“Dusty’s Trails” Redux

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Today is the birthday of misunderstood television genius Sherwood Schwartz (1916-2011). Someday we hope to do a lengthy post on the whole of this man’s singular oeuvre, but today we are playing catch-up from vacation, AND it also so happens that we are doing a series of posts for Native American Heritage Month, so we re-post material originally published here a few month’s ago on Schwartz’s 1973 western sit-com Dusty’s Trail. 

For Dusty’s Trail, Schwartz essentially just took the characters from Gilligan’s Island and transplanted them to the Old Weston a perpetually lost wagon train. Of the old cast, apparently he was only able to get Bob Denver, who played “Dusty” a distinctly Gilliganesque bumbling mule skinner. For the “Skipper” equivalent, apparently Alan Hale, Jr. was unavailable, so Schwartz did the next best thing — he cast Forrest Tucker of F Troop in the Skipper-like leadership role. And the rest? A group of familiar character actors portraying a rich banker and his wife, a farm girl, a schoolteacher and a dance hall girl. (Sound anything like a millionaire and his wife, a farm girl, a professor and a movie star?) And instead of racist depictions of South Sea Islanders we get racist depictions of American Plains Indians that are SO out of step for 1974 that it’s mind-boggling. It’s “how, Ugh” stuff, but several years after landmark shifts in Native American characterization like Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man (1970).

 

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