Guy Madison and “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok”

I was tempted to subtitle this post “The Luckiest Guy in the World”, for the subject of our article was. Robert Ozell Mosely (1922-1996) was an off duty coast guard sailor who was spotted by a movie scout when he was attending a live broadcast performance of Lux Radio Theatre. Good looking and charismatic, the non-actor was hired to play a walk-on sailor part in the all-star wartime drama Since You Went Away (1944). His screen name was inspired by Dolly Madison cakes, but the implied relation to the President was a fortunate calculation.

Madison’s brief appearance in the film garnered a flurry of fan mail, and this in a film that had a dozen well-known stars in it. When the war was over and he finished his coast guard hitch, Madison returned to the movie business in the gamble that his sex appeal with the ladies would transcend his lack of acting experience. It did and it didn’t. Madison’s movie career was most undistinguished. He appeared in around 50 movies few living people have even heard of, let alone seen, mostly war pictures and westerns. His love life during this period, was notable, however, for he apparently had a taste for wild women. He dated Barbara Payton, and married Gail Russell in 1949, both known for their problem drinking. He divorced Russell in 1954.

After five years of toiling in a half dozen movies, Madison did make his mark on posterity as an actor. From 1951 through 1958 he starred on television in eight seasons of The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, a very long run for a TV series. The show was an almost completely fictionalized account of the exploits of the legendary lawman (who, for some reason only people of the 1950s could understand is here shorn of his famous long hair, mustache and chin whiskers). Andy Devine played his sidekick “Jingles” — his popularity in the role with kids no doubt led to his hosting Andy’s Gang starting in 1956. The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok attained full media saturation, for it was also a radio show with the same cast (1951-56) and the tv episodes were stitched together and made into B movies for cinematic release by Monogram Pictures. The popularity of the show no doubt led to the creation of similar dictionalized western tv programs based on real lawmen, such as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. For at least one season there were TWO westerns on tv starring guys named Guy: Disney’s Zorro, starring Guy Williams debuted in 1957.

When The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok went off the air, Madison moved to Italy for well over a decade, appearing in numerous spaghetti westerns, war pictures, and sword-and-sandal epics. His last Italian film was in 1974. He then returned to the States, and continued to work in a few minor films, and one prominent appearance on Fantasy Island. Guy Madison’sy Mas last screen credit was in a 1988 made-for-television remake of Red River, starring Bruce Boxleitner, James Arness, Gregory Harrison (of Trapper John MD), and Ray Walston.