Saturday, December 29, 2018
The series began with "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter" (December 15, 1954): Crockett seeks a truce with Indians who assaulted a military outpost. He and Russel fight in skirmishes under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson, portrayed by Basil Ruysdael. Along the way, Crockett kills a bear armed only with his knife.
The second episode is "Davy Crockett Goes to Congress" (January 26, 1955): Crockett, with his companion Russel, travels to Tennessee, where he learns of the death of his wife, Polly Crockett, played by Helene Stanley. He wins a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives and later the United States House of Representatives.
The third episode is "Davy Crockett at the Alamo" (February 23, 1955): Crockett and Russel join a gambler named Thimblerig (Hans Conreid) on their trek to Texas, where they arrive to battle Mexico's General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the fortress, the Alamo Mission. They see a bison stampede and watch a Comanche tribesman fall off his horse. Davy and Georgie nickname him "Busted Luck". Although Crockett and all the defenders perished at the Battle of the Alamo, two other segments followed. (Crockett's death is not actually shown; all we see is Crockett, the last survivor in the battle, on the parapet swinging his rifle at the oncoming hordes of Mexican soldiers. The picture fades and the flag of Texas is shown flying in the breeze as the male chorus reprises the last lines of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett".)
In "Davy Crockett's Keelboat Race" (November 16, 1955), Crockett and Russel are fur trapping in Kentucky when they meet Mike Fink, known as the best boatman around and portrayed by Jeff York. Fink challenges Crockett to a keelboat race to New Orleans.
In "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates" (December 14, 1955), the men pick up a traveling minstrel (Walter Catlett), who unknown to them is in league with local river bandits. On their way to get horses, from friendly Chickasaw tribesmen, Davy and Georgie are kidnapped by a group of Chickasaws, because white men have been murdering members of their tribe. Crockett and Fink discover that the river pirates led by Samuel Mason, portrayed by Mort Mills, are impersonating Indians.
Disney produced weekly one-hour television programs for ABC as part of a deal that allowed him to build the Disneyland theme park. Disney wished to highlight historical figures, and his company developed three episodes on Crockett – Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter, Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, and Davy Crockett at the Alamo – starring Fess Parker as Crockett. According to historians Randy Roberts and James Olson, "by the end of the three shows, Fess Parker would be very well known, the power of television would be fully recognized, and Davy Crockett would be the most famous frontiersman in American history."
The shows sparked heated debate, with many questioning whether Crockett was really deserving of the amount of attention that he was receiving. Letter writers also questioned the series' historical accuracy. Nevertheless, the shows proved very popular. They were combined into a feature-length movie in the summer of 1955, and Parker and his co-star Buddy Ebsen toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. By the end of 1955, Americans had purchased over $300 million worth of Davy Crockett merchandise ($2 billion by 2001).