysterious Count Sforza, a native of Transylvania who comes to Fort Courage and takes up residence in a spooky mansion.
- Melody Patterson (born 4/16/49) was only 16-years-old when F Troop debuted in 1965.
- Deceased F Troop regulars: Forrest Tucker (1919-1986), Frank DeKova (1910-1981), Bob Steele (1907-1988), Joe Brooks (1923-2007), Ivan Bell (1914-1977), John Mitchum (1919-2001), Ben Frommer (1913-1992), Edward Everett Horton (1886-1970).
- After 65 episodes F Troop officially exited the airwaves on August 31, 1967. The following week The Flying Nun (1967-70) starring Sally Field debuted in its time slot.
- On DVD: F Troop – The Complete Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner, 2008).
Now, who remembers the words to F Troop’s daffy theme song by Irving Taylor and William Lava? Here’s a start: “The end of the Civil War was near/When quite accidentally/A hero who sneezed abruptly seized/Retreat and reversed it to victory…”