A Mystery!

April 1, 2012

John Robert writes:

I saw an early GUNSMOKE  episode  that in the credits at last lists— “A Cowboy”:–Charles Starrett…well, I have looked at this 3 times and I am wondering if they just  put this in as a salute to  :The Durango Kid”  who died in  1986 –he was not seen in that episode  in any scene.

Call to action, TEAM DURANGO!  Anyone have a clue to solve this mystery?

Courtesy of Les Adams

I was fortunate enough to happen upon an old video tape that purports to be Charles Starrett’s last public appearance, which occurred at the Western Film Fair in 1984. The festival was held in Raleigh, NC in July of that year, and was organized by Ed Wyatt and Ronald Butler. The video was edited and narrated by Randy Durham.

It mostly consists of TV spots promoting the festival, and some hand-held camera stuff from the actual event.

Charley is 82 and is nearly blind. He looks great and comes off as personable and charming. He’s very gracious, asking an interviewer where he grew up, wishing Gene Autry’s Angels good luck with their season, and seemingly talking to anyone who approaches him.

During an interview, he reveals that he lives in Laguna, “right on the ocean.” He says that he had a 42 week a year contract with Columbia for 17 years, so after that expired he decided that his job was to spend time with family, friends and travel.

He makes the (dubious) claim that 20 of the Durango Kid films were never released in this country, only playing in South America and Africa, where they were a big hit because “a smile is the same in any language.”

We also see him dedicating the new B-Western Mobile Museum (which looks just like it sounds). There is a lame stunt where Charley prepares to cut the ribbon, the organizer pretends to have lost his scissors, and the Durango Kid rides up and gives Charley a pair. Charley spontaneously shouted “That’s my double! That’s Jock Mahoney there!”

In a short speech at a dinner, Charley quotes from Hamlet.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man,

Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Charles Starrett died two years later at the age of 86.