After Lawman John Russell made relatively small appearances in a number of prime time tv series and movies. He also had some larger roles in a few B-movies. Some samples below. [Full credits list HERE]
JOHN RUSSELL Post-Lawman
In 1966, John was third-billed (after Rory Calhoun and Corinne Calvet) in the Paramount Western Apache Uprising which also starred Lon Chaney and DeForrest Kelly. John was head villain.The 1974 episode of GUNSMOKE "The Iron Man" played more like a pilot for Cameron Mitchell as a reformed alcoholic lawman than an episode of the series. [The name of Mitchell's character -- Chauncey Demon -- suggests this might be the case.] Only James Arness of the regular cast appears here to help Demon fight the bottle and stand up to the evil forces in a town far from Dodge. John Russell plays Carl Ryker, the leader of said evil forces. Unfortunately, he has only two scenes.
Because credits books listed both John Russell and Peter Brown in the 1974 episode of Police Story "Love, Mabel" we were making a special effort to find it. However, when we asked Peter about it, he said he and John had never done a Police Story together. When we finally did find it, we realized why Peter didn't know John was in the same episode. They were filmed separately in completely unrelated small parts with no overlap. The focus in the show was on William Shatner as an officer neglecting his wife (Michael Learned) who turns to the bottle. John is simply an old friend who greets the wife at the station and later has another walk-on scene with a brief interaction with Shatner. Peter is a guy who picks up Shatner's wife in a bar and gets pissed when after buying her drinks, she changes her mind about spending the evening with him. Maybe something was cut out from the original concept of the old family friend, but as the episode stands John's part is just a couple of meaningless walk-ons. Peter's part has a bit more substance. The wife's drinking had to come to a head which it does when she ends up in jail after making a scene in the bar. She's arrested for public drunkenness after spending the afternoon flirting with Chuck (Peter) an attractive but not very honorable guy who insults her when she changes her mind about leaving with him.
Cameron Mitchell as
John Russell as
William Bryant as
James Arness as
John plays a standard
power hungry villain
Mitchell was familiar with drunk characters
In the end, Ryker brings his gang to town and loses out to three good men, tried and true.
In this 1974 episode of Dennis Weaver's McCLOUD, "The Concrete Jungle" John played a vicious killer and drug world kingpin. He was apparently cast in this part because of his similarity in height and build to Dennis Weaver. McCloud passes himself off as John's character to snare some even bigger dealers.
In 1976, John had a small part in the Clint Eastwood Western Outlaw Josie Wales as Bloody Bill Anderson. His part is part of the prologue and unfortunately he's killed under the credits.
In our first sight of John in this episode he commits a cold blooded murder.
McCloud is running up bills in Paris while making contact with John's character
In 1975, John played a powerful lobbyist who drives his wife to suicide. When she falls in love with Blue, the man who saves her life, he uses corrupt law enforcement to frame Blue and hunt down the Fugitive Lovers [aka The Runaways].
In the 1980-81 season, John had a costarring role in an embarrassing children's show, Jason of Star Command. The less said the better but if you must, click on the title.
Bloody Bill Anderson comes across Josie Wales in the midst of grieving over his murdered wife and son. His band is on its way to Kansas "to set things right" and Wales joins them. Note: does anyone else see a resemblance to Tom Selleck in John's eyes in the photo on the right.
Anderson is killed in a night battle and dies with Wales in attendance.
In 1982 John had a minuscule nonspeaking part in Clint Eastwood's Honky Tonk Man, the story of Red Stovall. The movie is full of interesting quirky characters. John is a well-dressed seemingly prosperous man who is apparently a fence for stolen chickens. At least as he drinks at the bar where Red is going to play and sing, Red tells him in passing that he'll have some chickens for him later that night. After his performance Red and his nephew go and fill their car with stolen chickens. John's character has a name in the credits, although it's not used so most likedly his part was originally bigger.In the 1984 Simon & Simon episode "Rough Rider Rides Again," they trotted out a number of actors from the old Westerns. Stuart Whitman plays the original Rough Rider who's being replaced for a movie version by a young pretty boy. [As actually happened to Clayton Moore with The Lone Ranger] When he's framed for murder, his old costar Pat Buttram hires the Simon brothers. Their investigation takes them to a bar frequented by cowboy actors who relive the glory days with bar fights using break-away chairs and fake bottles. John Russell, Alan Hale, Jock Mahoney have cameos.
John Russell & Jock Mahoney
Russell & Mahoney
A stuntman's brawl
John had probably his best role in more than two decades in 1985's Pale Rider, Clint Eastwood's homage to Shane. John is Stockdale, a corrupt lawman brought to town to kill off the most troublesome of the local miners who are trying to hold out against the town boss, the owner of the big mine. John is very effective as the cruel Stockdale whose tightly controlled facial expressions show just enough subtle fear when he finds out the miners' champion is a man he believed was dead. Reportedly John was quite ill when he played this part, but jumped at the chance to play such a good part in a Western.
After Stockdale and his men butcher an unarmed miner and finish him off with a bullet through the forehead, we know they're doomed.
The final confrontation with Eastwood is a study in eye contact.
And sure enough Stockdale ends up with a bullet through his forehead.
It's truly unfortunate that this rugged, handsome, dignified actor never really had the career we think he deserved. His role as the highly moral, unbending, incorruptible Marshal Dan Troop in Lawman was not only his best role, it was really his last substantial one. We've all speculated on the possible reasons for this waste of a fine actor and offer a few suggestions.
First, despite the fact that John was only 42 when Lawman was canceled, he'd been very convincing playing a character at a least a decade older. It was John's vision of the Dan Troop character that at the start of the four year series, he was a mature man in his middle to late forties. [In the pilot show "The Deputy" John's hair is black. In subsequent shows he had it streaked with gray with the trademark streak of white in front.] In youth conscious Hollywood, it cannot have done him any good to be identified with a character of that age.
A contributing factor may have been that Warners was notorious for exercising unusual control over it's actors, many of whom rebelled. John Russell was not a man to break his contract as Clint Walker (Cheyenne), Wayde Preston (Colt .45) and Connie Stevens (Hawaiian Eye) did. (Some also count James Garner of Maverick as another walk-out but in fact the courts found that it was Warners who violated his contract by refusing to pay him during a writer's strike.) However, Russell may have been perceived as someone who would not be easy to control. He reportedly managed to get a pay raise at one point by producing evidence that Lawman was doing better than Warners had been willing to admit. In any event, after the show was canceled, Peter Brown and Peggy Castle were kept under contract afterwards and John was not.
Another factor may simply have been that while John was a perfect actor for the classic Western, he was not as flexible either in acting style or physical type as his younger co-star. It's impossible to think of John Russell, who was clearly not at his best in the few broader comedy moments of Lawman, fitting into the rhythm of a sit-com or even the light style of Laredo as Peter easily did. [This is not to disparage him at all. Anyone who loved Gary Cooper in movies like High Noon and Friendly Persuasion (and who didn't?) couldn't help but cringe watching his wooden performance as the impassioned Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Similarly, we've noticed a "cringe factor" when watching another beloved Western favorite, Robert Fuller in lighter shows such as Fantasy Island and Love Boat.]
Sometime after Peter's second western series, Laredo, closed production, John and Peter floated the idea of a Lawman redux. John would play a judge or some other authority figure while Peter would now be the (semi) seasoned Marshal mentoring a young deputy. Unfortunately for Westerns fans, and also for John, this idea never got off the drawing board.
Although John was seen as a good family man who did his best to put his family first during the hectic shooting schedules of the Lawman years, his marriage fell apart in the sixties after Lawman was canceled. He made another brief stab at marriage around 1970 with a much younger woman who had her own children. Although he doted on her children, the marriage lasted less than a year.
John died of emphysema shortly after his 70th birthday on January 19, 1991. His painful and lingering death seems a cruel heritage from the cigarettes that sponsored his most successful role. [Lawman was sponsored by Camel cigarettes.]
After a military funeral, John was buried at a military cemetery in Westwood California. He is survived by his three children and four siblings.
As Peter Brown told the audience about John Russell at the 1998 Knoxville Film Festival, "I wish he was here today to introduce to you. You would have loved him. He was a terrific person."
TO JOHN RUSSELL CREDITS
Comments? Trivia? Suggestions?
Contact us at:firstname.lastname@example.org
LAWMAN Fansite Map
Guest Shots Autographed
PETER BROWN Fansite Map
HOME BIO LAWMAN LAREDO Western TV SOAPS Prime Time TV
Contact us at:email@example.com